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The First Synagogue in New York City

The first Jewish congregation was established in New Amsterdam back in the 1650s. They were refugees from Brazil with nothing more than the clothes on their backs so they couldn't do much more than consecrate a Jewish cemetery. Now, after decades of renting, they have built a synagogue on Mill Street in lower Manhattan. Over the coming years, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue will move from building to building until 1897 when they will move into their modern location at Central Park West. It will become the oldest synagogue in the United States. [1] [2]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Well... the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue is more important to the history of Jews in America than I can easily explain to a general audience. If you have been following along in the history segment, you may have noticed that some Christians were experimenting with religion and were making some radical changes. But other Christians didn't like that much experimentation. A few reforms? Sure. Radical changes? Not so much. The same thing happened within Judaism. There were Jews who thought that some ritual reforms were needed, but that any reforms should be done in a careful and systematic way. In the early 1900s, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue led the movement to slow down the experimentation within Judaism. Today, the rabbi of the synagogue is the tenth man to hold the position since the American Revolution. He is a Modern Orthodox rabbi which means he applies ancient Jewish tradition in a modern context. Thus the synagogue is maintaining its stance on change while being careful and methodical about it. [3] [4] [5]

Turnip Townshend's Farming Innovation

What would you do it you were sick of high political office and decided to retire? Well... you would plant turnips! Right? Charles Townshend is the 2nd Viscount Townshend and he is the British Secretary of State. He guides foreign policy, but it seems he can only reach compromise when he has the upper hand. He has been losing power to the British Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, so he decides to pack it in and join the revolution... the British agricultural revolution. He returns to his lands in Norfolk and promotes a 4-crop rotation of wheat, barley, clover and turnips. He says that turnips are better in the ground than in the pot. This type of crop rotation is often called the Norfolk method. He didn't invent the system. It is Flemish in origin, but his name becomes associated with it. Thus he gets the nickname of "Turnip" Townshend. [6] [7] [8]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
This happens a lot where a certain idea becomes associated with a prominent person who didn't come up with the original idea but because of his celebrity or energy in promoting the idea, eventually is thought to be the inventor. That happened to William of Occam and Occam's Razor, Benjamin Franklin and the discovery of electricity, and in professional boxing with the Marquess of Queensberry Rules. The 9th Marquess of Queensberry did NOT author the rules for boxing. He simply promoted them because he thought they were needed. The actual author of the rules was John Graham Chambers. Remember him? Neither do I. [9] [10]

FYI, the Boston Massacre of 1770 was believed to be a reaction to the Townshend Acts of 1767 that punished the colonies for not complying with certain British laws such as the quartering of British soldiers. That was a DIFFERENT Charles Townshend... a grandson of "Turnip" Townshend. [11] [12]

Rape upon Rape... a Comedy

This play is a satire on corruption in the justice system. Henry Fielding will be known best as the author of the novel, "Tom Jones" but he has written several plays, many of them satires. "Rape upon Rape" is about two men who are accused of rape and then are raped by the system of justice. They come before Judge Squeezum who is corrupt, so they cook up a scheme to catch this corrupt judge by falsifying the evidence. In a sense, everyone is corrupt though some have good motives. Generally, the moral of the story is: "Two wrongs don't make a right." [13] [14] [15] [16]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Corruption is often born of good intentions. Men and women get processed through the justice system quickly if they agree to plead guilty to some lesser charge. Those who plead innocent slow the system to a crawl. Evidence must be collected. Witnesses must be interviewed. Lawyers must be consulted and everyone's schedules must agree. When little things go wrong, the trial is rescheduled. I've seen men wait a year... easy. If a prisoner can't make bail, he sits in his cell and waits. As he waits, he can lose his apartment, his car, his job and his wife when her bad situation is made worse without a husband. Plea bargaining speeds up justice for the guilty, but it can also tempt the innocent into accepting a bad offer just to make the pain stop. Eliminating plea bargaining would force the prosecutor to consider how good a case he really has. Criminals would go free for lack of evidence but fewer of the innocent would be punished simply because they declared their innocence. [17] [18]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1730, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Congregation Shearith Israel - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 11 February 2016. “It was not until 1730 that the Congregation was able to build a synagogue of its own; it was built on Mill Street in lower Manhattan. Before 1730, as is evidenced from a map of New York from 1695, the congregation worshipped in rented quarters on Beaver Street and subsequently on Mill Street.”
  2. Congregation Shearith Israel (OFFICIAL SITE) (2016). Retrieved on 12 February 2016. “Welcome to Congregation Shearith Israel, America's first Jewish congregation, founded in1654 by 23 Jews of Spanish and Portuguese descent. Today, Jews of all backgrounds make up our welcoming, traditional community. Explore this site, and then visit the synagogue to experience the beauty and vitality of this Jewish and American treasure.”
  3. Rabbi Meir Soloveichik - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 12 February 2016. “Graduating from Yeshiva College in New York City he received rabbinic ordination (semicha) at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and studied philosophy of religion at Yale University Divinity School, although he never received a degree from Yale. He later received a PhD in Religion from Princeton University. He wrote his doctorate on the modern Orthodox theologian Michael Wyschogrod.”
  4. Yeshiva University - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 12 February 2016. “The University, having been founded in 1886, is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States that combines Jewish scholarship with studies in the liberal arts, sciences, medicine, law, business, social work, Jewish studies and education, and psychology.”
  5. Alex Shrugged notes: I am considered a Modern Orthodox Jew although I don't think of myself as such. I think of myself as correctly observant. I hope I am not being too mysterious here, but I am not a dispassionate reporter on this subject. Just so you know.
  6. Charles 'Turnip' Townshend. Food Heroes and Heroines (April 5, 2012). Retrieved on 12 February 2016. “However, four field crop rotation was a development of existing practice and not one of Charles Townshend’s making. Farmers had long moved crops about from year-to-year in a system which normally involved leaving some land out of production. Nor did Charles Townshend introduce the turnip to Britain. His contribution was as an advocate rather than as an originator.”
  7. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 336-337. 
  8. Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 12 February 2016. “He was often known as Turnip Townshend because of his strong interest in farming turnips and his role in the British agricultural revolution.”
  9. Marquess of Queensberry Rules - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 12 February 2016. “The Marquess of Queensberry rules is a code of generally accepted rules in the sport of boxing. They were named so because John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry publicly endorsed the code,[1] although they were written by a sportsman named John Graham Chambers.”
  10. William of Ockham - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 12 February 2016. “He is commonly known for Occam's razor, the methodological principle that bears his name, and also produced significant works on logic, physics, and theology.”
  11. Townshend Acts - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 12 February 2016. “The Townshend Acts (1767) were met with resistance in the colonies, prompting the occupation of Boston by British troops in 1768, which eventually resulted in the Boston Massacre of 1770.”
  12. Quartering Acts - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 12 February 2016. “Quartering Act is a name given to a minimum of two Acts of British Parliament in the local governments of the American colonies to provide the British soldiers with any needed accommodations or housing. It also required colonists to provide food for any British soldiers in the area.”
  13. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 336-337. 
  14. Fielding, Henry. Rape upon Rape or, the justice caught in his own trap. A comedy., The coffee-house politician, printed for J. Watts. 
  15. Henry Fielding - English author. Britannica.com (2016). Retrieved on 12 February 2016. “He was essentially a satirist; for instance, The Author’s Farce (1730) displays the absurdities of writers and publishers, while Rape upon Rape (1730) satirizes the injustices of the law and lawyers. His target was often the political corruption of the times.”
  16. Rape upon Rape - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 12 February 2016. “When two characters are accused of rape, they deal with the corrupt judge in separate manners. Though the play was influenced by the rape case of Colonel Francis Charteris, it used 'rape' as an allegory to describe all abuses of freedom, as well as the corruption of power, though it was meant in a comedic, farcical manner.”
  17. (November 11, 2004) Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When the Government Breaks Its Own Laws. ISBN 9780785260837. Retrieved on 12 February 2016. 
  18. Alex Shrugged notes: I am a volunteer chaplain at the local jail. I visit once a week and visit with anyone who asks to see me. I have no words of wisdom for these fellows. I just I listen.

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