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Brooklyn Jewish
Historical Initiative

Timeline: 1600-Present

 The timeline begins in the 1660s, and is anchored by foundational historic dates that represent the history of New York City and its place in the larger history of the world. Beyond this basic framework, we populated the chronology with an emphasis on Brooklyn Jewish history, including significant dates in religious and civic life, culture, politics, philanthropy, sports, and education.

1600-1700 | 1700-1800 | 1800-1900 | 1900-2000 | 2000-Present

These dates are only a sampling of highlights of Brooklyn Jewish life. 
Please send us some of your nominations of significant dates for inclusion in this chronology.

1654The first Jewish immigrants began arriving in New Amsterdam; twenty-three of whom arrived aboard the Sainte Catherine from Recife, Brazil after fleeing the Portuguese Inquisition. They establish Congregation Shearith Israel, the first and only Jewish congregation in the United States until 1825.
Asser Levy, one of the first Jewish settlers in New Amsterdam, buys property in Brooklyn.
1664Britain takes control of New Amsterdam, and renames the colony New York after the Duke of York.
1682Congregation Shearith Israel purchases land for a new burial ground, known as Chatham Square Cemetery—the oldest surviving Jewish cemetery in the United States. Extant tombstones bear the Spanish, Portuguese and Hebrew inscriptions of its original congregants.
1683Kings County, named after King Charles II, is formed from six townships and several villages: Brooklyn, Bushwick, Flatbush, Flatlands, Gravesend and New Utrecht. These townships define the boundaries of Brooklyn today.

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1730Congregation Shearith Israel is finally allowed to worship in public. Before this time, Jews could only worship in private homes. The Congregation built their first synagogue on Mill Street in lower Manhattan.
1766Three years after the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the first New York blood of the Revolution is shed when the British injure several Sons of Liberty members who had raised a liberty pole on the Commons.
1773Approximately 242 Jews live in New York.

Jews participate in the Battle of Brooklyn (also referred to as the Battle of Long Island).

The fighting at Gowanus in the Battle of Long Island, August 27, 1776, V1973.5.126 a,b,c; Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection, ARC. 202; Brooklyn Historical Society.
1785New York is made the first capital of the U.S after the ratification of the Constitution.

Erasmus Hall Academy opens in Brooklyn. It was the first secondary school to be chartered by the Regents of the University of the State of New York. Learn more>>

Untitled, ca. 1915, V1973.5.3520; Brooklyn Photograph and Illustration Collection, ARC.202; Brooklyn Historical Society. The Original Erasmus Hall Academy
1792Five Jews are among the twenty-four stockbrokers who, under a large buttonwood (sycamore) tree, signed the Buttonwood Agreement at 68 Wall Street. The agreement established what would later become the New York Stock Exchange (formally chartered in 1817).
1799New York State’s Act for the Gradual Emancipation of Negroes and Other Slaves is passed.

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1806The Free School Society (later called the Public School Society) opens its doors to the children of freed slaves, immigrants, and the poor. Prior to the Society’s founding, most schools in New York City are either private or charity schools run by churches, the African Free School Society, or the Association of Women Friends for the Relief of the Poor. The Free School Society is committed to providing free schooling for all children in New York City regardless of religious orientation.
1812Jews participate in the Battle of 1812.
Crossing the Erie Canal
Panorama of New York, Brooklyn and Vicinity, ca.1879, V1986.38.1.1; Non-photographic collection; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The Erie Canal, nicknamed the Big Ditch, revolutionizes New York commerce by opening New York to the Great Lakes via the Hudson River.

1833Craft unions join forces with the General Trades Union of the City of New York, helping to establish the country’s first national labor organization.
1837Adolph Baker settles in Williamsburg. He is the earliest known Jewish resident in the town.
1838-9Brooklyn Directory lists first Jewish names: Benjamin Levy, an auctioneer; Daniel Levy, a cartman; and a third Levy, a variety shop owner.
1845–1893Lipman Emanuel “Lip” Pike, known as the “Iron Batter,” is born. Pike was the first Jewish professional baseball player.
1848The first Jewish congregation in Brooklyn is established, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Williamsburg. Originally Orthodox, the congregation eventually adopted Reform Jewish practices and in 1921 joined with Temple Israel to become Union Temple. The first Jewish cemetery in Brooklyn, Union Fields in Cypress Hills, is opened by members of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim.
1851The New York Times (then the New-York Daily News) publishes its first issue. Copies sell for one cent.Ernest Nathan opens the first kosher slaughterhouse on Bushwick Avenue, establishing the Brooklyn meatpacking industry.
1853America’s first World’s Fair is held in Bryant Park.
1855Castle Garden, known today as Castle Clinton National Monument (located in Battery Park), becomes an immigration station, and begins receiving floods of immigrants until 1890. Jewish immigrants arriving in New York City between 1855 and 1890 would have passed through the center after completing a series of physical and mental competence tests. From there, many of them moved into the crowded tenements in the Lower East Side.
1856Founding of Congregation Baith Israel Anshei Emes (later known as the Kane Street Synagogue). It is currently the oldest continuously operating synagogue in Brooklyn.
1857New York has one of the highest death rates in the world due to poverty and overcrowding.
Skating at Prospect Park, ca. 1886, V1972.1.817 /Na, Nb; Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection, ARC.201; Brooklyn Historical Society.
Skating at Prospect Park, ca. 1886, V1972.1.817 /Na, Nb; Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection, ARC.201; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The City of Brooklyn assembles land for Prospect Park.Abraham Lincoln eloquently addresses 1,500 people in the Great Hall at Cooper Union on the subject of slavery.

1861-5Brooklyn Jews fight in American Civil War.
1863The Draft Riots begin; hardship and anxiety drive the Irish working poor into the most violent urban rioting in national history.
1866Alice Goldmark Brandeis, champion for woman suffrage, industrial reform, organized labor, the legal rights of children, and the fledgling American Zionist movement, is born in Brooklyn.The first Broadway play and first “book musical” ever performed, The Black Crook, opens with a 5 hour performance that includes 100 dancing girls in pink tights.
1867New York State passes first Tenement House Law in the nation; despite regulations, conditions worsen.
1870sA period of Jewish immigration begins that lasts until 1914. The wave is characterized primarily by eastern Europeans from Russia-Poland, but also from Austria-Hungary, Rumania, and other Balkan countries. With the arrival of more than two million Jews, this wave of immigration entirely engulfs previous Jewish settlement.Brooklyn’s Ladies’ Hebrew Benevolent Society is organized by members of Temple Israel and K.K. Beth Elohim in 1870.
1871P.T. Barnum’s Circus “The Greatest Show on Earth” arrives in Brooklyn.
1874Charles Feltman introduces the frankfurter in Coney Island.
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Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum is organized, created by philanthropic members of Temple Israel and K.K. Beth Elohim.


1879August Corbin, developer of the opulent Manhattan Beach Hotel, publicly refuses to welcome Jews claiming their “uncouth manners” were distasteful to gentile patrons. His comments spark a public brouhaha. Learn more>>

Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge is completed, uniting Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Untitled, 1904, V1974.22.10.20; Eugene L. Armbruster Photograph and Scrapbook Collection; Brooklyn Historical Society, an East Side throng that has just walked over the new Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn
1890Eighty percent of the city’s population has foreign-born parents.
1892Ellis Island’s first immigration station opens. From 1892 until its permanent closure in 1954, over 12 million immigrants were processed at Ellis Island.
1894Brooklyn Daily Eagle editorial reads: “There is no room in Brooklyn for ‘Jew Baiters.’”
1895The great era of Coney Island as an amusement district begins with the completion of Sea Lion Park.Israel Frederick Fischer is elected to the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Congresses.In 1900, a full 16 years before Louis Brandeis was appointed to the Supreme Court, Fisher was presiding on the federal bench as a member of the US Board of General Appraisers (now the US Customs Court).
1896The first Brooklyn Jewish medical institution, Brooklyn Hebrew Hospital Society, is organized (later becoming the Jewish Hospital).King’s County is incorporated into the City of Brooklyn.
1897The Yiddish-language daily newspaper The Jewish Daily Forward is launched, becoming the voice of the new Jewish immigrant.
1898Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island officially unify to become Greater New York; population 3.4 million.
1899Hebrew Educational Society of Brownsville is opened, an innovative center which encourages Jewish traditions and cultural activities while furthering Americanization.

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The Williamsburg Bridge opens. The bridge greatly facilitated Jewish migration to Brooklyn as many Jews from the Lower East Side found it an easy walk to the other side.


1907Young Men’s Hebrew Association of Brooklyn established in Borough Park, Brooklyn.       Learn more >>
1908The subway goes under the East River to Brooklyn and over the Harlem River to the Bronx, aiding the migration of New York City residents to the outer boroughs. In the decades following, large numbers of Jewish immigrants relocated from the Lower East Side to Brooklyn, many to Brownsville, others to Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Flatbush, Borough Park, or Brighton Beach.
1909Manhattan Bridge, designed and built by Yiddish-speaking engineer Leon S. Moisseiff, opens.
1911The Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire kills 146 women trapped in a burning factory. Public outcry forces better working conditions for laborers.

Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field ballpark opens, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The name Brooklyn Dodgers, shortened from Trolley Dodgers, originated from Brooklynites’ ability to duck and dodge the many trolleys in the borough.

Ebbets Field, ca. 1914, V1973.5.1801 a-c; Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection, ARC. 202; Brooklyn Historical Society.
1914Brooklynite Al McCoy (born Alexander Rudolph) becomes the boxing world middleweight champion from 1914 to 1917.Abe J. Shiplacoff from Brownsville, a one-time sweatshop worker, became the first Socialist elected to New York State Assembly.
1916Brownsville Jewish women rally to support Margaret Sanger after the police close down her birth control clinic, the first of its kind in the United States.Nathan’s Famous five-cent frankfurter comes to Coney Island.
1917The US enters World War I.The Sea Gate Sisterhood and Talmud Torah of Coney Island is established and dedicated.
1918-9Syrian Jews from Aleppo began moving to Brooklyn from Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Learn more>>
Influenza pandemic hits New York, infecting an estimated 500 million people worldwide.
1919The Women’s Hospital organized by Brooklyn Jewish women opens in Brownsville.
1920Almost 30 percent of New York City is Jewish.Cornerstone laid for the Brooklyn Jewish Center, first Jewish community center in the U.S.Congress passes the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.
1923Brooklyn has the largest Jewish population of all of the boroughs.Emanuel Celler, representative of Brownsville, begins serving in Congress for almost 50 years.
1924Brooklyn (including Queens) had the largest Jewish population of any community in the world.National Origins Act sharply restricts further immigration to the United States. Quota system favors “Nordic” people from United Kingdom and Germany over Southern and Eastern Europeans.
1929Stock market crashes, ushering in the Great Depression.Assembly of Brooklyn’s Jewish Women’s Organizations developed.

Brooklyn-born Sidney Franklin becomes the first successful Jewish matador, fighting bulls in Spain, Portugal, Mexico and Panama.


1933President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New deal sets up the Works Progress Administration, a lifeline for NYC.Largest anti-Hitler mass meeting is held in the 13th Regiment Armory.
1935Jewish women in Brooklyn and the Bronx, led by radical activist Clara Lemlich Shavelson, boycott kosher meat in protest of rising prices. Similar protests erupted in 1902 on the Lower East Side.
1937NYC’s first federally financed and constructed public housing projects open in Harlem and Brooklyn.The first Orthodox Jewish elementary school for girls in North America, Shulamis School, opens.
1939Anti-Nazi “Stop Hitler” march is attended by half a million protesters. New York City mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia condemns the invasion of Czechoslovakia.
1941US enters World War II.
1946After World War II, thousands of Satmar Hasidic Holocaust survivors in Displaced Persons camps follow leader Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum to their new home in Williamsburg. Many Holocaust survivors also come to Brighton Beach in the 1950s, forming one of the largest survivor communities in the country. Learn more>>
1947The Dodgers sign Jackie Robinson, the first African American player in Major League Baseball.
1948U. S. Army Colonel David “Mickey” Marcus of Brooklyn is killed in action during the War of Independence in Israel. Marcus was Israel’s first general and lead Israeli forces in the struggle for Israel’s freedom.

Brooklyn-born Vic Herskowitz, “The Babe Ruth of Handball,” captures handball’s grand slam.

1953Acute poverty in Puerto Rico sends huge waves of migrants to New York City. In the 1960s, around 220,000 Puerto Ricans settle in several neighborhoods in central and northern Brooklyn, generating white flight from areas such as Crown Heights and Williamsburg. Blacks and Puerto Ricans settling in Williamsburg in the 1950s and 1960s led to the relocation of several Hassidic Jewish communities from Williamsburg to Borough Park during this period.
1962Abe Stark, formerly president of the NY City Council (1954 to 1961), becomes first Jewish borough president of Brooklyn.
1965Sid Luckman, Brooklyn-born star football quarterback for the Chicago Bears from 1939-1950, is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sandy Koufax of the Brooklyn Dodgers becomes the first pitcher in Major League Baseball to hurl four no-hit games, including a perfect game.Malcolm X is assassinated in Harlem as he addresses a crowd at the Audubon Ballroom.
1968Teachers strike brings public education to a halt after Ocean Hill-Brownsville staff. Learn more>>
Brooklyn’s Shirley Chisholm is elected the first black woman in House of Representatives.
1973NYC’s first Jewish mayor, Abe Beame (from Brownsville), is elected.
1974Yaffa Eliach, a professor at Brooklyn College, opens the first Center for Holocaust Studies in the U.S.
1975With NYC facing bankruptcy, NY State forms the Municipal Assistance Corporation to refinance the City’s debt.
1976The Twin Towers at the World Trade Center complex are completed, designed by Japanese-American architect Minoru Yamasaki.
1980Arnold Jacob “Red” Auerbach (grew up in Williamsburg) is named the greatest coach in the history of the NBA by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America. He was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1969.
1985NYC’s first public Holocaust memorial park is created in Sheepshead Bay.
1991A young Guyanese boy is accidentally killed by a motorcade accompanying the Lubavitcher rebbe; the tragedy leads to a 3-day riot in Crown Heights in which a visiting Australian Jew is killed. Learn More>>
1993Brooklyn-born Ruth Bader Ginsburg is sworn in as Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the second female Justice (after Sandra Day O’Connor) and the first Jewish female Justice.
1994Death of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, grand Rebbe of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. The Rebbe founded a network of institutions, such as Lubavitch Centers and Chabad Houses, to spread Orthodox Judaism and to serve the spiritual and materials needs of Jewish communities worldwide.

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2001Nineteen al-Qa‛ida terrorists hijack four commercial airlines, intentionally crashing two into the North and South Towers at the World Trade Center. Flight 93 crashes in an empty field in western Pennsylvania; Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon in Washington, DC. The 9/11 Memorial will open ten years later on the 10th Anniversary of the tragedy.
2004The Jewish Children’s Museum opens in Crown Heights, becoming the largest Jewish-themed children’s museum in the United States.
2010Elana Kagan is sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice, the second Jewish female Justice.

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A Short and Remarkable History of New York, edited by Jane Mushabac and Angela Wigan. New York: Fordham University Press, 1999.

Jews of Brooklyn, edited by Ilana Abramovitch and Seán Galvin. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2002.