Edited By Lucyna Aleksandrowicz-Pędich and Jacek Partyka
The Community Memory of Springfield, Missouri Suppresses the City’s Jewish Past
“Collective memory – the memory preserved by a group of people – mirrors the perception of what was meaningful from that people’s past, and, in turn, what is salient in their present.”
Mark R. Cohen, p. 149
Jewish religion is steeped in remembrances of times past. Every holiday, the Sabbath included, is based on the idea of remembrance. In some ways Jews are obsessed with memory. Joshua Foer, the 2006 USA Memory Champion and journalist, explains that “memories … are constantly shaping how we perceive the world. This is part of the genius of Jewish memory: our present is constantly being informed by the set of collective memories we possess as Jews” (58). It is this “set of collective memories” that recreates history. What is remembered is based on memory, sometimes people purposely select what to remember and other times they just forget. This paper examines what a particular Jewish community remembers about itself and how that parallels the documents available.
The first Jews in North America were of Spanish descent and landed in New Amsterdam (today’s New York) in 1654, fleeing the Brazilian Inquisition. Their ship, St. Catrina, arrived in the New Amsterdam port bringing twenty-three Jews. For many years, Brazil had been a Dutch protectorate and had recently been recaptured by the Portuguese. These Jews hoped to be protected by the Dutch government once again.
Before President Thomas Jefferson bought the land that included Missouri, which in 1803 became a state,...
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