About Us

1654 Society

Too few Americans know of the history of the Jewish People in America. It is not taught in the history textbooks, the public schools, or rarely even in Jewish Day schools.  Broadening this knowledge base is essential to fostering self-respect among a Jewish population that is not fully cognizant of our history - as well as increasing awareness of our history amongst the larger American public. The 1654 Society has been charged with preserving and publishing unique archives and treasures - primary evidence that document myriad Jewish contributions, and firmly establish our place in the founding of America. These records assist every American Jew in understanding and taking pride and ownership in their heritage. In assuming responsibility for telling the story of the first American Jewish community, the 1654 Society is also telling the quintessential American experience - one of religious freedom, and the right to participate freely in society. The 1654 Society is also committed to finding ways to ensure that this knowledge is made more accessible to the public. These records are the 'facts on the ground' - which are essential to understanding the past, celebrating the present and building the future.The archives - which document the story of our existence at the misty shores of America's beginnings - are in danger of decaying to a point of no return due to inadequate storage facilities. Scholars, educators and researchers of family genealogy have been unable to access these precious records. Our three historic cemeteries in lower Manhattan, the earliest one dating to 1683 - which should be recognized as a national treasure - are the resting place of the earliest generations of American Jews, including 22 who fought in the American Revolution. These historic cemeteries require considerable maintenance and improvement as well as public recognition. The 1654 Society endeavors to maintain the legacy of this community as a continuous living history - as a way of celebrating a fountain of creativity which will continue to be a source of new intellectual capital and ongoing American civic involvement - ever rejuvenating the underpinnings of our democratic society. In fulfilling our mission, the 1654 Society works to:

  • Sponsor educational programs, lectures and exhibits focusing on the accomplishments of Jews in American life from pre-Colonial days to the present.
  • Preserve and digitize the Shearith Israel archives to make them more accessible to scholars, educators, genealogical researchers and the public.
  • Publish heretofore obscured important historical facts, trends and analyses from our archives that document the founding role of this Jewish community.
  • Restore and beautify the congregation's cemeteries (the oldest dating back to 1683) where Shearith Israel's Jewish Revolutionary War heroes are laid to rest, so the public can visit them and learn of our past.
  • Maintain, restore and exhibit historic treasures associated with Shearith Israel's history so future generations will be able to see and enjoy their beauty.​

Offer real-time and virtual tours of our historic properties so that visitors can understand the legacy in a tangible way.
We need your help to accomplish these goals. Unless we can quickly implement the proper measures to assist us in preserving, restoring and maintaining our records for posterity, they may be lost. And unless we can make these records accessible to the public, future generations will not be able to learn of their heritage which has played such a key role in the history of America. Our history is one that can connect us to our past. Preserving our ancient historic treasures and providing the public with greater access to them will enable those seekers of authenticity, interpreters of history or simply the intellectually curious - to better understand the world our early American Jewish ancestors imagined, created, shaped and fought for - so that we can enjoy the American way of life at its best. Please join our effort and become a Friend of the 1654 Society today! The 1654 Society - advancing the protection and preservation of a national legacy for future generations to experience and enjoy.

Louis Solomon, President

Norman Benzaquen, Chair