BD luncheon speaker to talk about first Jews in America on Nov. 9

Professor Paul Finkelman, president of Gratz College, the oldest Jewish liberal arts college in the nation, will be the Beth David luncheon speaker on Saturday, November 9. An internationally known American legal historian, he will share findings from his recent research on the first Jews that came to America in 1654, to what was then called New Amsterdam, and is now known as Manhattan. Finkelman’s research debunks certain myths about these 23 Jewish refugees. “This is not the story you learned in Sunday school,” Finkelman asserts. “My research shows that the story is far more interesting and complex than has previously been told.” 
What role did Peter Stuyvesant play in the lives of these Jewish immigrants? What say did the Dutch West Indies Company have in their fate? How does the story of these first Jews in America help us better understand the Jewish contribution to the development of religious freedom in what later became the United States? These are the questions that Finkelman will address in his talk. 
“Those of us who have had the pleasure of hearing Professor Finkelman speak are looking forward to having everyone at Beth David and in the community share in this exceptional opportunity of finding out more about the real story of these first Jews who came to America,” organizers say. “Paul is a talented speaker who has the special gift of making history come alive!”
Finkelman obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Before becoming president of Gratz College in 2017, he held endowed chairs in history and law at a number of colleges, including Duke Law School, LSU Law School, Albany Law School, the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Miami. He was a scholar-in-residence at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania program in democracy, citizenship and constitutionalism. He also held the Fulbright Chair in Human Rights and Social Justice at the University of Ottawa. The U.S. Supreme Court has cited him in two religious freedom cases and three other cases. Among those citing him are Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. Finkelman’s publications include more than 50 books and 200 scholarly articles. His most recent book, “Supreme Injustice: Slavery in the Nation’s Highest Court,” was published by Harvard University Press in 2018. Finkelman has written a number of articles on Jewish law, American Jewish history and freedom of religion. He was the chief expert witness in the Alabama Ten Commandments monument case. He has also been an expert witness in other cases involving religious freedom and the separation of church and state. He has spoken at numerous synagogues and temples throughout the United States. He is currently writing a book on the legal history of American Jews.
Beth David’s luncheon speaker series takes place the second Saturday of the month after Shabbat morning services, and is open to the community. There is no charge for the luncheon. Since the monthly series’ continuation depends on the generosity of contributors, Beth David welcomes and appreciates donations to the Luncheon Fund in order to keep the program going. Donations can be made in honor of or in memory of someone, or to mark a special occasion. Those wishing an acknowledgment to be sent to the person being honored or to the family of someone being remembered can indicate that, along with the necessary information. Donations can be sent to Beth David Synagogue, 39 Riverside Dr., Binghamton, NY 13905, Attention: Luncheon Fund.