Skip to main content
  • First Jewish Settlers of Georgia

    Rabbi R. A. Belzer tells the story of the arrival of Georgia’s first Jewish settlers. The city of Savannah can boast that it is the home of Congregation Mickve Israel, Georgia’s oldest Jewish congregation and the third oldest in the country.

    Support Materials

    Discuss

    1. When did the first Jewish settlers come to Georgia?

    2. Where did this group of settlers come from, and what were their reasons for resettling?

    3. Explain the circumstances of how they left Portugal for the new world.

    4. Explain why Dr. Samuel Nunez, who was among these Jewish settlers, was considered the first hero of the Georgia colony?

    Expansion

    1. Colonial Georgia set the stage for many religions to coexist as new settlers arrived. Using dates from the video and other sources, create a timeline of the arrival of different groups in the Georgia colony up until statehood and indicate the religious preference of each group.

    Vocabulary

    Bar (Bat) mitzvah: 13-year-old Jewish boy (girl), considered an adult and responsible for his/her moral and religious duties, and the ceremony that commemorates this event
    Torah: a scroll of parchment containing the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures, used in a synagogue during services
    Rabbi: a person trained in Jewish law, ritual, and tradition and ordained for leadership of a Jewish congregation, especially one serving as chief religious official of a synagogue

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. When did the first Jewish settlers come to Georgia?
    This was the second group of settlers brought over to Georgia by Oglethorpe in 1733. This congregation has met continuously for over 250 years. (It has the original Torah – first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch – brought to Georgia in 1733.)

    2. Where did this group of settlers come from, and what were their reasons for resettling?
    This first group of Jewish settlers came from Portugal. They were persecuted because of their faith. They were in a Catholic country and were thought to be heretics to the faith. They had to practice their faith in private.

    3. Explain the circumstances of how they left Portugal for the new world.
    They were invited to a party on board one of the ships in the harbor. Many of them were wealthy and would be leaving behind riches. The women sewed jewels inside their large party dresses. The ship sailed out of the harbor and on to England. From there, they boarded Oglethorpe’s ship to get to the new colony of Georgia.

    4. Explain why Dr. Samuel Nunez, who was among these Jewish settlers, was considered the first hero of the Georgia colony?
    Dr. Samuel Nunez, who had been the physician to the King of Portugal, was a specialist in infectious diseases. Before they landed, the Georgia colony had had an outbreak of malaria. It had killed the only doctor left in the colony. Dr. Nunez knew that it was probably caused by the brackish, mosquito-filled water around the settlements. He got them to clean the water, and he treated the infected people and stopped the plague. For this reason, he was considered a hero to the people.

    Explore More