They were originally banned from the Georgia colony, but when 42 Jewish immigrants from Europe arrived in Savannah on this day in 1733, James Oglethorpe welcomed them.
The migrants arrived onboard the ship William and Sarah on a trip financed by members of a London synagogue. Of the 43, 34 were Sephardic Jews, of Spanish and Portuguese heritage. The rest were Ashkenazic, of German descent. A Torah scroll they brought with them survives to this day at the Congregation Mickve Israel in Savannah, created in 1735, two years after their arrival. It is the oldest Jewish congregation in the South and the third oldest in the country. Oglethorpe’s enthusiastic welcome was due, in part, to Dr. Samuel Nunes, a Jewish physician whom the Georgia founder credited with saving the lives of many colonists suffering from yellow fever.
These Jews and their descendants would play a central role in the development of our state, after the first Jewish settlers arrived on July 11, 1733, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.