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Public Servants

Asser Levy - Jewish Law Enforcement

First Jewish member of law enforcement in America — the patron saint of Jewish police officers

Born: 16th Century, Holland
Died: 1680, The New World

Asser Levy came to New Amsterdam (modern day NYC) in 1654, most likely as a refugee from Brazil.

In 1655, Governor Peter Stuyvesant, needing to recruit men to fight against the Swedish along the Delaware River, ordered the recruitment of all adult men. Several Jews, including Asser Levy, requested to serve but were turned away because of a decree enacted by the Governor and council that forbade Jews from service. To add insult to injury, Jews were required to pay a monthly military exemption fee.

Levy and his Jewish colleagues refused to pay the fee. On November 5, 1655, Levy and the others petitioned for leave to stand guard or be exempted from the fee. The petition was denied, and all were essentially told that if they didn't like the ruling they were free to leave the country. Levy appealed to the authorities in Holland and eventually won, allowing him to serve as a guard and to become the first Jewish member of law enforcement in America.

Subsequently Levy became a prosperous businessman—first as a butcher, then in real estate, eventually becoming one of the most affluent inhabitants in the New World, respected and admired by Jews and gentiles alike.

The New York Times refers to him as, "the patron saint of Jewish police officers in America."

See also: Otto Raphael, Albert Seedman

Interesting Facts
  • One of his grandsons fought in a New Jersey regiment during the American Revolution.
  • Levy was the first Jew to serve on an American jury.
  • Today schools, parks and monuments in Levy's honor are scattered throughout NYC.
Further Reading
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