Alternate First Name(s)
Assur, Asher
Alternate Last Name(s)
Levy van Swellem

The portrait above is by Bartholomeus vander Helst " Portrait of a Man" 1647. It is used as a placeholder until a verified portrait of Asser can be identified.

User Tags:
Related Modern Surnames:
Death Date
Death Dates Notes
(some sources list 1682)
Ancestor Notes

For more related reading see:

For an exhibit from the American Sephardi Federation on the 23 Jews who left Recife for New Amsterdam, please see the American Sephardic Federation.  To access the finding aid to the collection of his inventory papers at the Center for Jewish History: .   Noah Gelfand's article on Asser Levy breaks new ground on the subject of his arrival in Manhattan.


Asser Levy (?- 1680), also known as Asher Levy, was the spokesperson of the first Jewish settlement in the United States. They were the twenty-three Jews who left Recife, Brazil for New Amsterdam (now known as New York City) in 1654 on board the French ship Sainte Catherine. Levy, along with Jacob Barsimson, was an advocate for the small Jewish community in New Amsterdam. He fought for the rights of the Jews, especially to bear arms, and won the right for the Jews to be on guard duty instead of paying a special tax. 1 Levy was also one of the first licensed butchers in the colony. In 1657 the burgher right was made absolutely essential for certain trading privileges, and within two days of a notice to that effect Asser Levy appeared in court requesting to be admitted as a burgher. The officials expressed their surprise atsuch a request. The record reads: "The Jew claims that such ought not to be refused him as he keeps watch and ward like other burghers, showing a burgher's certificate from the city of Amsterdam that the Jew is a burgher there." The application was denied, but Levy at once brought the matter before Stuyvesant and the council, which, mindful of the previous experience, ordered that Jews should be admitted as burghers (April 21, 1657). 2 More recent scholarship describes Asser Levy as follows: Asser Levy, probably from Vilnius, Lithuania, was perhaps the first Jew to arrive in New Amsterdam, a matter of weeks before a group of 23 Sephardic Jews arrived as refugees from the former Dutch colony of Brazil. He worked variously as a merchant, butcher, and real estate entrepreneur over the next 30 years and played a major role in the struggles to obtain equal protection under prevailing law for himself and his coreligionists. 3 For more info see:

There is also a book on the migration of the first Jews in New Netherland:


Documents below also show that Asser Levy held property in Beverwyck in 1664.

The Diary of Asser Levy: First Jewish Citizen of New York by Daniella Weil is a  fictionalized account of his life as a young man, and presents an alternate theory regarding his arrival in New Amsterdam and his introduction to his wife Miriam.   The author researched extensively in the US and abroad.   Research on this subject is continuing, and the NAHC remains dedicated to assisting writers inspired by the Dutch Colonial Period.


The New Amsterdam History Center's presentation on Religious Tolerance is particularly interesting as it relates to Asser Levy and the Jews of New Amsterdam.


1 wikipedia 2

2. The portrait above is by Bartholomeus vander Helst " Portrait of a Man" 1647. It is used as a placeholder until a verified portrait of Asser can be identified.

3 Museum of the City of New York: Amsterdam, New Amsterdam exhibit 2009 description from item: Deed by which Asser Levy purchased property from Jacob Young, 5 September 1677; 34.86



Wessel Evertsen built house for Asser Levy

(left no descendants)