Jewish rights group wants Peter Stuyvesant monuments removed over anti-semitism

Posted On Fri, August 25, 2017 By

Posted On Fri, August 25, 2017 By In History, Policy

Monument to Peter Stuyvesant in Stuyvesant Square via edenpictures via photopin

Earlier this week, the de Blasio administration said it would give “immediate attention” to a proposal from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to remove Central Park’s Christopher Columbus statue based on accounts that the explorer enslaved and killed many indigenous people. And it looks like Peter Stuyvesant might be next on the chopping block. The Post reports that Jewish rights group Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center is “demanding Mayor de Blasio scrub all traces of the anti-Semitic Dutch governor from city property” as part of the city’s 90-day review of symbols of hate. Not only do they want monuments of him removed, but his name erased on everything from the public Stuyvesant High School to Stuyvesant Square Park to the entire neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

New Amsterdam, Dutch NYC, historic maps NYCMap of New Amsterdam in 1664, via NYPL

“Peter Stuyvesant was an extreme racist who targeted Jews and other minorities including Catholics and energetically tried to prohibit them from settling in then New Amsterdam,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the head of the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center.

Indeed, Stuyvesant was not in support of full religious freedom, instead pushing for the Dutch Reformed Church and taking away the rights to worship of Lutherans, Quakers, and Catholics. In 1654, when Jewish refugees from the former Dutch colony of Recife, Brazil arrived to New Amsterdam, Stuyvesant tried to stop them from entering. Since some of the colony’s established property owners were Jewish, this didn’t quite go according to plan, but Stuyvesant persisted, seizing and selling the refugees’ property, banning them from building a synagogue, and prohibiting them from serving in  the militia, which then incurred a special tax that said they had to pay for someone to serve in their place. In a letter to the Dutch West India Company at the time, he referred to the Jews as “the deceitful race, — such hateful enemies and blasphemers of the name of Christ,” as well as the “repugnant race” and “usurers.”

Asser Levy Public Baths, via Wiki Commons

The following year, two men, Joseph Barsimon and Asser Levy filed a petition with the colonial court asking that the refugees either be allowed to serve or the tax dropped. Levy was one of the refugees himself and he eventually convinced Holland to let him serve. He was also the first Jew to own a house in North America (he bought property in Fort Orange, NJ in 1661) and the first Jew to own real estate in New York (he purchased land on South William Street in 1662).

And it’s Levy who he Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center wants to honor, suggesting that all traces of Peter Stuyvesant be replaced with his namesake. “New York, of all American cities, which boasts such important Jewish history and claims such a present day vibrant Jewish community, should take the lead in denouncing Stuyvesant’s bigotry,” said Leitner. Currently, his name appears on Coney Island’s Asser Levy Park, the Asser Levy School (PS 19 in the East Village), Asser Levy Place (a park between 23rd and 25th Streets in Manhattan), and the nearby Asser Levy Recreation Center and Asser Levy Public Baths.

A bust of Peter Stuyvesant at St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery, where he is also buried. Via Wiki Commons.

But the New Netherlands Institute, which researches America’s Dutch history, says the idea is “ridiculous” and that Stuyvesant was not “treasonous” like the Confederate leaders whose statues are being removed across the nation. “This is an entirely different case. This was about customs in the 17th century. They should talk about the history, but not start removing statues,” said a spokesman, adding that Stuyvesant was against any religion outside his own and that his motives were fueled by an ignorance about disease and a desire to establish “social cohesion.”

Neither Mayor de Blasio nor the city has yet to comment on the Stuyvesant proposal, but the debate over removing Christopher Columbus’ monument is heating up, with many elected officials referring to the proposal as “revisionist history” and holding a large press conference in support of the statue.

[Via NYP]

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  • A.S.F.

    Given how Anti-semitic and Anti-Caucasian HE was, can we remove the name of Malcolm X from every image and street name in America? Think the BLM organizarion and the “Regressive Left” will support that idea?

    • RCP

      Probably not, but they should.

  • Greg Preservation

    This is silly. Really very silly.

    Everyone has jumped on the bandwagon to remove all their pet hated historical figures. All this anger misrepresents why these particular statues were erected. Unlike the confederate statues, erected during the Jim Crow era as statements of White Supremacy, statues of historical figures such as Christopher Columbus and Peter Stuyvesant were erected as representations of the distant past. Read the accounts of the dedications. Columbus was viewed as a brave explorer, and Stuyvesant was viewed as a funny old figure from New York’s past. There is no suggestion at all of Stuyvesant’s anti-Semitic views and actions. Unlike the stated intent of the Confederate monuments, It was not erected to promote Anti-Semitic political power.

    As an example of why some of these statues and monuments have attracted such hatred, it took years for the city of New Orleans to adjust the dedication on the monument celebrating the late 1800’s White Supremacist uprising. The monument was originally deliberately dedicated to the White lives lost in the battle, to celebrate White Supremacy. There was no mention of Black lives lost. Worse, the monument became a symbol of ongoing White bigotry. It was nearly a century long effort to add any mention of the Black lives lost, and more than 120 years to finally remove the monument altogether.

    As for the sniping of A.S.F., and the ‘Regressive Left,’ comment, that’s just lots more silliness. If any of these statues and monuments had been reinterpreted with a modern dedication to place them in context, we wouldn’t be having these discussions. They wouldn’t even be on our radar. So, A.S.F., are you a White Protestant? And read about Malcolm X. You got his story wrong…

    • A.S.F.

      I think you need to re-educate yourself, How old are you? Hopefully, you are old enough to know some actual history beyond the revised comic book version–and this is fairly recent American history. Malcolm X called Caucasians “White Devil’s” all the time and referred to armed responses as a way of dealing with race issues which is why he and Martin Luther King Jr. were at odds with each other. He had a habit of calling MLK and any other Black leader who did not agree with his (and Elijah Muhammed’s Black Muslim Movement) aggressive policies “Uncle Tom’s” and “house ni**ers”–that last term (which he stated on national TV interviews)–courtesy of him, not me.. You ever heard his speech about JFK’s assassination being a case of “chickens coming home to roost…and chickens coming home to roost never made me sad. It only makes me glad.” Ever heard of the Black Panther Party? They weren’t peacenics, either. My point is that all of this statue business is a useless distraction and a waste of time and energy that, in the long run, is going to help get Trump (or someone of his ilk) elected again, more than anything else it might accomplish. Acting like mirror-image doppelgangers to the Alt-Right isn’t going to help us..and giving free reign to our own prejudices only makes us look like hypocrites indulging a prolonged case of adolescent oppositional disorder. There are much more pressing matters that should be the object of our attention. Ever heard the term: You can win the battle and still lose the war?” Trump and the Republicans are LOVING this! The more we are make fools of ourselves over pulling down statues, the less attention is paid to things like Trump’s collusion with Russia to sabotage our electoral process and gerry-mandering states. What do you suppose is next on the agenda? Is the Regressive Left planning a bus trip to Gettysburg to figure out how it should be bull-dozed and reconfigured so it meets the dictates of “political correctness?” By the way, I am not a White Protestant. I am just not into wasting my time being a “useful idiot.”

  • TomDUWS

    Where does it all end? Do we next burn text books because they make reference to Columbus and others in a way that some lunatic group finds offensive? Seems logical at this point that de Blasio would jump into this arena. Gotta protect those little minds from all of this hate!

  • wright gregson

    no no no. it is starting to look like the Cultural Revolution, damn it. Explanitory plaques, perhaps, but no removal. Every group has practiced some sort of discrimination, yes, every group, at some point.
    For example, there were Jews who profited from slave related businesses or who had slaves and those slaves possibly build synagogues. Should we now tear down those building or demonize the slave holders who caused the synagogue to be built? Should we tear down the universities that were built with profits from the slave trade?
    Stop, already and examine the trend carefully.
    This is an example

  • Zupamum

    I vote to keep all the statues and teach people about the good, bad, and the ugly of each one! Keep history alive, so as we don’t mistakes of the past in the future!

  • wright gregson

    by the by…… what are the restrictions one would face if one was not Jewish but wanted to move to Israel? (this is a real question, by the way. I don’t know the answer but I do know that Israel is called a Jewish state.)

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