Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, President of the St Augustine Jewish Historical Society, told local reporters at Historic City News that this year’s commemoration of 447 years of unbroken history in St Augustine will be expanded to include the possibility, and some suggest likelihood, that it marks the first arrival of Jews in our country, as well.
The past 446 celebrations of the founding of the first city of European origin in what would become the United States, have held major Catholic components — after all, the founding of St Augustine was celebrated with the first Catholic Mass on American soil.
“The founders came to advance Catholicism in North America. Catholic clergy were important leaders of the enterprise that was begun by Pedro Menendez de Aviles on September 8, 1565,” Shapiro told Historic City News. “What we are looking forward to this year is educating the public about scholarly evidence available that indicates Jews, who were known as Marranos, Crypto-Jews, Conversos, or, New Christians, likely accompanied the first Spanish settlers.”
A 60-minute educational program will be held on Thursday, September 6th, from 4:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, located at 11 Magnolia Avenue in St Augustine. A tour of the latest archaeological sites is included in the program; led by Carl Lindenfeld and Moises Sztylerman.
Lindenfeld and Sztylerman, are among those who actively dig at archaeological sites around St Augustine in search of clues to the puzzle over whether or not Jews first came to the First Coast as early as 1565. Both men are Directors of the St Augustine Archaeological Society; a not-for-profit organization that is the regional chapter of the Florida Anthropological Society.
All are welcome to attend; this event is open to the public, Shapiro told reporters. St Johns County residents can present photo identification at the entrance to the park to receive free admission.