Jewish History Resources

From 1513, when Ponce de Leon claimed Florida for Spain, until 1763, when Florida became a British possession under the Treaty of Paris, Florida was an explicitly Catholic colony.

King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile established the Spanish Inquisition in 1478 to maintain Catholic orthodoxy throughout the Spanish Empire. Non-Catholic citizens risked torture and death if they did not convert to Catholicism. In 1492, Isabella and Ferdinand ordered that all people of the Jewish faith - even those who had previously converted - had to leave Spain or be put to death. The Inquisition officially lasted until 1808.

The first Florida Jews settled in Pensacola after the Treaty of Paris was signed (although there may have been "Conversos" (Jews who hid their religion and converted to save their lives) living in Florida under Spanish rule. Today, 16 percent of the American Jewish community lives in Florida.

Source: Jewish Museum of Florida

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