Joachim Gans, One of North America’s First Jews—and Perhaps Its First Scientist

Sept. 25 2019

In August, a plaque was unveiled on the edge of a highway in North Carolina commemorating Joachim Gans, a Prague-born metallurgist who was the first practicing Jew known to have settled in what would later become part of the U.S. Andrew Lawler writes:

Gans grew up in 16th-century Prague, then a center of innovation in mining and metallurgy. England was [at the time] desperate for help in extracting copper and tin. . . . Jews had been banned since 1290, but a courtier of Elizabeth I secured Gans a kind of Tudor H-1B visa. Soon after, Sir Walter Raleigh sought a credible scientist to join England’s first venture to colonize the Americas on what is now the North Carolina coast. In Gans, Raleigh saw the perfect candidate for the specialized job of sourcing and analyzing metals.

Gans arrived on Roanoke Island in 1585, along with a motley crew of more than 100 men that included French, Portuguese, Belgian, Irish, and Scottish colonists as well as English soldiers and merchants. The Prague Jew, who made no secret of his religious background, quickly constructed a state-of-the-art chemistry lab outfitted with Bavarian crucibles and a high-temperature furnace. He tested metals brought to him by local Algonquian-speaking tribes and tramped through the swamps in search of mineral deposits. Though he failed to find gold, despite Raleigh’s hopes, there is evidence he isolated iron, silver, and copper in his experiments. That was promising news for an England eager to access metal deposits.

Hunger and conflict with the indigenous population drove the settlers, including Gans, to catch a ride home aboard a passing fleet the following year. . . . The last known mention of the metallurgist has him facing trial in London for denying that Jesus was the son of God. Jews would not be officially allowed in England for another generation.

Read more at Smithsonian

More about: American Jewish History, British Jewry, Science, U.S history


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy