America’s First Jewish Academic

February 28 1716 – 5 Adar 5476

New York

Judah Monis registered as a citizen of New York. Descended from conversos, Monis had studied in Leghorn and Amsterdam, then moved to Jamaica. He served as a reader of the weekly portion in a number of Jewish communities before his arrival in New York. Opening a store in 1715, he taught Hebrew to both Jews and Christians Hebrew. In 1720 he moved to Cambridge, Massachussets and started teaching at the University of Harvard. The first Jew to receive a masters degree from the university – with excellence – Monis wrote a book of Hebrew grammar and was appointed head of Harvard’s Hebrew department. However, as all faculty members had to be Christians, his appointment required him to be baptized. The university’s records hint that Monis continued to secretly observe Jewish practices – following in his oppressed family’s footsteps in the land of the free.