Asser Levy (-1681), NYC's first kosher butcher

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Mon Jun 24 16:16:50 UTC 2002

Isaac Stokes' Iconography of Manhattan Island only cites two
contemporary sources regarding Asser Levy's activity as a butcher.  The
Iconography was compiled more that 80 years ago, but I don't suppose
that any more is likely to have been found.

In 1660, Levy and 5 others asked to be "sworn butchers", a licensed and
regulated monopoly, and were accepted.  Part 4 of their oath fixed the
prices for their services, and specified that they might charge $1 for
killing a hog.  "Then Asser Levy requests to be excused from killing
hogs, as his religion does not allow him to do it, which was granted
him.  And they accordingly took the . . . Oath except Asser aforesaid,
who took the oath, which the Jews are accustomed to take."  Berthold
Fernow, The Records of New Amsterdam, vol. 7, 1898, pp. 258-59.

In January, 1677/78, Ashur Levy asked permission to build a slaughter
house, "and to take in Garret Janson Rose to be Partner with him
therein, and that all persons should have Liberty to kill & hang theire
Meat there, paying for the same as formerly in other places."  Minutes
of the Common Council of the City of New York, 1675-1766, 1905, vol. 1,
pp. 67-68.

So the records don't contain the word "kosher" or any equivalent.  I'm
not sure whether NY had a sufficiently large Jewish population in the
1660s to support an exclusively kosher butcher, and the records don't
indicate that Levy was exempt from being required to butcher beef in
the fashion preferred by the goyim.  I do not see his partner Rose, aka
Roos, in Malcolm Stern's First American Jewish Families: 600
genealogies, 3rd ed., 1991, so either he wasn't Jewish or didn't leave
a family.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998.

----- Original Message -----
From: Bapopik at AOL.COM
Date: Tuesday, June 11, 2002 4:19 am
Subject: Asser Levy (-1681), NYC's first kosher butcher

>   Again, I haven't seen the OXFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN
> FOOD's entry on
> "kosher."  I could be duplicating what's already there--which I
> suppose is
> good.
>   Various web sites list New York's (New Amsterdam's) Asser Levy as
> America's first kosher butcher.  He opened up shop November 15,
> 1660, or
> October 15, 1660, or in 1655 (these web sites vary).
>   What evidence is there of this, when our first record for the word
> "kosher" is 200 years later?
>   Hot dog, I've got to solve this.  My etymology serves a higher
> authority.
> -------------------------------------------------------------------
> -----------
> ---------------------------------------------
>   I'll look in the publications:
> NEWS LETTER (National Council of Jewish Women, 1933-1939)
> COUNCIL WOMAN (1940-1978)
> DER IDISHER FROYEN ZSHURNAL (Jewish Women's Home Journal, 1922-1923)
>   Bat Mitzvah and bagels is all I ask.  Plus latkes and rugelach.

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