Don Jose Pereira was among the handful of Sephardic Jews who had fled Brazil, when the long arm of the Inquisition made life for the Spanish and Portuguese refugees unbearable, even in the New World. In 1654 they landed in New Amsterdam, as New York was then called by the Dutch. But their hopes for peace and opportunity, were rudely shattered by the nasty attitude of the Dutch governor. Despite orders from Holland, he refused to grant the Jews fair treatment, and the right to practice their professions.

Jose Pereira was a wealthy goldsmith, whose craftsmanship had helped him to establish himself wherever he travelled with his large family. It was a great disappointment to him and his dear wife and eleven children, when, after waiting several weeks, he was not granted permission to practice his art. Pereira then decided to travel further north, where news of a freer climate held greater promise. Yet, when the chance came to board a small freight ship that went to Boston, his wife Donna Rachela took ill, and Jose Pereira was forced to remain, with his younger children. His oldest son Isaac Pereira, who had acquired his father's skill and was a master at silver work, went ahead to strike out for himself, taking his young wife with him. Soon, Jose Pereira became established, and he was one of the founding members of the Sephardic congregation that was established in New York, only a year after his arrival from Brazil.

Many a time Isaac Pereira wished that he had stayed with his father, whose fame as a craftsman began to spread soon after he had finally been granted permission to set up shop. He, Isaac, on the other hand, struggled to make a living for himself and the three young children, who were born to him in the first three years after he had settled in his small house, on the outskirts of Boston. There was little need for fine silverware among the workers, craftsmen and dealers among whom lie lived. The wealthy English officers and the successful businessmen imported their silver from England. Then good fortune smiled on him. It happened that the wife of the British Major Hamilton passed his shop whilst driving from her home on the Hill. Her keen eyes discovered something in his small display window for which she had looked in vain for a long time, a pair of graceful candlesticks. She made her coachman turn around and come all the way back to the small house. To her great amazement, the Jewish silversmith refused to sell her the candlesticks. "I made those for my wife in honor of the birth of our first son Jacob. On the anniversary of his birth, they will go upstairs, and no money in the world can buy them, though, truthfully speaking, I could use every red copper right now. What I can do, is to make you another, even more graceful pair, and deliver it to your house within two weeks."

Lady Hamilton was angry at first at this polite, but firm refusal of the Jewish craftsman to part with his candlesticks. Yet his cultured manner, and above all the beauty of his work, changed her mind as she was about to leave. "I'll be back in exactly two weeks. We shall see then, whether you are not just bragging."

The product of Isaac Pereira's feverish work was much more beautiful than Lady Hamilton had anticipated. Nothing of her own, or her friends, silverware could quite match the grace and beauty of the candlesticks, despite the simplicity of their lines. Gladly she paid the price which the young silversmith asked for his work. Within a short few weeks many of her English friends, and wealthy members of the colonists, found their way to the small silver smithy of Isaac Pereira. Ever since then, the goblets, trinkets and chains of the Sephardic artist sold quickly and at good prices, so that Isaac Pereira was soon able to move into a bigger house; and to employ several apprentices to help him with the basic work, in the large shop on the main floor.

As the years passed Isaac Pereira, now an established man, became highly respected and honored by the growing number of Jews who had settled in Boston and suburbs. He wanted his son Jacob to be trained early for the profession which had been in the family for many generations. But young Jacob showed no special interest for the work in the silver smithy. He was much more interested in the study of the Hebrew books and of the medical writings which were lent to him by a neighbor who liked the bright, dark haired youngster. To Isaac Pereira's regret, his son showed no more than casual attention to the work of the silver shop. As the months passed and the situation did not change, Isaac accepted the fact that the future of Jacob lay in a different field than his own. In fact, it was his own idea to study at the University of Salerno, and at the same time have the opportunity of getting a thorough Hebrew education in the great tradition of his family. In the New World, there was little chance for this, despite the efforts of some of the older Jewish settlers to establish a school, or Cheder, for their children. Jacob was too bright and too dedicated to be satisfied by the efforts of the private instructors who taught the children of the new settlers the fundamentals of Judaism, Hebrew, and Hebrew literature.

Jacob Pereira spent almost ten years in Salerno where he studied under the direction of an old Jewish physician who was also a noted Jewish scholar. By the time Jacob was ready to return to the New World, he had become thoroughly trained in all phases of the medical field, and of Talmudic research. His young soul was inspired by the high ideals which the old scholar had instilled in him.

When Jacob Pereira reached the harbor of New York, and was taken off the boat by his cousins, the grandchildren of Don Jose Bereira, all goldsmiths and jewelers, he learned of the fight for freedom that loomed ahead, as the British did their best to anger the colonists, and to refuse any reasonable settlement of their grievances. Jacob saw his life course set. At once he joined the ragged forces that had gathered outside of New York, in the early stage of the revolution, at the side of his fiery young cousin Jose Pereira. Few Jews were among the revolutionists, but the skilled young doctor was quite welcome, because there were so few well trained medics at their disposal. Jose Pereira was an expert in ballistics. And so the two cousins soon gained respect among the ill-trained and poorly equipped New York troops.

When George Washington moved to the defense of New York in March 1776, and fought the campaign against Howe's much better equipped, larger army, Jose Pereira's intimate knowledge of all parts of New York proved very useful. No sooner had George Washington divided his troops, and placed a large part across the East River, in Brooklyn Heights, than two young officers requested to see him in his headquarters. Worried as he was, and busy planning his difficult campaign against General Howe's army, and the threat of Lord Howe's fleet, Washington at first refused to see them. But at the recommendation of Major Schuyler, he finally admitted them. "These two young Jews are among my brightest aides. If they want to see you, they must have a good reason."

Thus Jose and Doctor Jacob Pereira appeared before Washington on a hot, sweltering August night, as the leader of the American army was sitting at his table, bent over large maps of Manhattan Island.

"Your honor," said young Jose boldly, "pray, forgive me, but I think your tactics may lead to disaster. I know the territory on both sides of the East River well, and I dare say that bravery and strategy notwithstanding, our troops, ill equipped and poorly trained as they are, do not have a chance against Howe who, I am told, is right now advancing on our men." Seeing the rising anger and surprise on the general's face, Doctor Jacob Pereira quickly stepped forward.

"Your Honor, I pray, do not hold my cousin's rashness against him. In his eager young soul burns a great love for this new homeland, which has given our families a haven of refuge, after we have been hunted and chased from one country after another. It is his fear for our forces that makes him talk so audaciously. He means well, and if I be permitted to say so, he knows quite well what he is talking about. Please, Sir, listen to him and do not mind his tone." Washington's tired eyes looked from one handsome, dark face to the other. His anger subsided somewhat. "If it were not for your youth, and for the fine recommendation by your commander, I'd have a good mind to have you, young man, court martialled. You'd better give me some good, solid reason for your brash words, or else. . ."

A few minutes of intensive discussion, over the maps with Jose Pereira, convinced the general that the young man had a better understanding of the situation than his advisers and his officers. With a heavy heart he listened to the arguments of the young Jewish officers against the division of his troops. But it was too late to turn back. Even while they spoke, the messengers arrived with the news of Howe's troops moving in from all sides of Long Island towards the Brooklyn Heights position.

"Come along," Washington ordered the two Pereiras. "I wish you had been here sooner."

A few hours later it was all over. As Jose Pereira had predicted, General Howe had little difficulty in attacking the American militia troops and shattering their position, to a point where a little extra effort would have broken the backbone of Washington's New York army. Had it not been for Jose's advice of moving into a partially protected position right up to the East River, things would have been even worse. General Howe's troops did not press their momentary advantage, and on the following night Jose Pereira's good services were highly appreciated by Washington, as he followed the young man's suggestion for the quick, bold move of his troops across the river during the night of August 29th. He hesitated quite a while. The risk was great, and the spirit of the soldiers was low. Then, when a flotilla of several hundred small boats, manned by friends of Jose, appeared, ready for the move, Washington quickly consented. At the head of his company that spread over a wide arc on the Brooklyn side, Jose deceived the British by maintaining a cross fire and constantly changing attacks and withdrawals, luring the British away from the scene of the crossing, on the dark night of that fateful August 29th. But Jose himself lost his life, as he carried out the cover-up operation. It happened this way:

The last contingent of Washington's unfortunate troops, several thousand men strong, had waited to be ferried across, when the British troops seemed to close in from all three sides. The hard-pressed troops backed up to the river. But the area of the low bank still open, dwindled by the minute. It was then that Jose's courage stopped the pressing attack of the British long enough to give Washington's men a chance to escape across the East River. As Howe's troops had pressed forward, they had by-passed the Hollings farm, at which, unknown to them, the largest powder magazine of Washington's troops on the Brooklyn side had been established in the sheds and barns. While the men of his company were fighting desperately, Jose Pereira had taken his uniform off, and, in the dungarees of a farm hand, had made his way back in the darkness, slipping past the enemy all around him. Half an hour after be had gone, the first mighty explosion went off. The British stopped dead in their track and turned back. Another explosion ripped open the ground where their batteries had moved up. A third and a fourth explosion broke the attack of the British for the time being, as their soldiers were at a loss to understand what was going on behind them. Jose Pereira never came back to tell how he accomplished this feat single-handedly.

Meanwhile Doc. Pereira, who had impressed Washington deeply by his dedication and intelligence, had been asked by the general to join his staff. Those were difficult days of fighting a rearguard action, in the withdrawal from New York, up the Harlem River and at White Plains. It was in the, bleak nights of the weeks that followed, as Washington carried the action into New Jersey and Delaware, that Jacob Pereira exerted a strong influence on the whole thinking of the general in the frequent conversations and discussions which they had. Jacob's years of study in Italy, his own idealism and ability to think, his keen understanding of the problems that were to face the young nation, and his grasp of the historical role that would be the lot of America, helped shape the ideas which General Washington was to translate soon into action, and into the formulation of the proudest heritage of this country's beliefs and policies. In the darkness of the night, after days of harassing, fighting, defense action and sudden attacks, before the tide had turned, these discussions with the Jewish physician were General Washington's only relaxation and inspiration. Few among his immediate associates could match Jacob Pereira's high intelligence and passionate love for the young country. With the Jewish physician Washington could clarify his own thinking, and do away with many of his prejudices which he had brought with him from his life as a gentleman farmer and surveyor, whose actual contact with the world had been limited, despite his avid reading. The sudden attack at Trenton, and the severe defeat of the British at Princeton in that January night of 1777, turned despair into hope, after reaching a very low point that winter.

When General Washington abandoned his headquarters at Morristown in New Jersey that winter, to complete the job he reluctantly gave Doc. Pereira permission to leave him, and to return to his hometown, Boston. There, the young physician established himself as a successful doctor, as well as a scholar of note. His intimacy with the Biblical and Talmudic sources, were as valued by his own Jewish community, as by the scholars of Harvard University who consulted him frequently. His proudest memories, however, were the few months which he had spent in the company of General Washington, and the long hours of discussion of the issues that were to bear rich fruit for the country as a whole, and for the shaping of the policy that made America a haven of refuge for the Jewish people, and all the other oppressed and persecuted races of the world.