The first Jewish immigrants to the United States were Sephardic Jews that were fleeing persecution by Portuguese rulers in Brazil, around 1654. The previous rulers of Brazil, the Dutch, were known for their religious tolerance, but the Portuguese were characterized by their intolerance for other religions. Two years after the first American-Jew put his foot on North American soil, the first Jewish congregation was established in the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam, which was later re-named New York. Twenty-one years later, another congregation was established in Newport, Rhode Island.
In 1702, the first Ashkenazic Jews from Germanic Europe arrived in the "New World". However, it was decades before the first Ashkenazic synagogues were established. Instead of building their own temples, the German Jews simply joined the much larger group of Sephardic Jews. At first, the Sephardic Jews looked down upon the Ashkenazics, even going as far as to disinherit sons and daughters that married into a Sephardic family.
Eventually, though, the Ashkenazic Jews began to establish themselves in the Sephardic community. Marriages between the two sects became more frequent and accepted, and Ashkenazics could be found as leaders of Sephardic congregations. Both groups remained relatively small, and around 1776, there were only about 2000 Jews in the American Colonies.
The Ashkenazic Jews were persecuted by the Sephardic, but all Jews living in the American colonies experienced persecution by the Christians. Peter Stuyvesant, the governor of the colonies, showed resistance to the Jewish settlers, but the colony was owned by the Dutch West India Company. The company's board of directors included several Sephardic Jews, so Stuyvesant was over-ruled. Anti-Jewish sentiment never was strong in the United States, especially compared to that of Europe. In the US, they were merely another group of people trying to make a better life, while in Europe they were always seen as the single minority. In the US, Jews were accepted members of society, sometimes even leaders of public and private groups or organizations.