Now facing extinction, the Sephardic Jewish community of the Caribbean was once so influential that it helped fuel the success of the American Revolution and finance the first synagogues in the United States, located in New York City and Rhode Island. The Jews of the Caribbean project brings to light this little known and quickly disappearing 520 year-old history of the oldest Jewish communities and Synagogues in the Western Hemisphere.

After Columbus’ expedition in 1492, the West Indies became a place of salvation for Sephardic Jews fleeing the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions. La Nación, as these Jews were called, were fundamental in shaping the early Caribbean economy through their unique knowledge of sugar cane, agriculture, and an expansive network of trade. Jews also joined the pirates controlling the Caribbean seas, and later became influential politicians, substantial landowners, and bankers to the American colonies. While creating financial success for the European powers, the Sephardic Jews managed to keep their culture, religion, and customs alive – which lead to the continuation and support of Judaism throughout the Americas.

Through thought-provoking photographs of the remaining synagogues, cemeteries, and historic homes and artifacts in Jamaica, Barbados, Curaçao, Nevis, St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. Eustatius, and Suriname – the world can witness the legacy of Judaism in the new world and a rarely explored facet of Caribbean history. These endangered remaining monuments, dating back to 1654, are the oldest synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in the Western hemisphere and beautifully exemplify the strength of the Jewish people as well as the surprisingly diverse culture of the Caribbean.

Once home to thousands of Sephardic Jews, these historic communities now face extinction. Only 5 synagogues remain and almost half of the original cemeteries are either falling apart, or have been lost to natural disasters and pollution from nearby oil refineries. The few historic landmarks still in use are little known gems of the Caribbean and invaluable landmarks in the Jewish history of survival. Harry Ezratty, author of 500 Years In The Jewish Caribbean writes: “Having revisited many of these historic sites, it is certain that these unique monuments of the Jewish people are in peril.”~From Jews of the Caribbean ~Wyatt Gallery

Aruba: Beth Israel

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Bahamian Jewish Community: Luis De Torres Synagogue in Freeport

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Barbadian Jewish Community: Nidhe Israel Synagogue

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The Jewish Community of the Cayman Islands

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Cuban Jewish Community: Synagogues & Congregations

Curacao Jewish Community: Mikvé Israel-Emanuel

Jewish Museum, Willemstad, Curacao

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Jewish Jamaica

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Aruba Jewish Community

 Bahamian Jewish Community

Barbadian Jewish Community

Cayman Islands Jewish Community

Cuban Jewish Community

Curacao Jewish Community

Dominican Republic Jewish Community

Guadeloupan Jewish Community

Jamaican Jewish Community

Martinique Jewish Community

Puerto Rican Jewish Community

St Kitts & Nevis Jewish Community

St Maarten/Martin Jewish Community

St Thomas Jewish Community

Trinidad & Tobago Jewish Community

Virgin Islands Jewish Community

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Recipe: Fried Bake ‘n Fish from TriniGourmet.com

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