web analytics
April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



The Jewish Community Of Surinam


Share Button

     The discovery of the Western Hemisphere opened new opportunities for Jews. Here was a chance to escape the repressive conditions that most Jews lived under in Europe, and, at the same time, to considerably improve one’s economic situation. It is therefore not surprising that by the middle of the seventeenth century several Jewish communities already existed in South America. These communities existed in areas controlled by the Dutch, British, and French. On the other hand, areas of Central and South America under Portuguese or Spanish rule were most inhospitable to Jews. Indeed, in such places, more often than not, one also found the Inquisition with its brutal policies of rooting out anything Jewish.
 
      Part 3 of this series dealt with the Jewish Community that existed in Recife, Brazil from 1630 until 1654 (“Recife – the First Jewish Community in the New World,” Jewish Press, June 3, 2005). Jews left Recife in 1654 when the Portuguese captured the city from the Dutch. Many of them returned to Amsterdam. Some, however, settled on the nearby islands of the Caribbean. The relatively large numbers of Jews arriving from Brazil marked the beginning of definite Jewish communities in the Caribbean.
 
      This article focuses on the Jewish community of Suriname. Suriname (or Surinam), formerly known as Dutch Guyana, is located in northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between French Guiana on the east and Guyana on the west.
 

 

                        Various sources give evidence that the first group of Jews already settled in Suriname in 1639. They came from Holland, Portugal, and Italy. These first Jewish colonists lived in the old capital of Suriname, Thorarica, on the left bank of the Suriname River, approximately 40 kilometers south of Paramaribo. They at once started to lay out a number of sugar plantations. In 1652, together with the Englishman Lord Willoughby, a new group of Jews arrived in Suriname, who settled on the savannah, situated near the Cassipoera creek. This area is nowadays known as ‘Jodensavanne’. In 1664 a third group of Jews arrived in Suriname, when the French took possession of the Dutch colony Cayenne.[i]
 

 

      On August 17 1665, the Jewish community in Suriname was granted several very important privileges by the British colonial government. These included freedom of religion, a private civic guard, and permission to build synagogues and Jewish schools. A start was made immediately with the building of some schools and a wooden synagogue at Cassipoera. This synagogue was consecrated in 1671 by the Joodse Burgerwacht Compagnie (Jewish Civic Guard). When the Dutch captured Suriname in 1667, the Dutch commander left the privileges given to the Jews by the English untouched.
 
      During this period, Jodensavanne developed rapidly, becoming a small community of its own. Jewish knowledge of planting and finance were beneficial for the country as a whole. Suriname became a flourishing agricultural colony with important exports of sugar and timber. In 1674 the Jews shipped the first 8,000 pounds of sugar to Amsterdam.
 

 

      In 1685, a second synagogue was built at Jodensavanne, this time in bricks. It was called “Beracha Ve Shalom” and it is the remnants of this synagogue which have presently been uncovered again. The Jews used the lower lying front part of the synagogue as a court of justice. [ii]
 

 

      Rabbi David Pardo arrived from London to serve as spiritual leader of the new synagogue. He died in Surname in 1713 (according to some sources in 1717). “He was, without doubt, the most distinguished Rabbi the Surinam congregation has ever had. While he was still in Europe, he published Sepher Shulchan Tahor (containing extracts from the first and second part of the Shulchan ‘Aruch) [Amsterdam, 1686].”[iii]
 
      During the days of its prosperity no one could have foreseen that Jodensavanne would not continue to be a permanent settlement for the Jews in Suriname. However, in 1712 the French Admiral Cassard invaded the country. The residents, fearing that he and his men would plunder their plantations, paid him an enormous levy instead. The responsibility for paying most of this tax fell to the prosperous Jews. As a result, this pirate made off with enormous quantities of sugar, hard cash, and other resources. The country never recovered completely from this debacle and the resulting total disorganization.
 
      Another cause of the decline of the Jewish position in Suriname was the bankruptcy of the Amsterdam business house Dietz in 1773. Moreover, the decrease in value of sugarcane by the introduction of beet sugar in Europe also played an important part in this matter.
 
      The city of Paramaribo began to develop economically, and inhabitants of Jodensavanne left to settle in the new capital. A major attraction was that Paramaribo is more centrally located than the relatively isolated Jodensavanne. At first it was only the well-to-do who left Jodensavanne for Paramaribo, taking advantage of the excellent business opportunities that the capital afforded that were not available in Jodensavanne.
 
      With the passage of time no more than twenty – mostly poor families – lived at Jodensavanne. They supported themselves mainly by doing small business with the officers and men who occupied the Cordonpad (a wide bridle path with military posts at regular distances that was set up for the protection of the plantations). “Many homes where uninhabited and became ramshackle by lack of upkeep.” [iv]
 
      While the center of Jewish life was now focused in Paramaribo, some Jews did return to Jodensavanne to celebrate the festivals there. They felt strongly attached to Jodensavanne, given its long Jewish history and the fact that their ancestors were buried there. They nostalgically recalled that Jodensavanne was at one time known as the “Jerusalem by the river-side.”
 
      Jodensavanne fell more and more into decay, and the Jewish community dwindled. Nonetheless, there are records showing that the synagogue was regularly maintained more than a century after it was built. There are, for instance, rather detailed documents from the years 1824-25 in which extensive repairs on the roof are mentioned, as well as the installation of new windows on the western facade. Proper attention was also given to the interior. At one point a new aron was installed as well as new seats for the synagogue’s governors.
 

      Today there are perhaps seventy Jewish families residing in all of Suriname. Nevertheless, some Jewish influence is still noticeable in the country. For instance, there are some who bear Jewish-sounding family names such as Eliazer and Emanuels. There are street names such as Jodenbreestraat Street and Sivaplein Square that are of Jewish origin. Sadly, these faint echoes are all that is left of what was once a dynamic, vibrant Jewish community.



[ii] Ibid.

 

[iii] The Jewish Congregation of Surinam, by Dr. B. Felsenthal, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, 1894, 2, pages 29-30. This article is available at http://www.ajhs.org/references/adaje.cfm.

 

[iv] http://www.ujcl.org/surinam.html

 

Dr. Yitzchok Levine, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. “Glimpses Into American Jewish History” appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.

Share Button

About the Author: Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “The Jewish Community Of Surinam”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Arab rioters hurl objects at Israeli security personnel who use pepper spray to quell the violence emanating from the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount.
Arab Violence Closes Temple Mount to Visitors Again
Latest Sections Stories
Tali Hill, a beneficiary of the Max Factor Family Foundation.

The plan’s goal is to provide supportive housing to 200 individuals with disabilities by the year 2020.

Yeshiva Day School of Las Vegas’s deans, Rabbi Moshe Katz and Rabbi Zev Goldman, present award to Educator of the Year, Rabbi Michoel Paris.

Despite being one of the fastest-growing Jewish communities in the U.S. – the estimated Jewish population is 70-80,000 – Las Vegas has long been overlooked by much of the Torah world.

She was followed by the shadows of the Six Million, by the ever so subtle awareness of their vanished presence.

Pesach is so liberating (if you excuse the expression). It’s the only time I can eat anywhere in the house, guilt free! Matzah in bed!

Now all the pain, fear and struggle were over and they were home. Yuli was safe and free, a hero returned to his land and people.

While it would seem from his question that he is being chuzpadik and dismissive, I wonder if its possible, if just maybe, he is a struggling, confused neshama who actually wants to come back to the fold.

I agree with the letter writer that a shadchan should respectfully and graciously accept a negative response to a shidduch offer.

Alternative assessments are an extremely important part of understanding what students know beyond the scope of tests and quizzes.

Your husband seems to have experienced what we have described as the Ambivalent Attachment.

The goal of the crusade is to demonize and hurt Israel.

The JUMP program at Hebrew Academy was generously sponsored by Evelyn and Dr. Shmuel Katz.

More Articles from Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Levine-Dr-Yitzchok-NEW

“Attuned to the ideal of establishing a new Zion in free America, they named their new colony Palestine.

Last month’s column outlined some efforts during the first half of the nineteenth century to establish Jewish agricultural colonies in America. In only one case was a colony actually established.

There were very few Jewish farmers in Europe during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Indeed, in many parts of Europe Jews were forbidden to own land. Despite this there were some Jews who always felt they should return to the agrarian way of life their forefathers had pursued in ancient times, and that America was an ideal place to establish Jewish agricultural colonies.

The President having signed the Treaty of the Geneva Conference and the Senate having, on the 16th instant, ratified the President’s actions, the American Association of the Red Cross, organized under provisions of said treaty, purposes to send its agents at once among the sufferers by the recent floods, with a view to the ameliorating of their condition so far as can be done by human aid and the means at hand will permit. Contributions are urgently solicited.

Last month’s column sketched the myriad of social programs in which the Orthodox American communal worker and leader Adolphus S. Solomons (1826-1910) was involved. Adolphus married Rachel Seixas Phillips (1828-1881), a descendant of colonial patriot families and together they had eight daughters and a son.

There are many observant Jews who contributed much to secular and Jewish life in America and yet have, unfortunately, been essentially forgotten. One such man is Adolphus Simson Solomons (1826-1910).

Cholera was officially recognized to be of epidemic proportions in New York City on June 26, 1832. The epidemic was at its peak in July and 3,515 out of a population of about 250,000 died. (The equivalent death toll in today’s city of eight million would exceed 100,000.) Sadly, in 1832 there were no effective treatments available for those who contracted this disease.

As this is our third column on the Reverend Dr. Henry Pereira Mendes, we’ll begin with a summary of his life.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/the-jewish-community-of-surinam/2006/07/05/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: