web analytics
September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



Home » Sections

New Caribbean Synagogue Joins One Of The Oldest In The Hemisphere

WILLEMSTAD, CURACAO—It’s not everyday, or every year, or every decade, or even every century, that a beautifully-designed, 180-seat, air-conditioned synagogue rises in the Caribbean, let alone a modern Orthodox one. 


The new synagogue is billed as the Shaarei Tsedek Ashkenazic Orthodox Jewish Community-Herman and Miriam Tauber Jewish Center, at 37 Magdalenaweg Street, located on the 174-square-mile vacation island of Curacao (one of two islands that make up the Netherlands Antilles), just 35 miles off the coast of Venezuela. 


Especially poignant is that the new synagogue is situated on the same island where the only other Jewish house of worship is widely believed to be the oldest synagogues in continuous operation in the Western Hemisphere. Less than a 15 minute drive away is the historic Congregation Mikve Israel-Emanuel at Hanchi di Snoa, known to thousands of tourists who grace this historic building because of its sandy floor and crystal chandeliers. The congregation itself was founded in 1651, three years before the first Jews arrived in the U.S. from Brazil, and the building was erected in 1732.


The new synagogue, Shaarei Tsedek, reflects a more recent history, beginning in the 1920′s and 1930′s when European Jews began arriving here. Over the years, the congregation functioned in various old island homes.


When the official dedication is held later this year, the congregation will honor Rabbi and Mrs. Ariel Yeshurun for their work in the erection of the new building and the promotion of Jewish identity in the Diaspora.

 

 


Rabbi Ariel Yeshurun in front of the new synagogue. (photo by Riva Frank)

 


In 2000, at the age of 24, Rabbi Yeshurun, fresh out of Israel’s Beit Amiel Institute for Training Rabbis for the Diaspora, assumed the pulpit of Shaarei Tsedek. Today, he acknowledges that early on he had a dream, “to build a proper, permanent synagogue building for his congregation.” 


Told over and over again, “it’ll never happen,” or “we’ve tried so many times,” he persevered in spite of the “disbelief,” and “skepticism,” on the part of “members and board members, mainly because of the futile efforts and the magnitude of such a project for a small community,” he related. He soon acquired a sizeable contribution from member Herman Tauber who also wanted the “dream to come true.”


As he likes to tell it, Rabbi Yeshurun then became fundraiser, accountant, contractor, interior designer, and construction expert, marshalling the resources until the synagogue rose on the 50,000-square-foot plot at a cost of several million dollars.


A highlight of this architectural gem is a transparent glass dome that “swallows the heat and reflects light, transforming the sanctuary into a very bright space.”  The prayer hall features solid wooden, folded-cushioned seats and cushioned-backs made in Kibbutz Lavi, Israel.  To the right of the arc is a woman’s section, with the upper part of the mechitzah made of glass, “creating an atmosphere that will allow both men and women to experience prayers in their own unique way while maintaining halachic restrictions,” explains the rabbi.


Inscribed in bronze letters on the Jerusalem stone above the oak wood Holy Ark are the words “Open for me the Gates of Righteousness, I will enter them and thank God.” Symbolically, on the opposite wall is a mounting of the Ten Commandments that once graced a synagogue wall in Iraq.


Today, only about 350 Jews call Curacao home and Shaarei Tsedek has about 130 members. With such a small community, why was it necessary to have two synagogues?


“One is a liberal congregation, the other is modern Orthodox.  Mikve Israel-Emanuel maintains its age-old Sephardic Portuguese rituals, customs and melodies, while Shaarei Tsedek maintains its ancient Ashkenazic rituals, customs and melodies,” answered Rabbi Yeshurun.


Still, both congregations sponsor joint programs, such as a four-day-a- week Hebrew School. Two volunteers from Israel’s National Service, who have arrived to enhance Shaarei Tsedek’s Jewish education program, also teach in the joint Hebrew School.


Curacao is a major destination for cruise lines, especially Holland America Line, and already Rabbi Yeshurun notes that local tour buses now drive by, pointing out Shaarei Tsedek as a new house of worship on the island.


Meanwhile Rabbi Yeshurun (rel_yes@yahoo.com or 5-999-738-5949), realizes he and his wife and three children might not be on the island forever, especially since he is studying for  a medical degree.  “You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw it, ” he said. His congregants agree, they have already awarded him the title of “Rabbi Emeritus.”


Ben G. Frank, is a travel writer and the author of the just-published “A Travel Guide to the Jewish Caribbean and South America,” as well as  “A Travel Guide to Jewish Europe,” 3rd edition and “A Travel Guide to Jewish Russia and Ukraine” (all Pelican Publishing, Gretna, LA.). He’s also the president of The Frank Promotion Corp., based in Chappaqua, N.Y.

About the Author:


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.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “New Caribbean Synagogue Joins One Of The Oldest In The Hemisphere”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Sen. Ted Cruz acts senate for unanimous consent to pass the Expatriate Terrorist Act. Sept. 18, 2014.
Ds Reject Voting to Strip Citizenship From US Jihadi ISIS Volunteers
Latest Sections Stories
A-Night-Out-logo

While we all go to restaurants for a good meal, it is dessert, that final taste that lingers in your mouth, that is the crown jewel of any dining experience and Six Thirteen’s offerings did not disappoint.

Today, fifty years and six million (!) people later, Israel is truly a different world.

There will always be items that don’t freeze well – salads and some rice- or potato-based dishes – so you need to leave time to prepare or cook them closer to Yom Tov and ensure there is enough room in the refrigerator to store them.

In Uzbekistan, in the early twentieth century, it was the women who wore the pants.

This is an important one in raising a mentsch (and maybe even in marrying off a mentsch! listening skills are on the top of the list when I do shidduch coaching).

While multitasking is not ideal, it is often necessary and unavoidable.

Maybe now that your kids are back in school, you should start cleaning for Pesach.

The interpreter was expected to be a talmid chacham himself and be able to also offer explanations and clarifications to the students.

“When Frank does something he does it well and you don’t have to worry about dotting the i’s or crossing the t’s.”

“On Sunday I was at the Kotel with the battalion and we said a prayer of thanks. In Gaza there were so many moments of death that I had to thank God that I’m alive. Only then did I realize how frightening it had been there.”

Neglect, indifference or criticism can break a person’s neshama.

It’s fair to say that we all know or have someone in our family who is divorced.

More Articles from Ben G. Frank

Seeing Israel is one thing. Seeing Israel through the eyes of a 12-year-old is another, especially when the child is your grandson or granddaughter.

Ask most Americans what they know about Panama and they will declare, “Panama Canal and General Noriega,” the deposed dictator now in prison.

WILLEMSTAD, CURACAO—It’s not everyday, or every year, or every decade, or even every century, that a beautifully-designed, 180-seat, air-conditioned synagogue rises in the Caribbean, let alone a modern Orthodox one.

WILLEMSTAD, CURACAO—It’s not everyday, or every year, or every decade, or even every century, that a beautifully-designed, 180-seat, air-conditioned synagogue rises in the Caribbean, let alone a modern Orthodox one.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/new-caribbean-synagogue-joins-one-of-the-oldest-in-the-hemisphere/2009/05/13/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: