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November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Jamaica’

Securing Our Future Through Historic Jewish Communities

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Since becoming the first ordained rabbi in Jamaica in thirty-three years, I have been working tirelessly with my community to build a Jewish future on this tropical island. Every Jewish community wants to survive and indeed thrive, but there is a particular importance to the preservation and development of the world’s small, history-rich Jewish communities.

As I see it, our collective Jewish future depends on it.

Before I explain my reasoning, let’s briefly review the momentous – but often overlooked – history of our community in Kingston, Jamaica.

The Jewish community of Jamaica traces its origin to Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, who came to the Caribbean in order to escape from the Inquisition. In most cases they originated from parts of Spain that bordered on Portugal. When King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella issued an expulsion decree on March 30, 1492, the Jewish community was given exactly four months to liquidate their affairs and leave the country. Those who fled to Portugal were forcibly converted in 1497. Because the Inquisition was not introduced in Portugal for several decades, many Jews in Portugal continued to practice their religion quietly.

In 1536 the Inquisition reached Portugal and Conversos began to leave. The Portuguese held their first auto-da-fe in 1540. This obviously frightened our ancestors, who made discreet attempts to plan their escape. Slowly, Portuguese Jews made their way to a number of cities that had or developed Converso communities. Amsterdam was the largest of these communities. From Amsterdam, they pursued business opportunities in the Caribbean, settling in Port Royal or later, Spanish Town and Kingston. We can trace our current community back to Neveh Shalom Synagogue, which was founded in 1704, but our roots go back even further.

There are similar communities throughout the Caribbean and Central America, including Willemstad, Curacao; St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; and Suriname. Each of these communities still conduct services on a regular basis. Preserving these and other historic Jewish communities is critical for a number of reasons.

First, the fact that the Jews were the original Diaspora needs to be emphasized at a time when various other communities are discovering their own Diasporas. This can help build strong bonds between various national groups, allowing us to share common experiences with those who may not have obvious connections to the Jewish people. This would, of course, promote tolerance, which is always “good news for the Jews.”

Second, the experiences of the Jewish people in virtually every corner of the globe over the course of hundreds and, in many cases, thousands of years is part of the narrative that needs to be told to those who are legitimately asking questions about Jewish existence and Jewish history.

Whether in Israel or in various parts of the Diaspora, we need to be able to explain to skeptics that we have survived seemingly unending persecution and numerous expulsions and have nevertheless maintained our commitment to our people and our religion.

This narrative needs to be preserved and enhanced in actual living terms, and not just through books and museum exhibits. We must be able to tell the story of our peoplehood and be able to demonstrate living examples of that history.

Finally, when individuals travel the world looking for adventure and existential meaning, it is important that we “surprise” them with Jewish history and living, breathing Jewish tradition. Visitors are beside themselves when they discover that the Caribbean island they are exploring not only had a historic Jewish community but has living indigenous Jews who continue to gather together for communal events.

In my short time here, I have met and interacted with numerous individuals and groups who come searching for the Jamaican Jewish community in an effort to discover their own Jewish identities. Some of those who seek us out come away with a new perspective on life and a revitalized commitment to their Jewish observance. In a way, we are like a living exhibit from the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv.

Over the past seventy years there has been a dramatic contraction of the Jewish Diaspora. From a large and diverse population spread out among most of the countries of the world, we have concentrated ourselves in a handful of countries, living mostly in a couple of dozen large urban regions. This is quite an unfortunate demographic trend.

Ex-Con Arrested In Robinson Slaying; Victim Buried In Jamaica

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Police last week arrested a suspect in the shooting death of Yoseph Robinson, a Jamaican-born former hip-hop artist who became an Orthodox Jew (front-page story, Aug. 27).

Robinson, a clerk at the MB Vineyards liquor store in Flatbush, was killed when he confronted a masked gunman who entered the store and demanded jewelry from Robinson’s girlfriend.

Eion Klass, an ex-con on parole after serving 11 years for attempted murder and robbery, reportedly told police he shot Robinson when the latter tried to grab his gun.

Klass’s lawyer said the confession was forced and that police had beaten his client. Police say the suspect was injured during an escape attempt.

Meanwhile, Robinson was interred in a family burial plot in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. An eleven-person delegation from New York which included, among others, several Chesed Shel Emes volunteers; Rabbi Kenneth Auman of the Young Israel of Flatbush; MB Vineyards owner Benjy Ovitsh; and Robinson’s girlfriend, Lahavah Wallace, flew to Jamaica for the burial.

“Things went as smoothly as they could have gone – amazingly so,” Rabbi Auman told The Jewish Press.

“We had a funeral service in Spanish Town; his parents live there. I spoke, as did Yoseph’s father and Benjy Ovitsh. The actual burial was in St. Elizabeth – a two-and-a-half hour drive. Many family members come from St. Elizabeth and some still live there. We buried him next to two family members.”

The family originally wanted to bury Robinson next to his grandmother, but she has a cross on her grave.

“The family on their own,” said Rabbi Auman, “decided it would be appropriate to bury him elsewhere. They were very respectful. Chesed Shel Emes built a grave with cinder blocks so it formed a mechitza.

“We did seven hakafos to designate it as a Jewish cemetery.”

In his eulogy for Robinson, Benjy Ovitsh praised Robinson for living “his life according to standards of moral integrity that few of us ever attain. His interaction with others was predicated on the values of truth, respect, and loyalty.”

Ovitsh recalled the time Robinson told him he’d “found an envelope with cash in it and there was no way of identifying the owner. Yoseph said we should hold it and see if someone would come forward to claim it.

“He didn’t have to tell me he found it in the first place. He didn’t try to persuade me to split it with him by rationalizing that it was hefker – legally ownerless.

“A day or two later, an elderly, non-Jewish customer asked if we found an envelope with cash. Yoseph immediately handed him the money. The man was moved to tears, not because of the few hundred dollars, which he was certainly happy to have recovered, but because he was touched by the goodness of others – by the selfless, giving, loving nature of another human being. That was Yoseph Robinson.

“It was a beautiful Kiddush Hashem – sanctification of Hashem’s name.

“But he didn’t stop there. Yoseph carefully explained to our happily stunned customer that this is what Jews do, that it’s a mitzvah to return a lost object to its rightful owner. That man will forever – forever – see Jews in a special light.”

Jamaican Hip-Hopper Turned Orthodox Jew: A Candid Talk With Yoseph Robinson

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Yoseph Robinson was born in Jamaica, came to Brooklyn when he was twelve, and dropped out of school shortly thereafter. As a teenager, he moved to Philadelphia and became involved in a life of illicit street activities. In his early twenties and after a close brush with death, during which he was targeted by a rival Jamaican gang, Yoseph relocated to Los Angeles and set his sights on the Hollywood music scene. He became a Hip-Hop promoter and producer, and signed a lucrative album contract with Universal/Bungalow Records.

Yoseph Robinson before (2000)

At the height of his musical success and while indulging in all the material abundance Hollywood had to offer, Yoseph chanced upon a Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch edition of the Chumash. Yoseph’s life was transformed. He decided to reject the emptiness and egotism of the Hollywood lifestyle and embrace Yiddishkeit. Yoseph converted to Judaism and now lives in Brooklyn as an Orthodox Jew.

The Jewish Press: What was your first experience with Judaism?

Robinson: Interestingly, my first “experience” with Judaism or with Jewish people did not resonate with me at all. When my parents came to the United States my mother worked for a lovely Jewish family called the Schwimmers. My mother even kept a picture of the Schwimmer family on the mantelpiece in our home. I saw that picture almost every day of my childhood. In fact, my siblings and I were able to come to the U.S. only because the Schwimmers generously agreed to sponsor my family. The funny thing is, though, the Schwimmers being “Jewish” was simply descriptive, like saying the Schwimmers were Asian, or Puerto Rican. Jewishness or Judaism had no intrinsic or latent meaning for me.

My second contact with Judaism occurred when I was thirteen years old, a few months after I arrived in the U.S. I worked as a delivery boy for a kosher grocery store in Brooklyn. Since growing up in Jamaica was a unique cultural experience untainted with racial or religious prejudice, I had formed no previous conceptions about Jews. As a result, the kosher grocery experience left no impression on me one way or the other. It was only when I randomly walked into a bookstore asking for a bible and received a Hirsch English edition of the Chumash instead that I began my fundamental connection to Yiddishkeit.

Who performed your conversion, and what were the requirements?

The Los Angeles beis din, under the leadership of Rabbi Tzvi Block and Rabbi Aharon Tendler, converted me. My geirus [conversion] studies program took about two-and-a-half years to complete, and centered on the weekly parshah, the halachos of Shabbos and kashrus, and the taryag mitzvos.

How did friends and family members react?

When I decided to convert, my friends thought I went off the deep end, and my family tended to agree with them. After realizing that my decision was a serious, lifelong commitment, however, I did garner the respect of those closest to me.

How is dating within the frum world for a black Jew?

Currently I’m focused on my parnassah and professional endeavors, such as the memoir I’m writing and my speaking engagements. So I haven’t really experienced the frum dating scene. I am looking forward to it. I would add, though, that there’s clearly an elephant in the room when it comes to the question of dating. The fact that I’m asked that question so often seems to indicate the existence of some bias. In any event, I’ll certainly be able to discuss the issue more insightfully as I begin to date more frequently.

What is your current study schedule like?

I have a chavrusah with whom I learn Mishnah Berurah, I learn parshah and mussar almost daily, and I have begun venturing into the mighty sea of Talmud.

How would you characterize your treatment and degree of acceptance by the frum community in Brooklyn?

For the most part, I must say, my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people have opened their homes and their hearts to me, and have treated me like members of their own family. These new lifelong friends are a true credit to Yiddishkeit, and beautifully fulfill the mitzvah of v’ahavtem es ha’ger. As in every community, however, there are biases that persist. I do get stares and occasionally hear some thoughtless comments, but I choose to focus on the positive.

Are you in touch with other black geirim?

Interestingly, as time goes on, I have been privileged to meet many fascinating geirim of both genders and of many nationalities and ethnicities.

Has their experience with Orthodox Judaism been similar to your own?

By and large, their experience has been heartwarming and enriching. But they do voice some concerns of bias and unequal treatment. I certainly feel that some change or improvement needs to be made in this arena.

What kind of change are you referring to, and how do you expect this change to occur?

I feel that changes are necessary to allow a Yid such as myself, who happens to be dark-skinned, to feel secure and equally represented under the banner of Klal Yisrael. This kind of change can only come about when a community joins the effort. Without meaning to sound didactic, I feel that social change or justice will not come about through legislative bodies. It will come from ordinary people like you and me. It all starts with honest and open dialogue.

What is your message to potential geirim of any color or background?

My message to geirim is that if one is seeking spirituality, Judaism, practiced correctly, is the ideal vehicle for achieving that aim. I personally find it meaningful and fulfilling but, once you come aboard, keep in mind that while the Torah is flawless, people are not.

What do you hope to accomplish with the publication of your book?

I hope my book will appeal to people on multiple levels. In the U.S. there exists a fascination and mystique that surrounds all things Jamaican. In addition, my memoir provides an insider’s look into the dark side of drug running, which will ignite the imagination of a widespread American demographic.

 

Yoseph Robinson after (2008) his conversion

My first-hand accounts of the Hollywood music scene and celebrity lifestyles will leave readers thirsting for more tantalizing details. Not to drop names, but the book mentions my experience of double-dating with Jay-Z and attending private parties with Janet Jackson and Jamie Foxx.

Finally, my decision to convert to Judaism leaves people simultaneously baffled and intrigued. I have infused my spiritual journey with a humor, intelligence, and wit that will also capture the curiosity of the sophisticated, high-end reader. In short, I hope to entertain, enlighten – and inspire as well.

What’s next for you while you’re working to get your book published?

Well, hopefully I’ll be able to talk with President Obama brother to brother, asking him to let my people be. In all seriousness, though, I’m just striving to grow spiritually and, im Yirtzeh Hashem, [I] hope to be discussing the phenomenal success of the book with you in the near future.

The Early Jewish Settlement Of Newport

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

In 1636 Roger Williams, after having been banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for what were considered radical religious views, settled at the tip of Narragansett Bay. He was joined by twelve other settlers at what he named Providence Plantation, due to his belief that God had sustained him and his followers.

This settlement became the colony of Rhode Island, which was unique in that it guaranteed freedom of religious practice to all. It is little wonder that the colony became a haven for Quakers, Baptists, Jews and other minorities who were prosecuted for their religious beliefs.

It seems Jews first settled in Newport in 1658, though some disagree with this date.

The date of the first arrival of the Jews in Newport has been variously given by different writers. Some give it as 1655, while others state it as 1656, 1657, or 1658. There is also a conflict as to the place [from] whence they came, although all seem to agree that the newcomers were originally from Holland.1

During the middle part of the 17th century the Dutch, acting through the Dutch West India Company, sent out several expeditions of Jews to settle in its possessions in South America. The most well known of these settlements was the one established at Recife, Brazil.2 In 1654 when the Portuguese wrested control of Brazil from the Dutch, the Jews who had been living in Brazil left. Some of these Jews found their way to Jamaica, where they settled.3

In 1655 Jamaica was captured by the British, and regular trade between it and Rhode Island was established. Jews who had fled Brazil most likely learned about the religious freedom permitted in this colony and decided to immigrate there.

Newport was a main port on the eastern coast of America during colonial times and hence an attractive place for Jews to settle. Indeed, Max J. Kohler wrote:

We must discard our present day view of Newport as an important fashionable summer resort, and permit our thoughts to carry us back to the period when, for some thirty years preceding our Revolutionary War, Newport was one of the principal cities in the American colonies. In commercial importance it must be put in the same category with Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Charleston, and it was not the most insignificant, even among these, for, as Edward Eggleston has well said, “he was thought a bold prophet who said then that ‘New York might one day equal Newport,’ for, about 1750, New York sent forth fewer ships than Newport, and not half as many as Boston.”4

 

The total number of Jews who initially settled in Newport was very small, probably no more that fifteen Spanish/Portuguese families. However, their numbers increased with the arrival on August 24, 1694 “of a number of Jewish families of wealth and respectability” from one of the West Indian Islands, most probably Curacao.

Jewish Life in Newport

 

The Jews who settled in Newport soon established the institutions necessary for the proper functioning of Jewish life. A minyan was organized shortly after their arrival in 1658, and services were conducted in private homes for the next 100 years. In 1677 land for a cemetery was purchased. This is the oldest known location of a Jewish cemetery in the United States.

With the arrival in Newport of the Lopez, Rivera, Polock, Hart and Hays families, all Jews, the city entered into an era of prosperity.

It was generally conceded that Newport had every advantage. Wealth had centered here, and was attracting capitalists from every part of the world. Between 1750 and 1760 some hundreds of wealthy Israelites, a most distinguished class of merchants, removed here from Spain, Portugal, Jamaica and other places, and entered largely into business.5 One of them, Mr. Aaron Lopez,6 owned a large fleet of vessels (rising thirty at one time) in the foreign trade, and many more in the coasting trade.

The manufacture of sperm oil and candles was introduced into Newport by the Jews, from Lisbon, between 1745 and 1750, and from that time to 1760 there were put in full operation seventeen factories for these articles alone; also twenty-two distilleries, four sugar refineries, five rope-works, and many large furniture factories, shipping immense quantities of furniture to New York, the West Indies, Surinam and many other places. In 1770 mention [was] made of eighteen West India vessels arriving here in one day.

As has just been indicated, the Jewish merchant princes were not merely the capitalists who furnished the wherewithal for this trade, but their enterprise created the trade itself, introduced the new arts and industries involved, and furnished the trade connections through their co-religionists in the different foreign ports with which the relations were formed.7

The Jews of Newport participated in the general life of the city and were viewed most favorably by their non-Jewish neighbors. One gentile writer wrote:

The Jews who settled in Newport were not only noted for their knowledge of mercantile and commercial affairs, but also for their industry, enterprise, and probity. They kept to their callings, took but little part in politics – at least there is no evidence that they gave much attention to the discussion of public questions – and they seem to have avoided both the marine and military service. They were neither good sailors nor good soldiers; nor do they appear to have been very fond of books. Moses Lopez and Jacob Joseph, it is true, were numbered among the founders of the Redwood Library, and in 1758 Jacob Rodriguez Riviera was a stockholder in that institution but this may be taken as one of many evidences of their desire to promote whatever promised to be a public benefit. Their business, with but few exceptions, they made a success, and in all things appertaining to their devotions they were exact.8

The American Revolution Leads to Decline

 

The residents of Newport, Jewish as well as gentile, flourished until the American Revolution. Rhode Island declared its independence from Britain two months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Given its large harbor and strategic location, Newport was a prime target of the British. The port was blockaded by the British fleet and Newport was soon under British control. This occupation was a devastating blow to the economy of the community. Many residents left rather than submit to British rule.

Almost all the prominent Jewish merchants fled the city, and Newport never regained its commercial prominence. By the early 1800s the Jewish community was essentially non-existent. During most of the 19th century almost no Jews resided in Newport, and the Touro Synagogue was used only on rare occasions. The descendents of Newport’s once flourishing Jewish community scattered throughout America. Sadly, many lost their Jewishness through intermarriage and assimilation.

This marked the end of a glorious chapter in America Jewish history. Indeed, in 1858 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his famous poem “The Jewish Cemetery at Newport” in which he wrote in part

 

Closed are the portals of their Synagogue,

No Psalms of David now the silence break,

No Rabbi reads the ancient Decalogue

In the grand dialect the Prophets spake.

Gone are the living, but the dead remain,

And not neglected; for a hand unseen,

Scattering its bounty, like a summer rain,

Still keeps their graves and their remembrance green.9

 

[1] “The First Settlement of the Jews in Newport: Some New Matter on the Subject” by Samuel Oppenheim, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society (1893-1961); 1937; 34, AJHS Journal.

2 See “Recife – The First Jewish Community in the New World,” The Jewish Press, June 3, 2005, page 32.

3 See Caribbean Jewish Communities in the 17th and 18th Centuries – Part I, The Jewish Press, October 4, 2006, page 28.

4 “The Jews in Newport by Max J. Kohler,” Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society (1893-1961); 1898; 6, AJHS Journal.

5 This number is most probably inflated, unless many of those who came left. Ezra Stiles wrote that he estimated there were about 30 Jewish families in Newport in 1760. (“Ezra Stiles and the Jews”by Reverend W. Willner, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society (1893-1961);1900; 8, AJHS Journal.)

6 For information about Aaron Lopez, see “Aaron Lopez, Colonial American Merchant Prince,” The Jewish Press, October 7, 2005, page 36.

7 Ibid.

8 Reminiscences of Newport by George Champlin Mason, published by Charles E. Hammett, Jr., 1884, page 54. This book may be downloaded at no cost from http://books.google.com

9 See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touro_Synagogue_Cemeter for the complete text of this beautiful poem.

 

 

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

Early Caribbean Jewish Communities (Part I)

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

     Places like Barbados, Curacao, Jamaica, Tobago, the Lesser Antilles, and St. Eustatia probably conjure up, in the minds of many Jewish Press readers, visions of vacation resorts. But many may not know that Jewish communities existed in these places as early as the first part of the seventeenth century. Jews lived in the Caribbean (formerly referred to as the West Indies) years before they settled in New York in 1654.
 
      The establishment of the first permanent Jewish communities in the Western Hemisphere during the middle of the seventeenth century was viewed by Spanish and Portuguese Jews with satisfaction and pleasure. On the one hand, these settlements represented an extension of the prodigious commercial activity of Spanish and Portuguese Jews; on the other, some felt that this activity represented the realization of the Messianic age.
 
      Indeed, in 1650, no less a personality than Haham Menasseh ben Israel of Amsterdam wrote that in his opinion the establishment of American synagogues corresponded to prophesies in the Book of Daniel. Some years later the poet Daniel Levi de Barrios confirmed the ideas of Menasseh ben Israel in a bizarre interpretation of the text of Zechariah. According to de Barrios the prophet literally mentioned the Americas!
 
      It may well have been that the theories of Haham Menasseh ben Israel and Daniel Levi de Barrios were, to some extent, motivating factors behind the emigration of Jews to the Western Hemisphere during the seventeenth century. One should keep in mind that these enterprising men, while intensely interested in material gains, were at the same time idealists. Most had lost their wealth in Spain or Portugal due to the persecutions of the infamous Inquisition. In addition, they had suffered torture and imprisonment.
 
      Rather than abandon their Jewish religious convictions, they chose to forsake the land they loved – home of their forefathers for centuries. The New World held out the tantalizing prospect of being able to practice Judaism, if not openly then at least with less fear of persecution.
 
      This and the next Glimpses column will deal with some of the history of some of the more prominent early Caribbean Jewish communities.
 

Barbados

 

      Barbados was captured by the British in 1605. Jews are said to have settled on this island as early as 1628. Since Jews were expelled from England in 1290 and were not permitted, until 1656, to openly live as Jews in England, those Jews who initially came to Barbados must have been forced to live as crypto-Jews (Marranos).
 
      Professing Jews did not reach Barbados until 1656 when Abraham de Mercado, a medical doctor, and his son, David-Raphael de Mercado, were granted permission to settle there by the British government. Until 1654 Dr. de Mercado had resided in Recife, Brazil. While there he had been one of the elders of the Jewish community. He was so highly respected that in 1641 Menasseh ben Israel dedicated one of his books to him. David-Raphael de Mercado was a man of considerable means, and in 1679 his name headed the list as the largest Jewish taxpayer in Barbados.
 
      Rabbi Eliyahu Lopes, who left Amsterdam for Barbados in Tammuz 5438 (July 1678), was the first haham of the Jewish community. While still relatively young, he had established a reputation as an effective preacher in Amsterdam. In 1675 he was given the honor of preaching the sermon at the dedication of the Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam. There is evidence that Rabbi Lopes was still serving in his position as Haham in 1683. The Jewish community apparently expanded during the 1680′s, because by 1688 there were two synagogues in different parts of the island.
 
      The Jews of Barbados remained generally committed to the traditions of their forefathers and did not forget their former Jewish European communities. Records show that one Yirmiyahu Burgos of Barbados sent one hundred florins to Amsterdam to be dispensed to the poor and needy.
 
      The persecutions of the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal were responsible for a continuous influx of Jews to Barbados during the eighteenth century.
 

Jamaica

 

      Christopher Columbus made a total of four trips to the Caribbean and South America during the years 1492-1504. On May 4, 1494, during his second voyage, he arrived at the island of Jamaica. Columbus annexed the island in the name of his master and mistress, the king and queen of Spain. However, it was not settled by the Spanish until Juan de Esquivel came from Santo Domingo in 1509.  For the next 146 years Jamaica remained a Spanish colony.
 
      In 1580, King Philip II of Spain united the crowns of Spain and Portugal. It is likely that shortly thereafter Marranos from Portugal arrived with other merchant adventurers to participate in the colonization of Jamaica.
 
      In 1655 the island was captured by the English. Some of the Jews who fled from Recife, Brazil when the Portuguese recaptured it in 1654 ended up settling on the island of Jamaica. The Jewish community began to prosper, and in 1684 a synagogue was dedicated. Shortly after its completion Rabbi Yeosiahu Pardo arrived to serve as haham.
 
      Among the first settlers sent to Jamaica by the Amsterdam community were Aron de Mosseh Tartas, who emigrated in 1694, and Daniel Ribeyro de Payva, who arrived in 1717. Their ancestors and relatives were persecuted by the Portuguese Inquisition. In 1647 Isaac de Castro Tartas was burned at the stake in Lisbon; Antonio Ribeiro de Payva, an apothecary in S. Vicente de Beira born at Penamacor in about 1721, was sentenced to prison for Judaizing, and reconciled in the auto da f? of Lisbon on September 24, 1747.
 
      In 1760 Reverend Isaac Touro, a native of Holland, left Jamaica to serve as chazzan of the Yeshuat Israel Synagogue (subsequently known as the historic Touro Synagogue) in Newport, Rhode Island. His son Judah Touro (1775-1854), who was born in Newport, was the famous philanthropist.
 
      “A Tory, Judah’s father remained with his family in Newport after the British captured the city. The Touros became dependent upon the charity of the British occupying forces, which helped the family relocate to Jamaica, West Indies, where Isaac died in 1783.”[i]
 

      (This article is based in part on “Notes on the Spanish and Portuguese Jews in the United States, Guiana, and the Dutch and British West Indies During the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries” by Cardozo De Bethencourt, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, 1925, 29, available at www.ajhs.org/reference.adaje.cfm.)



[i] www.ajhs.org/publications/chapters/chapter.cfm?documentID=223

 

 

      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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/early-caribbean-jewish-communities-part-i/2006/10/04/

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