Jamaican Jews

JAMAICAJamaica, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, has a fascinating Jewish history dating back many centuries. Here are eight little-known facts about the Jews in Jamaica.

1. Refuge of the Inquisition

Christopher Columbus visited Jamaica on his second voyage to the New World and in 1503 claimed it for Spain. The island was granted to the descendants of Columbus as a personal possession.

Challenging the Spanish Inquisition (which ordered the death of anyone practicing Judaism) in 1530 Columbus ‘grandson, Columbus’ grandson, allowed the “secret” Jews to settle on the island. These were Jews who, in spite of the Inquisition, continued to secretly practice Jewish rituals and secretly lead Jewish lives. In Spain, Portugal, and most of the colonies in these countries, the Inquisition persecuted them ruthlessly, torturing and murdering anyone who took part in Jewish traditions. However, Columbus prevented the Inquisition from operating in the new colony of Jamaica.

2. Return to Judaism under the British mandate

In the middle of the seventeenth century, when the Spanish authorities threatened to wrest control of Jamaica from the hands of the family of Christopher Columbus and impose the Inquisition there, the Jews of Jamaica mobilized. They wrote to the leader of England, Oliver Cromwell, and promised to help England to conquer the island from Spain. The English ships that arrived at the ports of Jamaica were received by Jews who promised their aid while England fought against Spain. In 1655, England began to rule Jamaica.

The Jewish community of Jamaica flourished. Not being forced to practice Judaism in secret, they formed a community, built a synagogue, and hired a prominent leader: Josiau Hisquiam Pardo from Thessaloniki. The Jews came to Jamaica from all over the Old and New World, from France and Great Britain as well as from Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Eighteenth-century historian Bryan Edwards pointed out that “Jews enjoyed practically the same privileges as white Christians,” at that time somewhat unusual in many countries.

3. Jewish Pirate

Antonio Vaez Henriques was one of the most prominent merchants in Lisbon and a secret Jew. In 1605 he was publicly tortured, along with 150 other Jews, for the “crime” of practicing Judaism. After escaping from Amsterdam, Henriques became circumcised, changed his name to Abraham Henriques Cohen, and publicly embraced his Judaism.

Henriques is remembered today as a gallant pirate, although the stories of his prowess are diverse. Apparently he became a soldier and spy for the Dutch navy and operated with his support. What is clear is that Henriques was associated with Sir Henry Morgan, one of the most feared pirates of the Caribbean.

Together, and with the tacit support of the English government, Henriques and Morgan sacked the Spanish colonies in the New World. His attack of 1628 against the Spanish Armada, in which they captured fabulous quantities of silver and gold, was the greatest robbery in the history of the Spanish fleet.

After a long career in piracy, Morgan was appointed assistant to the governor of Jamaica and forgave Abraham Henriques Cohen, who settled in Jamaica.

4. Closed on Yom Kippur

The Jews of Jamaica were long denied absolute political rights until around 1830 when their leader, Moisés Delgado, pushed the matter tirelessly before the British authorities in Jamaica. Finally, on July 13, 1831, the Jews received full civil rights and entered fully into the political life of Jamaica.

In 1849, eight of the 47 members of House of Assembly of Jamaica were Jews and the Assembly closed in Iom Kipur because many delegates did not participate. In 1866, there were 13 Jewish delegates, almost 25% of the Assembly.

5. White sand floors

As with a handful of other Caribbean congregations, the last surviving synagogue in Jamaica, Shaaré Shalom in Kingston, has a white sand floor. This unusual tradition dates back to the sixteenth century, when secret Jews tried to muffle the noise of their footsteps in the synagogues, covering the floor with a thick layer of sand.

Although Shaaré Shalom dates only from 1912, it is built following the traditional Spanish-Portuguese style. It is one of five synagogues in operation today that has sand floor (the others are in Amsterdam, Curacao, Surinam, and St. Thomas).

6. Artistic Prosperity

Some of the most treasured art treasures of Jamaica are the product of the Jews of that nation.

The Jewish writer Daniel Israel López Laguna was born in France around 1650 and studied in Spain, where he was arrested and tortured by the Inquisition. In prison, he consoled himself thinking of the Hebrew Psalms and decided that if he was ever released he would translate these eternal prayers into Spanish. Laguna eventually left prison and escaped to Jamaica, where he embraced his Jewish identity. His work Faithful Mirror of Lives containing the Psalms of David in Verse was published in 1720 and became a literary sensation.

Isaac Mendes Belisario, one of Jamaica’s most prominent artists, captured the life and customs of the Jamaican slave population. Here we see one of his works:

Jacobo de Cordoba

Two books written by a Jew from Jamaica helped put the modern state of Texas on the map. “The Texas Immigrant and Traveler’s Guide Book” (1856) and “Texas, Her Resources and Her Public Men” (1858) (Texas, their resources and their public men) were written by two brothers, James and Joshua of Cordoba, Kingston, Jamaica. The Córdoba brothers, who were among the first enthusiasts of the solitary star state, founded the city of Waco in 1848 and established the Texas Herald newspaper.


Kitchen writer Marilyn Delevante recalls having eaten sweets after the fasting of Yom Kippur in Jamaica. They were called dosses, which probably comes from twelve Portuguese, which means sweet.

This is the recipe for a traditional Jewish cookie from Jamaica that the Sephardic Jews ate in Pesach (Note: Ashkenazim Jews do not eat peanuts in Pesach, but this biscuit is delicious at any time of the year).

Jamaican peanut butter currants
170 grams of fresh ground peanuts
3 eggs
225 grams of white sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 teaspoons mixed spice
8 ounces fine flour

Beat eggs and sugar until thick. Add the peanuts and spices and mix. Then add the flour and matzah mixture until a dough is formed.

With a spoon, place drops of dough on a baking dish and bake at 150 ° C for 5 minutes.

Remove the fountain from the oven and using the handle of a wooden spoon, drill holes in each cookie to be screwed. Then return the dish to the oven and continue baking at 150 ° C until completely cooked, about 10-15 minutes.

8. A kosher resurgence

Although the Jewish population of Jamaica has been reduced to less than 300 residents, in recent years there has been a kosher resurgence on the island, thanks to catering from Vered Maoz, who was born in Israel.

Although Maoz jokes that when her husband, a mechanical engineer, got a job in Kingston, she did not know where to look for Jamaica on the map, this mother of four very soon fell in love with her new home. She prepared elaborate Israeli dinners and Shabbat dinners and brought food when she visited the homes of her new neighbors. Soon the voice spread, particularly after Israel’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic tried his food at a party on Israel’s Independence Day.

Now Maoz runs his own kosher food business. In Jamaica there is no kosher meat, so your whole menu is vegetarian: pita, humus, burecas, tehina, tabule, schug, pickle pickles, vegetarian stuffed peppers and stuffed cabbage. Orders come from Jewish travelers and Jamaicans themselves, eager to enjoy the taste of Israeli-style kosher food.



Sukkot 5778: A Sukkah in the Prison of the Mexican Inquisition

Throughout our history, the Yehudim have overcome all obstacles to observe the Mitzvah of the Sukkah. But perhaps one of the most inquisicionstriking examples of the Jewish people’s love and determination for this precept is the Sukkah that was built in the prisons of the Inquisition of Mexico City in 1603 by a crypto-Jewish man named Sebastian Rodriguez.


Sebastián was born in Portugal in 1573, in a town called San Vicente Davera, but left his house at the age of seven, to move to Seville (Spain), where he worked in the shop of his uncle Antonio Rodríguez, who had taught him to read and write.

At the age of fourteen, in 1587, he embarked for New Spain (former name of Mexico) and settled in the city of Puebla, in the house of a distant relative, also Portuguese, named Guillermo Rodríguez, the which sent him to nearby villages to sell clothes. At sixteen he became independent and began to work on his own.

At the age of eighteen, he married his cousin Constanza Rodriguez, who was seven years his senior. Prior to the wedding, his brother-in-law Domingo Rodríguez and Manuel de Lucena took Sebastián to the countryside and taught him many of the Torah’s Halajot (laws and traditions) regarding marriage and Jewish life, although he already had some notions of these.

But his principal teachers, from whom he learned the laws of the Torah, were Luis de Carvajal (El Mozo) and Sebastián de la Peña. During long walks in company of their teachers, they analyzed the different passages of the Torah together. Luis de Carvajal, always had hidden between the lining and the felt of his hat, several writings with passages and laws of the Torah, and in that way he could teach them to his students.

In 1596, when he had barely turned twenty-three, and for the accusation of a “Pedro de Reparo” against him, Sebastián Rodríguez was arrested in Mexico City along with his wife Constanza. He was taken to the prisons of the Inquisition in the Plaza Santo Domingo, which today is Donceles and Brazil Street, very close to the current Zócalo. His punishment was life imprisonment, and the confiscation of all his property.

During the first three months of his interrogations, Sebastian kept absolute silence, so they kept him chained to shackles of hands and feet. After those three months of torture, Sebastian confessed that he professed the Law of Moses. It was then that the crickets were removed, and placed in a cell next to Luis Diaz, who operated as a spy for the Inquisition. Luis Diaz, later nicknamed “El Malshín” (informant), informed the inquisitors that his cellmate, Sebastian “judaizaba”, that is: that he did not consume the meat they served him, nor swept the floor of his cell on Saturdays , … who washed his hands before consuming the bread, and who prayed every day eastward toward Jerusalem with his head covered.

As a result of this report, Sebastián was taken to the Inquisitors to declare the truth, but as he denied the accusations that had been imputed to him, he proceeded to torture again. This time with the instrument of torture called “the foal”. After the fifth round of the line, Sebastian declared that he judaizaba (= behaved like Jewish), but that “he repented of having done it”

The party of Sucot (cabins) of 1603 was approaching, and Sebastián Rodríguez, his wife Constanza Rodríguez and his little son Domingo, had been locked up for seven years in the jails of the inquisition known as La Casa Chata.

Sebastian did not want to fail to comply with the biblical precept of celebrating the festival of Sukkot, and therefore, looks for a way to build a Sukkah (hut), in the very courtyard of the jail, in front of the noses of the inquisitors Alonso of Peralta and Gutiérrez Bernardo de Quirós.

Jewish Community of Madrid: 2017 Or Januka Award

policiaThe Jewish Community of Madrid has announced that it will award its 2017 Or Januká Award to the State Security Forces and Corps for its defense of democracy and constitutional order and for “their risky work”.

According to a statement, the work of the Security Forces and Corps allows Jewish life in the capital “to develop with total normality and security.”

The Jewish Community of Madrid has also granted the Queen Sofia the Centennial Prize which commemorates a century of the official return of Jewish presence in Madrid since its expulsion in 1492. “This prize is awarded for its dedication to a democratic Spain and for its proximity to Jewish culture, “says the Jewish Community.

Reunión en Toledo con “El último Judío”

Jose Ignacio Carmona en Toledo.jpgAsí es como a Iñaki(José Ignacio Carmona), le gusta llamarse a sí mismo, “El último Judío”. Leer su último fue un placer, pero tener la oportunidad de sentarme a tomar una cerveza con él, fue lo máximo. Pasamos una hora que se fue en menos de 5 minutos, pero dejamos cientos de planes sobre la mesa de los que estoy seguro que vamos a tener muchas novedades próximamente. Lo mejor de Iñaki, es su sueño: Que en Toledo vuelva a haber una Comunidad Judía…. y  quién sabe?

Como él mismo me cuenta, criado sobre las almas judías de la ampliación del cementerio de la Horca, donde en 2008 fue descubierta esta gran Necrópolis, y con miles de historias y leyendas, algunas de ellas transmitidas desde su abuela, con un claro antecedente sefardí, creo haber ganado, no solo un amigo, sino un colega con el que estoy seguro que voy a poder compartir muchas vivencias, historias, y lo que venga.

Para todos los interesados en la herencia Judía de Toledo, no dejéis de leer su libro: jose-ignacio-carmona-libro-708x1024


ECCO-Espacio-Cultura-Contemporanea-Cádiz The mayor of Cadiz suspends the film cycle when it “contradicts the 2016 agreement to join the campaign ‘Espacio Libre de Apartheid Israelí’

The City of Cadiz, Andalusia, Spain, yesterday suspended in a surprising way the Israeli Film Cycle that began Tuesday in the Contemporary Culture Space (ECCO), a municipal facilities that has hosted two projections of this cultural initiative included in the official program of Culture of the City, which had convened and promoted and disseminated by the usual channels.

“The Contemporary Culture Space (ECCO) will host an exhibition of Israeli cinema on Tuesday, September 26 and next Friday 29, with the launch of a cycle of projections composed of four feature films. (…) With this cycle, ECCO continues with its program of dynamization of space. The activity is carried out in collaboration with the Israeli Embassy in Spain. The opening ceremony on Tuesday will be attended by the director of cultural projects of the Israeli Embassy in Spain, Jesús Arcos García.

The cycle began with the screening of the film Good Morning, Mr. Fidelman, by Yossi Madmoni. On Wednesday, Gay Nativ’s The Flood was screened. And on Thursday, the City of Cadiz issued a brief statement announcing the suspension of the cycle, alleging that the same “contradicts the agreement to join the campaign” Space Free Apartheid Israel “, which the City of Cadiz “acceded by an agreement of Board of Government on August 12, 2016.”

It is an international campaign of “boycott, divestitures and sanctions against Israeli colonization, apartheid and occupation”, an initiative in solidarity with Palestine, according to the website ‘boicotaisrael.net’.

Jesús Arcos García, who went to Cadiz to inaugurate the cycle last Tuesday, and is coordinator of Israeli cultural projects in Spain, such as the Jewish Film Festival of Barcelona, ​​which also takes place during the month of September.

On the sudden suspension, he underlined that “can not be understood”, and acknowledges that from the Embassy “we are upset.” The suspension of the cycle leaves without projecting two tapes, ‘The matchmaker’, of the director Avi Nesher; and Roi Werner’s “2 Night,” from the four films that made it up, which were awarded at different festivals. The municipal website continues to show the cycle information as current.

Source: elmundo.es

Response of the Israeli Embassy in Spain

Press release from the Israeli Embassy

Repulsed by the cancellation of the Film Series
Israeli by the City of Cadiz

Madrid, September 29, 2017

The Israeli Embassy in Spain wants to make public its repulsion by the decision of the City Council of Cadiz to cancel the Israeli Film Cycle that was taking place since last Tuesday, September 26 in the ECCO (Contemporary Cultural Space), dependent on the city council.

In a note sent yesterday to the media, the Culture Delegate of the City of Cadiz, Eva Tubío, announced the suspension of the Israeli film cycle for being in “contradiction with the agreement to join the” boycott Israel “campaign adopted by the Local Government Board of the City of Cadiz in a session held on August 12, 2016.

The suspension of the Israeli Film Series is an act of cultural censorship based on political criteria, something that reminds us of dark times in contemporary history.

We consider it unacceptable that public institutions in a friendly country adopt measures to dictate anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic organizations. The organizations and campaigns dedicated to boycotting Israel do nothing to advance the road to peace between Israel and the Palestinians and aim to demonize not only the state or government of Israel but also all its citizens and their manifestations cultural, artistic, etc.

We regret that the Mayor of Cadiz has endorsed this decision that is against the interest that had been expressed in inviting Israeli companies to their city in order to create employment. This sectarian and isolationist policy is against the objective of attracting investments in the city, being the citizens of Cadiz the main disadvantaged.

The Cinema Cycle consisted of four fiction feature films that have had an extensive tour of different European festivals. Before the suspension, two of the four films had been screened. Culture and art are and should serve to establish bridges and links between peoples.

The Israeli Embassy will continue to work to strengthen cultural, artistic, tourist, scientific, technological and economic relations with Cadiz and its citizens.