Introducing the Topic
This paper is being presented at this conference under the general heading of inter-religious dialogue, and the initial response to its title, for many participants from the Eastern Caribbean, would be, I suspect: “But we have no Jews here with whom to engage in dialogue!” True, by and large. In fact, I am aware that many Catholics and other Christians in our part of the world are even not aware of Judaism as a living religion and think of “Jews” only as those people who shouted “Crucify him!” on the first Good Friday. However, Curacao does claim the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere. The Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue was established in 1651 by twelve families of Jews from Amsterdam and still has an active Jewish community. Last year the Jewish community in Kingston established a Jewish Heritage Centre to celebrate 350 years of Jewish presence in Jamaica. The Jewish presence in Suriname also dates to the second half of the seventeenth century, and in Barbados the synagogue in Bridgetown, which was likewise first established in the 1650’s was, in the 1980’s, restored as a place of worship after a hiatus of some sixty years.
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