A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Prepared by: OISIKI
EXPULSION TIMES: During the 16th,
17th and 18th Centuries, several waves of Jews and
Crypto-Jews (aka Marranos) settled all over the many insular possessions
or the different colonial powers in the
region. They came mostly with each of the colonizing waves, to whichever
island or tract of terra firma the powers that be happened to possess.
Thus, they came with the Spaniards to their domains, with the Portuguese
who first owned what later became British Guyana and the
, with the Dutch, the French, the British, etc. By the end of the 18th
Century over 35.000 Jews lived in more than three dozen locations
to the Amazon Delta. The further away they were from the Spanish
Inquisition the freer they felt to practice their faith. The three main
sources were of course
(in the earlier part of the period)
. The Jews prospered and brought prosperity to their adopted lands; they
were linked to one another by their common original Sepharadic extraction.
They rapidly ascended through the social and political elites; many became
close to the centers of power, from George Washington down to scores of
rulers all over the
. Unfortunately that ascension loosened their hold to Judaism, and today,
although many of the most prominent aristocratic last names in the area
are old Sepharadic, and although many of them are proud of that fact, few
of the descendants of that ´Jewish Nation of the Caribbean´* are Jews.
What we now know as the Dominican Republic (then known as Hispaniola) was
a Spanish Colony, so no open practice of Judaism was possible on it.
Nevertheless, anecdote has it that many of those first arrivals were
Jewish, including good old Christopher Columbus himself. Initially the
Inquisition operated in full force, but it loosened its grip over time,
and certainly was quite weak in the heartland. Several Jews settled here
in the mid nineteenth century, of which there are vestigial families, few
of which still cling to our faith. The cemeteries of several villages are
populated with Star of David marked tombs, with names like Cohen, Levi,
Attias, Marchena, Henriquez, engraved on them.
TWENTIETH CENTURY: Several Jewish
families, from different central and east European origins, with no common
links between them, settled in various locations across the country. Most
of their second generation offspring assimilated, but some still remain
WAR II: The delegate of the
was the only one, among 32 countries who took part at the Conference
D`Evian in 1939, that accepted the immediate settlement in his country of
Jews persecuted and expelled from
. Eventually less than 700 came over. They settled in Sosúa, a
piece of wild land off the North coast. Most of them emigrated after the
war, but the few families that remained prospered, some are still
practicing Jews, and these devotedly maintain the old wooden Synagogue, a
small historical gem, that is open for services every fourth Saturday.
Sosua also boasts a Jewish Musem that preserves this special legacy and a
Sosúa is a tranquil beach resort of exotic beauty. Jewish tourists
are pleasantly surprised by this rare find.
WORLD WAR II: Several Jewish
refugees arrived in
, some with families. Their numbers grew as some from the Sosúa
population joined them and later several Cuban families
fleeing Castro. They established a small House of Worship in the old
downtown area, close to where -at the time-
they lived and worked. It was soon replaced by the current
21 Sarasota Street
, which was inaugurated circa 1960.
TIMES: Over the last quarter
Century about two dozen Israelis have come to live here as well as a few
Argentinians and a handful Americans. We have about 60 dues paying
families; we hold Services every Friday evening (some Saturday mornings),
and every Thursday morning. We commemorate each and every Jewish Holiday,
and have an attendance of well over 160 adults for New Year and Yom Kippur
Services. We operate a children`s After-School for three different age
groups. We have a weekly Talmud lesson (Mondays, 8.00pm). We meticulously
prepare our boys and girls for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. We carry out several
cultural activities such as Communal Shabbat Dinners, movie screenings,
Judaism/Hebrew lessons, etc. We have a well kept Jewish Cemetery. We
provide supervised repatriation services for the remains of Jews who need
to be interred in other countries. We consider ourselves as a Traditional
congregation, and we try to the best of our ability to make Jews of all
denominations feel comfortable in our Synagogue; head covering is
mandatory, service is conducted in Hebrew with few Spanish insertions, we
maintain separate seating, (no Mehitza, though) no microphone; because
Kosher meat or poultry need to be imported, only Dairy or Parve food is
served on our premises. We offer Huppah services to foreign couples, in
coordination with the event planners at their resort of choice. We issue
Kosher Certifications to exporters, in coordination with one of the
world`s most respected supervision establishments. We regularly import
Kosher meats and other products, thus satisfying the needs of interested
families; some Kosher food is occasionally found in the better supemarkets.
: This country occupies about two thirds of the
, twice and a half the size of
, (the rest is
). The population is about eight and a half million. Well over thirty
thousand Arabs live here, most of them of Christian-Lebanese, early
twentieth Century descent.
TOURISM: Several attempts to
establish Kosher vacations programs have not persevered past their initial
difficulties. A leading international hotel chain, however, has recently
teamed up with a prestigious local resort chain, and are in the process of
launching a year round Kosher facility. Others in the hotel business are
also contemplating the project. Our Community has recently successfully
organized a steady supply, serving the needs of our families, form which
eventually a commercial venture may emerge.
The economy of the D.R. stands mainly on three pillars:
About 3.800.000 tourists came last year.
Zone Manufacturing: There are seven free trade areas where over
four hundred factories operate.
transfers by expats: About a million Dominicans live in
the US and they send home over two billion dollars a year. Large numbers
and their contribution is also sizable.
is the Religious Director, Centro Israelita de la Republica
Dominicana. PO Box 303-7, Santo Domingo, D.R. Email: email@example.com.
Phone/fax: 1 809 533 0168. Cel: 1 809 440 9981. The Museum in Sosua:
1 809 571 1386 – firstname.lastname@example.org