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The first known Jews to reach the island of Hispaniola were Spanish Jews. They arrived in 1492, when the island was discovered by Christopher Columbus. Anti-semitism, and the Spanish Inquisition, caused many Jews to flee the country of Spain which was home to Jewish people for hundreds of years. Columbus' crew set sail from Spain, the very day of the Alhambra Decree. The crew had at least five Jews on board. They were Luis de Torres, interpreter; Marco, the surgeon; Bernal, the physician; Alonzo de la Calle, and Gabriel Sanchez. Luis de Torres was the first man ashore Hispaniola. Later, when the island was divided by the French and the Spanish, most Jews settled on the Spanish side which would later become the Dominican Republic. Eventually, Sephardim from other countries also arrived. In the 19th century Jews from Curacao settled in Hispaniola, but did not form a strong community. Most of them hid their Jewish identities or were unaffiliated with Jewish tradition by that time. Among their descendants were Dominican President Francisco Henriquez y Carvajal[1] and his son Pedro Henriques Ureña.

The Dominican Republic was one of the very few countries prepared to accept mass Jewish immigration during World War II. At the Evian Conference, it offered to accept up to 100,000 Jewish refugees.[2] The DORSA (Dominican Republic Settlement Association) was formed with the assistance of the JDC, and helped settle Jews in Sosua, on the northern coast. About 700 European Jews of Ashkenazi Jewish descent reached the settlement where they were assigned land and cattle. Other refugees settled in the capital, Santo Domingo. In 1943 the number of known Jews in the Dominican Republic peaked at 1000. Since that time it has been in constant decline due to emigration and assimilation. The oldest Jewish grave is dated 1826.

Contents

Community

The current population of known Jews in the Dominican Republic is approximately 400, the majority live in Santo Domingo, the capital. A very high percentage of the nation's Jews have intermarried although some spouses have fomalized their Judaism through conversions and participate in Jewish communal life. There are three synagogues. One is the Centro Israelita de República Dominicana in Santo Domingo, another is a Chabad outreach center also in Santo Domingo and the other is in the country's first established community in Sosua[3], . An "afterschool" at the Centro Israelita is active on a weekly basis and a chapter of the International Council of Jewish Women is active. The synagogue publishes a monthly magazine "Boletin Shalom". The Chabad outreach center [5] focuses on assisting the local Jewish population reconnect with their Jewish roots and (because Chabad is of the Chassidic Jewish tradition) it is the source for traditional Judaism in the Dominican Republic. In Sosua there is a small Jewish Museum next to the synagogue. Moreover, there is a Sephardic Bet Midrash which is dedicated to instruction of classical Hebrew, the Spanish-Portuguese rite, and teaching of Jewish Law. On the High Holidays, the Sosua community hires a cantor from abroad who comes to lead services. Both communities maintain well kept Jewish cemeteries.

Research

A great deal of research on the subject of Dominican Jewry was done by Rabbi Henry Zvi Ucko[4], a writer and teacher in Germany until political conditions and growing anti-semitism led him to emigrate. His travels eventually took him to the Dominican Republic where he organized a congregation in Santo Domingo (Ciudad Trujillo) and began researching the history of Jews in the country. His research covered much of the history of the Sephardic Jews there, and documents the assimilation that the population went through (and was going through) during his time. Included in his research is correspondence with Haim Horacio López Penha, a Dominican Jewish writer who encouraged Ucko to write a history of the Jews in the Dominican Republic. President Rafael L. Trujillo Molina, pledged the interest and cooperation of the government in support of Ucko's research. More recently, the publication of the paperback book "Once Jews" has made easily available information on many early Jewish settlers in the Dominican Republic.

Israel

Israel and the Dominican Republic enjoy full diplomatic relations.

Further reading

Once Jews

More about the Sosua Community

Crypto Jews of the Dominican Republic

Tropical Zion: General Trujillo, FDR, and the Jews of Sosúa by Allen Wells

Sephardic Bet Midrash in Santo Domingo led by Eleazar-DeMota

References

  1. ^ [1] Biography of Francisco Henriquez y Carvajal (in Spanish)
  2. ^ [2] Holocaust Encyclopedia Website
  3. ^ [3] COX Newspapers article on the Jewish Community of Sosua, Dominican Republic, There is also a large group of B´nei Anoussim of about 3000 members.
  4. ^ [4] Information about the Henry Zvi Ucko papers located at The University of North Carolina
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File:Centro Israelita de Republica
Inside a Santo Domingo synagogue
The first known Jews to reach the island of Hispaniola were Spanish Jews. They arrived in 1492, when the island was discovered by Christopher Columbus. Anti-semitism, and the Spanish Inquisition, caused many Jews to flee the country of Spain which was home to Jewish people for hundreds of years. Columbus' crew set sail from Spain, the very day of the Alhambra Decree. The crew had at least five Jews on board. They were Luis de Torres, interpreter; Marco, the surgeon; Bernal, the physician; Alonzo de la Calle, and Gabriel Sanchez. Luis de Torres was the first man ashore Hispaniola. Later, when the island was divided by the French and the Spanish, most Jews settled on the Spanish side which would later become the Dominican Republic. Eventually, Sephardim from other countries also arrived. In the 19th century Jews from Curaçao settled in Hispaniola, but did not form a strong community. Most of them hid their Jewish identities or were unaffiliated with Jewish tradition by that time. Among their descendants were Dominican President Francisco Henriquez y Carvajal[1] and his son Pedro Henriques Ureña.

The Dominican Republic was one of the very few countries prepared to accept mass Jewish immigration during World War II. At the Evian Conference, it offered to accept up to 100,000 Jewish refugees.[2] The DORSA (Dominican Republic Settlement Association) was formed with the assistance of the JDC, and helped settle Jews in Sosua, on the northern coast. About 700 European Jews of Ashkenazi Jewish descent reached the settlement where they were assigned land and cattle. Other refugees settled in the capital, Santo Domingo. In 1943 the number of known Jews in the Dominican Republic peaked at 1000. Since that time it has been in constant decline due to emigration and assimilation. The oldest Jewish grave is dated 1826.

Contents

Community

The current population of known Jews in the Dominican Republic is approximately 300, the majority live in Santo Domingo, the capital. A very high percentage of the nation's Jews have intermarried although some spouses have fomalized their Judaism through conversions and participate in Jewish communal life. There are three synagogues and one Sephardic Jewish Educational Center. One is the Centro Israelita de República Dominicana in Santo Domingo, another is a Chabad outreach center also in Santo Domingo, and another is in the country's first established community in Sosua[3]. Beth Midrash Nidhe Israel [5], the Sephardic Educational Center, caters to those Jews who are descendents of the Sephardic Jews that migrated to Hispaniola in colonial times and after that. In addition, they also provide kasher meat in the Beth Yoseph style, and supervise a small-scale kasher bakery. An "afterschool" at the Centro Israelita is active on a weekly basis and a chapter of the International Council of Jewish Women is active. The synagogue publishes a monthly magazine "Boletin Shalom". The Chabad outreach center [6] focuses on assisting the local Jewish population reconnect with their Jewish roots and (because Chabad is of the Chassidic Jewish tradition) it is the source for traditional Judaism in the Dominican Republic. In Sosua there is a small Jewish Museum next to the synagogue. On the High Holidays, the Sosua community hires a cantor from abroad who comes to lead services. Both communities maintain well kept Jewish cemeteries.

Research

A great deal of research on the subject of Dominican Jewry was done by Rabbi Henry Zvi Ucko[4], a writer and teacher in Germany until political conditions and growing anti-semitism led him to emigrate. His travels eventually took him to the Dominican Republic where he organized a congregation in Santo Domingo (Ciudad Trujillo) and began researching the history of Jews in the country. His research covered much of the history of the Sephardic Jews there, and documents the assimilation that the population went through (and was going through) during his time. Included in his research is correspondence with Haim Horacio López Penha, a Dominican Jewish writer who encouraged Ucko to write a history of the Jews in the Dominican Republic. President Rafael L. Trujillo Molina, pledged the interest and cooperation of the government in support of Ucko's research. More recently, the publication of the paperback book "Once Jews" has made easily available information on many early Jewish settlers in the Dominican Republic and a genetic study has commenced[5] to examine genetic similarities between individuals with Dominican ancestry who also claim Sephardic ancestry.

Israel

Israel and the Dominican Republic enjoy full diplomatic relations.

Further reading

Once Jews

More about the Sosua Community

Tropical Zion: General Trujillo, FDR, and the Jews of Sosúa by Allen Wells

References

  1. ^ [1] Biography of Francisco Henriquez y Carvajal (in Spanish)
  2. ^ [2] Holocaust Encyclopedia Website
  3. ^ . [3] COX Newspapers article on the Jewish Community of Sosua, Dominican Republic.
  4. ^ [4] Information about the Henry Zvi Ucko papers located at The University of North Carolina
  5. ^ http://www.familytreedna.com/group-join.aspx?Group=Sefarad_DR


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