Barbados

While Barbados is home to between 80 and 100 Jews, the island’s Jewish community has a rich history dating back to the 17th century. Its historic Nidhe Israel Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, is within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of historic Bridgetown and its Garrison area. The Barbados affiliate of the World Jewish Congress is the Barbados Jewish Community Council.

WJC Affiliate

Barbados Jewish Community Council

President: Scott Oran
Telephone: +1-246 826-6726
Email: Scott@Oranltd.com

In cooperation with:

Bridgetown Synagogue 1654
c/o Altman Real Estate
‘Rosebank’
Derricks
St. James BB24008
Barbados

Chairman: Sir Paul Altman

Telephone: 538-6870
Website: www.synagoguehistoricdistrict.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BarbadosSynagogue



History

A year after the British colonization of Barbados in 1627, Spanish and Portuguese Jews – known as Conversos – began settling on the island, and in 1654 the Jewish community of Bridgetown, the country’s capital, was formed and a synagogue established.

Spanish and Portuguese Jews had formed a part of the Dutch colonization of Recife in Northern Brazil.  They subsequently were instrumental in the establishment of the sugar industry in Barbados.  Barbados was the first British territory where Jews obtained full political rights, and by the late 17th century, there were two Jewish communities in Barbados, in Bridgetown and Speightstown.

Jewish members of the community were considered to be good businessmen and were taxed at higher levels than others in Barbados. 

This discriminatory law was lifted by the colonial government in 1702, and over the course of the 18th century the Jewish community in Barbados continued to grow and flourish financially (despite the closing of the Jewish congregation in Speightstown).

A massive hurricane wreaked havoc across the island in 1831, leading to a decline in both the local economy and the Jewish community’s fortunes. During this period, many Jews immigrated to the United States, and by 1925, there were no Jews in Barbados. In 1925, the Nidhe Israel Synagogue was deconsecrated and sold.

With the rise of Nazism, Moses Altman was the first of 40 Jewish families who had fled Europe and settled in Barbados. In 1987, the Nidhe Israel Synagogue was rededicated, and the Old Jewish cemetery in Bridgetown was restored soon afterwards. The Nidhe Israel Museum (adjacent to the synagogue) was opened in 2008, and in 2011 was included in the UNESCO World Heritage historic Bridgetown and its Garrison area.

Demography

As of 2015 the Jewish population was estimated to number 103.

Community Life

The Barbadian Jewish community manages the Historic Nidhe Israel Synagogue. The major Jewish initiative was the Bridgetown Synagogue 1654 project, chaired by Sir Paul Altman, which restored the Nidhe Israel Synagogue and built the Nidhe Israel Museum, discovered and restored the original mikveh and restored the adjacent graveyard.  This initiative completed the restoration of other historic buildings which now encompasses the entire city block. 

For further information about the Nidhe Israel Synagogue, contact Sir Paul Altman at: bridgetownsynagogue1654@gmail.com, telephone 1-246-432-7613.

Religious and Cultural Life

Barbados has two synagogues in Bridgetown: the Nidhe Israel Synagogue, which holds services during the winter season when international Jews visit the island; and the smaller ShaareTzedek synagogue which holds services the rest of the year. Both are affiliated with the Conservative Movement. The entirety of Jewish religious life in Barbados is conducted through the synagogue. Barbados does not have any Jewish schools, publications, or youth groups.

Information for Visitors

Despite the small size of the community today, Barbadian Jewry has a rich history. Notable Jewish sites can be found in Bridgetown in the aptly-named “Synagogue Lane.”  Sites there include the Nidhe Synagogue, a Jewish museum detailing the history of Jewish life in Barbados, and the old Jewish cemetery, which contains some of the oldest Jewish graves in the Western world. There is also an historic mikveh.

Israel

Israel and Barbados have full diplomatic ties and Israel has both a non-resident ambassador and an Honorary Consul-General in Bridgetown. In 1975, Barbados voted against the United Nations “Zionism is racism” resolution, and in 2012 it was one of only three Caribbean states not to vote in favor of a Palestinian state at the UN, together with the Bahamas and Haiti – the three countries abstained.

Embassy of Israel to the Caribbean
800 Second Avenue, 15th Floor
New York, NY 10017
USA

Telephone: (212) 499-5518; (212) 499-5572

updated

 

May 2018

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