Community in Dominican Republic - World Jewish Congress
Dominican Republic

According to 2020 estimates, the Dominican Republic is home to roughly 100 Jews. Consisting of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, Dominican Jewry is a small, yet active community. The Jewish community in the Dominican Republic is represented by the Centro Israelita de la Republica Dominicana – the Dominican affiliate of the World Jewish Congress.

WJC Affiliate
Centro Israelita de la Republica Dominicana

Telephone: 809-535-6042
Fax: 809-542-1908

President: Isaac Rudman

The first Jews in the Dominican Republic arrived as a result of a 16th century Spanish policy of sending Conversos (Jewish converts to Christianity as a result of the Inquisition) to Santo Domingo. In fact, some historians believe that during the colonial period, the majority of people living in Santo Domingo were Conversos.
When Hispaniola, the island the Dominican Republic is located on, became divided between Spain in the east and France in the west, most Jews settled on the Spanish side – the future site of the Dominican Republic. Between 1781 and 1785, a number of Jews came to Santo Domingo from the Dutch island of St. Eustatius. Others arrived from Curaçao, St. Thomas, and Jamaica during the French occupation. Most of these immigrants maintained their foreign citizenship as Dutch, British, or Danish nationals.

Though no organized community was established during the period of Haitian occupation (1822 to 1844), the Jews of Santo Domingo nonetheless thrived. They lived in the capital, Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata, Monte Christi, La Vega, and San Pedro de Macoris. Most worked as exporters of tobacco, timber, and jewelry. Marriages were performed by Rafael Namias Curiel, who was also a cantor. The Jews were also warmly received by the local population, and seen as patriotic and productive. The children of most of these immigrants ultimately assimilated almost completely with the local population. Their descendants were among the most prominent figures in the history of the Dominican Republic, including President Francisco Henriquez y Carvajal.

The Dominican Republic’s open immigration policy regarding Jews saw its Jewish population steadily rise throughout the years before and during World War II. On the eve of World War II there were 40 Jews in the Dominican Republic, and by 1947, a total of 705 Jews had made their way to the Dominican Republic. Though the project was intended to promote agricultural development, few of the Jewish immigrants were inclined towards agriculture. Indeed, of the 373 Jews living in Sousa in July 1947, only 166 were engaged in agriculture. The rest worked as businessmen and artisans. The number of known Jews in the Dominican Republic peaked at 1000, but began a downward trend in the post-war years, due to emigration. It has declined ever since.

The Dominican ambassador to the United Nations, Max Henriquez Urena, who himself was the descendent of a marriage between a Jewish father and a Converso mother, gave the welcoming speech when Israel was admitted to the United Nations in 1949. An Israeli embassy was established in the Dominican Republic in 1964, six months after the Dominicans inaugurated their embassy in Israel.

Today’s Dominican Jewish community is quite small and concentrated, the result of decades of emigration and assimilation. Despite these trends, Jews in the Dominican Republic are able to practice their religion freely and openly.

The years of the Holocaust

The Dominican Republic was one of the few countries prepared to accept large-scale Jewish immigration before and during World War II. At the Evian Conference on refugees, which was organized at the behest of the Roosevelt Administration in 1938, the Dominican Republic offered to accept up to 100,000 Jewish refugees. President Rafael Trujillo, the country’s dictator, hoped that these refugees could contribute to the country’s agriculture and consequently donated land in Sosua in anticipation of a Jewish agricultural settlement. It is also believed that he supported letting Jewish refugees into the country as part of a strategy to encourage European immigration rather than Haitians.

The first immigrants arrived in the middle of 1940, and by 1942 the Jewish population was 472 and it is estimated that approximately 5,000 visas were actually issued. While these visas allowed their recipients to escape the Holocaust, most European Jews who received the visas never actually reached the Dominican Republic since transatlantic travel proved to be extremely difficult, especially for Jews from occupied countries. However, these documents were instrumental in allowing some of these Jewish refugees to flee Nazi-occupied Europe, or to be sent to labor and transit camps rather than death camps.


Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola estimated that the Dominican Jewish population numbered between 100 and 300 people as of 2000.

Dominican Jews live in Santo Domingo, the country’s capital. A few Jews also live in Sousa.

Community Life

Although Sephardic in its origins, the Jewish Community of the Dominican Republic is diverse and open. Jewish life is organized by the Centro Israelita de la Republica Dominicana. A chapter of the International Council of Jewish Women is also active in the Dominican Republic.

For over sixty years there has also been a Jewish Cemetery; the community also assists the supervised repatriation services for the remains of Jews who need to be interred in other countries. There is also tzedaka (charity) care for the indigent, striving to respect their dignity, as well as also cooperation programs for the education of needy Jewish children in Santo Domingo.

Religious and Cultural life

Despite the small size of Dominican Jewry, the community has two synagogues: one in Santo Domingo and the other in Sosua. A rabbi divides his time between the two communities. The Dominican Jewish community also has a Mikveh.

Huppah services are offered to foreign couples, in coordination with the event planners at their resort of choice. Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration programs for overseas families are also offered.

Because Kosher meat or poultry needs to be imported, only dairy or pareve food is served on the premises. Kashrut certifications to exporters are offered, in coordination with one of the world’s most respected supervision establishments. The synagogue represents one of the leading international Kosher Certification institutions and serves the Dominican food export industrial sector. Kosher meats and other products are regularly imported from Florida, thus satisfying the needs of interested families.

Jewish Education

The Community does not have a full time Hebrew Day School. However, there is an after-school program at the synagogue for various age groups and a Sunday school in Santo Domingo is attended by 15-20 children.

There is a children’s after-school for three different age groups and a weekly Torah lesson for adults. Boys and girls are prepared for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah and several cultural activities such as Communal Shabbat Dinners, movie screenings, Judaism/Hebrew lessons are part of the options offered. Service is conducted in Hebrew with few Spanish insertions. Separate seating is maintained, (no Mehitza, though) and no microphone.

Jewish Media

The community publishes Shalom, a bimonthly magazine.

Information for visitors

Despite the small size of Dominican Jewry, there are some notable Jewish sites. Besides the two synagogues, there is a Museum of Jewish Heritage and the old living quarters of Jewish settlers in Sousa. Additionally, the Jewish cemetery in Santo Domingo is also an area of Jewish interest.

Relations with Israel

An Israeli embassy was established in the Dominican Republic in 1964, six months after the Dominicans inaugurated their embassy in Israel. The Dominican ambassador to the United Nations, Max Henriquez Urena, who himself was the descendent of a marriage between a Jewish father and a Converso mother, gave the welcoming speech when Israel was admitted to the United Nations in 1949.

Embassy of Israel in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Pedro Henriquez Urena 80
Apartado Postal 1404, Santo Domingo

Telephone: (+1 809) 920 1500
Fax: (+1 809) 472 1785

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