Martinique

According to the estimates of the local Jewish community, Martinique is home to about 90 Jews. Though quite small, the Martiniquais Jewish community is well-organized and thriving. There is little antisemitism on the island, and Jews in Martinique are afforded a sense of stability in openly practicing Jewish religious and cultural life. The Jewish community in Martinique is represented by the Association Culturelle Israélite de la Martinique – the Martiniquais affiliate of the World Jewish Congress.

WJC Affiliate

Association Israélite de la Martinique

Telephone: 596 61 51 31



History

Jews first arrived in Martinique in the early 17th century as settlers fleeing the Inquisition. Many were merchants and traders who arrived on the island with the Dutch prior to French colonization, and became quite successful financially and commercially. When the French conquered Martinique in 1635, they left the preexisting Jews (who were rather scattered and did not form a community) be, and allowed them to continue their trades. Under French rule, Martiniquais Jewry continued to thrive economically, and an influx of Jewish immigration from Portuguese-conquered Brazil helped form a more permanent community in Martinique.

However, the commercial success of the Jewish community in Martinique was met with resentment by their French counterparts, and eventually they pressured King Louis XIV to expel the Jews from Martinique in 1685. Some went to Curaçao as a result of this edict, but many others simply ignored the law and stayed on the island. Though discriminatory measures remained in effect until the French Revolution, the Martiniquais Jewish community continued to thrive, particularly in the sugar industry.

Today, the Martiniquais Jewish community is small, but vibrant. It is largely composed of descendants of the island’s initial Jewish settlers, though there are some French and North African Jews, who arrived in the 1960s and 1970s. Martiniquais Jews are well integrated into broader Martiniquais society and are able to practice Judaism openly and without issue.

The years of the Holocaust

With the fall of France and the assumption of power by the Vichy regime in 1940, Martinique was ruled by an administration sympathetic to the antisemitic views espoused by Vichy officials. Antisemitic laws were enacted and some Jews were expelled over the course of French occupation and the reign of the collaborationist Vichy regime. Some French Jews, however, were able to use Martinique as a haven from deportation, escaping from Marseilles to the island through the help of the Emergency Rescue Committee run by Varian Fry.

Demography

The Association Israélite de la Martinique estimates that there are about 90 Jews in Martinique. Most Martiniquais Jews live in Schoelcher, but there is also a smaller community in Fort-de-France.

Community Life

The Jewish community in Martinique is represented by the Association Israélite de la Martinique, which serves as the Jewish communal representative group and the center of Jewish life in Martinique. It maintains a community center in Schoelcher.

Religious and Cultural life

The Association Israélite de la Martinique operates a synagogue in Schoelcher. There is also a Chabad on the island.

There is a kosher market on the island.

Youth

The Association Israélite de la Martinique runs a Jewish youth group.

Israel

As a region of France, Martinique’s diplomatic relation to Israel is considered part of the France’s relationship with Israel. Currently, Israel has no diplomatic missions in Martinique.

Updated

August 2018

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