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.