Jamaica Bets 'Jewmaican' Past Will Draw Tourists

Today's population is small, but remnants abound; plus, Jewish pirates!
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2010 1:16 PM CST
A Star of David. Jamaica has just one synagogue, and no rabbi.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – When the uninitiated look at Jamaica’s Jews, they might see a small but resilient community: around 200 faithful, an historic synagogue but no rabbi, few choices for kosher food. But if you’re the nation’s tourism director, you see a goldmine. Plans are afoot to launch a Jewish heritage-themed tourist package, banking heavily on Jamaica’s past as a refuge for Jews fleeing the Inquisition. Did we mention the Jewish pirate?

That would be Moses Cohen Henriques, who terrorized Spanish galleons, the author of Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean tells the Wall Street Journal. Less of a mystery is the past population, which reached 2,000 at the end of the 19th century. It was once “the largest Jewish community in the Caribbean,” a historian says, and a “hub of Jewish commerce.” The government has already hosted a well-attended conference on the history of Jews in the Caribbean. Plans for the package include a stop at the island's single synagogue, visits to its Jewish cemeteries, and, yes, beach time.

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