JAMAICA - THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
There are 21 Jewish cemeteries on the island according to Washington Jewish Week, 2/8/1996 p.32. Closed cemeteries are LACORIA, BLACK RIVER, FALMOUTH, and MONTEGO BAY. Ernest de Souza is spiritual leader of the Jewish community: 809-927-2948.
"Jamaica was a Spanish colony from 1494 to 1655. During that period, there was a constant stream of Conversos from the Iberian peninsula, mainly from Portugal. The British occupation enabled these covert Jews to return to Judaism. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Jews controlled the sugar and vanilla industries and played a leading role in foreign trade and shipping. In the 19th century, they were prominent in the political, social, and cultural life of the country. In 1849, for example, 8 of the 47 members of the House of Assembly were Jews, and the House adjourned for Yom Kippur. In 1881 the Jewish population reached 2,535 out of 13,800 white citizens. In the 20th century, Jews from Syria and Germany joined the community. However, the Jewish population diminished due to economic decline, emigration, and intermarriage." Source: Jamaica link at http://www.worldjewishcongress.org/comm_north.html# [November 2005]
BOOK: Barnett, Richard D. and Wright, Philip. Yoffe, Oron: editor. The Jews of Jamaica Tombstone Inscriptions 1663-l880 __: Ben Zvi Institute, __. ISBN 965-235-068-0. (Detailed indexes by name, date and language; Hardbound, large format; 230 pages including plates.) Two late scholars, Richard D. Barnett and Philip Wright present texts or summaries of 1,456 tombstone inscriptions of Jews who lived in Jamaica between 1663 (when the British ousted the Spanish) and 1880 when systematic death registration commenced. Jewish families, who had fled the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal, settled in Jamaica during those years. Ashkenazic Jews also settled there in the eighteenth century. Jews played a significant role in development of the island's natural resources and international trade. Inscriptions, often in Hebrew, English and Portuguese or Spanish, are of cultural and historical interest. The book contains cemetery descriptions and two excellent appendices, a concordance of names and a chronological index. Richard D. Barnett (1909-1986) was Keeper of Western Asiatic Antiquities at the British Museum and wrote about the Anglo-Jewish history and the Spanish-Portuguese Diaspora after the Expulsion. Philip Wright (1910-1975) published a number of books on the history of Jamaica and the West Indies. [Source?]
Also see "The Jews of Jamaica" one of a series of newspaper-like articles under the general title of "Out of Many Cultures: The People Who Came" This article describes the Jewish migration to Jamaica and the history of the Jewisih Community in Jamaica. http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/pages/history/story0054.htm [August 2005]
[UPDATE] Restoration of White Church Street Cemetery [January 2016]
[UPDATE] Forgotten Jewish Pirates of Jamaica [July 2016]