Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 16th 2015 Contents A13
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KINGSTON---It s Saturday morning at Sha are
Shalom, but there aren t enough Jews gathered in
the dim light of Jamaica s only synagogue to conduct
a formal prayer service.
An American tourist watches near the entrance of
the historic temple as a half dozen members of
Jamaica s dwindling Jewish community instead per-
form informal Sabbath prayers led by a congregant.
Without the ten Jewish adults needed for a quorum
known as a minyan, men and women gather around
a mahogany platform raised above a sand-covered
floor to pray and sing to the swelling chords of a
"I had to see this temple for myself," said the
tourist, Melissa Solomon, a former Hebrew teacher
visiting from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, with her tod-
dler son. "I thought, Jamaica, too, has Jews? "
In Jamaica in the 1800s, there were as many as
eight synagogues and roughly 2,500 Jews, including
quite a few who had a notable influence on civic life.
But tides of migration and assimilation have dropped
their numbers to roughly 200 congregants, and just
the one temple remains.
With most members of the congregation now older
than 50, its members are trying to preserve their his-
tory and attract tourists who can appreciate it. In an
incipient attempt to develop Jewish-related tourism
on the island, the Jamaica Tourist Board says it s cul-
tivating a "Jewish Jamaica" travel package as a form
of "heritage tourism" that could encourage visitors
to hold family celebrations such as weddings and bar
and bat mitzvahs here.
Community leader Ainsley Henriques says the
Kingston synagogue evolved out of Sephardic con-
servative traditions from the Iberian peninsula but
adopted liberal practices from British and American
Reform movements. His younger cousin Stephen
Henriques leads the religious services in the absence
of a rabbi and is the legal marriage officer for the
Jewish community in Jamaica.
No one expects Jamaica s tiny Jewish population
to rebound, but community members say they hope
to preserve what remains.
"Regardless of what happens in the future, I want
people to always know that Jews were indeed here,"
said the elder Henriques, who leads efforts to showcase
the Jamaican community s traditions and draw visitors
by hosting Jewish history conferences, opening a
small museum next to the Kingston synagogue and
trying to restore centuries-old Jewish cemeteries.
"Jewish tourism is lively, serious and always search-
ing for new destinations. ... It may help the fragile
community in Jamaica in its strong desire to persist,"
said Jane Gerber, director of the Institute for Sephardic
Studies at City University of New York and editor
of the 2013 book The Jews in the Caribbean.
Tourism highlighting Jewish Caribbean heritage
has provided badly needed financial and other support
to tiny Jewish communities elsewhere in the region,
including St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands and
the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao---both of
which benefit from being cruise ship destinations.
Each year, about 40 bar and bat mitzvahs for over-
seas Jews are held in the US Virgin Islands historic
synagogue, which experts say is largely supported
by "snowbirds" escaping winter in the northern US.
"It is an important revenue stream for us," said Mina
• Continues on Page A14
In this February 28,
2015 photo, a
glasses of kosher
wine and sing, in
heritage centre of
Sha'are Shalom, in
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