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Jamaica: History of the Jewish Diaspora of the Caribbean Conference Scheduled for January 2010
ISJM May 31, 2009

Ainsley Henriques of the Jewish Heritage Center at the United Congregation of Israelites in Kingston, Jamaica, has announced plans for the History of the Jewish Diaspora of the Caribbean conference to be held in Kingston, Jamaica next January 11-14. The conference is co-sponsored by the United Congregation of Israelites in Kingston, Jamaica, the UWI, the American Sephardic Federation, and the City University of New York.

The co-chairs of the conference are Professor Jane Gerber of City University of New York and Ainsley Cohen Henriques. Conference coordinator is Stan Mirvis.

The venue is the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. The schedule of speakers will be released shortly.

Jamaica: Hunt’s Bay and Orange Street Cemeteries – March 2009

by Shai Fierst and Sam Petuchowski

Edward Gomez has reviewed the book Belisario: Sketches of Character  for The Forward:

Painter of the Caribbean

In Colonial Jamaica, a Jewish Artist and the Slaves

Wed. Dec 31, 2008

Jewish families who trace their roots back to England, Spain, Portugal and beyond have distinguished themselves for generations as merchants and financiers in the Caribbean. Reminders of the contributions they have made to the varied cultures and societies of the region can be found in the graveyards and in postcolonial, national archives of what are now its many small, independent countries.

With this history in mind, Jamaica’s Mill Press has published “Belisario: Sketches of Character.” A large, lavishly illustrated volume that looks like a coffee-table art book, it is, in fact, a sweeping saga of overlapping family histories, a high-drama page-turner complete with a Central American property-sale scam (the offering of an entire, imaginary country, that is) that makes the Bernard Madoff and not-so-long-ago Enron frauds look, in its publisher’s words, “like child’s play.” Part biography and part cultural history, the book sets the stage for a look at the work of the 19th-century, Jewish-Jamaican artist Isaac Mendes Belisario (1794–1849), about whom little hitherto was known. Exquisitely produced by a small publishing company based in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital, it offers a vivid portrait of colonial-era Caribbean Jewry in general, and of merchant-class Jews in Jamaica in particular.

Read the full story here.

Jamaica: New Book About Jamaican Jewish Artist Isaac Belisario (1794-1849)

Volunteers Wanted for More Cemetery Survey
ISJM, December 1, 2008

Following up on last year's work surveying and documenting the 18th century Jewish cemetery at Hunt's Bay, Jamaica, (supported by ISJM) the Caribbean Volunteer Expeditions is calling for more volunteers to continue the Jewish cemetery inventory again this year in the Kingston area, surveying two smaller historic cemeteries, and well as checking inventory work, done last year at Hunt's Bay. Jews fleeing persecution in Europe settled in Jamaica as early as 1530 where they played important roles in commerce and the sugar industry.

Volunteers will inventory, photograph, and map the Orange and Elliston sites and check work at Hunt's Bay. Lodging is at The Alhambra Inn (doubles roughly $90/night. volunteers pay their own travel and lodging costs, though some on-the-ground expenses are covered - pending funding from sponsors.

Contact: Cost: Inquire

The United Congregation of Israelites (Synagogue "Shaare Shalom") Jewish Heritage Center in Kingston Expands Digitalization program
ISJM, September 29, 2008

Ainsley Henriques reports to ISJM that the Jewish Heritage Center at the United Congregation of Israelites has begun digitizing its collection of historic photographs from the Ernest de Souza Collection. The Center's reference library is also being catalogued. The next task in the Center's program is be to catalog the Kritzler collection of historic materials, papers, pamphlets, magazines and books. The Center looks forward to a significant increase in school tours to the museum, which has been rated by a visiting Educational expert in religious education to the Ministry of Education as "one of the best that she has ever seen"

ISJM has partnered with the Center on the documentation of the 18th century Jewish cemetery at Hunt's Bay, outside of Kingston.

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ISJM Helps Fund Documentation of 18th Jewish Cemetery at Hunt’s Bay, Jamaica - Friday, June 27, 2008

(Ainsley Henriques, Rachel Frankel, Anne Hersh and Samuel Gruber contributed to this article)

In January (2008), Caribbean Volunteer Expeditions (CVE) sponsored a successful project to inventory and document existing conditions of the historic Hunt’s Bay Jewish Cemetery, the oldest known Jewish cemetery in Jamaica.  ISJM provided logistical support and funds to purchase equipment necessary for the survey.

The cemetery was the burial place for Jews, many fleeing the Inquisition and anti-Semitism in Europe. They came to Port Royal, the 17th century entré port, a desolate sandy spit at the end of what is now known as the Palisadoes peninsula enclosing Kingston Harbor. They found freedom to worship with few restrictions (but higher taxes). Burials at Port Royal were not allowed, so Jews rowed the dead (as in Amsterdam & Venice) across the harbor to the now isolated cemetery at Hunt’s Bay. Neglected for the most of the last century, the cemetery was overgrown and unkempt.  Aware of the need to care for the historic site where the oldest grave known dates to 1672, Ainsley Henriques of the United Congregation of Israelites Shaare Shalom Synagogue of Jamaica arranged for it to be cleared.

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