Shalom Life | July 11, 2014

Shalom, Virgin Islands: A Jewish Culture Guide

While visiting the Virgin Islands on your next Christmas vacation, be sure to check out it's historic synagogue and Jewish museum.

By: Sarah Bauder

Published: June 3rd, 2014 in Culture » Society » News

And we’re off, to anywhere and everywhere, as we say ‘Shalom’ every week to different global travel destination. World cities, provincial towns, and even the most unassuming of suburbs are infused with Jewish history and culture, some of which is waiting to be discovered.

For the pious follower, the curious traveler, or the intrepid adventurer, we’ll unearth the best of what to do and where to go. Be it an emerging subculture, a historical landmark, or simply a triumph of art in any form, Jewish experiences are found around the world; and likely as well in your backyard.

It may be in the destination, the journey, or the company, but there is much to uncover and celebrate near and far, so hurry up and get going.

Shalom, Virgin Islands


While many North Americans have visited the gorgeous sea and landscapes of the Virgin Islands during Christmas holidays or as a day excursion while enjoying a Caribbean cruise, just as many are unaware of the region’s rich Jewish history.

When the Virgin Islands were still ruled by Denmark in 1655, the first Jews settled in the area. These Jews were mostly sugarcane, rum, and molasses traders, with one of them being the notable Gabriel Milan, whom King Christian (of Denmark) sent over in 1664 to be governor.

By 1685, both the Jewish and Catholic populations were given full religious freedom, allowing their respective communities to proposer and grow. Two hundred years later – by 1850 – the Jewish community in the Virgin Islands hit it’s peak at 400, making up half of the white community, according the The Virtual Jewish World.

However, by 1942, the number of Jews living on the Virgin Islands lowered to a mere 50, mostly due to the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914.

The Virgin Islands has now returned to it’s aforementioned peak at approximately 400, but before going into detail about the current state of Jewish life on the island, let’s return to it’s history.

In 1796, the Jews of the Virgin Island’s largest community, St. Thomas, founded a synagogue. Five years after it’s inception, only 9 families were members of the congregation, but by 1803, with the arrivals of immigrants from England, France and other Caribbean islands, that number raised to 22. The following year, the synagogue was unfortunately destroyed by fire, but was quickly replaced in 1812.


The synagogue experienced a few more rebuilds over the next couple decades due to a need for expansion and sadly, more fires. The present-day structure was built in 1833, and is now considered the oldest continuous-use synagogue in the United States.

Find out more about the Jewish history the Virgin Islands on the next page!

North Korea Complains to United Nations About Seth Rogen Film North Korea Complains to United Nations About Seth Rogen Film Trending Drake and Lil Wayne to Battle on Tour Trending Jewish Hall of Fame: Lauren Bacall Trending
 

Israeli Continues Caring for Gaza Patients

July 11, 2014 | By Abigail Klein Leichman
Israeli Continues Caring for Gaza Patients

While Hamas attacks from Gaza put half of Israel under threat, Palestinian Arabs and Gaza residents continue to receive medical treatment in Israeli hospitals

Read More

U.S. Jewish Leaders Taking Solidarity Trip to Israel Amid Gaza Conflict

July 11, 2014 | By ShalomLife Team
U.S. Jewish Leaders Taking Solidarity Trip to Israel Amid Gaza Conflict

Leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations will visit Israel from July 14-16

Read More

Obama to Netanyahu: US Wiling to Mediate Truce

July 11, 2014 | By Yitzhak Benhorin
Obama to Netanyahu: US Wiling to Mediate Truce

The American President finally spoke to the Israeli PM Thurs night in an attempt to deter an IDF ground operation

Read More

Breakthrough Jew - Lizzy Caplan

July 10, 2014 | By Sarah Bauder
Breakthrough Jew - Lizzy Caplan

This 'Masters of Sex' star was just nominated for her first Emmy.

Read More

All Over the Middle East, Fans Watch FIFA on Israeli Network

July 10, 2014 | By Shaleni McBain
All Over the Middle East, Fans Watch FIFA on Israeli Network

Many football fans are having a difficult time watching the games

Read More

Gwyneth Paltrow Returns as ‘Stand Up To Cancer’ Executive Producer

July 10, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen

The 'Iron Man 3' actress will co-exec produce with Joel Gallen.

Read More

Gina Gershon to Play Watson’s Nemesis on ‘Elementary’

July 10, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen

The 'Showgirls' actress has landed a guest spot on season three.

Read More

Jonah Hill Joins The Coen Brothers ‘Hail, Caesar!’

July 10, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen

The cast already includes Channing Tatum, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and more.

Read More

More Headlines