The small Jewish community
in the Bahamas has origins dating to the 17th century.
The British first settled the Bahamas in 1620; however,
few Jews came to the live on the islands. Luis
De Torres, who was the official interpreter for Christopher
Columbus, is thought to be have been the first
Jew and European to set foot in the New
World when the Santa Maria landed at San Salvador
in 1492. Torres was a Marrano,
a “secret Jew,” who officially practiced
Catholicism but was escaping the dangers of Europe
during the Inquisition.
He was fluent in Arabic, Hebrew, Chaldean, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Latin.
Another Jew, Moses Franks, served as attorney general and chief
justice of the islands in the 18th century. After World War I,
a few Jewish families from Poland, Russia,
and Britain settled
in Nassau. Later Jews came to Freeport on Grand Bahama Island.
De Torres Synagogue in Freeport
Today there are about 300 Jewish people living in the Bahamas. There is a synagogue in Freeport that was built in 1972. On New Providence Island in Nassau there is a special section of a cemetery that is walled-off for Jewish graves at the corner of Shirley St. and Lover's Lane.
The Community in Nassau is
named The Nassau Jewish Congregation, and is affiliated
to the Union of Jewish Congregations
of Latin America and the Caribbean. At
the corner of Shirley St. and Lover's Lane, in Nassau
on New Providence Island, there is a special section
of a cemetery that is walled-off for Jewish graves.
The Community in Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island, the Freeport Hebrew Congregation, has fewer Jews than Nassau, and is affiliated to the Union for Reform Judaism. Its Synagogue, named the Luis De Torres Synagogue, has Erev Shabbat Services from Rosh Hashana until the following May, and for the major Festivals. A Member of this Community is the designated Jewish Marriage Officer for the Bahamas.
Freeport Hebrew Congregation
P.O. Box F-41761
Freeport, Grand Bahama Island
Tel. (242)373-2008 or (630)929-3061
Jewish Congress; International
Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies; Photo
Courtesy of Freeport Hebrew Congregation