The first major Jewish immigration to the islands of
Trinidad and Tobago occurred in the late 18th century. Then a second
wave of Portuguese Jews
arrived in the late 19th century, with a few also arriving from Curacao.
Nevertheless, many of these Jews assimilated and intermarried with locals.
By the beginning of the 20th century, only 31 practicing Jews remained
on the island. One of the most recognized Jews was Sir Nathaniel Nathan
who served as Associate Justice of the Trinidad Supreme Court from 1893
to 1900 and Chief Justice from 1900 to 1903.
During the 1930s, many
Jews fled to Trinidad from Europe escaping Nazi persecution. These new immigrants found housing
rented by a Jewish aid society in the capital,
Port of Spain. By 1939, the Jewish community
had soared to 600 people. These Jews began
to call themselves “Calypso
Shtetl” or “The Calypso Jews,”
creating a distinct cultural and religious
life in Trinidad. It was during this time
that the first synagogue was erected on
Duke Street in Port of Spain. Also, a separate
section of the Mucuapo Cemetery was reserved
for Jewish burials, called Bet Olam. Today,
the cemetery upkeep is maintained by Hans
Stecher, one of the few remaining Jews in
War II, many of the Jewish families were interned in camps, considered
as new “enemy aliens.” In 1943, the Jews were freed but
with certain wartime restrictions. In opposition, much of the Jewish
community chose to emigrate from Trinidad; but, many others attempted
to return to the flourishing Jewish community of the early 1930s. By
the mid 1950s the Jewish community reached its peak at around 700 people.
Nevertheless, as children began to leave Trinidad to study at international
universities, few returned. Of those young Jews who did return, most
intermarried or assimilated. In the 1970s, with the rise of “Black
Power” riots, much of the remaining Jews immigrated out of the
country, especially to Canada,
in fear for their safety. Furthermore, religious artifacts from Trinidad
were sent to Barbados to ensure
Today, the Jewish community numbers around 25-67 people,
depending on who is inquired. Occasionally, communal services are held
for Shabbat and holidays.
B'nai Shalom: The Jewish Society of Trinidad &
email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org
Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies; Freedman, Warren. World Guide for the Jewish Traveler. NY: E.P.
Dutton Inc, 1984