But why did Jews flock to Suriname in South America in the first place? And why did they not move into Cuba, Bermuda, Jamaica or Curacao as we saw in Caribbean Jewish Communities just a few months ago?
Neve Shalom Synagogue in Paramaribo - exterior and interior
Within a very short time, the local Sephardic community wanted their own synagogue and built Tzedek v' Shalom Synagogue. Tzedek v’ Shalom, built in 1736 in Paramaribo, was typical of Spanish and Portuguese synagogues in the New World. According to Jerusalem’s Israel Museum, this Suriname synagogue was directly inspired by the Esnoga, the famous Portuguese synagogue of Amsterdam.
Tzedek v Shalom Synagogue exterior, still in Paramaribo
Tzedek v Shalom Synagogue interior, moved from Paramaribo to Jerusalem
Nearly one third of the population of Suriname emigrated back to the Netherlands in the era just before independence was declared in 1975. Apparently Suriname citizens feared that the new country would fare worse under independence than it did as distant Netherlandish colony, but it was very damaging to those who remained.
The Jewish community also lost the heart and soul of its membership in these couple of years. The two Paramaribo synagogues continued functioning but, finally, the Ashkenazi and Sephardic congregations merged in 1999. Tzedek v’ Shalom ceased to function as a place of worship and the space was rented out. The synagogue’s interior, along with its original ceremonial objects and furnishings, were transferred to Jerusalem’s Israel Museum in 1999, where it has now been restored to its original beauty.
Suriname (in green) on the north coast of South America
Two references worth pursuing. "The Synagogues of Surinam" by Gunter Bohm, in the Journal of Jewish Art, Vol 6, 1979. And "Way South of the Border" in Tablet Magazine, 8th Dec 2014.