Nidḥe Israel Synagogue | Accidentally Wes Anderson

Nidḥe Israel Synagogue

Bridgetown, Barbados | C.1654

Photo Credit: George Chilikoff

In 1627, the British first settled in Barbados, making the port of Bridgetown the primary location for all trade and habitation. As it was opened to many settlers, it became a convenient landing point for Sephardic Jews from Brazil and Holland seeking refuge from the grips of the bloody Spanish Inquisition. After settling, many also made a living from the  island’s robust sugar trade.

Bridgetown’s Nidhe Israel (Synagogue of the Scattered of Israel) stands as one of oldest Synagogues in the western hemisphere, around which an entire Jewish district prospered. By the 1660’s, they had worked their way up to control much of the colony’s sugar industry, provoking resentment, and (in short order) yielding discrimination against their business practices.

It was not until the mid-1800’s that they were granted permanent freedom in both civil and political affairs. As time went on, the Jewish population on the island diminished, though World War II saw a brief influx of Ashkenazi Jews from Europe, whose relatives of this group still reside on the island today.

Throughout, these communities have found solace in the island’s lone Synagogue. In the early 1980s, this historic place of worship was seized by the Government, with plans to convert it into a courthouse. Fervent petitioning by the local Jewish community prevented this from happening. Though owned by the Barbados National Trust, it remains an active synagogue, ensuring that future generations who may scatter to Bridgetown will have a place to feel whole.

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