IN THE AMERICAS
United Congregation Mikve Israel-Emanuel in Curacao, the Netherlands Antilles, is the oldest Jewish congregation in the Americas. Founded in 1651, it has functioned continuously for over 350 years. The synagogue was inaugurated in 1732 and is the oldest Jewish synagogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere. The Congregation was established by Sephardic Jews who fled the Inquisition and found on this Dutch island in the Caribbean the religious freedom that had been denied them on the Iberian Peninsula. In past centuries, Congregation Mikve Israel supported - both financially and otherwise - the establishment of the oldest synagogue on the U.S. mainland, the Touro Synagogue in Providence, Rhode Island. Today, Congregation Mikve Israel-Emanuel continues to follow (western) Sephardic rites and the majority of its membership continue to be descendants of Sephardic Jews who originally settled on these shores.
Congregation Mikve Israel-Emanuel recently celebrated the 350th anniversary of its founding in April 2001. This was a commemoration not only of the founding of the congregation, but in fact also of the founding of Jewish worship in the New World. For that reason they reached beyond Curacao in organizing the commemoration of this important historical event.
The State of Israel issued a coin depicting the Synagogue's treasured Hannukiah (dated 1716) in December 2000, and many prominent leaders in the Jewish world participated in the commemoration week, recognizing the important role the Congregation has had in the Diaspora for almost 350 years.
The commemorative events took place from April 22nd through April 29th, 2001 under the motto, "Learn from the past, live the present, work towards the future" and included several durable projects. To inform their friends and members locally and abroad on a continuous basis, they have developed a website http://www.snoa.com.
The history of Jews in Curacao is a unique portal into the history of Jews in the Diaspora and gives an interesting insight into world history as well. Throughout the centuries the inhabitants of the Netherlands Antilles have played important roles in the crucial episodes of world history. Among them was fighting with Simon Bolivar for the independence of Venezuela and Colombia, raising the first flag to salute the independent United States of America, and refining 90% of the fuel for the Allied efforts against the Nazis.
Address: United Congregation Mikve Israel-Emanuel
Hanchi Snoa Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, Caribbean.
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