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The Oldest Surviving Synagogue
in the Americas

Entrance to Mikvé Israel-Emanuel.
Cantor giveds a history of Mikvé Israel-Emanuel.
Courtyard at Mikvé Israel-Emanuel.

Adele and I just returned from a Southern Caribbean cruise. A highlight of the trip was a visit to the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas, The Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue on the island of Curaçao.

Although not the oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, it is the oldest hat still survives and is used as a synagogue. The Curaçao Jewish community was founded in 1659, and the Mikvé Israel-Emanuel building was constructed in 1732.

The earliest synagogue in the America was the Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue in Recife, Brazil, established in 1636 by Portuguese and Spanish Sephardic Jews that had taken refuge in the Netherlands fleeing forced conversion during the Inquisition. It was the first synagogue erected in the Americas, and is now a museum.

The Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, the oldest Jewish synagogue in North America was built in 1759 for the Jeshuat Israel congregation, which was established in 1658.


Five generations after fleeing to the Netherlands from the Spanish Inquisition that began in 1492 and the Portuguese Inquisition that began in 1531, Jews found a safe haven in Dutch Curaçao in 1651.

The Jewish population of Curaçao reached 2,000 by 1780 but has declined over the years with a current population of about 200 Jews.

The synagogue has a sand floor typical of the Sephardic tradition. It service follows the Reconstructionist branch of Judaism.

In recent years, the Jewish population on Curaçao has shrunk and there is a second congregation on the island—so it is unclear how long, this longest operating synagogue will continue to survive.

~ Al Zagofsky





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