Curacao Became Home for Dutch Jews in 1652

Having visited Williamstadt, Curacao, on a Caribbean cruise, I was interested in your feature "Ships of Sorrow," dealing with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 (Times, Nov. 14).

It's understandable why Spain would celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus sailing west to India in 1492 and discovering America.

But as "Ships of Sorrow" reports, that same year, "Ferdinand and Isabella ordered the nation's Jews either to convert to Christianity or to leave the country under pain of death."

To Holland's credit, the Dutch people opened their hearts and doors to escaping Jews, and subsequently granted them charters to settle in the islands of the Dutch West Indies, including Curacao. Jews reached there in 1652.

The Jews who settled there found freedom, prospered and remain loyal citizens in the Netherlands federation of nations. A tour highlight is the Mikve-Israel-Emanuel Synagogue. Built in 1732 in the Spanish-Portuguese style for Jewish houses of worship, it is a complex of museums, library, meeting facilities and temple, meriting more attention from travelers than is possible on a short tour.

The synagogue has a floor of white sand, like a thick carpet, to remind the congregants of the 40 years in the desert when Moses led the Jews out of slavery in Egypt.

I recite all this because I feel compelled to urge more travelers to visit Curacao, and the development of "Thank you, Holland" programs for having saved Jews from the Spanish Inquisition.


Pacific Palisades

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