21:08 PM

Uncommon Attraction: The Sand Floor Inside Curacao’s Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue


As Caribbean-based houses of worship go, the Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue in Curacao, or the Snoa as it’s affectionately known locally, rests on exceptionally hallowed ground. The Jewish faith has has been practiced here without interruption since 1732. Just imagine all the prayers, love, and healing you can pack into 280+ years!

The congregation itself is even older, having been established way, way back in 1651! So, not only will you find one of the oldest congregations of any kind in the Western Hemisphere here, but you’ll also find them inside the oldest house of worship in continuous use in all of the Americas.

This is nothing to sneeze at, of course, especially if you know a little European history and a bit about the sad legacy of Jewish persecution over the centuries.

At the turn of the 17th century, before the Snoa congregation came into being, the Netherlands was engaged in a war for its independence from Spain. At the same time the Spanish Inquisition was raging, leaving anyone identified as a non-Christian (Jews, Muslims, etc.) with a choice: convert or leave the country.

It was just this very fear of persecution that drove many of Curacao’s earliest Jewish residents to relocate to the island in the first place.

Read the full story, originally published on June 16, 2014, on uncommoncaribbean.com.