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Visit a centuries-old Jewish community in paradise

The ancestors of Curacao's Jews have lived on the island for hundreds of years and thrived in trade, commerce and banking. What’s left of the Jewish community is united by religious tradition. In the capital, Willemstad, can be found a centuries-old synagogue, a Hebrew school and an active BBYO chapter. Extended families routinely gather for Shabbat dinner.

Willemstad is a UNESCO World Heritage city. Its grand, pastel-colored buildings — white until 1817, when the governor ordered them painted to combat glare from the sun — match the island’s colorful culture, which melds Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, African, Caribbean and South American influences.

From one light-yellow building in the historic Punda district hangs a small sign directing visitors to the entrance of Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue and Museum, the oldest continuously used synagogue in the Western hemisphere.

Read the full story, originally published on August 28, 2015, on Jewish Telegraphic Agency's website.