August 1995 and continuing through June 1996, The Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas, celebrated the 200th anniversary of its founding in 1796. The Bicentennial Celebration captured the attention of the world Jewry, making St. Thomas an international focal point.
Jews have lived in St. Thomas for more than 300 years and have contributed greatly to the development of the island. As the world looked to the Caribbean for trade and business, Jews were attracted to St. Thomas and have always been active in political and philanthropic activities which enhance the islands in many ways. The Jewish community has also been instrumental in fostering cultural and social understanding and diversity, both in the Virgin Islands and in the New World. Famous Jews who were born in St. Thomas include the painter Camille Pissarro, the father of French Impressionism, and David Yulee Levi, the first senator from the state of Florida.
A Short History of the St. Thomas Synagogue
The island of St. Thomas was officially settled in 1665. Although there is evidence that Jews lived here from that time, the Island got its thrust of Jewish settlers during the American Revolution in 1781. The British Navy stationed a blockade along the coast hoping to starve the Revolutionaries. However, the nearby Dutch on the Island of St. Eustatius, had little love for the British and much sympathy for the American Revolutionaries. They were happy to run the blockade for the Americans bringing arms and ammunitions desperately needed for the American war effort. The British Admiral Rodney declared “had it not been for that nest of vipers… this infamous island, the American rebellion could not possibly have subsisted… “. In an effort to change the course of events he went in and bombarded the island. The Jewish merchants fled from Rodney’s rage, many settling on St.Thomas. The small settlement had a tradition of social and religious tolerance and happily welcomed the settlers.
Join Us During our Celebration
We invite you to visit “Amerca’s Paradise” and to soak up its many pleasures, including our blue, sunny skies, sandy, white beaches and azure seas. Additionally, we hope that you participate in our diverse and stimulating schedule of educational, cultural, social and religious programs.
We encourage organizations to plan a visit to St. Thomas. We can offer many special benefits to make your group’s visit to St. Thomas even more memorable. Groups as small as ten or as large as 500 will find their visit to Jewish St. Thomas unforgettable. The community is making available important resources, including exhibits, lectures, religious services, reception areas, island leaders, and hospitality that will distinguish this as more than a trip to an island paradise.
Inquires are encouraged regarding deluxe hotel accommodations, travel packages and other incentives.
For information about planned activities
please call 1 340 774-4312 Or write:
The Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas
P.O. Box 266, St. Thomas, V.I. 00804