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July 24, 1981 - Image 25

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1981-07-24

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Friday, July 24, 1981

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Curacao Synagogue Marks 250th

WILLEMSTAD, Curacao
— Next year will mark the
250th anniversary of the
oldest existing synagogue
in North and South
America; Cong. Mikve
Israel-Emanuel, located on
the Caribbean island of
Curacao.

In honor of the anniver-
sary Curacao officials will
issue a special series of
stamps, a 25-guilder coin
and a blue, delft plate.
In contrast to the ancient
synagogue, is the congrega-
tion's young rabbi, Aaron
Peller. Peller, a native of

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Buffalo, N.Y., had only re-
cently made the move from
student rabbi to assistant
rabbi when he applied for
the position in Willemstad
in 1975. More than 100 rab-
bis sought the job, which is
widely acknowledged as one
of the top assignments of-
fered to members of the rab-
binate.
Rabbi Peller and his
wife, Rivka, had visited
Curacao on their honey-
moon a year before the
job became available and
had been fascinated by
the synagogue.
Rabbi Peller has become
one of the most popular per-
sonalities in Curacao, with
tourists as well as residents.
His original three-year con-
tract has been renewed for
an additional three years.
One reason the
synagogue has been around
so long is the extraordinary
religious freedom found on
the island, according to
Frank Riley, writing in the
Los Angeles Times. Samuel
Coheno, the first Jewish vis-
itor, arrived with a Dutch
West India Co. expedition in
1634. A small settlement
from Amsterdam followed
him.
Cong. Mikve Israel-
Emanuel was founded in
1654 and in 1732 the
synagogue was erected and
consecrated.
The number dwindled
during the 19th Century as
many went on to greater
economic opportunities on
the mainland of North and
South America. An immi-
gration boom began in the
1930s, when Jews who had
emigrated to America ear-
lier in the century, began
seeking refuge on Curacao.
Today, there are nearly
700 Jews on the island, split
nearly evenly between
Sephardim and
Ashkenazim.

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