Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Texas Jewish Rangers Contemplate Where To Spend Rosh Hashonah

Scott Feldman, Ian Kinsler, but the Dominican Neftali Feliz?
The first known Jews to reach the island of Hispaniola were Spanish Jews. They arrived in 1492, when the island was discovered by Christopher Columbus. Anti-semitism, and the Spanish Inquisition, caused many Jews to flee the country of Spain which was home to Jewish people for hundreds of years. Columbus' crew set sail from Spain, the very day of the Alhambra Decree. The crew had at least five Jews on board. They were Luis de Torres, interpreter; Marco, the surgeon; Bernal, the physician; Alonzo de la Calle, and Gabriel Sanchez. Luis de Torres was the first man ashore Hispaniola. Later, when the island was divided by the French and the Spanish, most Jews settled on the Spanish side which would later become the Dominican Republic. Eventually, Sephardim from other countries also arrived. In the 19th century Jews from Curacao settled in Hispaniola, but did not form a strong community. Most of them hid their Jewish identities or were unaffiliated with Jewish tradition by that time. Among their descendants were Dominican President Francisco Henriquez y Carvajal[1] and his son Pedro Henriques Ureña.
The Dominican Republic was one of the very few countries prepared to accept mass Jewish immigration during World War II. At the Evian Conference, it offered to accept up to 100,000 Jewish refugees. The DORSA (Dominican Republic Settlement Association) was formed with the assistance of the JDC, and helped settle Jews in Sosua, on the northern coast. About 700 European Jews of Ashkenazi Jewish descent reached the settlement where they were assigned land and cattle. Other refugees settled in the capital, Santo Domingo. In 1943 the number of known Jews in the Dominican Republic peaked at 1000. Since that time it has been in constant decline due to emigration and assimilation. The oldest Jewish grave is dated 1826.
The current population of known Jews in the Dominican Republic is approximately 400, the majority live in Santo Domingo, the capital. A very high percentage of the nation's Jews have intermarried although some spouses have fomalized their Judaism through conversions and participate in Jewish communal life. There are three synagogues. One is the Centro Israelita de República Dominicana in Santo Domingo, another is a Chabad outreach center also in Santo Domingo and the other is in the country's first established community in Sosua, . An "afterschool" at the Centro Israelita is active on a weekly basis and a chapter of the International Council of Jewish Women is active. The synagogue publishes a monthly magazine "Boletin Shalom". The Chabad outreach center [5] focuses on assisting the local Jewish population reconnect with their Jewish roots and (because Chabad is of the Chassidic Jewish tradition) it is the source for traditional Judaism in the Dominican Republic. In Sosua there is a small Jewish Museum next to the synagogue. Moreover, there is a Sephardic Bet Midrash which is dedicated to instruction of classical Hebrew, the Spanish-Portuguese rite, and teaching of Jewish Law. On the High Holidays, the Sosua community hires a cantor from abroad who comes to lead services. Both communities maintain well kept Jewish cemeteries.

A new book entitled Tropical Zion: General Trujillo, FDR, and the Jews of Sosúa
Allen Wells

"This is an extraordinary and original contribution to Latin American, Jewish, and U.S. history. In a remarkable work, Allen Wells describes and assesses how and why one of Latin America's bloodiest dictators was willing to rescue Jews from Nazi persecution." Friedrich Katz, Morton D. Hull Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Latin American History, University of Chicago "This is a masterful study of Jewish refugees who found an unlikely haven in Rafael Trujillo's Dominican Republic, written with the head and the heart by a gifted historian of Latin America. Their full story is firmly anchored here in its salient contexts--personal and local, national, New World, European, global, and temporal. It will be of lasting value to students of Latin American, European, and world history, as well as modern Jewish studies." William B. Taylor, Muriel McKevitt Sonne Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley "This illuminating and irony-laden study deftly integrates twentieth-century Latin American, Jewish, and American history with that of the Holocaust. Readers interested in any of these fields will be rewarded and have their perspectives widened. An admirably researched and crafted book, and a touching one, too."--Peter Hayes, Theodore Zev Weiss Professor of Holocaust Studies, Northwestern University
Seven hundred and fifty Jewish refugees fled Nazi Germany and founded the agricultural settlement of Sosúa in the Dominican Republic, then ruled by one of Latin America’s most repressive dictators, General Rafael Trujillo. In Tropical Zion, Allen Wells, a distinguished historian and the son of a Sosúa settler, tells the compelling story of General Trujillo, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and those fortunate pioneers who founded a successful employee-owned dairy cooperative on the north shore of the island.
Why did a dictator admit these desperate refugees when so few nations would accept those fleeing fascism? Eager to mollify international critics after his army had massacred 15,000 unarmed Haitians, Trujillo sent representatives to Évian, France, in July, 1938 for a conference on refugees from Nazism. Proposed by FDR to deflect criticism from his administration’s restrictive immigration policies, the Évian Conference proved an abject failure. The Dominican Republic was the only nation that agreed to open its doors. Obsessed with stemming the tide of Haitian migration across his nation’s border, the opportunistic Trujillo sought to “whiten” the Dominican populace, welcoming Jewish refugees who were themselves subject to racist scorn in Europe.
The Roosevelt administration sanctioned the Sosúa colony. Since the United States did not accept Jewish refugees in significant numbers, it encouraged Latin America to do so. That prodding, paired with FDR’s overriding preoccupation with fighting fascism, strengthened U.S. relations with Latin American dictatorships for decades to come. Meanwhile, as Jewish organizations worked to get Jews out of Europe, discussions about the fate of worldwide Jewry exposed fault lines between Zionists and Non-Zionists. Throughout his discussion of these broad dynamics, Wells weaves vivid narratives about the founding of Sosúa, the original settlers and their families, and the life of the unconventional beach-front colony.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Significant numbers? 750 German/Austrian Jews went to the Dominican Republic, but over 100,000 entered the U.S.! Yes, that's small if measured against 6 million, but before the war it was not known that millions would be in danger.