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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Dominican Republic

First Jewish immigration - Jewish immigration after Spanish withdrawal - agricultural settlement and immigration wave during World War II - no rabbis in modern times

from: Dominican Republic; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 6

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)



[The first Jewish immigration since 1492]

[[The natives and slavery and mass murder of the natives are never mentioned in this article]].

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, country comprising two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola in the West Indies.

As the site of the first Spanish settlement in the New World, Hispaniola may have had the first Jewish settlers in the Western Hemisphere. Little is known, however, about Jews on the island during the Colonial Period.

[[There are presumptions that Columbus was a Jew and was looking for new land after the persecution of Jews in Spain. Also this is not mentioned in this article. You can see the data about Jewish facts of Columbus here]].

Following Spanish withdrawal from the island and subsequent Haitian-Dominican Wars, some Sephardi Jews went to Santo Domingo. The majority of these Jews were from the Netherlands Antilles, and, for the most part, arrived around the middle of the 19th century. They intermarried,and most of their children embraced the religion of their Dominican families.

The graves of those of Jewish ancestry are recognizable by the fact that their tombstones, the oldest of which dates from 1826, bear no crosses.

[Jewish personalities in Santo Domingo]

Descendants of Jewish settlers have been among the most illustrious personalities in contemporary Dominican society: Francisco Henríquez y Carvajal, physician and president in 1916; his son, Pedro Henríques Ureña, a leading man of letters; and another son, Max, ambassador to the UN, who made the welcoming speech when Israel was admitted to the *UN in 1949.

[1882: plan for agricultural settlement - immigration wave 1940-1943]

In 1882 General Gregorio Luperon, former president and a friend of the *Rothschild family, proposed to the Paris *Alliance Israélite Universelle a plan for Jewish agricultural settlement in the Dominican Republic. After limited public debate, however, the proposal was abandoned without further investigation. The present community, comprising East Europeans, Germans, and Hungarians, began to take root after World War I, and substantially increased in number during the years of the Holocaust. On the eve of World War II there were only 40 Jews in the country; by 1943 the number had risen to about 1,000.

[[Probably there was also Jewish immigration under other national quotas and religions which is not mentioned in this article]].

[The possibilities for a big immigration wave are hindered by World War II - agricultural settlement at Sosúa]

The Dominican Republic was one of the few countries prepared to accept large-scale Jewish immigration before and during World War II. At the *Evian Conference on Refugees, convened by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938, the Dominican Republic offered to accept for settlement up to 100,000 refugees. The Dominican Republic Settlement Association Inc. (DORSA) - sponsored by the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) - acquired from President Trujillo 22,230 acres of land in Sosúa on the northern coast, and the American Jewish Joint Agricultural Corp. (Agro-Joint) - a subsidiary of JDC - contributed a large sum in subsidies for the project.

The agreement, signed by DORSA and the Dominican Republic and unanimously approved by parliament, assured the immigrants freedom of religion and facilitated immigration (col. 160)

by offering tax and customs exemptions. DORSA, in turn, promised a policy of selective immigration and financial support for the settlers.

Despite the optimism of the government and the Agro-Joint, basic difficulties preluded the ultimate success of the project. War-time conditions made travel, especially from occupied countries, extremely difficult. The first immigrants did not arrive until mid-1940; by 1942 there were only 472 settlers; and by 1947, 705 persons had passed through the settlement. Although the original objective of the project had been agricultural development, few of the settlers were agriculturists or even inclined toward it. Of the 373 people left in Sosúa in July 1947, only 166 were engaged in agriculture. The rest worked as businessmen and artisans.

It is estimated that under the colonization scheme some 5,000 visas were actually issued, thus helping many of the beneficiaries to escape the Holocaust; but most of them never reached the Dominican Republic.

[Numbers of Jews after 1945]

The census taken in 1950 indicated the existence of 463 Jews in the Dominican Republic. In 1968 there remained some 150 Jews in Sosúa and vicinity, about 100 in Santo Domingo, and another 30 scattered in Santiago and other places.

There is a synagogue in Santo Domingo, the cost of which was partly subsidized by Trujillo, and another one in Sosúa, but there are no rabbis. Jewish communal life centers around the Comité Central de los Judíos de la República Dominicana [[Central Jewish Committee of Dominican Republic]].

[Relations to racist Zionist Free Mason Herzl CIA Israel]

The Dominican Republic has had a generally pro-Israel voting record at the United Nations. An Israel Embassy was set up in the Dominican Republic in 1964, six months after the Dominicans established their embassy in Jerusalem.

-- Comunidades Judías de Latinoamérica (1968)
-- A. Tartakower: Megillat ha-Hityashevut, 2 (1959), 268f., 272
-- M. Wischnitzer, in: JSOS, 4 no. 1 (1942), 50-58
-- J. Shatzky: Comunidades Judías en Latinoamérica (1952), 163-5
-- L. Schapiro, In: L. Finkelstein (ed.): The Jewish People Past and Present, 2 (1948), 88> (col. 161)

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Jews in
                          Dominican Republic, vol. 6, col. 160
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Jews in Dominican Republic, vol. 6, col. 160

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Jews in
                          Dominican Republic, vol. 6, col. 161

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Jews in Dominican Republic, vol. 6, col. 161