Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas, V.I.


The Jewish communities of Caribbean America have a long and colorful history. In 1796, the Jews of St. Thomas, many of whom had been exiled from the Dutch island, St. Eustatis, for supporting the American revolution, founded their first congregation, Bracha V'Shalom - Blessing and Peace, known today as the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas. Twice fires destroyed their building, and twice the Congregation rebuilt, the last time in 1833. The current building was built with the aid of the world Jewish community. Its mortar is made of sand, limestone, and molasses to symbolize the sweetness of Torah, the cement of the Jewish people. Its mahogany pews, ark, and Bimah, its French crystal chandeliers, its eleventh century Spanish Menorah make this synagogue a living treasure. Its sand floor, reflecting the attempts of Spanish Conversos to pray in basements made of sand, makes it among the most unique synagogues in the world. It is one of the oldest synagogue buildings in continuous use in the Western hemisphere. The congregation is the owner and preserver of two Jewish cemeteries, the older dating back to 1750. The Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas is an active member of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Miraculously the sanctuary survived the recent devastating hurricane that struck St. Thomas, though both the social hall and rabbi's home were destroyed.

THEREFORE, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves to:

1. Salute the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, on its 200th Anniversary;

2. Urge members of our congregations to visit the synagogue and its newly opened Museum of Caribbean Jewish History; and

3. Urge our congregations and their members to support the UAHC Disaster Relief fund to help the congregation restore its facilities.