Focus on Oldest Synagogue in the Americas

A recent piece in Hakai Magazine brings much-needed attention to the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas, Mikvé Israel-Emanuel (or Snoa) located in Willemstad, Curaçao in the Caribbean. Consecrated in 1732, it serves a community that dates back to the 1650s, originally consisting of Jews from the Netherlands and Brazil. The sand-covered floors are reminders of a practice by ancestors on the Iberian peninsula to cover the floors of their makeshift prayer houses during the persecution to muffle footsteps and avoid the attention of potential denouncers. Presently only three other synagogues continue the distinctly Dutch-Portuguese tradition of sand-covered floors, located in Kingston, Jamaica; Saint Thomas, US Virgin Islands; and Paramaribo, Suriname. 

There are two other standing synagogues in the Caribbean that date as far back. On Sint Eustatius one can find the Honen Dalim Synagogue of 1739. And an older synagogue, Beracha ve Shalom ("Blessings and Peace") was built at Jodensavanne, Suriname between 1665 and 1671. But it should be noted that these synagogues are not in use, a state that makes the enduring worship at Snoa (from old Portuguese and Ladino for synagogue, "esnoga") all the more exceptional.