The Portuguese Jewish diaspora was born out of a double tragedy: the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and the forced conversion/expulsion of the Jews from Portugal in 1497. The potent combination of expulsion, Inquisition, and crypto-Judaism left people neither wholly Jewish nor wholly Christian in their identity. Subsequently many left the Iberian peninsula; some found refuge in the Caribbean, but succeeded in maintaining strong connections with Portuguese Jews in western Europe, the Ottoman empire, and the Far East, while they also forged ties with the surrounding peoples and cultures.
This book looks at many different aspects of this complex past. Its interdisciplinary approach allows a wealth of new information to be brought together to create a comprehensive picture. Part I sets the context, and also considers the relationship of Caribbean Jewry to European trading systems; its special ties to Amsterdam and Dutch-ruled Curaçao; and the role of Jewish merchants in Jamaica’s commerce. Part II examines the material and visual culture of Jews in the British and Dutch Caribbean, while Part III looks at Caribbean Jewish identity and heritage and their modern manifestations. Part IV contains archival studies that illuminate other subjects of importance—adventure and piracy, Jewish participation in a nineteenth-century revolt of black slaves and in the first Jamaican elections after Jews were granted the right to vote, and questions of concubinage and sexual relations between Jews and blacks. Part V moves from the local to the international, in particular the connection with mainland America.
In their diversity, the contributions to this volume suggest the many ways in which the formation of the Caribbean Jewish diaspora can be understood today: as a Jewish diaspora dispersed under different European colonial empires; as a Jewish cultural entity created by a set of shared traditions and historical memories; and as one component in a web of relationships that characterized the Atlantic world. Defining it is no simple matter: like all diaspora identities it was constantly in flux, reinventing itself under changing historical circumstances.
CONTRIBUTORS: Aviva Ben-Ur, Miriam Bodian, Judah M. Cohen, Eli Faber, Rachel Frankel, Noah L. Gelfand, Jane S. Gerber, Josette Capriles Goldish, Matt Goldish, Jonathan Israel, Stanley Mirvis, Gérard Nahon, Joanna Newman, Ronnie Perelis, Jackie Ranston, James Robertson, Jessica Roitman, Dale Rosengarten, Barry L. Stiefel, Hilit Surowitz-Israel, Karl Watson, Swithin Wilmot
Reviews‘The broadest spectrum of scholars and scholarship on this subject since the 1993 publication of Sephardim in the Americas, explaining that book’s US-centred focus with a global perspective . . . Highly recommended.’
J.L. Elkin, Choice
‘This outstanding collection of papers opens a window into the world of the Portuguese Jewish diaspora in the Caribbean. Accompanied by illustrations, notes, and bibliographies, this work is essential for those seeking to understand the circumstances which led to the specific patterns of development, communal organization, and personal life of the Sephardim in this region.’
Randall C. Belinfante, Interdisciplinary Journal of Portuguese Diaspora Studies
‘This volume has many strengths, not the least of which are its wide-ranging scope, attention to new methods, inclusion of primary sources, and interdisciplinary approach to the field. One of the joys of the collection is the broad approach it takes to the Caribbean . . . The volume is similarly expansive in its methods. Some of the best of the essays in the collection lay out new theories and provide new archival sources . . . equally rich in its interest in a broadly defined approach to Jewish life. It includes essays that draw from religious, cultural, social, political, and economic history. Credit should go to the publisher for the book’s beautiful design and for its inclusion of not only rare translations of archival works but also the colour plates, black and white figures, maps, and tables that complement the chapters . . . the essays are strong and well edited . . . an innovative collection produced by both established and up-and-coming scholars. It will be invaluable for any scholar of Jewish studies who is seriously interested in either American Jewish history or Atlantic world history. The work should also be of interest not only to researchers but also to students of American and European history who want to learn new methods and theoretical models.’
Laura Arnold Leibman, Jewish History
‘Monumental . . . The subject matter is diverse and varied, and ranges from history, culture, politics, to race and Jewish identity, among many other interesting topics . . . The chapters are written from a broad range of disciplines and socio-cultural perspectives, both theoretical/scholarly and creative . . . Carefully written and well documented . . . this mammoth work is a huge undertaking and its analysis is truly interesting, since it illuminates the reader's path to understanding the development of the Jews in this region, as well as those factors and events that have shaped them. This book offers a skilful overview of the history and historiography of these Jews and their environments. It does not leave many questions unexplored, without reconceptualizing or analyzing them. It is without a doubt a valuable and important contribution.’
Paulette Kershenovich Schuster, Sephardic Horizons