Jews of the Caribbean: Jamaica

Here are some well-known Jews of Jamaica:

— Poet Daniel Lopez Laguna (1635-1730), a survivor of the Inquisition who converted biblical Psalms into poems. A book of these poems, Espejo Fiel de Vidas (The True Mirror of Life), was published in 1720 and was the first book to be published in Jamaica under British rule.

— 19th century painter Isaac Mendes Belisario, whose famed “Belisario” prints of Jamaican characters are cultural icons, now featured on a series of Jamaican stamps.

— Newspapermen Jacob and Joshua de Cordova, who founded the “Gleaner” in 1833. Jacob went on to found the city of Waco, Texas.

— Ward Theatre architect Rudolph Henriques, a noted artist whose firm Henriques and Sons was awarded the commission in a competition. The majestic landmark was built in 1912.

Jorge Ricardo Isaacs (1837-1895), author of Maria, considered the “national novel” of Columbia.

Sir Neville Noel Ashenheim, a member of a family known as legal luminaries, served as Jamaica’s first ambassador to Washington, 1960s.

Richard Stern, the Hon. Ernest Altamont da Costa and Councillor Senator Hon. Eli Matalon, served as Mayors of Kingston in 1896-97, 1925-27 and 1971-73 respectively.

— The Matalon family, known as one of Jamaica’s long-standing captains of industry and supporter of the arts.

For much more on Jamaican Jewish history, see this article (2005) by Dr. Rebecca Tortello – Out Of Many Cultures: The People Who Came – The Jews In Jamaica – which can be read at Pieces of the Past here.

The detailed article (photos from 1978 and 1984, ) covers these main topics: The Arrival, Jewish Jamaica – Spanish Town and Jews in Jamaica-Kingston.

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