Jamaica: Reggae Jewish connections

Jewish Jamaican ties are the subject of an interview with Ainsley Henriques at the Caribbean Sephardic Diaspora conference in Jamaica.

Tracing the Tribe wrote several posts leading up to the event.

Read one of two JTA stories, by Gil Shefler on his visit to Jamaica, here.

After a week of attending a Jewish conference here, I’m starting to feel like everybody in Jamaica has some kind of connection to Judaism.

Ainsley Henriques, the don of the local community, says thousands of Jamaicans have Jewish backgrounds, though they don’t identify as Jews.

A scan of the local telephone directory seems to confirm his claim: Thousands of Cohens, Levys and Gabays are listed. But the local Jewish congregation numbers a mere 200 members.

Shefler mentions Jamaican dance-hall musician Sean Paul, whose paternal grandfather was a Jew named Henriques, just like my friend Ainsley’s.

Island Records founder Chris Blackwell’s mother’s maiden name was Lindo, a prominent island Jewish family.

Ainsley says he believes that Harry Belafonte also has Judaic through his Jamaica-born father whose surname was a corruption of Delevante, an island Jewish clan.

[NOTE: Of course, many Sephardic name indexes indicate Belafonte as a confirmed Jewish name in that spelling, so there is also Belafonte and Delevante and other spellings.]

Ainsley told Shefler that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was on a tour of the Kingston synagogue when Farrakhan said that he had paternal Jewish Portuguese ancestors from Jamaica.

Reggae king Marley is not Jewish, says Ainsley, who knows the family well and says one of his sons is married to an Israeli.

Read the complete story at the link above.


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