Not far from where I live is a place called Sosua. It’s a thriving, touristy and picturesque area, with a reputation for licentiousness – at least in the past…
But going back a bit further, we find that Sosua was the epicenter of Jewish life in this part of Dominican Republic. During WWII, when most countries shut their doors to European Jewish refugees, Dominican Republic welcomed them:
In the late 1930s, few countries were willing to accept Jewish refugees. One nation—the Dominican Republic—opened its doors. Working with the Dominican government, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee provided passage and support to establish a small agricultural settlement in Sosúa—an abandoned banana plantation on the northeastern shore of the Dominican Republic. Jewish settlers built a community that still exists today.
Created in cooperation with the Sosúa Jewish Museum, this bilingual exhibition (in English and Spanish) showed how settlers were recruited, how they came to Sosúa, what awaited them there, how the settlement grew, and the evolution of this small Jewish community.
It seems that there were more men among the settlers than women, so some of the Jewish men ended up marrying local women. I met an Israeli here who said he met the daughter of one such couple a few years ago. I tried to arrange a meeting with her, but the Israeli never followed up, and he’d met her a few years ago, when she was already in her 80s.
A couple of days ago, I visited Sosua, and was fortunate enough to meet an English-speaking local. He showed me some various signs of the Jewish connection, which I photographed for your benefit:
The Synagogue/Jewish museum were supposed to be open when I was there, but it was closed, so all I could do was photograph the outside.
I’m told there’s a kosher restaurant in Puerto Plata. Stay tuned for a report on that.
*Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “love” is in the male gender.