Workshop on Saturday will explore the history of Jews in The Virgin Islands


Indiana University professor Judah Cohen will be speaking Saturday on St. Thomas about the important role genealogy has in documenting the history of Jews in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Aldeth Lewin reports in this article for The Virgin Islands Daily News.

The Caribbean Genealogy Library and the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas are hosting the free lecture and workshop for those interested in how to track Jewish names and uncovering Jewish ancestry.

“Anyone interested in the broader implications of studying Jews in the changing social and religious environment of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century Virgin Islands should attend,” according to a statement by the Caribbean Genealogy Library.

In 2012, Cohen published a book, “Through the Sands of Time,” about the history of the Jewish community on St. Thomas.

During his lecture Cohen will speak about local names that may have Jewish roots – names like Robles, Lindo, Benjamin, Hoheb, Monsanto, Maduro, Isaac, Sasso, Gabriel. He will also talk about the different ways people have determined who is and who isn’t Jewish over time, and how names get passed generation to generation. Cohen will discuss Jewish Caribbean migration and share family stories related to historical events and records.

The lecture is 2 p.m. Saturday at the Caribbean Genealogy Library, located in Al Cohens on Raphune Hill, next to Mango Tango Art Gallery.

Volunteer librarians will be available to show participants the resources available at the library to help anyone interested in genealogy learn a little more about their past.

The library recently has acquired several rare books about Jewish people in the Caribbean, rounding out the collection to be one of the most complete outside of private collections. The library also has Jewish cemetery records in the Maria Smith database and the Elisabeth Sharp Jewish family tree research.

The Jewish migration began under the Spanish Inquisition in the 1500s, where many fled to the Netherlands for protection. From there, some migrated to the Dutch islands in the Caribbean, primarily Curacao, and throughout the Caribbean region.

When the British seized St. Eustatius in 1781, 30 Jewish merchants were taken to St. Kitts and some to Antigua, forced to leave their wives and children behind. Most returned to St. Eustatius after the French liberated the island nine months later, but many of those Jewish families later emigrated to St. Thomas.

The first temple on St. Thomas was built in the 1790s, and the Jewish population thrived for many generations.

However, by the start of the 20th century, many Jewish families began to leave the territory, leaving their names behind for future generations.

Caribbean Genealogy Library’s mission is to identify, preserve and provide access to Caribbean genealogy, history and cultural heritage information resources for the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean.

The library’s resources include access to, funeral booklets, census records dating back to 1841, church and probate records, immigration records, a complete St. Thomas-St. John cemetery database and unique and rare books.

For the original report go to

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s