Jamaica’s inaugural Jewish Diaspora of the Caribbean Conference, being hosted at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston from January 12-14, 2010, has already made strides in garnering a growing number of global interests. To date persons in the United States, Israel, France, Germany, England, Canada, Panama, Trinidad, Surinam and Curacao have registered for the anticipated Jewish Diaspora of the Caribbean Conference. Jamaica has granted 12 scholarships to local students of secondary and tertiary institutions to participate in the inaugural event.
“We are thrilled with the tremendous support being given to this conference and happy that local students will be able to learn about their history and culture. The growing interest in this initiative is undoubtedly an indication that people worldwide are interested in the history of the Caribbean,” said John Lynch, Jamaica’s Tourism Director. “The Jamaica Tourist Board is especially pleased to be a part of this conference, which seeks to foster a greater appreciation of the Caribbean and International Jewish community.”
Director of the United Congregation of Israelites, Kingston and Co-Chair of the conference, Ainsley Henriques, was excited by the growing support. “We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the remarkable support this conference has garnered and that the youth can learn more about the Jewish history. It solidifies that people are excited and willing to learn more about the Caribbean Jewish history, culture and invaluable contributions to the development of our society”.
The Jewish Diaspora Conference will feature renowned experts from the United States, Jamaica, France and Israel, who will address a wide range of topics from cultural history including architecture, to music and religion, and at the same time explore Caribbean Jewish identity and heritage.
On January 15 and 16, participants will engage in a post-conference program which includes a host of activities promoting the Jewish culture. Local historian and author Ed Kritzler, whose book titled “Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean” which is currently #10 on New York Times’ best seller’s list, will be conducting a guided Jamaica heritage tour of the Duke Street Synagogue and Hunt’s Bay Cemetery.
Hillel Academy, Jamaica’s leading Jewish preparatory and secondary school will be among the many sites on the tour and will also feature a performance by Benny Bwoy, a Jewish entertainer from the U.S. Participants will explore Jamaica’s artistic culture at the National Gallery of Jamaica, also housing the works of a Jewish Jamaican artist; dine at Strawberry Hill, a world renowned hotel and restaurant nestled in the Blue Mountains and tour the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus where Jewish refugees from the Holocaust were housed during World War II. From Shabbat Service to Kiddush and Dinner with Kingston’s Jewish Community; lunch at Devon House to a historic visit of Port Royal, home to the first Jewish Merchants in Jamaica, guests will have a chance to explore and embrace the history of the Kingston Jewry.
The Jewish Diaspora of the Caribbean Conference sponsors include : The United Congregation of Israelites of Kingston, Jamaica, The Jamaica Tourist Board, The Institute for Sephardic Studies of the Graduate Center, CUNY, The University of the West Indies, The American Sephardi Federation, The International Survey of Jewish Monuments, The Commonwealth Jewish Council, Laurence and Ronnie Levine and Dr. John deMercado.