image: Neve Shalom Synagogue

Chai Vekayam

The Neve Shalom Synagogue Chai Members Newsletter

December 2009

Dear Chai members;

Chai Vekayam (“live for the future” in Hebrew) is the newsletter for the Chai members of the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Suriname. The objective of this newsletter is to keep you informed, at least twice a year, on the recent events in the Suriname Jewish Community.

image: worker clearing the jungle with a machete

A worker with a machete clearing part of the Jungle
in the Sephardic cemetery in Paramaribo (November 2009).

A Volunteer Rabbi is Arriving

We are thrilled to inform our members that after decades without a dedicated Rabbi serving the community, Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak from Los Angeles agreed to come as a volunteer for a period of three months, starting December 2009.

Rabbi Haim, who retired recently, is currently serving as a relief Rabbi in Warsaw, Poland. Rabbi Haim has many creative ideas for the community, especially on how to reconnect the youth to their Jewish heritage.

On Chanukah, the Community will have a communal celebration where the Rabbi and the community will be introduced to each other.

Rabbi Haim will be staying in the renovated old Rabbi house, a renovation that was completed with your kind donations as Chai members.

We’d like to thank our Chai member, Dr. Steve Gomes, who personally convinced Rabbi Haim to make the mitzvah of coming as a volunteer to the community. Yishar Ko’ach Steve!!

The High Holidays in Suriname

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur brought the whole community together. Attendance was very good, however the community did not have guests this year to help run the services and read the Torah. As a result, Jack van Niel, the community’s self taught Chazzan (Cantor) and Shul Donk (the Community President) had to conduct the services by themselves. They admitted that it was a difficult task, and we all hope that next year some experienced guests will share these responsibilities.

Of note is that it’s the second year that the renovated 148 year old Mikvah was in use by members before the High Holidays!

The Cemeteries Fence Project

As mentioned in previous newsletters, the three Jewish cemeteries in the Capital Paramaribo are in desperate need of new fences. The old fences have already fallen down in many places and parts of the cemeteries have unfortunately turned into a dumping ground for local residents or a gathering place for drug addicts.

image: heavy equipment clearing the jungle

Heavy equipment donated by the City of Paramaribo clearing
part of the jungle in the Sephardic cemetery (November 2009).

Yet what was considered last year as a financially impossible vision by Lilly Duym, the community Vice President, is turning into reality! A beautiful strong, tall, decorative fence is going to be built soon. Those who visited the cemeteries can appreciate the magnitude of the challenge. The project is massive and will cost a lot of money. Thanks to the hard work of the community leadership, costs were substantially reduced as suppliers agreed to sell material at cost or donate services for free. Financial donations from various donors including our own Chai members have also been instrumental for this project.

Currently, the city of Paramaribo is clearing the jungle that was growing along the edge of the cemeteries with heavy equipment. The city has decided to do the work free of charge!!

We’ll continue to update you on the progress of this important project.

Negotiations with the Israel Museum (IM) Successfully Concluded

The lengthy lease renewal negotiations between the Community and the IM, over the contents of the Zedek ve Shalom (Justice and Peace) Synagogue, have been successfully concluded.

The final stage of the negotiations took place this summer in Jerusalem. The Community was represented by Shul Donk (President), Lilly Duym (Vice President) and Orly and Jonathon Kahane-Rapport from Toronto. Mr. James S. Snyder, the Israel Museum’s Managing Director represented the IM.

The IM is building a replica of the old Sephardic Synagogue (built in 1735).

All the contents of the original Synagogue, including the Aron Kodesh, the hundreds of years old Torahs, the Bima, the furniture and all the religious objects will be displayed to the public in Jerusalem. The official opening is scheduled to be in May 2010. If you are planning to visit the Israel Museum in the future, make sure to visit this unique exhibition!

image: <em>Zedek ve Shalom</em> synagogue in Paramaribo

The original “Zedek ve Shalom” (Justice and Peace)
Synagogue in Paramaribo.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the special people who helped the Community during this long and hard negotiation period:

The Community is grateful for all your help. Without your kindness we would not have been able to accomplish so much!! Thank you and Yishar Ko’ach to all!

Meet our Members

Polly Arrias

Poly was born in Willemstad, Curaçao in 1950. Her family moved to Suriname when she was 5 years old. The Arrias family is one of the oldest Jewish families in Suriname. They were part of the third group of Jews who arrived in Suriname via Cayenne (today’s French Guyana) at around 1665 after escaping the Portuguese inquisition in Recife (Northern Brazil). The group was led by Joseph Nunez de Fonseca, known as David Nassi.

image: Polly Arrias

Polly Arrias

Until recently, Polly was a high school teacher in the capital city Paramaribo. She is married to Ramon Ranchor and is a mother of three children: 36 year old Emanuela (who lives in Holland), 33 year old Reggy (who is a Chevra Kadisha volunteer) and 19 year old Joel. Polly is a proud grandmother of Sion (10 years old) and Aaron (6 years old).

Polly is participating regularly in the Community’s events. In the past, Poly has often prepared the food for the annual Community Passover Seder with three other ladies of the Community.

Polly is a breast cancer survivor. It is such a pleasure to talk to Polly, who always has a positive attitude and a beautiful smile!

Special Events

I’d like to thank our Chai members Sandra Rabin and Maureen Price from “Beth Jacob” Synagogue in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada for inviting me to speak about the history of the Suriname Jewish community on October 25, 2009.

The next presentation will be in Temple Anshe Shalom in Hamilton on February 7, 2010.


I’d like to thank Lilly Duym (recent updates and photos from Suriname), and to Norma Steinberg (editing) for their contribution to our fifth newsletter.

Please let me know if you have any comments, suggestions or ideas on how to make this newsletter better. Please feel free to contact me at: jks1111 @ rogers . com

I wish you all a joyous Chanukah!

As Ever,
Jacob Steinberg