image: Neve Shalom Synagogue

Chai Vekayam

The Neve Shalom Synagogue Chai Members Newsletter

March 2011

2010, What a Memorable Year!!

2010 was an exciting year for the Suriname Jewish community. Many years of hard work turned dreams into reality. It was a year that will have a strong impact on the community for years to come. In this edition, we will share with you some of the special events that have happened in our community:

The Taglit – Birthright Tour to Israel

Photo : Arriving at Ben Gurion  Airport in Tel Aviv

Arriving at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv

In August 2010, sixteen young members of the community left for a ten day tour of Israel as part of the Taglit ("discovery" in Hebrew) Birthright program. What was started as a dream of Lilly Duym, the community Vice President, turned out to be a reality that has changed the community profoundly.

For almost a year, the group met each Sunday at the Mahamad (the small community center near the synagogue) to learn about the history of the Jewish people, Israel and their own community. The classes were started by Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak during his stay in Suriname, and continued with Jules (Shul) Donk, the community President, Jack van Niel and many other dedicated members of the community. About thirty youngsters attended the weekly classes but only sixteen could attend the tour.

Taglit – Birthright arranged this special tour for the Suriname young people, led by a wonderful Dutch speaking tour guide. From Miami to Israel and back to Miami, the tour was fully paid by the Birthright organization! The return trip between Suriname and Miami was partly paid by the community through many fundraisers, but was mainly paid by the generosity of Kulanu (, a non-profit organization that supports isolated and emerging Jewish communities around the world, and by our Chai members' donations. Many thanks to all the donors. Yishar Koach to you all! The group's tour made headlines in the Israeli media, too; for example:
Please read the beautiful article written by Sheila Gogol in the Kulanu newsletter:

Passover Matzot and Kosher Wine Drive

Photo: The 2010 Suriname Jewish community Seder

The 2010 Suriname Jewish community Seder

Each year the community has to import all the matzot and kosher wine for the community Passover Seder from New York. Although the products are bought at a discount from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the cost of air freight to Suriname is very expensive and costs over $4,000. Air freight is the only reliable option as sea shipping can take months and might not arrive on time.

In 2010 Orly Kahane-Rapport, a Chai member from Toronto, initiated a fundraising among friends and family to help share the costs. Again, Kulanu generously contributed to the fundraiser and together they managed to cover half of the costs. Thank you Orly for your initiative and hard work!!

Unfortunately, in 2011 with soaring oil prices, air transportation became too expensive and with our inability to raise extra money this year, the community could afford only half of the kosher wine they usually purchase annually. We hope to try to help the community next year again.

Our Tzedek ve Shalom Synagogue Replica in Display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem

Photo: Tzedek ve Shalom Synagogue

Tzedek ve Shalom Synagogue,
Paramaribo Suriname

After more than ten years of hard work, in May 2010 the Israel Museum in Jerusalem opened its replica of the Tzedek ve Shalom ("Justice and Peace" in Hebrew) synagogue to the public.

The original synagogue was built in 1735 and served the Sephardic - Portuguese community in the capital Paramaribo. The following is the May 24, 2010 press release from the Israel Museum: Rare and Newly Restored 18th-Century Synagogue from Suriname to be Highlight of Israel Museum's New Synagogue Route A newly restored 18th-century synagogue from Suriname – one of only two remaining examples – will be a highlight of the Israel Museum's newly installed Mandel Wing for Jewish Art and Life, on view beginning July 26, 2010, when the Museum opens its expanded and renewed campus to the public. This rare and striking South American synagogue will stand alongside synagogue interiors from Italy, Germany, and India as part of the Museum's new Synagogue Route, which will offer visitors the opportunity for a notably rich experience with Jewish ritual traditions from around the world. On display with its original furniture and decorations and a sand floor, the Tzedek ve-Shalom Synagogue will offer visitors a glimpse into Suriname's once vibrant Jewish community.

Built in 1736 in the capital city of Paramaribo, Suriname, Tzedek ve-Shalom ceased to function as a place of worship in the 1990s. In order to rescue this important example of the Jewish life of this remote Jewish community, the Israel Museum approached its leaders with the aim of restoring and preserving the synagogue on its campus for the benefit of future generations of visitors from around the world. The synagogue's interior and its original ceremonial objects and furnishings were transferred to the Museum in 1999, where it has now been meticulously refurbished.

Photo: Synagogue Zedek-ve-Shalom at the Israel Museum.

Interior of the 18th-century Suriname Synagogue Zedek-ve-Shalom at the Israel Museum. Photo Courtesy of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

"The addition of the Tzedek ve-Shalom Synagogue to our galleries makes the Israel Museum the only museum worldwide where visitors can see together in one venue four original synagogues from three continents," said James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum. "We are thrilled to be able to offer this immersive experience with Jewish culture and history and to enhance our exceptional holdings in Jewish Art and Life with this stunning addition."

Suriname's Jewish community took root in the mid-17th century, when Jews of Spanish and Portuguese origin who had fled to Holland during the Inquisition immigrated to Suriname among the country's earliest European settlers. Tzedek ve-Shalom is typical of Spanish and Portuguese synagogues in the New World and is one of the earliest such examples from the region. Directly inspired by the Esnoga, the great Portuguese synagogue of Amsterdam, its structure integrates traditional European design with local architectural features such as a simple, symmetrical structure; white walls and large windows that invite sunlight; and a sand-coated floor. Majestic brass chandeliers of Dutch manufacture hang from the ceiling.

The installation of the Suriname synagogue is part of a larger reorganization and reinstallation of all of the Israel Museum's collection gallery wings, including the renewal of its Jewish Art and Life Wing. Combining its Judaica and Jewish Ethnography collections, the new Mandel Wing for Jewish Art and Life leads visitors through the daily and ritual markers of the Jewish calendar from cultures around the world, with installations that explore the aesthetic value of individual objects and displays, as well as their social and historical contexts.

In August, the synagogue received its greatest endorsement when the Birthright group consisting of 16 youngsters visited the exhibit and were visibly moved at the replication of the synagogue which served their community.

Saying Good Bye

It is time to say good bye to some members of the community who are leaving us:

Guido and Talia Robles and their baby daughter emmigrated to Israel. For years Guido was the President of the Stichting Jodensavanne, a nonprofit organization that is working very hard to maintain and preserve the remains of the Judensavanne. Thank you Guido for your leadership and for all the hard work over the years and good luck in your new life in Israel.

Daphne, Frank, Elisa and Louis Johannes who immigrated to Australia. Daphne and Frank were active members and always volunteering to help. Elisa and Louis were active in most of the kids' programs. We will miss you and wish you good luck in your new life.

Benjamin Duym is one of the Taglit - Birthright trip participants who was profoundly impacted from the trip. Benjamin is immigrating to Israel and joining the IDF soon after. Benjamin was always a community volunteer and a great shofar blower. We wish you good luck in Israel and be safe in the army.

Death of a Friend

Polly Arias

Photo: Polly Arias

In our December 2009 newsletter we introduced you to Polly, a dedicated member and volunteer in the community. Unfortunately, Polly, who battled cancer, passed away this summer. Polly was 60 years old. May she rest in peace.

Special Events

I'd like to thank two Toronto chapters of the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada (NCJW), for inviting me to speak about the history of the Suriname Jewish community in October 2010 and February 2011.

Special thanks also to Dan Verbin from the Shalom Toronto newspaper and David Grossman from MENSCHLife for their article and TV show on the Birthright trip.

Final Comments

The last year has been very special for our community. It is all thanks to the love and dedication of a wonderful group of members and friends. Thank you all for your kindness and goodwill!!!

As always, I'd like to thank Lilly Duym for her photos and community events update, Rabbi Haim Beliak for his ongoing support, Sheila Gogol from Amsterdam for her article in the Kulanu newsletter and to the Kulanu Board of Directors for all their wonderful work and support.

We wish our good friend and supporter Dr. Steve Gomes and his wife Linda Leviton, who got married on October 10, 2010, Mazal Tov!

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 Happy Purim and a Kosher and Happy Seder!

As Ever,
Jacob Steinberg

Chai Vekayam ("live for the future" in Hebrew) is the newsletter for the Chai members of the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Suriname.