Chai Vekayam

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Neve Shalom synagogue and the Jewish community in Suriname, I wish you and your families a Happy New Year and Gmar Chatima Tova!! May this be a year of health, happiness and peace!

Update on COVID 19 in Suriname

Lilly Duym and her team standing in front of the synagogue inviting people to come and get the vaccine

By the end of May, the number of daily infected people was over 300. It is a huge number for such a small country.

There was a feeling that the country was drowning with overworked hospital staff and hospitals were running out of oxygen for COVID patients. The Government declared code purple, which is the highest risk level to the health system (those color codes go from yellow to orange to red to purple). The Netherlands came to the rescue, sending aid that included oxygen containers and up to 750,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine. A strict nightly curfew is still imposed and then the challenge turned into convincing the skeptical public to get vaccinated.

The medical team in the Mosque were very busy

The Suriname Jewish community, where almost all members were already vaccinated, joined forces with the nearby Mosque to convince the public on the urgent need to come and get vaccinated. Our President Jules (Shul) Donk and the President of the Mosque, Dr. Robbert Bipat, recorded a joint message that was aired on TV, calling the believers to come and get vaccinated. Irene Spangethal, a member of our community who owns a business (HEM Suriname N.V.), offered people a free fruit basket and a bottle of cooking oil to those who would come to get the vaccine in her warehouse, a very generous incentive to poor people Yishar Ko’ach to Irene, Lilly, Shul and Dr. Bipat for your initiatives to make sure that the vaccination program will be a success!

and the people responded in large numbers

With the delta variant on the rise, the community is very careful and follows the Government’s instructions on public gatherings. For example, we had to postpone the Friday night services because of the nightly curfew and we have only Shabbat services in the day until the restrictions will be removed.

2021 Passover in Suriname

This year we transported the Matzot and Kosher wine via air cargo to make sure that they will arrive on time, as a shortage of containers and long delays at the seaports were too much of a risk.

The Donk family

Last year the social distancing rules prevented the community from performing the traditional community Seder. This year we were lucky to have a community Seder again, however changes had to be made. The Seder started earlier so we could finish before 8pm when the nightly curfew takes place. Members were sitting in separated small tables and there were no guests allowed. It worked well and we were very happy to celebrate Passover together as a community.

Thank You to Kulanu USA for a Special Grant

Harriet Bograd, the President of Kulanu USA and Bonita Sussman, Kulanu Vice President informed us that Kulanu approved a $2,000 grant towards our cemeteries project and the expansion of our small museum. We are grateful to the generosity of Kulanu, a long-time supporter of our community.

Update on our Special Projects

Thanks to our team who helped organizing the tables: From Left to Right: Sade, Betty, Ester, Donna and Joan
New markers were added in the Sephardic cemetery

COVID 19 has caused lots of economic disruption in Suriname. For example, we experienced a huge increase in the cost of aluminium, used for our cemetery markers. Labour costs increased, as well as many workers do not show up to work for fear of using the public transportation. To those challenges, add in this year’s very bad rainy season, with floods that made it impossible to work in the mud in the cemeteries. Still, we managed to continue adding new markers in the Sephardic cemetery.


Mr. Ronald Tjoe nij

Mr. Ronald Tjoe nij (8/12/1935 – 28/8/2020) was an avid collector of books about Suriname and newspaper clippings associated with it. Over the years, while looking for rare books, he sometimes saw antique Judaica items for sale in the markets. Ronald paid whatever was asked for those items and kept them, not knowing the real value of them. Before his death, he asked his wife Greet to contact the synagogue and return all those items to where they belong. A couple of months ago, Greet Tjoe nij van der Leij contacted our Vice President Ms Lilly Duym and offered to return all the items in her late husband’s collection to the community. Lilly was amazed to find out that some of those items were given to the synagogue as presents more than 210 years ago.

A present to the Neve Shalom synagogue from 1808

I guess that those items were stolen from the synagogue more than a hundred years ago and ended up in street markets, where Ronald bought them not knowing what they were but because of their Hebrew texts engraved, he knew they belonged to Jewish people and therefore asked to return them to us. Nowadays, there is an iron fence around our Synagogue and 24 hours security. Those items will be presented in our safe and secured new small museum in the coming future.

A present to the Neve Shalom synagogue from 1868

High Holidays 2021 Schedule

The High Holidays services are scheduled to take place according to the Government’s instructions. Evening services, such as Kol Nidrei, will start earlier in order to allow our members to return to their homes on time before the nightly curfew. The number of people allowed in the synagogue will be restricted to members only. Unfortunately, our High Holidays Torah readers (Yehudah and Moriyah Webster from New York and Loekie Robles from Aruba) will not be able to participate this year. We will have to rely on our own Torah readers and members to share the load.


I’d like to thank Lilly Duym and Norma Steinberg for their contribution to our 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:


Wishing you all Shana Tova and Gmar
Chatima Tova!,
Jacob Steinberg