The Neve Shalom Synagogue Chai Members Newsletter

Dear Chai members;

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!

COVID 19 and Suriname

The COVID 19 virus that is devastating many countries and communities around the globe, also hit tiny Suriname hard. With limited medical infrastructure and financial resources, the social fabric of the society and the economy were devastated by the impact of the pandemic. The mortuary in the only hospital in the capital Paramaribo is full with dead bodies. Nightly curfew and lack of public transport left many without means to earn their income and survive (Suriname is too poor to offer unemployment benefits to its citizens). As a result of the restrictions on people gathering, as in many countries  where no more than five people can congregate, the Jewish community and the other religious organizations can’t offer their spiritual experience to their members. Because of the basic state of telecommunication infrastructure in the country and the lack of computers in many households, Zoom services are not available.

Our community is doing our best to support our members in need, be it financially or with food delivery to the needy.

We wish a speedy recovery to our few members who are impacted directly by the virus and pray for a healthy New Year for our members, Chai members and our friends around the world.

We are so grateful for the moral and financial support of our Chai members, THANK YOU!

2020 High Holidays in Suriname

Benjamin Duym blowing the Shofar, with Jacques Reeder reciting the blessings

Unfortunately we will not be able to conduct our traditional High Holidays services. Those who have computers at home and can afford paying for extra bandwidth needed will be able to follow the Zoom service that will be broadcast by the Liberal Jewish Community synagogue in Amsterdam, led by Rabbi Meno ten Brink.

As you can see in the photo, our synagogue will be also participating in the Zoom service as we recorded the Shofar blowing and the Blessings reading that will be incorporated into the service. In addition, our Vice President, Ms Lilly Duym, will also speak on behalf of the Suriname Jewish community. The Zoom services will be watched by people around the world.

The year 2020 High Holidays will definitely will be a very different experience. One tradition will continue and that is visiting the graves of our parents and loved ones in the cemeteries before Yom Kippur.We will report in our next newsletter any new interesting stories regarding celebration of the holidays in the new environment we are all in.

The First No Community Passover Seder in Decades

Just before Passover, the COVID 19 virus hit Suriname. As a result, our traditional community Seder was cancelled.

Luckily, the Matzot and Kosher wine from the USA had arrived just in time. We distributed the Matzot and wine to every family so they could celebrate it at home. What a different experience it was! For decades we celebrated the Seder together as a community, many times with guests. 2020 was a big change.

Our tradition of visiting the cemeteries and praying in front of the tombs of our loved ones before Yom Kippur

We are so thankful for the financial support of our Chai members. Thanks to your support we managed to import the products this year as in the last few years, in spite of the severe economic crisis that Suriname is facing.

Thank you so much for your generosity!


Update on Our Recent Projects


We were so touched by the response of our Chai members who responded to our request for help in raising the money to treat our 185 year old magnificent Synagogue, the attached office and the community center (Mahamad) against the devastating attack by termites.

We received enough sums to cover the entirecosts of the treatment program. Thank you all for your amazing support!In the next few weeks, all the buildings will be repainted in white and we hope that all wooden structures will be in very good shape for years to come.

The Mikvah Roof

The community managed to raise the funds and fixed the over 150 year old Mikvah roof  that was leaking and needed to be replaced. It is a very unique Mikvah structure and it is now ready to be used before the High Holidays.

The Cemetaries Project

We obtained various quotes for the cost of each grave marker. The grave marker consists of an aluminum plate with the engraved name and dates of birth and death, the post itself and the labour to erect it, for each of the unmarked graves. After the High Holidays we will start the actual engraving of the markers that will be put on the unmarked graves in both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic cemeteries. After receiving a generous donation from the Jewish American Society for Historic

Preservation to start the project, another Chai member agreed to cover the remaining costs of the project. We are very thankful to our wonderful donors as this project is such an important mitzvah. We will continue to report on the progress of this amazing project.

The Giyurim (Conversion) Class

It is so wonderful to see the dedication of the group to continue with their studies in spite of the difficulties imposed by the COVID 19 restrictions. For example, Rabbi ten Brink cannot travel from Amsterdam to Suriname, so the classes continue via Zoom. The group has to be divided to sub groups because of the restriction on more than five people gathering, and the problem of lack of public transportation compounds the difficulty. We are very proud of the dedication of the students and wish them all the best in their journey to Judaism.

Leendert Herman Duijm Z’L

Baruch Dayan Haemet.

We were saddened by the death of one of the pillars of the community. Leendart (Yehuda ben Ya’akov) was born on November 5th, 1931. From his early years, he helped his father who was the caretaker of the Jewish cemeteries in Paramaribo. Leendert  orked at the Coca Cola bottling company until his retirement. He was a dedicated member of our synagogue and community. He passed away on April 29th, 2020 after a short illness.

Leendert left behind his wife Betsy, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He will be missed by all.

Celebrating the Bat Mitzvah of Sari de SwaanLeendert Herman Duijm Z’L

On August 29th, 2020 we enjoyed watching the Zoom Bat Mitzvah of Sari, the daughter of our Chai members Leslie and Daniel de Swaam – Meijers, from Amsterdam. Sari’s Parashah Ki Tetse, ( כִּי־תֵצֵא – Hebrew for “when you go,”) sets out a series of miscellaneous laws, mostly governing civil and domestic life, including runaway slaves.

Since Sari and her family visited Suriname last year, Sari commented in her Drashah: “ Is this story still relevant today? I think so. You have to treat other people as you want

to be treated yourself. I went to Suriname last year and learned a lot about the history of slavery there. For example, my Parashah says that you should not hand over a slave to his master, who comes to you to ask for help. I do wonder how that worked in Suriname, because there were also Jewish plantations there”. She concluded with a very relevant comment: “It was a history where one group of people  reated another group very badly. That made me very sad. But I hope the bad past doesn’t mean that people can’t have a future together. I think it is very important, just like all other people who have been protesting recently, that everyone is worth the same as a person. I know that each of us belongs to our own family, in our own group. But with respect for each other and

understanding for differences. We may be different, but no more or less than each other. In this way we can be a good society”. And it is so true as today in Suriname, the different ethnic groups live in peace and harmony that could inspire many other nations.

Yasher Koach Sari and congratulations to the extended de Swaan – Meijers family!


Wishing you all Shana Tova and Gmar

Chatima Tova!,

Jacob Steinberg