The Oldest Permanent Jewish Settlement In America
Fine original color example of Joshua Ottens map of Suriname, highlighting the extensive Jewish settlements in the region.
As early as the late 1630s, fleeing persecution in Europe, Spanish, Dutch and Italian Jews had migrated to the English colony along the Surinam River, in the old capital, Torarica, on the left bank. As the French and Portuguese increased their influence in South America, more Jewish settlers arrived. By 1652, a group of English Jews arrived and founded their own township further upstream near the Cassipora creek.
In an unusual display of tolerance, the British granted the Jewish community privileges including freedom of religion, the right to form a private militia and permission to build synagogues and schools.
In 1667 the Dutch commander Abraham Crijnssen captured Surinam, but left the privileges intact. Most of Joden Savanna was destroyed by fire in 1832 and the inhabitants moved away. In a bizarre twist the area was used as an internment camp for Dutch Nazis during World War II. The map is marked with 'Ioods Dorp en Sinagoge," the location of the Synagogue established in 1671.
The map records the names of dozens of Jewish plantation owners, the vast majority along the Surinam River in the vicinity. (Richard Gottheil, “Contributions to the History of the Jews in Surinam”) The latter was first settled in 1635 and was the first permanent Jewish settlement in the Americas.