Though officially forbidden from settling in Puerto Rico through much of its history, Jews managed to settle on the Island as secret Jews, also called marranos, conversos, or Crypto-Jews. Jewish immigration to Puerto Rico began in the 15th century, though the community could not flourish as Judaism was prohibited by the Spanish Inquisition and the first synagogue was not established until a few hundred years later.
Even after Puerto Rico was ceded by Spain to the United States, following the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, very few American Jews settled on the island. The first large group of Jewish immigrants came in the 1930s and 1940s and were refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. The majority settled in the island's capital, San Juan, where in 1942 they established the first Jewish Community Center of Puerto Rico.
The second influx of Jewish immigrants was in the 1950s, following the success of the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959. Almost all of Cuba's 15,000 Jews went into exile, many of them fleeing to Miami, Florida and Puerto Rico.
In 1952, Puerto Rico achieved U.S. commonwealth status. That same year a handful of American Jews established the island's first synagogue in the former residence of a wealthy German family. The synagogue, called Shaare Zedeck, hired its first rabbi in 1954. A Hebrew School was established in 1959 and by 1970, there were 600 members of the synagogue, a Hadassah chapter, and B'nai Brith and Young Judaea youth groups.
Today, Puerto Rico is home to the largest and wealthiest Jewish community in the Caribbean, with approximately 1,500 Jewish inhabitants, and is also the only Caribbean island in which all three major Jewish denominations are represented. Most of the Jewish community lives in San Juan, but there are also Jewish families in Ponce and Mayaguez. San Juan has three synagogues: Reform Congregation Temple Beth Shalom, established in 1967, Conservative Congregation Shaare Zedeck, established in 1953, and a Chabad Center, established in 1997. There is additionally a Satmar Community in the western part of the Island in Mayaguez known as Toiras Jesed. Kosher food is available for order through Chabad and Hebrew school classes are held at the Jewish Community Center.
As is the case in many former Spanish colonies that were founded soon after the Spanish Inquisition, there are some Puerto Ricans who are descendants of forcibly converted Jews. Though raised as Christians, there are some that still maintain elements of Jewish traditions. Some notable Puerto Ricans of Jewish descent include David Blaine, Joaquin Phoenix, Freddie Prinze, Freddie Prinze Jr., Geraldo Rivera, Aaron Cecil Snyder, and Nina Tassler.
Chabad Lubavitch of Puerto Rico - Serving the Caribbean
Address: 17 Calle Dalia
Carolina, PR 00979-7346
Rabbi Mendel Zarchi
Kosher food can be ordered through Chabad.Temple Beth Shalom, Puerto Rico
Reform Jewish Congregation
Address: 101 Calle San Jorge
San Juan, PR 00911
Tel: 787-721-6333 (School administration office)
Tel: 787-723-3017 (Visiting Rabbi's study room)
Puerto Rico photo courtesy Amiga in a Box
Synagogue photo courtesy Jewish Sightseeing
Temple Beth Shalom photo: HaChayim HaYehudim Jewish Photo Library (Jono David Media)
Map: CIA-World Fact Book
- AFTER Hurricane Maria 20.9.2017. Jerusalem Post tells:
- SAN JUAN - Hurricane Maria rampaged across Puerto Rico on Wednesday as
the strongest storm to hit the US territory in nearly 90 years, causing
major flooding, damaging homes and knocking out power to the whole
island after killing at least nine people in the Caribbean.
Maria, the second major hurricane to roar through the Caribbean this month, was carrying winds of up to 155 miles per hour (250 kph), when it made landfall near Yabucoa, on the southeast of the island of 3.4 million people.
It ripped the roofs off buildings and turned low-lying streets into rushing rivers of debris knocked down by winds.
Its winds downed trees and damaged homes and buildings, including several hospitals, local media reported. News pictures showed whole blocks flooded in the Hato Rey neighborhood of the capital, San Juan.
Streets in San Juan's old town were left strewn with debris, from broken balconies and downed power lines to air conditioning units, shattered lamp posts, uprooted trees and dead birds.
"When we are able to go outside, we are going to find our island destroyed," Abner Gomez, the director of the island's emergency management agency, known by its Spanish language acronym AEMEAD, was quoted as saying by El Nuevo Dia newspaper. "It's a system that has destroyed everything in its path." Maria was producing widespread and dangerous flooding across the island, the National Weather Service said Electricity was believed to be out across the island, said Pedro Cerame, a spokesman for Governor Ricardo Rossello.
Authorities had not yet been able to assess the extent of the damage, he said.
Thousands of people had sought safety in shelters.
"God is with us; we are stronger than any hurricane," Rossello said on Twitter. "Together we will rise again." By 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT), Maria's center was heading away and it was located just north of the island, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. As expected when hurricanes move over hilly or mountainous ground, it had lost strength. But with top winds of 115 mph (185 kph), it was still a Category 3 on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale, a major hurricane.
It was forecast to maintain strength as it passed the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic later on Wednesday.
At one point a rare Category 5 storm, Maria killed at least seven people on the island of Dominica, government officials said, and two people in the French territory of Guadeloupe as it barreled through the Caribbean. It also caused widespread damage on St. Croix, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Hurricane Irma, which ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record, also left a trail of destruction in several Caribbean islands and Florida this month, killing at least 84 people in the Caribbean and the US mainland