This is the site of one of the oldest Jewish synagogues in the Western Hemisphere on the island of Sint Eustatius, also called Statia. The roughly 12-square-mile island has a modern-day population of 3,200 people.
Sephardic Jews began arriving on the tiny Caribbean island in the early 1700s; however, some sources indicate arrival as early as 1660. During peak trade, the island had 600 warehouses and 200 ships visiting daily for trade.
As Statia was an extremely important port island for commerce and trade and that is what drew in the Jewish population. There are editorial pieces that claim the Jewish population on the island to be 10 percent of the total population at one point.
The synagogue was built in 1739 from yellow brick that was shipped from the Netherlands. By 1815, the Jewish community had significantly diminished and the temple had fallen into disrepair and abandonment.
Though there were no historical images of what the inside of the synagogue looked like, in 2001, the Historic Core Restoration Project restored the walls based on research and projection. Located in the center of the only town on the island, Oranjestad, it’s easy to wander through and take in the history and views on a leisurely stroll.
Know Before You Go
This is a very tiny island, it's easy to find the temple and explore. There are great views and plenty of friendly locals to point you in the right direction.