Dreams of Re-Creation in Jamaica: The Holocaust, Internment, Jewish Refugees in Gibraltar Camp, Jamaican Jews and Sephardim
Click here to access a publication by Professor Diana Cooper-Clark, Dreams of Re-Creation in Jamaica: The Holocaust, Internment, Jewish Refugees in Gibraltar Camp, Jamaican Jews and Sephardim.
The little known story of the Jamaican role in saving Jewish lives includes the creation of Gibraltar Camp, I and II, in Kingston, Jamaica. It is another path on the circuitous refugee trails. When the war with the Axis powers broke out, the British government needed to protect two of its colonies in the Mediterranean: Gibraltar and Malta. Gibraltar, in particular, was strategically placed for marine traffic but in danger of Hitler’s plans to invade The Rock (Operation Felix) (Finlayson 62). The British, the Governor of Gibraltar, Sir Clive Liddell, and the Local Defense Committee, wanted to evacuate “useless mouths” (Finlayson 2). This degrading term referred to civilians who could not contribute to the defense and war effort consisting of about 14,000 women, children, the aged and infirm men. Where could they transport these people? Portugal and French Morocco were possibilities and the United Kingdom was mentioned as “a last resort” (Finlayson 2-3). Between May 21 and June 24, 1940, 13,495 evacuees were sent to Casablanca, Morocco. The conditions were wretched. There were problems with hygiene, minimal access to limited medical staff, little food, and a population who resented the strain that the Gibraltarians put on their meager wartime resources. Accommodations were at best inadequate. Some evacuees were sent to the insane asylum, called the Moors’ Decrepit House, outside of Casablanca and some were housed in the military prison (Finlayson 24-25). By July, after only a month or so the French authorities in Morocco wanted the Gibraltarians out of their country. Neither Morocco nor Gibraltar desired the unwanted evacuees and London was determined not to allow them into the United Kingdom. At this point, the authorities looked around the rest of the British Empire for places to send these evacuees. They were forced to leave Morocco, “brutally herded” onto unclean ships (Jackson 278) and the evacuees were back in Gibraltar by July 11, less than two months since they had left. On their return, Gibraltar would not allow their own citizens to get off the boats.
The Jewish community of Jamaica started a programme of cemetery restoration and cataloguing with the cleaning up of the Hunt's Bay Cemetery 9 years ago. This, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Jamaica which served the Jews who first settled in Port Royal after the capture of the island by the English in 1655-58. The earliest graves date from 1672.
Up until now, the community has almost completed the revised cataloguing of all the Jewish graves in the remaining 12 Jewish cemeteries island-wide. This has been undertaken with volunteers, headed by Rachel Frankel, through the Caribbean Volunteers Expedition program. The community has 15 volunteers working as of today on two cemeteries, Orange Street and Elletson Road.
The White Church Street Cemetery will be catalogued next year. This will be undertaken on completion of its restoration. Updates will follow.
One of the most prominent members of India's Jewish community died Wednesday 13 January 2016 after a short illness. Lt. Gen. Jacob-Farj-Rafael “JFR” Jacob had a successful career in India’s military, and his body was held in state at Brar Square in Delhi Cantonment before a funeral took place at Judah Hyam Synagogue in Delhi. A reception to honour Jacob was attended by all 3 chiefs of the Indian Army,the Minister of Defence, the former President of India, ambassadors and 13 regiments.
Israeli Ambassador Daniel Carmon said that Jacob was a staunch supporter of India-Israel relations and “shall forever be remembered as a human bridge between our peoples.”
Jacob was inspired by the plight of Jews in Europe to join what was then the British Indian army in 1942. His family had settled in India from Iraq in the 18th Century.
In the presence of communal leaders and its new President Lord Mendelsohn, the Commonwealth Jewish Council held a reception at the House of Lords on Thursday 19 November to mark the launch of its new publication ‘Shared values, common causes’. The reception took place as the organisation continues its restructuring which will see a greater regional focus with an emphasis on supporting small communities throughout the Commonwealth.
Guests including Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi of the the S&P Sephardi Community Joseph Dweck, Acting Israeli Ambassador Eitan Na’eh and Board of Deputies President Jonathan Arkush gathered to hear from the CJC’s CEO Clive Lawton as he set out his vision for a reenergised organisation focused on small communities and an enhanced network of English speaking Jewish diplomats from existing member organisations. To mark the occasion, CJC trustee Laura Marks OBE presented an award to George and Lyn Walton from the Cayman Islands who have built a synagogue for the benefit of their small community.
Another example of the work the CJC aims to support is a Mitzvah Day give-blood drive in Jerusalem with Magen David Adom, bringing together gap year students from three of the Commonwealth’s largest communities, Britain, Australia and Canada with UK Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey.
President Lord Mendelsohn said: “I’m delighted that the Commonwealth Jewish Council has now been strengthened with regional leadership from the great communities of Australia, Canada, South Africa and the UK. As well as being able to harness the talents of professional staff in our member organisations, we will also benefit from the fantastic quality and reach of our Executive Board of Regional Presidents, including Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies.
Our award recipients, Lyn and George, exemplify the best of community leadership – building a Synagogue and vital community infrastructure – and it is in small communities like these where we can have a real impact. In the diaspora we will also be able to articulate our unique voice as Jewish communities spanning the 53 countries of the Commonwealth which share common values as outlined in our new publication.”
CEO Clive Lawton said “I’ve long been involved with the CJC and its wonderful to see the ready enthusiasm with which communities around the world have embraced our new enhanced vision of a rich network of communities, some infinitesimally tiny, some many hundreds of thousands, learning from each other, supporting each other, sharing good ideas and enriching our capacity to give to the wider world. Writing our new publication ‘Shared Values, Common Causes’ revealed to me how much there is to do and how much we can do together.”
Headed by President Lord Mendelsohn and trustees Nigel Cohen and Laura Marks OBE, the CJC’s European Regional President is Jonathan Arkush. CEO Clive Lawton heads a team of directors including Maureen Gold and Regional Director for Europe, David Walsh. More details about the organisation and its activities will be available soon on the CJC’s new website. For more information, or to receive a copy of ‘Shared Values, Common Causes', please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see the Cayman Compass newspaper report on the award, click here