Betsy and Dick help Mikve Israel Curaçao continue a Shabbat tradition that began in 1732

By Betsy Frank

Betsy Frank is UHC para-rabbinic fellow and president.

So many of us travel to warmer climates during winter to escape the cold. This year, Dick and I made our escape with a cruise to the Caribbean.

Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue in Curaçao (Credit: Bgabel)

As you know, when we travel, we try to engage with the local Jewish community, whether on ship or in port.

During this most recent cruise, we joined 30 passengers for Erev Shabbat services on ship led by a gentleman from Mobile, Ala.

During this most recent cruise, we joined 30 passengers for Erev Shabbat services on ship led by a gentleman from Mobile, Ala. Yes, there are Jews in Alabama!

On Saturday morning, about half those from Friday’s session joined Shabbat services at Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, 40 miles from the Venezuelan coast on the Dutch Caribbean Island of Curaçao.

The synagogue was consecrated in 1732 and has been in continuous operation ever since, making it the oldest in the Americas.

Lay leaders conduct Reconstructionist/Reform/Sephardic service

Just as lay leaders conduct Shabbat services at UHC, an adult woman and young man, just 18, led services that morning at Mikve Israel, as the hazzan was out of town.

Mikve Israel-Emanuel sanctuary (Credit: Dolly442)

The synagogue describes itself as Reconstructionist, but we used the Reform prayer book, Mishkon Tefillah.

However, the Torah service followed the Sephardic rites. The service languages were English, Hebrew and a bit of Portuguese. Observing Jewish custom, Kiddush followed the service. Dick modestly noted that while the challah was good, his is better.

Learning first-hand about Jews around the world enriches our practice of Judaism.

Traveling certainly enriches our lives in many ways. At the same time, learning first-hand about Jews around the world enriches our practice of Judaism.

On another note, myjewishlearning.com is sponsoring Daf Yomi, where we read a page of Talmud for each day of this current seven-year cycle.

Get your Daily Dose of Talmud

Sign up for your Daily Dose of Talmud and also engage with a Facebook study group dedicated to the readings.

I have kept up somewhat and can certainly see why scholars spend a lifetime studying Talmud. I encourage you to join the 5,000-plus engaged in this experience.

Shalom,

Betsy Frank

Featured photo credit: René Bongard

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