Honoring the Jews of Jamaica | Jewish & Israel News Algemeiner.com – Algemeiner

Posted By on August 12, 2022

Jamaican Jewry has a vibrant history of social-economic, cultural, traditional, and intellectual values. The third-largest island in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica features a diverse Jewish population, where Jews of any background are allowed to worship as they please. I am proud to trace my Jewish ancestry through Jamaica and the African diaspora.

In Port Royal, located at the mouth of Kingston Harbor, Jews arrived after fleeing Spain and Portugal; Africans transported by Trans Atlantic slave ships came from the Iberian Peninsula in 1513, and then later, during British rule, the Akan and Igbo peninsulas.

Learning about these horrific historical events, I could only imagine the fear, confusion, and heartache of fleeing or being shipped to a foreign land, severed from loved ones.

My paternal great-great-grandmother met my great-great-grandfather in the capital of Jamaica. They found each other despite Jamaicas history, and they were beshert (destined).

Like them, I cherish Judaism through the lens of multiculturalism. As a Jewish mother raising our son in a Jewish household, I look forward to incorporating parts of these ancient traditions to build a stronger Jewish family foundation. These include creating daily lesson plans for us to learn and practice the Hebrew alphabet, words, and phrases; baking animal-shaped challah bread on Friday nights, and learning the history of the Jewish people. Theres a sense of groundedness in Judaism when I connect back to the roots of my ancestors. Its almost as if theyre sitting at the dinner table with us on Shabbat.

In researching my multiracial identities, I also felt compelled to seek the intersectionality between Jamaican Jews who live in Jamaica and myself living in Chicago as a Jewish person of Jamaican descent. I hope to bridge the gap between Sephardim, Ashkenazi, and so on, in eliminating stereotypes, racism, and discrimination in the Jewish community and the world at large, and inviting people to learn the incredible history of Jamaican Jews, as well as other diverse populations.

I am proud to continue this path towards Judaism, having been raised with a secular Jewish upbringing, and having had a Bat Mitzvah. In my teen years, I carried those Jewish philosophies and values that influenced my life tremendously. They inspired me to lead with an open heart, stop injustice, educate, and bring the multicultural Jewish community together, because there is strength and unlimited possibilities in diversity.

Everyone who is able should aim to travel to Jamaica and meet the Jamaican Jewish community, whether at sand-covered Jewish synagogues or kosher restaurants. Visitors can also experience Jamaicas art and historical museums, or stories by Jamaican Jews of their experiences living in Jamaica.

Through my diverse upbringing, I have learned that we are all in this together. We have all tried to escape persecution and continue our traditions despite immeasurable odds. The Jews of Jamaica are no exception.

Aayisha Ruby Gold is an award-winning actor and freelance journalist and director, and was named 36under36 and a member of JUF Young Women Board. She is also a wife and Jewish mother, who is learning and teaching Hebrew to their wonderful 3 year old son, Asher.

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Honoring the Jews of Jamaica | Jewish & Israel News Algemeiner.com - Algemeiner

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