The Jews of Suriname

The South American nation of Suriname was once home to a thriving community of Sephardi Jews, who had come there and to other Caribbean lands seeking religious freedom and economic opportunity. They added to their ranks converts to Judaism of African origin. The remains of one town reveal much about their lives and traditions. Laura Arnold Leibman writes:

Deep in the Surinamese jungle lies the ruins of what was once the prospering plantation town of Jodensavanne—Jew’s Savanne. Just past the bricks that made up Brakhah ve-Shalom (“Blessings and Peace”) synagogue, are two early cemeteries—one Jewish, one African. Deeper into the forest lies a third cemetery, the Cassipora Jewish cemetery. All three cemeteries hark back to the sepulchral traditions of ancestral homelands even as they have adapted to changes in what it meant to be Jewish. As such, they are a good example of both continuity and change within American religion.

Whereas the Creole cemetery employs what some have argued are African symbols, the Jewish cemetery of nearby Cassipora Creek features pyramid-shaped tombstones that echo those found in the Sephardic cemeteries of London, Amsterdam, Hamburg, as well as medieval Spain. Indeed, though they are separated by a jungle and ocean from their European analogues, Jodensavanne and Cassipora’s Jewish cemeteries share many of their key features with Europe’s Western Sephardic cemeteries. Both Cassipora and Jodensavanne’s Jewish cemeteries, for example, feature the striking symbol of the Hand of God cutting down the tree of life. This symbol can also be found not only in the Western Sephardic cemeteries of London, Amsterdam, and Hamburg, but also in those in Paramaribo, Jamaica, Barbados, and Curaçao.

Read more at Religion in American History

More about: Caribbean Jewry, Sephardim, South America, Suriname

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict