Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sephardic and Hidden Jews (Marranos) of Jamaica

Nadene Goldfoot                                                        

                                                                                 
Jews  were living on the island of Jamaica in 1577 and were free to live and work there.  

The English occupied this island of Jamaica in 1655.  It wasn't until the British  took the island in 1655 that Jews were permitted to practice their religion openly and establish a Jewish community, including synagogues and cemeteries. 
                                                                           

Columbus had sailed from Spain in 1492 and bumped into islands that were close to North America.  "He  visited Jamaica on his second trip to the New World and in 1503 claimed it for Spain. The island was granted to Columbus’ descendants as a personal possession."  

 Many believe that Columbus could have been a Marrano Jew of Italy.  He wrote to his son in the Hebrew script.  This was the time that Spain had the Spanish Inquisition starting and Jews had to either leave Spain or convert to Catholicism.  Thus, when a family couldn't afford to leave the country, they hid the fact that they were Jewish;  thus the term, and a negative one it is, of Marrano.  They were hidden Jews.  They went through the pretense of being Catholic.  
                                                                             
Secret Seder in Spain during Spanish Inquisition by Marranos (Anusim) 
By 1655, some Portuguese Marrano were probably already residents on the island.  Many Sephardim of Marrano origin established themselves shortly after 1655, and in the course of the 18th century, when the island's economy was doing very well, the Jewish settlement developed which benefited from the immigration of both the Portuguese Marranos and of the present Jews of that day.   Sephardi as well as Ashkenazi Jews who came from Europe, mainly from England had come here to settle.

"In 1577, Jews were free to live and work on the island, but it wasn't until the British conquered Jamaica in 1655 that Jews were permitted to practice their religion openly and establish a  Jewish community, including synagogues and cemeteries.

Even on this distant island, the Jews were subjected to many restrictions until 1831, and had played an important part in the life of Jamaica.  They filled every public office.

With the decline in the island's prosperity in the 19th century, the Jewish community diminished, and contributed some of the outstanding families in Jewish life in England, like the Henriques.

 The Henriques family that fled Portugal during the Spanish Inquisition in the 17th century are all descended or related to the patriarch of the family, Henriques Dias Milao-Caceres  (1528-1609).   He was a wealthy businessman from Lisbon, who was arrested by the Spanish Inquisition during the Iberian Union on charges of not having paid taxes, having dealings with the Jews, and for having attempted to flee the country before trial.  Most of his family and entourage who had not managed to leave the country on time, had also been arrested and interrogated by the Inquisition. At the age of 82, Henriques Dias Milao-Caceres was sentenced to death, along with his man servant who was believed to have converted to Judaism in secret, and a female member of the family. They were burned at the stake on the 5th of April, 1609. The rest of the family members, whom had had their lives spared, were forced to witness the execution. Those witnesses took on the surname Henriques, in memory of Henriques Dias Milao-Caceres, thus beginning of the Henriques family as we know it today. Those who adopted the surname include Henriques Dias Milao-Caceres' son, Paulo (Moses) de Milao, his daughter Beatriz (married to Alvaro Dinis Yachia Eanes), and his grandson, Reuben Eanes (son of Beatriz).
                                                                                   
There were formerly communities in Spanish Town, Falmouth, and Montego Bay, but the only one remaining is that of Kingston where the majority of the island's 300 Jews lived in 1990, and 200 today.  There is little choice for them but to intermarry today.  They have been one of the world's oldest Jewish community, so they will either leave or assimilate.  The island is about 90% Black.  If someone says they had a white great grandfather, he most likely was Jewish.
                                                             
Richard "Dick" Bogle
I was interested in Jamaica when a Black friend of mine from high school, Richard Bogle,  told me about his family's history.  His ggrandfather, Richard Bogle,  had been born on the island to a native woman and a sea captain.  I had started to be very interested in genealogy and soon found a sea captain by the surname of Bogle.  In doing searches, I found many Jewish names.  I believe his ancestor left the island at age 12 and by that time, Blacks were freed, which was way before this happened in the United States.  England at that time was progressive.  His ancestor stowed away on a ship and reached Missouri, hopped on a famous wagon train and got out to California, panned for gold and struck it rich, opened a bank and loaned money.  Dick, my friend, became a policeman, then detective, and wound up as a TV news personality in our town which led to becoming an important member of the city council.  His family genealogy.  was so interesting that I wanted to see it made into a movie.

Resource: http://www.aish.com/jw/s/Jews-of-Jamaica.html?s=mm
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
http://www.timesofisrael.com/jamaican-jews-see-intermarriage-conversion-as-their-future/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henriques_family
http://www.heymannfamily.com/Heyman%20Family/Ancestors%20Web%20Pages/The%20Family%20de%20Milao.htm  on Henrique.
http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/02/dick_bogle_pioneering_african.html

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