This one is a bit late but still seems timely. My wife and I decided to celebrate Rosh Hashanah in Curacao, at the Mikve Israel synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the Western hemisphere. Now a Reconstructionist congregation, Mikve Israel is a “famous” building (if synagogues can have fame) for its sand floor, meant to remind visitors of the steps taken to protect the identity and assembly times of Spanish and Portuguese Jews in the post-Inquisition Iberian. After taking a ferry across the narrow channel between the Otro and Punda sections of Willamsted (the floating Princess Emma pontoon bridge was opened for boat traffic), we found ourselves mildly lost in the tourist section of Punda.
Sporting northern-climate synagogue clothes, carrying a
I don’t know what prompted the woman to call to us using the named voice we would hear repeatedly through the morning service – the shofar, the call to action, the shrill, undulating insistence on waking up and taking action. Easier and less embarrassing than shouting “Hey Jewish tourists!” and “Rosh Hashanah this way!” but in the back of my mind I wonder how much this was modulated by the visible and abhorrent rise of anti-Semitism in Europe over the summer months. “Shofar” was simply an encoding that only the desired recipient would understand without drawing undue attention.
In four centuries, so much has changed, and yet so much has not.