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Book Notes: The Jews of Jamaica, Tombstone Inscriptions, 1663-1880, Richard D. Barnett and Philip Wright, Oron Yoffe (ed.)

Edgar Samuel

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Jews of Jamaica, Tombstone Inscriptions, 1663-1880, Richard D. Bar nett and Philip Wright, edited by Oron Yoffe (Ben Zvi Institute, Jerusalem, 1997) ISBN 965-235-0680-0. 201 pp. The Jewish community of Jamaica dates back to before the English capture of the island from Spain in 1655. The Portuguese Jews who settled there had the advantage of being Spanish-speaking. As well as retailing goods to the planters and seamen, they engaged in trade with the Spanish Main, with the ships of the Spanish flota which called there and of course with their relatives in other Carib? bean colonies such as Curacao, Martinique and Barbados. Yet despite its being one of the most populous and prosperous Jewish communities in the early modern English colonies, very little has been published about its history. Jacob A. P. M. Andrade's A Record of the Jews of Jamaica (Kingston, 1941) contains some useful information, but it is presented in chaotic disorder. This scholarly and beautifully presented book of burial registers and tombstone inscriptions is therefore a most valuable key to the history of the Jamaican community. One surprise is the wide distribution of communities and cemeteries across the Island. Apart from those we knew about in Port Royal, Kingston and Spanish Town, seventeen other communities and eight other cemeteries are listed. This book was the idea of the late Richard Barnett (1909-86). Philip Wright (1910-75) did most of the groundwork of copying epitaphs. It is very commend? able that after their deaths, Barbara Barnett and John Curtis should have per? sisted with having this work published. The inscriptions in Hebrew, Portuguese, 332</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes Spanish and English give some insight into the inner life of the communities there. This book is essential for anyone studying Western Sephardi history, especially English Sephardi genealogy, as well as the history of Jamaica. Edgar Samuel</page></plain_text>