Five synagogues, worldwide, share the unique feature of having floors made of sand. When Sephardic Jews ( Spanish Jews ) emigrated to the Caribbean during the Inquisition , they were compelled to practice their faith in secret. It's no small feat. This article by Peter Jordens appeared in Colors Magazine.

One of these is Shaare Shalom Synagogue in the historic district of Kingston, Jamaica.

Sand floor synagogues can be found in four other locations, in Jamaica, in Surinam, in Saint Thomas, and in the Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam. When I first came to Jamaica, in March 2011, community historian and patriarch Ainsley Henriques took me to see the synagogue in the historic downtown section of Kingston.

By 1850, the Jewish community numbered 400.

As many as four synagogues in this part of the world have floors covered with sand, and a fifth one in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Fine sand was scattered over a wooden floor for preservation of building materials, but this could also be used to help conceal Judaic practices by muffling sounds of worship and prayer. The sand floor muffled sounds of prayers and the sounds of steps. Founded in 1796. Why Sand Covers the Floor of One of the Western Hemisphere’s Oldest Synagogues. There are five such synagogues in the…

These were descendants of a Jewish population that had fled Spain for other parts of Europe during the Inquisition.

Perhaps one of the most distinctive qualities of the Caribbean’s synagogues are their sand floors. There, the sands are carefully raked and maintained daily, with special consideration and care preceding days of worship. This is the second oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere.

Dana Evan Kaplan writes in this article about the Caribbean’s historic synagogues. Ryan Schuessler ("Hakai Magazine," June 15, 2017) Like an act of moving meditation, the synagogue attendant smooths over a week’s worth of footprints on the sand floor of Mikvé Israel-Emanuel in Willemstad, Curaçao. The Shaare Shalom Synagogue in the Jamaican capital is one of five functioning synagogues with sand floors. The island is the site of a second sand-floor synagogue.

Sand floors in Caribbean synagogues are still common today. These Jewish places of worship have a regular wood or brick base, but topped with a layer of sand about an inch or two in depth.

The Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue (Hebrew: בית הכנסת מקווה ישראל-עמנואל ‎; English: The Hope of Israel-Emanuel Synagogue), in Willemstad, Curaçao, is the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas. The provenance of this tradition is… Why Sand Covers the Floor of One of the Western Hemisphere’s Oldest Synagogues Fleeing anti-Semitism in Europe, Jews found unexpected shelter on the island of Curaçao Jews first settled in St. Thomas in 1655, when it was ruled by Denmark. The very first sand floor synagogue was built in Amsterdam by the Sephardic community in 1675. CHARLOTTE AMALIE – Jews from Denmark first arrived on the white beaches of what is now St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands — a tiny speck off the coast of Puerto Rico — in the mid-17th century.. Synagogues are a vital part of Jewish heritage and some of them are magnificent historical landmarks. Jews first settled in St. Thomas in 1655, when it was ruled by Denmark. The island is the site of a second sand-floor synagogue. A special feature of some synagogues is that they use sand-covered floors. Follow the link below for the original report and additional photos. By 1850, the Jewish community numbered 400.