When Sephardic Jews ( Spanish Jews ) emigrated to the Caribbean during the Inquisition , they were compelled to practice their faith in secret. 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. It's no small feat. Follow the link below for the original report and additional photos. There are five such synagogues in the… Dana Evan Kaplan writes in this article about the Caribbean’s historic synagogues.
The sand floor muffled sounds of prayers and the sounds of steps. Five synagogues, worldwide, share the unique feature of having floors made of sand. Perhaps one of the most distinctive qualities of the Caribbean’s synagogues are their sand floors. 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. Jews first settled in St. Thomas in 1655, when it was ruled by Denmark. By 1850, the Jewish community numbered 400. By 1850, the Jewish community numbered 400. A special feature of some synagogues is that they use sand-covered floors.

Why Sand Covers the Floor of One of the Western Hemisphere’s Oldest Synagogues.
The island is the site of a second sand-floor synagogue.

Jews first settled in St. Thomas in 1655, when it was ruled by Denmark. There, the sands are carefully raked and maintained daily, with special consideration and care preceding days of worship. 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. This article by Peter Jordens appeared in Colors Magazine. This is the second oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. 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. As many as four synagogues in this part of the world have floors covered with sand, and a fifth one in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Sand floors in Caribbean synagogues are still common today. Founded in 1796. 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.. These were descendants of a Jewish population that had fled Spain for other parts of Europe during the Inquisition. 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 The island is the site of a second sand-floor synagogue. Sand floor synagogues can be found in four other locations, in Jamaica, in Surinam, in Saint Thomas, and in the Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam. Synagogues are a vital part of Jewish heritage and some of them are magnificent historical landmarks. The provenance of this tradition is… One of these is Shaare Shalom Synagogue in the historic district of Kingston, Jamaica.

The very first sand floor synagogue was built in Amsterdam by the Sephardic community in 1675. 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.