Safety First

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Speightstown’s Jewish Past

This month Arlington House Museum [pictured above] celebrates its first anniversary since opening to the public in Speightstown .   It has provided both visitors and locals to the area another place to go to experience the rich history of the town and surrounding villages including Mullins.   There are many facets to this history that are sure to catch and hold the attention of even the most cynical who hate history.  One such aspect of this history which this blogger finds fascinating is the early contribution of Jews to the growth of the town as a center for trade and commerce on the island and abroad.

Since the restoration of the Nidhe Israel Synagogue in Bridgetown and the recent opening its museum many more people are becoming aware that Speightstown also had a thriving Jewish community and synagogue - Semah David - in the 17th and 18th centuries.   Like the Sephardic Jews of Bridgetown they were also mainly religious refugees from Recife in Brazil who brought with them the technical and trading skills upon which the sugarcane industry in Barbados was built.  Unfortunately, the Jewish presence in Speightstown came to an abrupt end in 1739 as a result of riots which followed a Jewish wedding to which the governor of the island was invited and allegedly assaulted.  The Jews were expelled from the town and the Semah David Synagogue destroyed.  By that time Speightstown was already eclipsed by Bridgetown as Barbados' main port and the Jews of Barbados had already started their exodus from the island to London and the British colonies on the North American mainland.
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  1. I'm from the north of the island but currently I live in the south-western part of the island. I'm interested in this Arlington House Museum. What are the opening hours? Is there an entrance fee involved? Can pictures be taken of the exhibits?

  2. The museum hours are:

    Monday - Friday 10:00 - 5:00 (last tour 4:00)
    Saturday - 10:00 - 3:00 (last tour 2:00)

    Still photos of exhibits allowed (no videos)

    Entrance Fee - Visitors: Adults - $25 Children: $15
    Locals: Adults - $20 Children - $10
    (Major Credit Cards Accepted)

    Phone: (246) 422-4060