The Jewish diaspora began very early and it reached Suriname in the 17th century. Jews are also one of the first settlers who came to Suriname. Many Portuguese Jews went through Amsterdam to Brazil in 1654. When the Dutch were expelled from Pernambuco, the Jews came to Suriname.
David Cohen Nassy, then a known Jew in Suriname, settled with a group in Cayenne in 1664, but came later to Suriname. Nassy became a prominent person here. After the group reached Suriname, they founded a settlement on Jodensavanne (Jewish Savanna) and they had the freedom to practice their religion . The first (wooden) synagogue, ‘de Nieuwe Wereld’, of Suriname was built there. Nothing has left of this building now. The Portuguese Jews brought their knowledge and experience to Suriname and have built sugar plantations here. The Jews were owners of African enslaved people.
In the 18th century the Ashkenazi Jews settled in Suriname. This Ashkenazic Jewish emigrants were mainly from Germany and were relatively poor Jews. They settled in Paramaribo and mainly engaged in trade. Both Jewish population long remained separate. This group of Jews had their own synagogue. In 1723 the first Ashkenazi synagogue in the Keizerstraat was built. In 1833 a new, the current synagogue which was named “Ne Ve Shalom” was built. It was designed by architect J. F. Halfhide.
In December I had the chance to visit Jodensavanne and Cassipora cemetery for the first time. Our guides of the Jodensavanne Foundation have been able to bring life the the history of Jodensavanne. I never had such an experience of an important part of the history of Suriname. We could visualize the glorious history of Jodensavanne.
At the same time are Jodensavanne and Cassipora not only an historical significance, but have also a harmonious atmosphere where you can relax. I’m glad Jodensavanne and Cassipora now belong to the cultural / historical monuments of Suriname, but I hope that it will be placed on the world heritage list of UNESCO.