The Liqueur-Making Jews of Curaçao
WILLEMSTAD – According to Leah Falk of the popular food and drink website forward.com, you should check your margarita glass when talking about the oldest continually active Jewish congregation in the Americas.
Congregation Mikve Israel Emmanuel in Curaçao, home of the liqueur of the same name, holds the honor, having served the island’s Jewish community since roughly 1654.
The wheels of the community were put in motion by Jaoa d’Yllan, a Portuguese Jew by way of Amsterdam who petitioned the Dutch West India Company to send a group of settlers to the island. Most were Amsterdam Jews who had fled the Iberian Peninsula in the aftershocks of the Portuguese Inquisition. The synagogue was called “Mikve Israel,” meaning “the gathering of Israel,” for the aspiration that the Jewish settlers would redeem the island as a Dutch possession by making it a lucrative nexus of trade.