In Once Jews, Josette Goldish describes how many distinguished figures of Caribbean politics and commerce can trace their origins back to the small Sephardic community that established itself on the Caribbean island of Curaçao. For these people, the expression: “I am Catholic, but I am also Jewish” is a source of pride. In 1654 Curaçao was a popular haven for Jews fleeing Brazil after the Portuguese reconquest. At the end of the 18th century, a series of political and economic setbacks disrupted their lives again and many young men set out to make their fortunes elsewhere in the Caribbean. Goldish traces their lives as they established themselves anew. Many intermarried and their children were raised as Catholics. The women left behind on Curaçao had few opportunities to marry. By the end of the 19th century, nearly all of the Caribbean Jews had disappeared. Many families had become Catholic while others had died out. What remains are the names, and the awareness of a Jewish heritage. This is an engaging read about an interesting phenomenon.
Randall Belinfante has served as the Librarian of the American Sephardi Federation for more than 13 years. He has taken a tiny collection of 200 books and built an assemblage of over 10,000 items. Mr. Belinfante holds degrees in various aspects of Jewish studies, and during his tenure at ASF, he has investigated a variety of topics, presenting papers on such diverse topics as the Mizrahi Jews driven from their homes in Islamic countries and the crypto-Jewish Mashhadis of Iran. He has also written many book reviews on books of Sephardi / Mizrahi interest.