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Jamaican Jewish Leader Honored

The government of Jamaica has announced that the spiritual leader of the Jewish community in the country, Ernest Henriques de Souza, has been named a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation in the field of religion, the World Jewish Congress reported today.

To commemorate the 21st anniversay of Jamaica’s independence, the government struck a special medal called the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation which was awarded to 1,000 persons in various fields who had given over 20 years of service to the country.

The naming of Henriques de Souza as the recipient in the field of religion marked the first time in the history of the country that any Jewish leader had been honored for his religious contribution to the nation. Six other members of the Jewish community were also named medal recipients in other fields.

Henriques de Souza has been the leader of the United Congregation of Israelites, the central representative body of Jamaican Jewry and the WJC affiliate here, for over 37 years. Since 1978, the tiny community, numbering some 350, has been without a rabbi and Henriques de Souza has served the dual function of justice of the peace and religious teacher. As director of the synagogue on the island, he founded the B’nai B’rith chapter in Jamaica.

The other members of the Jewish community who were honored for their contributions in a secular capacity were in the following fields: Business–Leslie Ashenheim; Community Development — Isaac Matalon, Evelyn Matalon, and Marianne Lopez; Sports–Richard Ashenheim; Health — Dr. Horace Henriques.

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