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Dutch Court to Decide Fate of Judaica from Curacao

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An Amsterdam district court judge will have to adjudicate a dispute between the Jewish community of Curacao and a former resident of that island in the Netherlands Antilles over ownership of Judaica conditionally auctioned by Christie’s here Wednesday.

The matter entered litigation after Congregation Mikveh Israel-Emanu El in Curacao, one of the oldest Jewish communities in the Western hemisphere, petitioned the court Tuesday to seize the items. The congregation, claiming to be the legal owner, charged that the items were not legally obtained by the person offering them for sale.

The person turned out to be Victor Puig Pereira of New York, formerly of Willemstad, Curacao, who said the items of Judaica, mainly documents, were given to him by Emma Henriques of Curacao four years ago. She has since died.

The 28 lots in dispute, out of 490 lost of Judaica auctioned by Christie’s here Wednesday, were put on hold. The buyers were advised in advance that they could take possession only after the court rules on the matter.

Rene Maduro, chairman of the congregation, said the items disappeared from Curacao many years ago. Searches in American and Dutch archives failed to uncover them.

Christie’s said the disappearance was never reported to the police and there was no proof the items belonged to the congregation.

But Gomez Casseres, secretary of the Council of Elders of the Curacao congregation, said the congregation owned the documents, which were last seen in 1951.

Mikveh Israel-Emanu El is a merger of Congregation Mikveh Israel, established in Curacao in 1656, and Emanu El, which broke away from it in 1863. The earliest Jewish settlement in Curacao dates from 1650.

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