CARACAS, Venezuela (JTA) — Persistent heavy rains have destroyed a key piece of Venezuelan Jewish history dating from the colonial era, according to the Center for Sephardic Studies in Caracas.
The roof of the 19th century House of Prayer in Coro, located five hours west of Caracas, could not withstand the pounding of nearly two weeks of unusually heavy rains and collapsed. The room was used for prayer by the first Jewish settlers who came to Venezuela in the middle of the 1800s from the nearby island of Curacao.
Herman Henriquez, the head of the Foundation for the Preservation of the state of Falcon’s Hebrew Patrimony, had warned of the structure’s advanced deterioration and, with the Center for Sephardic Studies, was seeking support to reinforce the building prior to the collapse.
The Casa de Oracion, as the house is called locally, was discovered by Rabbi Isidoro Aizenberg, a historian of Latin American Jewry, after reviewing old documents that said Jews congregated in the house of the Senior family to pray. Sacred objects, including a Torah ark, were discovered in a room that matched the descriptions laid out in the documents.
Originally the room had a sandy floor, a custom particular to Caribbean Jews.
The torrential rains, which have led to mudslides and flooding, have caused dozens of deaths throughout coastal Venezuela in recent weeks.