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Jewish Community in Virgin Islands Celebrates Revival

March 6, 1934
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

For the first time in more than fifty years a group of Jewish children was confirmed here in the Jewish Synagogue. The impressive ceremony was one of the recent developments marking the revival of Jewish community life in St. Thomas.

One hundred years ago this little island was an important shipping center and a Jewish–Sephardic–congregation flourished, with a handsome synagogue building and three schools. But the change of trade routes brought changes in the island, including a decrease in the Jewish population. A minister could no longer be maintained. Now a layman, Moses D. Sasso, is conducting services and instructing children.

The revival of activity is due to a large extent to the visit some six years ago of the Rev. Dr. Pereira Mendes who, during a stay of a few months, reorganized the school, preached and instituted “consecration” in place of confirmation.

This novel institution of consecration calls for adults to undergo a course of instruction, following which, with suitable ceremonies in the synagogue, they solemnly vow:

1. That the synagogue shall be kept open every Sabbath and services held.

2. That the children shall receive religious instruction.

3. That the honor of the Jewish name shall be upheld on the island.


Dr. Mendes himself has consecrated eight persons, the oldest 35 years of age. For each festival or holiday he sends a sermonette which is read to the congregation. He has been made minister emeritus.

The children who were confirmed by Sasso according to the Sephardic ritual, are Clarence Maurice and Thelma Douglas, Gladys and Madeline, Watson, Consuelo and Rachel Robles and Melvin Menges. The two sacred scrolls were kissed by the confirmants as a token of their allegiance.

The ceremony, recorded in the news and editorial columns of the local daily, The Bulletin, was attended by many notables, including the following:

Mrs. Pearson, the Governor’s wife; Judge and Mrs. Wilson, Government Attorney Eli Baer Judge and Mrs. Gibson, Conrad Corneiro of the Colonial Council, Mr. and Mrs. C. Guggenheim, and Abram E. Smith, editor of The Bulletin.

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