Jews in Jamaica — Finding Safe Harbor
Hosted By: Sousa Mendes Foundation
The Caribbean island of Jamaica has had a Jewish community since Jews found refuge there during the Inquisition. Meet Ainsley Cohen Henriques, a prominent leader of Jewish Jamaica whose family has lived on the island for generations. Author Joan Arnay Halperin will share the little-known story of Jews who found a safe but temporary refuge in Jamaica after escaping from Nazi-occupied Europe. The program will be moderated by Professor Shulamit Reinharz of Brandeis University.
Registration for this program will close on Thursday, April 28 at 10 PM ET. An email with instructions will be sent out on Friday, April 29, and again on the morning of the program.
MEET THE PANEL
Ainsley Cohen Henriques
Ainsley Cohen Henriques is a leader of the Jewish community in Kingston, Jamaica, where he was born. His professional life has been spent in agriculture and business, and he has served as President of the congregation of Kingston’s historic sand-floored Shaare Shalom Synagogue. He attended University in Reading, England, where he was President of the Jewish Club, and also sat on the then Undergraduate Jewish Council for England. In Jamaica, he joined B’nai Brith and served as its Vice-President across the Caribbean and Central America. He and his wife created the Jewish Heritage Center at Shaare Shalom Synagogue. An avid genealogist, he has cataloged all of the Jewish graves in Jamaica from the earliest found dated 1672. For the past twenty years, he has been the Honorary Consul for Israel.
Joan Arnay Halperin
Joan Arnay Halperin is a daughter and granddaughter of Sousa Mendes visa recipients who found refuge in Jamaica in 1942. She is a retired TESOL teacher in the New York City public schools and the author of My Sister’s Eyes: A Family Chronicle of Rescue and Loss During World War II. Joan has presented her story at numerous Holocaust education workshops organized by Echoes and Reflections and The Olga Lengyel Institute (TOLI). Kirkus Reviews calls My Sister’s Eyes “a thoroughly researched and intensely moving remembrance,” and the book is featured in the K-12 World War II section of the research resource, GALE.com. Joan has served in various capacities in the Sousa Mendes Foundation and continues to serve on its Educational Initiatives Committee.
Dr. Shulamit Reinharz
Dr. Shulamit Reinharz was born in Amsterdam and grew up in the United States with long stays in Israel. She earned her B.A. from Barnard College and her Ph.D. from Brandeis University, both in sociology. She is the author of thirteen books, including American Jewish Women and the Zionist Enterprise (Brandeis, 2005); Observing the Observer (Oxford, 2011); and One Hundred Years of Kibbutz Life (Transaction, 2011). Her book, Hiding, about her father’s Holocaust experience, is forthcoming. In 2017, she retired from Brandeis and became Professor Emerita. She is a sought-after speaker and interviewer and has participated in several Sunday programs of the Sousa Mendes Foundation.
Robert Jacobvitz, who will host the program, serves on the Executive Committee of the Sousa Mendes Foundation and chairs its Advisory Council. For ten years he directed the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Greater East Bay, and it was in this capacity in the 1980’s that he began championing the cause of Aristides de Sousa Mendes. In 2005 he received the Aristides de Sousa Mendes Humanitarian Medal from the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.
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