St. Thomas Synagogue

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St. Thomas Synagogue
Synagogue of Beracha Veshalom Vegemiluth Hasidim, Krystalgade 16A & B, Charlotte Amalie (St. Thomas County, Virgin Islands).jpg
St. Thomas Synagogue
St. Thomas Synagogue is located in the Virgin Islands
St. Thomas Synagogue
Nearest city Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands
Coordinates 18°20′41″N 64°55′59″W / 18.34472°N 64.93306°W / 18.34472; -64.93306Coordinates: 18°20′41″N 64°55′59″W / 18.34472°N 64.93306°W / 18.34472; -64.93306
Area less than one acre
Built 1833
Architectural style Greek Revival, Gothic Revival
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 97001270[1][2]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP September 25, 1997[2]
Designated NHL September 25, 1997[1]

St. Thomas Synagogue is an historic synagogue in Charlotte Amalie on the island of Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The real name of the synagogue is Beracha Veshalom Vegmiluth Hasidim. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1997.[1][3]

At the time of the designation in 1997, it was stated:

Saint Thomas Synagogue, built in 1833, is the second-oldest synagogue (building) and longest in continuous use now under the American flag. The synagogue, fourth on its site, was built to house a congregation founded in 1796 by Sephardic Jews who had come to the Caribbean Basin to finance trade between Europe and the New World. The congregation reached its zenith in the mid-19th century, declined in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the fortunes of the Danish Virgin Islands, and grew again in the late 20th century.[1]

Sand floor

There are also some unique features in the synagogue. Most of the wooden features including the benches, the ark and the bimah are made from mahogany. The menorah dates back to the 11th century and is Spanish in origin. The chandeliers are European and are presumed Dutch. There are four pillars inside representing Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca and Leah, the four matriarchs of the Jewish people. But by far the most unusual feature of the synagogue is the sand floor. There are two theories behind this unusual occurrence. One is to represent the Israelite journey through the desert. Another theory is that it represents the Conversos who were forced to convert to Catholicism. Many continued to observe Judaism, so they usually met in their cellars and would use sand to muffle their prayers.

The congregation is affiliated with the Reform Jewish movement and the rabbi is a graduate of Hebrew Union College.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "St. Thomas Synagogue". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  2. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  3. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination". National Park Service. January 1997.