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Map of Suriname in South America
Jodensavanne around 1830
The remains of the synagogue on the Jodensavanne, February 2000

Jodensavanne (Dutch, "Jewish Savanna") was an attempt to establish an autonomous Jewish territory in Suriname, South America. It is located in Para District, about 50 km (31 mi) south of the capital Paramaribo, on the Suriname River.

In 1639, the English government allowed Sephardi Jews from the Netherlands, Portugal and Italy to settle the region, coming to the old capital Torarica. In the year 1652, a new group that migrated under the leadership of Lord Willoughby came to Suriname and settled in the area Jodensavanne. A third group came 1664, after their expulsion from Brazil and then French Guiana, led by David Cohen Nassy.

The Jewish community acquired great internal autonomy, with work dedicated to the sugar-cane plantation. The Congregation Beracha ve Shalom ("Blessings and Peace") was founded, with the first wooden synagogue in the community (the 3rd synagogue in South America) built between 1665 and 1671 and a second, made of imported brick, was constructed in 1685.

Jodensavanne declined during the mid-18th century, and most of its population moved to Paramaribo. The colony strived to survive until it was destroyed in 1832 by a slave revolt and resulting fire. The location served as a camp for political prisoners in the Second World War.

Historian Natalie Zemon Davis is working on a history of 18th century Jodensavanne, focusing on David Isaac Cohen Nassy (born 1747) and relations between blacks and whites in the Jewish community.[1]


  1. ^ Herschthal, Eric (17 August 2006). "A Star Historian Opens a New Chapter: Jewish Slaveowners". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 29 November 2011. 

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Coordinates: 5°25′0″N 54°57′50″W / 5.41667°N 54.96389°W / 5.41667; -54.96389