Ainsley Henriques, 77, a community leader and Jewish Jamaican genealogist, and Rachel Frankel, the volunteer coordinator from the nonprofit Caribbean Volunteer Expedition, which recruits individuals from the United States for work on projects involving historic conservation, are cataloging the remaining 13 Jewish cemeteries on the island to preserve the community’s history and heritage. The two are currently working in Spanish Town, restoring the White Church Street Cemetery, the last to be cataloged. The cemetery had been a junkyard filled with bricks, rusted, metal, broken glass, and rubble, but now it looks like a dignified burial place because of the efforts of Henriques and Frankel. The plan is to invite tourists to the latest Jewish heritage site on the island. The first Jews to come to Jamaica came from Spain and Portugal between 1494 and 1655, settling chiefly in the area of Spanish Town. Henriques believes it is important to leave a legacy so that children know where they come from. In his cemetery work, he has collected more than 20,000 names of Jamaica’s Jews spanning some 350 years.
Photo Credit: Jamaica Jewish Tours