The first known Jews to reach the island of Hispaniola were Spanish Jews. They arrived in 1492, when the island was discovered by Christopher Columbus. Sephardic Jews are the Jews of Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East and their descendants. When the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, many of them were absorbed into existing Mizrachi communities in Northern Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.
For Sephardic Jews the situation, worsenned dramatically when the Ostrogothic kings of Spain embraced the Catholic faith in the late 6th century. Since then the Jews were put under permanent persecution for practicing their religion and had to face several times the dilemma of either converting to Christianity, or leaving Spain.
Historically, Sephardic Jews have been more integrated into the local non-Jewish culture than Ashkenazic Jews.
Although some individual Sephardic Jews are less observant than others, and some individuals do not agree with all of the beliefs of traditional Judaism, there is no formal, organized differentiation into movements as there is in Ashkenazic Judaism.
The current population of known Jews in the Dominican Republic is approximately 300, the majority live in Santo Domingo, the capital. A very high percentage of the nation’s Jews have intermarried although some spouses have fomalized their Judaism through conversions and participate in Jewish communal life.
There are three synagogues and one Sephardic Jewish Educational Center. One is the Centro Israelita de República Dominicana in Santo Domingo, another is a Chabad outreach center also in Santo Domingo, and another is in the country’s first established community in Sosua. Santo Domingo synagogue
The Dominican Jewish Quarter in Puerto Plata is situated very close in a beautiful nearby town named Sosua most of them ashkenazi Jewish background (those of Eastern European descent). The town a labyrinth of winding, narrow streets, flower-filled courtyards and picturesque squares. In early May, homeowners proudly festoon their patios with flowers to compete for the city’s “most beautiful courtyard” contest.
The wave of Askenazi Jews was a dwindling group of European Jews rescued from Nazism in the 1940s by the country’s ruthless dictator, Gen. Rafael Trujillo.
Sosua’s newly inaugurated Jewish Museum.
The Museo Judio, located next to the Casa Marina Hotel and down the street from the local Verizon phone company office, was inaugurated Feb. 3, 2003, in the presence of many dignitaries including Israel’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic. At its entrance is the text of the 1940 agreement between the Trujillo dictatorship and the Dominican Republic Settlement Association (Dorsa), the New York-based organization that intended to rescue thousands of Jews from impending doom in Austria, Germany, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.