When one thinks of Jamaica, thoughts of a 20th century towering synagogue hardly come to mind. Despite almost dying en route (more on that later…), I was greeted by a caretaker who seemed somewhat perplexed by me. A welcoming local woman, she was very smiley and friendly, not to mention well-informed as she led me on a tour through the small museum and the Shaare Shalom Synagogue.
I asked to see the Torah scrolls, and she studied intently. ‘Are you Jewish?’ she asked with a gentle curiosity. I shared my interest in the spiritual elements of all religions, and a ever-growing fascination with religious architecture. Onward we went.
The synagogue is peaceful. Despite being a wet, cloudy day, light beamed in, twinkling upon the sand-covered floor. As a gesture of solidarity with Jews, who were forced to worship secretly during the Inquisition, the floor is covered in sand (to quieten the sound of worshippers’ footsteps). A basket of kippot rested near the entrance, as delicately handwoven tallitot were draped over the dark wooden benches to be used by the congregation.
Sadly, this is the last remaining synagogue on the island.