About us

Welcome to the official website of the United Congregation of Israelites, the Jewish community of Jamiaca


The first Jews came to the island during the Spanish occupation of the island, 1494-1655. These Jews came from Spain and Portugal. They fled because of the Spanish inquisition. To conceal their identity they referred to themselves as “Portuguese” and practiced their religion secretly. At the time of the British conquest of the island in 1655, General Venables recorded the presence of many “Portuguese” in Jamaica. The Jews were allowed to remain after the conquest and began to practice their religion openly. The Jews were granted British citizenship by Cromwell and this was confirmed in 1660 by King Charles. They attained full political rights in 1831. The status of British citizenship enabled ownership of property by the Jews. Jamaica’s Jewish population was never large. However, their contribution to the economic and commercial life of the nation outstripped that of any other group of comparable size in Jamaica.

Modern times

By religious bloodlines and not practicing of the Jewish faith, it is estimated that nearly 424,000 Jamaicans have Sephardi Jewish ancestry, due to the Spanish Inquisition.

Notable people

  • Monty Alexander - Jazz Pianist
  • Neville Ashenheim - businessman
  • Chris Blackwell - Record label founder and owner (Jewish mother)
  • Jacob De Cordova - Founder of the Jamaica Daily Gleaner newspaper
  • Moses Cohen Henriques - Pirate, escapee from Spanish Inquisition
  • Anna Ruth Henriques - Artist and jewellery designer
  • Sean Paul - Dancehall musician (Jewish grandfather; Paul Raised Catholic by parents)
  • Sylvana Henriques - former Model and Actress
  • Ricardo Finnis - Producer Actor Director (Sephardic Jewish grandmother)
  • Emmett DeCosta aka Egon Doe – Hip Hop artist (Grandmother was Sephardic Jew from Kingston 10,Jamaica via Portugal)

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