Joden Savanna in Suriname

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     In the seventeenth century persecuted Jews could live in Suriname in safety. Among the settlements established by Jewish refugees was Joden Savanna or Jewish Savanna. In 1639 Portuguese Jews settled there, then in 1652 a group of English Jews settled on Cassapoera Creek. By 1657 a large group of Portuguese Jews arrived, and in 1662 and 1670 more English Jews arrived. More Protuguese Jews came in 1675.
     In 1832 much of the village was destroyed by fire and the resident began to move away. Ironically, Joden Savanna became an internment camp for Dutch Nazis from 1942 to 1945. The internees worked at clearing the old settlement and uncovering Jewish tombstones. Four hundred thrity-six tombstones were uncovered; fifty-nine of them were readable. In 1937 after years of dispute the site reverted to the government. Many other efforts at restoration have been attempted, without much success. In 1971 the Jodensavanna Foundation was established with government assistance, some restoration was completed and a small museum was opened, but burned soon after.
     The map is one of three stamps issued in 1968 to commemorate the toleration enjoyed by Jews in Surinam. The design is based on the Nieuwe Kaart van Suriname vertonende stromen en land streken van Suriname, Comowini, Cottica en Marawini, published by Joachim Ottens (1663-1719) at Amsterdam in 1685, Joods Dorp or Jew’s Town was the major settlement, with farms surrounding it on both sides of the Suriname River.

SCN 359

     This Dutch manuscript map of Suriname provides information from the brief period of English control from 1651 to 1667. This is one of the few cartographic records of Jewish settlement in that region; in 1665 the community was permitted to build a synagogue, a privilege not usually accorded to Jews in the English possessions. Its location is shown near the center of the map.
February 20, 2002

     The Hebrew text at the bottom of the stamp is from Joshua 24:2, "Long ago your ancestors lived beyond the Euphrates."

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