Nidhe Israel Synagogue (1654)
Visiting hours: Weekdays 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Prayer Services: Friday 6:30 pm, mid-December through mid-April
Nidhe Israel Synagogue, the ‘Synagogue of the Scattered of Israel’, is one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere. It was developed by Sephardic Jewish settlers that arrived in Barbados from Recife, Brazil around 1628, soon after English settlement of the island in 1627. The building originally covered an area of approximately 2,000 square feet and held about 300 people. The synagogue was damaged in the 1831 hurricane, but subsequently was rebuilt on the same site in 1833.
The Sephardic community was orthodox. The men worshipped separately on the lower level and the women used the upstairs gallery.
After the synagogue was rebuilt by 1834, the number of Jewish residents in Barbados began to dwindle. Many of them migrated to the United States and the United Kingdom where they started other Jewish communities, especially in New England.
By 1929, the synagogue was sold by the last remaining Jewish resident, Edmund Baeza, to a Bridgetown solicitor. The synagogue was subsequently desecrated, being used over the ensuing period as offices, a law library, and for a company of traders. By the early 1980’s, the building ended up in disrepair and was seized by Government in 1983.
Within this period of transition, an influx of Ashkenazi Jews from Europe settled in Barbados in 1932. Relatives of a number of these people still reside on the island today. By 1985, this new community petitioned the Government to turn the building over to the Barbados National Trust, and by 1986, the renovation of the building began. The original design of the synagogue was recreated using old photos from the Barbados Museum, and some items from the original building were retrieved. The renovation was completed in 1989 when the building was rededicated as a synagogue and opened for services.