Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Absolutely Awesome – Mikve Israel-Emanuel Curacao’s Synagogue

Curacao is home to the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere, Mikve Israel-Emanuel congregation was founded in 1651 by 12 families from Amsterdam.  The synagogue commonly known as the Snoa (short for esnoga, an old Portuguese word for synagogue) was inaugurated in 1732, no Sabbath or major holiday has gone uncelebrated in 278 years.

The floor of the Synagogue, covered with sand, is one of the main tourist attractions in Curacao.  Different stories try to explain why the floor is covered with sand.  Some people say that the sand symbolizes the 40 years that the Jewish people spent in the Sinai Dessert after their expulsion from Egypt.  Others say that it dates back to the inquisition in which Jews from Spain in Portugal used it not to be heard while worshipping in secret.

The sand is a mixture from different riverbeds in Suriname, Guyana and Israel.  The interior setup of the synagogue resembles a desert, the tabernacle is in the middle, the floor is all covered in sand and worshippers sit around the sides, protecting it.  All the furniture is made from mahogany.

The entrance to the synagogue is a portal with the inscription “In the congregations I will bless the Lord”.  Inside there are four large columns, dedicated to the four Matriarchs and showcasing the strength of the Jewish women in the Curacao community.

Small arched windows, full of color, are placed around the Snoa’s thick walls, and when open a light breeze fills the tall sanctuary.  The ceiling is shaped like the hulls of ships, ships that carried Jews to Curacao’s safe haven.  Services are held Friday at 6:30 pm and Saturday at 10:00 am.  Yarmulkes are provided to men for services and tours.

The synagogue is visited every year not only by Jews but also by thousands of visitors, mostly from the cruise ships.  Next to the synagogue is the Jewish Cultural Museum that displays antiques and artifacts from around the world. 

The Curacao’s Synagogue is an attraction where photographers can spend hours, using different photo techniques, playing with light and with color, taking shots of antiques, shooting architecture, doing close-ups and perspectives.  If you ever have a chance to visit Curacao, be sure to make an obligated photo stop at the Snoa, do not forget your tripod and leave the flash in your bag you will not need it.  Make sure to have with you different lenses.  Do not forget a fish-eye, a zoom and a macro.

1 comment:

  1. Danielle Duenas-ErnandesNovember 21, 2010 at 9:14 PM

    Gorgeous pictures, Joaquin!!! Keep the articles coming~