Shaarei Tsedek Congregation
In 1932 the Ashkenazi Jews founded a social center (Club Union), and their own sports club. A permanent synagogue did not come until much later, in 1959.
A donation from the community to Israel which is being handed over to the Honorary Consul of Israel of that period, Mr. Cohen Z"L.
It was called ‘Shaarei Tsedek,’ Gates of Righteousness and was located in a villa at Scharloo (Scharlooweg 39-41) near the center of Willemstad, close to Punda. Scharloo was the historic, prestigious neighborhood of the Sephardic Jews. Until 1959 services were conducted in different locations (in the 1930s, the Ashkenazi Jews rented an upper floor in the former Graham building, next to Cinema Cinelandia. After some years, the congregation met at the Penstraat, and later at Bargestraat.). For kosher meat, the congregation hired a Shochet, a ritual slaughterer.
Shaarei Tsedek - Scharlooweg 39-41
Many of the Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe came from very traditional homes, and from the onset, the new forming congregation maintained a House of Worship and services in the Orthodox manner. A Mechitza, separation between men and women, was part of the interior and orthodox rabbis were hired to lead the congregation throughout the years.
In the mid-1980s, the Ashkenazic Congregation sold the synagogue building it had consecrated in 1959. This was because the once prestigious and lucrative area, Scharloo, where it had been located (Scharlooweg 39-41), began to deteriorate, and more and more Ashkenazi Jews were moving east from Punda to the newly built suburban areas adjacent to it.
Following the move, services were held temporarily in a former private home of one of the congregation members located in the residential neighborhood of Mahaai (Lelieweg 1A) and close to most members’ homes.
Shaarei Tsedek - Lelieweg 1A
The New Shul
From the onset, on the community’s agenda was to build a new synagogue in the new residential area of Mahaai. The congregation even purchased the intended piece of property for that purpose, but for various reasons, this temporary move lasted far more than originally planned.
It was not until June 10, 2006, that the long-awaited dream finally came true. This date and the three years of painstaking, strenuous and challenging work that led to it probably mark the most momentous and significant years in the modest history of the Ashkenazic Jewish community since its members stood at the cradle of its inception.
The awakening and rejuvenation of this almost expired craving came about through the vision and unique capacities of the then newly appointed rabbi of Shaarei Tsedek, Ariel Yeshurun, who, along with his wife Ruhama and small family of one child, moved to Curacao from Israel in September 2000.
The rabbi envisioned and enthusiastically inspired the revival of the project, and through relentless and persistent efforts, he meticulously saw it through and orchestrated every stage of the process, making the community’s dream of many years a reality.
Today we proudly present what has been marveled as an architectural masterpiece.
One amazing feature is the huge transparent dome which serves as the entire roof of the sanctuary. The magnificence of the striking clear blue sky is simply awe-inspiring.
Many of the Ashkenazic Jews who dreamed of erecting a new shul were no longer alive to witness the initiative bear fruit, yet their immortal contribution was transmitted to us through their pioneering spirit and perseverance. If not for that belief and determination, we would not have had the strength to be so optimistic and willing. If not for their careful and loving conservation of our traditions, Jewish continuity would have been at risk. The old-timers, those who were always there for the minyan, those who were ever so ready to participate and promote Jewish causes, are the ones who are the true contributors of the new shul and of keeping alive the desire we had for building a beautiful house of worship.
While many participated financially in this project, two families are of noteworthy mention for their outstanding measure of dedication and monetary commitment towards this goal; Herman and Miriam Tauber and Mrs. Janina de Marchena-Katz.
The Taubers have done lots of philanthropic work in both the United States and in Israel, and they were well received by many dignitaries in the Israeli government.
Rabbi Yeshurun with Herman and Miriam Tauber
Herman Tauber arrived in Curacao as a young boy of 13 years. He left Poland alone before the war to join his older brother, Leon, who was already on the island at that time. From very humble beginnings, they painstakingly built a future that later on became a financial empire. Herman met his wife, Miriam, who was a survivor of the war, in New-York, and they continued their future in Curacao, where they had their three children Paulette, Irwin, and Suzy.
Herman and Miriam’s great benevolence and supreme charitable kindness enabled us to stride forward and further inspired others to contribute. They stand out as the financial cornerstone of the new synagogue, which has been named in their honor “The Herman and Miriam Tauber Jewish Center.”
Mrs. Janina de Marchena-Katz is a very special woman who has financially committed herself to the project from the very beginning. A survivor of WWII, she struggled with the challenges of life presented after the war. With practically no family left, she somehow found the inner strengths to build a new life for herself in Curacao. Here she prospered and became a very capable businesswoman. Today she keeps on being a source of inspiration and generosity in the community.
Rabbi Emeritus Ariel Yeshurun
Rabbi Ariel Yeshurun was recruited from Israel at the age of 24 and arrived in Curacao with his wife and one child in September 2000. Rabbi Yeshurun is a graduate of the prestigious Chevron Yeshiva - Rabbinical College, in Givat Mordechai, Jerusalem and the Beit Amiel Institute for training rabbis for leadership in the Diaspora. He received his Ordination in Jerusalem and holds a Rabbinical Advocate degree from the Israeli Ministry of Justice specializing in marital law.
Rabbi Yeshurun served in the capacity of rabbi for the longest tenure since the establishment of the synagogue in the 1950’s and has been a source of great inspiration to the youth and adults alike. His greatest achievement by far is the building of the new synagogue, which has been an aspiration of the community for many decades, towards which he relentlessly worked and single-handedly raised money for.
Rabbi Yeshurun also was an active member of the local Rotary club where he was been able to reach out, through diverse charitable and humanitarian initiatives, to the general population of Curacao. The rabbi has also been heavily involved with raising money towards noble causes in Israel. During the Second Lebanon War, the rabbi launched a very successful campaign for obtaining emergency medical equipment for Rambam hospital in Haifa as well as for purchasing a bulletproof bus to help transport children safely to school.
As of September 2011, Rabbi Yeshurun has taken up the position of Rabbi of the Skylake Synagogue in North Miami Beach.
References: NWIG, New West Indian Guide/Nieuwe West-Indische Gids
Benjamin, Alan F., 2002. Jews of the Dutch Caribbean Exploring ethnic identity on Curacao
Emmanuel, Issac, 1957. Precious Stones of the Jews of Curacao
Emmanuel, Isaac & Suzanne, A. Emmanuel, 1970. History of the Jews of the Netherlands Antilles