04 May 2007

Tahiti: Looking for lost family?

I recently learned about Judeocite, a French-language Web site devoted to Jewish matters. One interesting article is about the Jewish community in Tahiti. Who knew?

Here is my rough translation of a section of the Tahiti article:

"The history of the Tahiti Jewish community began with Captain James Cook's arrival on the Endeavour in 1769, with a certain Mr. Jew ["Monsieur Jew"] on board who decided to remain. The story is told that the first Jewish resident was Alexander Salmon (1822-1866), a French banker and son of London's Grand Rabbi. During several voyages around the Pacific islands, Salmon fell in love with Princess Arrioehau of the Tahitian royal family. It was, at the time, forbidden for a Tahitian to marry a foreigner. King Pomare IV suspended the law by royal command, making it possible for Salmon to obtain Tahitian residency and marry the Princess. The couple's daughter was the last queen of Tahiti.

"Among important Polynesian families are found the names of Salmon, Ceran-Jerusalmy, Cowan and Levy. With the arrival of Catholic priests, most Jews in the islands assimilated into the local population and converted to Catholicism.

"The first Jewish community was established 60 years ago with the arrival of Algerian Jews. The ACISPO [a French acronym for the Cultural Association of Israelites and Polynesian Friends] was organized in 1982. The community is mostly Sephardic and neo-Orthodox. Today, it has 150 members and half are mixed families...

"In 1993, Hava veAhava -- a community center, mikvah and synagogue -- was built in Papeete. It can be difficult to find, as it is not mentioned in many tourist guides.

"The synagogue organizes Shabbat and holiday services, but has struggled to organize a minyan some days. There is a small sunday school, with professor of Hebrew Albert Bouhadana. Each year, five or six bnai mitzvah take place, with a similar number of brit milahs. A Jewish wedding has not been celebrated for some years.

"The community has good relations with France, the U.S. and Israel. They are looking for a rabbi from the U.S. to teach Talmud and instruct the children. Kosher products arrive regularly from Australia and are sold at the synagogue and a Papeete supermarket.

"The synagogue has three Torah scrolls, including one given by a Egyptian Jewish community in Paris, and another given by the Los Angeles Jewish community. The community suffers from the absence of a rabbi … Services are 6.30 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday."

The synagogue is located at Rue Morenhout, Quartier Fariipiti, Papeete, e-mail acispo@mail.pf. ACISPO's address is BP. 4821, Papeete, Tahiti, Polynesie Francaise.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:05 AM

    Please, let me know more information about the Papeete community of jews. I am an italian journalist and I am writing an article about the jews of French Polinesie, my name is Fiona Diwan, and I live in Milan, my e mail is fionadiwan@fastwebnet.it.
    I am very interested about the daylife of jews and which kind of identity they have developed today, how they live, what about the kitchen, the big moment of the jewish life as Pesach, Rosh Ha shanĂ , Kippur... Wich kind of relationship they have with others polinesians...

    Thank a lot for your answers,
    Kindly, Fiona Diwan