In the 18th century, the Dutch colony of Suriname in South America was home to arguably the most privileged Jewish community of its time. On the banks of its main river, Jews of Iberian ancestry founded their own village, surrounded by Jewish-owned plantations that were worked by African slaves. Among these Jews were slaveowners who converted some of their children to Judaism. This talk, based on the author’s recently published book Jewish Autonomy in a Slave Society, centres the concept of the “slave society” as a way to understand the Dutch colony’s Portuguese Jewish community in terms of its economy, politics, and identity. The book may be ordered online at a discount; details are on the attached flyer.
Aviva Ben-Ur is Professor in the Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, U.S.A. A historian specialising in Atlantic Jewish history, she is the author of Remnant Stones: The Jewish Cemeteries and Synagogues of Suriname: Essays (Hebrew Union College Press, 2012) and Remnant Stones: The Jewish Cemeteries of Suriname: Epitaphs (Hebrew Union College Press, 2009), both co-authored with Rachel Frankel; Sephardic Jews in America: A Diasporic History (New York University Press, 2009), and Jewish Autonomy in a Slave Society: Suriname in the Atlantic World, 1651-1825 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020).
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