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“Look at the floor, not up at the ceiling”

Neveh Shalom Jewish Synagogue
Ranked #9 of 49 things to do in Paramaribo
Certificate of Excellence
Swansea, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
127 reviews
70 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 115 helpful votes
“Look at the floor, not up at the ceiling”
Reviewed June 20, 2013

The synagogue was built in the mid 1830's and, like most buildings in Paramaribo, is made of wood.

Although the synagogue is open to the public, if there are at least six people then one can have a (free) guided tour. My wife and I turned up and four other people arrived at the same time so we were fortunate to have a guide and she certainly knew her stuff!

The interesting feature of this building is the floor - it is covered in sand. The reason for this is threefold:

1 it reminds the Jews of the Exodus when they were cast out of Egypt into the desert;

2 it is a throwback to former times when Jewish services had to be held in secret and underground and so a sand floor allowed any traces of footprints to be obliterated very quickly so the authorities could not tell if the room had been used or how many had attended;

3 with candles for lights in a wooden building there was a considerable fire risk so having sand so readily available meant it could be scooped up and used to douse any fire that occurred.

We were told that there are only two other synagogues in the western hemisphere with sand floors.

The pulpit seen in the photo is also something different because we were told that it was not normal to have a pulpit in a synagogue but a former rabbi was extremely short and so the pulpit was necessary for the congregation to see and hear him.

There are plenty more lovely wooden buildings in Paramaribo and a walk through the town as far as the synagogue is highly recommended. The town is small and it is not a long walk to see it all but you will need to walk on the shady side of the streets as Paramaribo can be boiling in summer.

Visited February 2013
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