The Nidhe Israel Synagogue in Bridgetown is the oldest Synagogue in the Western Hemisphere.

Nidhe Israel Synagogue, BridgetownIt is a pleasant place to visit, and incorporates a museum (a little pricey - but well presented.) Have a look at the guestbook to get an impression of the variety of visitors. Do take time to examine some of the old tombstones, some dating back to the 1640s, some with inscriptions in Hebrew, Portuguese and English.

The synagogue has its origins in the first British settlement in Barbados in 1627, which stimulated an exodus of Jews from Recife in Brazil. Recife had from 1630 been ruled by the Dutch who welcomed the Jews. But from 1654 Recife was back in the hands of the Portuguese with their Inquisition agenda, forcing the Jews to flee. Many came to Barbados where British rule meant that Oliver Cromwell's opening of the Britich Domains to the Jews made Barbados a welcome destination. The first recorded arrival of Jewish immigrants dates to 1621 but the Synagogue was only established in 1654.
A hurricane severely damaged th Synagogue in 1831, but by 1833 it had been fully restored in its present form. The Jews from Brazil had brought with them the knowledge of sugarcane farming which became the driver for the Barbadian economy.
By 1900, only 17 Jews remained. Sugar prices had fallen and most Jews emigrated. The synagogue was sold in 1929, but when the government planned to demolish the building in 1983, a campaign to have it preserved succeeded, and the oldest synagogue in the Western hemisphere was saved.