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Heritage Florida Jewish News
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February 15, 1980     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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February 15, 1980

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DominiCan Republic: Haven for Jewish -- Refugees s of Island and is the Carib- Atlantic small the Latin with a five million. of the City of Santo 'hic h has its all year- climate, during the called by the in Hitler Strongman" dictator of forth to permit resettlement of His met with in view of nOne of the and the United tightly shut Trujillo ISimnn Baker ,. /-- ,... ,,,==, Committee (JDC) formed a special agency, in New York, to deal with the resettlement of the Jewish refugees in the Dominican Republic and named it the Dominican Republic Settlement Associ- ation, for short -- D.O.R.S.A. In January 1940, the Tru- jillo government and D.O.R.S.A. signed a contract to admit the first group of refugees. Trujillo was very proud of his deed and immediately assigned a special area in his country where these new immigrants would ngage in farming. At the same time, he managed to procure shares in the undertaking, thus becoming a partner in the project. Jewish Colony Developed The tract of land was bought for $50,000 in the then wilderness of the village of Sosua, near the town of Puerto Plata, in the northern region of the country. The first group of refugees, all of them skilled workers, arrived directly from Germany in May of ] 940 and consisted of some 35 persons. The latter groups came, via Portugal, in September and December of the same year from Switze, land where they were kept in special refugee camps under the auspices of the JDC. On a recent visit to the Dominican Republic, this reporter spent three days in the area of Sosua and had the opportunity to become more closely acquainted with the life and problems of the remaining Jewish colonists. I also met with many leaders and members of the tiny Jewish commun- ity of Santo Domingo. Of the 100,000 refugees Trujillo promised to admit only 700 or 800 actually came. At the beginning, most of these arrivals settled in Sosua and started their agricultural experiment, patterned after the kibbutz system of Israel, and failed. "The reason for this failure," explained Judith Kibel, who was a kitchen worker in the Sosuan settlement, "was our lack of idealism and the overabundance of ma- terialism." Later, they turned to private farming, following the example of the Israeli moshav, and started to sell their meat and dairy prod- ucts to factories. Today, these colonists own a dairy factory which produces many kinds of cheese, butter, yogurt and chocolate: ddnks. They also have a meat factory where they make various sorts of sausage, hot dogs and ham. Sosua, which now has a population of 10,000 and can be reached in onlythree- and-a-half hours by automobile from Santo Domingo, is famous for its beautiful beaches and picturesque landscape. Well-Known Throughout The Country The meat and dairy factories of Sosua belong to 49 farmers, 75 percent of whom are the Jewish colonists. This information was related to me by Herman Strauss, president of the Board of Directors of the Sosua Company, well- known throughout the 'country. He proudly stated that their sale of meat and dairy products amounts of $7 million annually and that over 4000 people are employed in the factories built by the Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria. He also stressed that the original shares in this enter- prise were sold at 10 pesos each. The current price is 15,000 pesos per share. The official price of each peso today is one dollar. There is speculation, to this very day, as to what prompted Trujillo, who was assassinated in lg61, to welcome these Jews into the Dominican Republic. But regardless of his motive, his was the only country to welcome the Jewish refugees during that period, even though n@ quite 1000- of the projected 100,000 came. Of the first group of 35 who reached Sosua from Germany and Austria, only three remain. A number of them died and others migrated to a number of cities in the United States. A similar fate befell the membe,:s of Ie other groups who settled in Sosua in the course of 1940. Of these groups there are at present only 36 Jewish families. It is, of course, no simple matter to account statistically for these families. Actually, there are in all of Sosua but six or seven all- Jewish families, with the rest of them intermarried to non- Jews. I was also told that most of the 1940 newcomers were young men who were married to Dominican Catholic women. Also, that the children of the survivors who came to Sosua after World War II, via Shanghai and Israel, married non- Jews. In my conversations with the colonists, I gathered that to them intermarriage is a very "natural" phenome- non, justifiable by the fact that "also the non-Jews attend the synagogue." F----.'c Benjamin, born in the formerly German city of Breslau (now Wroclaw, in Poland), where he was a carpenter and now the owner of a 360-acre farm and ]00 cows, is engaged in the renovation of the syna- gogue which was built shortly after the arrival of the refugees in Sosua. The $20,000 required for this project will be raised in the Jewish community of whose center Benjamin is the treasurer. The special occasions during which the colonists gather in the synagogue are the Passover sedorim, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and bar mitzvahs, which are observed even in inter- married families. Although the remaining Jews in the area are far from Orthodox, they use prayer books of the Orthodox version. While in the synagogue, I accidental- ly came across a slichot book (penitential prayers), printed in the German city of Redelheim in 1865. There are many more rare antique items in this place than are congregants to ap- preciate them. The president of the synagogue, Manfred HERITAGE, Florida Jewish News, February 1E 1RO. Pap 5 Hewman, who is a farmer and insurance agent, is more hopeful regarding the future of the community than are the rest of the Jewish resi- dents of Sosua. He bases his optimism on the fact that many of the younger people are returning to the farms. He, his wife and family came to Sosua in l 9.54 from Israel, where they resided for 20 years. The Jewish leaders plan to erect a museum near the synagogue that will depict and house the story of the arrival and life of the Jewish refugees in Sosua. This will be accomplished through exhibits of photographs, machinery, as well as other memorabilia. The object of this museum will be to portray the creativity and contribution of the Jewish settlers to the Dominican Republic, as well as to express their appreciation to its people and government for the opportunities extended to them in their hour of need. According to an interview I had with Minister Victor C.abral, former diplomat, Present members of the Cabinet and very prominent personality of Santo Domingo, I was informed that the government is highly in favor of the museum proj- ect undertaking in Sosua. Some of the Prominent Jews Of the 50 Jewish families now residing in Santo Domingo, there may be only about ten of them who have not intermarried. Their 80- seat synagogue, built in 19.54, is located in the vicinity of the Israel Embassy and is used mainly on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. As in Sosua, this commun- ity, too, has no rabbi, no ritual slaughterer or circumciser. Also, their prayers are conducted in the Orthodox manner. The president of this group is the 58-year-old Rudolph Frankenberg, who came from Palestine in 1947. The 8g-year-old Bruno Philipp, owner of a furniture factory and real estate man, is considered the elder statesman of the colony and is the Honorary Consul General of Israel in the Dominican Republic. I met him in his luxurious quarter. million dollar home in the presence of Nachemia Tevell, First Secretary of the Israel Embassy in Santo Domingo. There I was informed that Philipp came to Santo Domingo in I g39, before the outbreak of World War II from Germany where he was a successful banker. Shortly after his arrival in the Dominican Republic, he became the advisor to dictator Rafael Trujillo on the institution of a viable bank system in his new land. Among the mostly highly esteemed and prominent Jewish residents in this area is the industrialist, Samuel Bild, president of the Keren Hayesod for the Dominican Republic, who is in constant touch with Miami because of the important and vibrant activities of its Jewish residents in behalf of all vital Jewish causes. Excdent Relations Noted The attitude of the entire Dominican society is most friendly toward Israel and Jewry as a whole. President Antonio Guzman is a staunch friend of the Jewish people and his government is particularly grateful to Israel for the help of its agricultural experts, who have contributed so much to its land developmenL With very few exceptions, the Dominican Republic has no diplomatic relations with any of the Communist or Arab countries. Jordan has an Honorary Consul in Santo Domingo and Lebanon is represented by its Ambassador in Venezuela. At present there is an accord with Egypt on being represented diplo- matically by its Venezuelan Ambassador. The Foreign Ministry of Santo Domingo declared that in view of the new developments between Egypt and Israel it, too, is ready to resume friendly rela- tions with that country. The ,Santo Domingo tele- phone directory abounds in Jewish names, such as Cohen and Levi. However, none of these are names of Jews. They are just the result of romantic involvements of young Jewish men with Gentile women whose offspring carry the Jewish names. [ Propaganda "Komix"Now Distributed Here 41 :, ;. -J' - " , :' on..e/se's/oZ ., .f / ,#." I red , N=yyear, o,n,iandca//edl:e,br.'..%= ' :  "1 21L I *l?eyal ncl enOuh lOld  liv on  A  "lhel'L "!'1.' I-- , I OwecaUwscarnecEu I /     I'x*howll:. ',-I OF PLO PROPAGANDA has hit the Ror/da area, thL t/me in lea et was distributed ht the ALtamonte Mall prldng lot near Orlando bg a goung " a small 4-page leaflet filled with distortJons, mlslnforma, girl carrglng religious pamphlets. The leaflet depicts the United Stes am being on about the Palestinlans, Israel and Yasir aL  parlicular the side of the Israetis, while the Soolets are with the t\>estLnn