In March 1999 the discussion of Jews in Haiti once again came up. Below are selected posts from that discussion. I am certainly open to adding yet more information if there are those of you who have contributions to add to what is below.
Bob Corbett, May 2001

From Eliabeth McAlister

Eliabeth McAlister

As the question of Jews in Haiti has surfaced again, let me let the list know that my scholarly article on the subject has just been published. I would like to thank the many members of the Corbett list who corresponded with me on the subject last year and the year before. Here is the publishing info:

Elizabeth McAlister, "The Jew in the Haitian Imagination: Pre-Modern Anti-Judaism in the Post-Modern Caribbean." In Chireau and Deutch, eds, Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism. Oxford University Press, 1999.

Here is a brief summary: This piece begins with the contemporary Haitian ritual of "bwile jwif" or burning Judas in effigy, and argues that the medieval Christian association of "the Jews" with the devil, cannibalism, poisoning, desecration of the host, etc., were "blueprints for demonization" and were transferred wholesale onto Africans and Afro-Creoles in the colony of San Domingue. "Burning the Jew" is the result of "inherited anti-Judaism." The piece goes on to discuss interview material with Rara presidents who stated to me over and over that Rara was a "Jewish festival" practiced first upon the crucifixion of Christ. The article argues that some Haitians like these Rara members, embrace the negative referent of "the Jew" as a way to position themselves against Catholic hegemony. The article ends with a brief outline of the "real" history of Jewish migration to Haiti and talks about other images of "the Jew" in Haitian society (carnival, Vodou, diaspora politics, etc). (This is a very abridged version of a complex argument) The whole piece sits in a larger volume about African American and Jewish religious interactions.

Thanks again to the list members for the many conversations on the subject in past years.

* * * * * * * * *

Elizabeth McAlister
Department of Religion
Wesleyan University
Middletown, CT 06459
Tel: (860) 685-2289
Fax: (860) 685-2821
Home page of Elizabeth McAlister


From Max Blanchet

Max Blanchet

Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1999

There are a few Haitian families of Jewish descent: the Cardozos, Monsantos, Wieners, Fabius, Dreyfuss, etc.


From LBM


Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1999

I would recommend a book by David Nicholls, titled "Haiti in Caribbean Context." This book is about the "Levantine Movement" in the Caribbean in General and has a specific tilt on Haiti.
He is also the author of "From Dessalines to Duvaliers: Race, Colour, and National Independence in Haiti."


From S. Seitz

S. Seitz

Date: Sat., 18 Dec 1999

Gilbert Bigio is definitely the leader of the Jewish community in Haiti. The Community used to be quite strong in Port-au-Prince, celebrating Seders and each holiday together. Leading members sat Shiva for my husband Al Seitz when he died in Haiti in 1986.

Some time in the late 60's and in the 70's, there was an Israeli Mission into Haiti, dealing mostly with Agriculture. At that time, there was actually an Ambassador from Israel. When my husband (a Jewish American from New York, direct descendant of Russian Jews)and myself (a Scotch-Irish American from Penna.) ran the Oloffson during that time, we flew the Israeli flag along with the Haitian flag when the Ambassador stayed with us.

Herb Gold (The Best Nightmare on Earth, etc. etc.) once researched the Jewish connection in Haiti, and either wrote a book or included the info in another book. Unfortunately for us, Herb is not on email but lives in San Francisco.

There are probably others who know more exact information, but Haiti's connection with Israel is strong. Didn't Haiti give the deciding vote in the United Nations to declare Israel a country? Please forgive my almost accurate but slightly failing memory as I am out of New York and indeed out of the country until next week & cannot check facts.

s seitz


From MMKanarek


Date: Sat., 18 Dec 1999

The contact address for the jewish community in SHaiti according to the World Jewish Congress is
PO Box 687
Port -au-Prince
Tel 509 1 20 638


Art, Music, & Dance Book Reviews Film History Library Literature
Mailing List Miscellaneous Topics Notes on Books People to People Voodoo


Bob Corbett