The campaign to restore our historic Synagogue

     For 166 years, the St. Thomas Synagogue has held its door open to the world -- to Jews and non-Jews, residents and travelers, worshippers and visitors.
      Now this irreplaceable landmark of Caribbean, American and Jewish history is in urgent need of your support.
     First constructed in 1796 on Synagogue Hill in downtown Charlotte Amalie, the Synagogue was twice destroyed by fire and rebuilt with contributions from St. Thomas and abroad.
      The Synagogue as it stands today -- a beautiful example of Danish colonial architecture -- was completed in 1833. Named B'racha V'shalom Ug'milut Chasadim ("Blessing and Peace and Loving Friendship"), it is the third oldest Synagogue in the Western Hemisphere and the oldest Synagogue building in continuous use in the United States.
     From its clean, elegant lines and sand-covered floor to the 18-arm Baccarat central chandelier and carved mahogany bima, the Synagogue embodies the unique blending of Old and New World traditions that has characterized the St. Thomas Jews.
      The first Jewish immigrants were Dutch merchants, descendants of Spanish Sephardim, who arrived via the Dutch West Indian Colony of St. Eustatius. Expelled from 'Statia during the American Revolutionary war for their sympathy toward -- and, in some instances, material support of -- the American colonists, they brought with them extensive business networks in both the New and Old Worlds. They were soon followed by traders from Morocco, San Dominique, Curacao, Barbados, Jamaica, London, Bordeaux, Bayonne and Hamburg.
     The St. Thomas Synagogue has a rich history that belies its modest proportions.
      The first Reform Service in the New World was held here on October 14, 1843. Among the prominent family names that have worshipped here are de Castro, Maduro, (Camille) Pissarro, Birch, Levi, Lilienfeld, deCosta, Cardoze, Paiewonsky and Toledano.
     Over the past century and a half, the Synagogue has withstood earthquakes, hurricanes and the punishing tropical climate. Yet time and the elements have taken a toll: Humidity is causing the interior and exterior walls to crumble.
      The front entry porch must be retiled and the supporting columns replastered. The Holy ark needs reconditioning and the Decalogue tablets must be replaced. Lighting and electrical systems must be updated.
     The Jewish Congregation of St. Thomas is seeking support in preserving this vital landmark.
      Under the guidance of St. Croix architect William Anglin Taylor, the congregation has undertaken a $300,000 renovation project to restore the Synagogue to its original beauty and protect it from deterioration.
     Each of the improvements listed below is available for dedication. Lead donors will be recognized with a permanent plaque in the Lilienfeld House adjacent to the Synagogue.
     * The Holy Ark will be covered and decorated with mahogany and marble, to match the original. $50,000.
     * The Synagogue Fašade and Interior Walls will be completely restored and recovered in lime plaster to protect them from the corrosive salt air. $35,000.
     * New Decalogue Tablets carved in gilded stone will replace the existing damaged plaster tablets. $25,000.
     * Entry Porch will be replastered and retiled to match the original. $20,000.
     * Interior and Exterior Columns (8) will be refurbished and have their beautiful moldings and details restored. $2,500 per column.
     * Eighteen-Arm Baccarat Chandelier hanging in the center of the Synagogue will be completely restored. $15,000.
     * Brass Candelabra (4) hanging throughout the Synagogue will be restored. $5,000 each.
     * Brass Sconces (4) adorning interior columns will be restored. $1,500 each.
     * Brass Torcheres (4) lighting the bima and ark will be refurbished. $1,000 each.
     * In addition, the Restoration Plan calls for extensive renovations to the adjacent gift shop to create an environmentally controlled space that will house the Weibel Museum and the installation of environmentally controlled display cases to house the Synagogue's historically significant archival records. $25,000.
     Funds are also needed to upgrade electrical and plumbing systems and to underwrite a wide range of small but crucial enhancements to the Synagogue.
     Please help us preserve the legacy of this historic Synagogue and community. Help assure that future generations of Jews will continue to thrive here and worship in freedom and security.
     Your generous gift to the Campaign to Restore the St. Thomas Synagogue will touch the lives of countless people and help sustain the flame of the Eternal Light far into the future.
     For more information on contributing to our restoration campaign, click here to e-mail us or call 340-774-4312. Checks may also be sent to:
     Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas
     PO Box 266
     St. Thomas, USVI 00802