After the arrival of the settlers in 1940, the DORSA ordered the construction of five buildings; one of these buildings was the synagogue. The building was smaller than the existing barracks that had been left by the United Fruit Company, but it had similar architecture. The main characteristics of the synagogue were a wood frame, tall ceilings, louvered windows, separate rows of benches for women and men, and a mahogany ark that housed the Torahs. One of these Torahs was given by Chief Rabbi Pacifica of Genoa to a  group of 33 settlers that left Italy October 9, 1940. It was an antique “Sefer Torah” (Scroll of the Law) presented to them as “a token of religious unity.”

The synagogue was the center of religious celebrations, from Shabbat services to the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as well as bar mitzvahs, weddings and memorial services. Several leaders and rabbis served the community from its earliest days. Rabbi Steinmetz was the congregational leader in Ciudad Trujillo and came to Sosúa to conduct services before the synagogue was constructed. Ernst Fialla, who was a farmer from Czechoslovakia, began leading services in December 1940, conducting them in Hebrew. Assisting him were David Schweitzer and Moses Arnoldi, who eventually became the community’s religious leader until the late 1960s. Manfred Neumann and his son Avi took over these responsibilities until the mid-1980s.

Services at the synagogue were conducted in the traditional Orthodox way at the beginning. Settlers who lived in El Batey walked to the services, while others came by horse or horse-drawn wagons in the early days.

The synagogue remains as a symbol of Sosúa’s past, and currently has an adjacent museum with exhibits of the Jewish history of the town.



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