Plaque marks historical Jewish burial ground

POSTED: 10/16/12 1:13 PM

St. Maarten – Earlier this month a plaque was dedicated to the former Jewish burial ground at Radio Shack on Longwall Road. Rabbi Moshe Chanowitz said a blessing and unveiled the solid bronze plaque together with lecturer and researcher Dana Cohen-Sprott.

In attendance were archeologist Jay Haviser, Catyana Skory of Broward’s Sheriff’s office, forensic anthropologist Dr. Tony Falsetti, the ombudsman of the American Intercontinental University and director of library services Sharon Argov and Radio shack owner Barbara Cannegieter. The plaque, donated by Diamonds International, commemorates the location of the Jewish burial ground that was in place from 1740 until1860.

Archeologist Haviser conducted a dig behind Radio Shack in 2010 based on research by Dana Cohen-Sprott. During this dig a skull was found.

Cohen-Sprott contacted the Broward’s Sherriff’s office and Catyana Skory, the forensic artist in the crime lab, spent the last three years recreating the skull into a bust.

Cohen-Sprott lectures on the lost Jews of St. Maarten on October 4 during the fall lecture series at the University of St. Martin in collaboration with the Philipsburg Jubilee Library.

During this lecture, the researcher showed cadastral documents that pinpoint the exact location of the historical burial ground. Skory showed the reconstruction process for the skull. The bust she created is now in the collection of the National Heritage Foundation and Museum in Speetjens Steeg in Philipsburg.

The bust remains on display at the library this month as part of the Anne Frank exhibition. Next month it will move to its permanent exhibition place at the museum, accompanied by a panel designed by graphic artist Loic Bryan of Artistic Drive.

Cohen-Sprott showed in her lecture the ruin of St. Maarten’s Jewish community’s synagogue. It was built in 1783 and destroyed in 1819.

Dr. Falsetti and Catyana Skory did ground penetrating radar studies at the location of the former synagogue. Photographic evidence from the 1940s and references from Dr. Hartog’s book The history of St. Maarten combined with oral histories indicate that there were graves behind the West Indian Tavern – today’s Guavaberry Emporium on Front Street. The graves were removed in the 1980s to make space for a septic tank.

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