I am descended from Jews on both sides of my family.Â My mother's line, the DePass, dates all the way back to the Spanish occupation of the Island.Â According to family tradition I am of English/German Jewish descent on my father's side, Therefore I am both Askenazi and Sephardic.Â The distinctions are not all that clear however.
The Sephardic Jews came here in 1530 according to the historic record that I have read.Â The Inquisition was instituted about 1480 to unite Spain as one nation under one religion.Â The persecution intensified in the 1490's under Tomas de Torquemada.Â The Jews were never allowed to face their accusers in open court and were never afforded legal council.Â In one report that I read, one man was accused because he would not eat pork.Â The defense that his refusal stemmed from his difficulty with digesting it was ignored.
They were subjected to the most cruel torture and many were force "converted" to "Christianity".Â To escape the persecution they migrated in droves.Â Many were expelled.Â Several families came here.Â I have traced the DePass name as far back as the 17th century.Â They may have changed their name to avoid persecution. I have been told that DePass is of Portuguese origin and they pretended to be Portuguese.Â I have not been able to confirm it, but their name was supposed to have originally been La Paz.Â That ruse, if that is what they did, would have resulted in their being expelled.
The earliest Jamaican record that has been shown to me is a notation of a marriage between Moses Delgado and Leah DePass in 1811.Â She was the daughter of Jacob DePass.Â Unfortunately, the record of the Jewish families of Port Royal is extremely sparse.
When the English captured Jamaica, the Jews were very glad to stay.Â Some evenÂ made request to Oliver Cromwell to migrate to England.Â The request was granted probably because they were such successful bankers and were fluent in Spanish,Â both of which could prove of great benefit to the English economy.Â Cromwell's permission made the English Empire very attractive to the Jews and many came.Â They were even granted citizenship and could legally own property.
Notwithstanding their unusually good relationship with the English however, they were always second class citizens and throughout their history under English rule they kept up a relentless legal battle for full status as citizens.Â This was finally granted in stages.Â They were given the right to vote in 1831, gained political power and more freedom.
The ruins of theÂ Neveh Shalohm which was built in 1704 and destroyed by fire has been discovered.Â The names on the cemetery gravestones is supposed to include "de Pass", my ancestors.Â I will attempt to get details about them from the Neveh Shalohm Institute here in Kingston.
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