Barbados gets Guinness World Record

Monday, July 28, 2008


Barbados gets Guinness World Record
Dateline - 25th Jun 2008

Barbados has been honoured with a Guinness World Record for having received the most ocean rowers on its shores.

The award was presented at a ceremony hosted by the Ocean Rowers Society in London and attended by over 150 people, including Barbadian, Phil Als who rowed the Atlantic with Randel Valdez in 2003.

The Guinness World Record was achieved as a result of 101 people having rowed the Atlantic to Barbados, a distance of approximately 2,550 nautical miles.

The first boat comprising a crew of 14, which sailed across the Atlantic in 33 days, 30 hours and seven minutes, arrived in Barbados on January 14, 2008.

The Atlantic Rowing Race is the most famous ocean-rowing event and is largely responsible for the sport's higher profile in recent years. The human endurance, strength and mental discipline required have led to ocean rowing being described as 'the new Everest'.

It has also been announced that Barbados will be the destination of the 2010 Atlantic Rowing Race.

On receiving the award on behalf of Barbados, European Vice-President of Marketing and Sales at the Barbados Tourism Authority, Petra Roach, said Barbados is extremely proud to be associated with such valour and courage.

Public Invited on Trip to Barbados Exploring Ties to South Carolina


Public Invited on Trip to Barbados Exploring Ties to South Carolina

Last update: 4:22 p.m. EDT July 27, 2008

COLUMBIA, S.C., July 27, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The South Carolina National Heritage Corridor (SCNHC) has announced plans to invite the public to join them on a trip to Barbados October 22-26, 2008, to explore the long-standing historical and cultural connections between them.

The connection dates back to the birth of the Carolina colony when a boat carrying English planters and African slaves from Barbados landed at what is now Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in 1670.

South Carolina's African American Heritage

The four-day heritage symposium will focus on the ties that still exist between the Caribbean island and the southeastern state. The visible connections between the two have grown over the past 338 years and are evident in South Carolina's culture, arts, food, architecture, language, agriculture, African American heritage and government structure.

Traveling Art & History Exhibit

The trip is the culminating event of a traveling art and history exhibit which has been on the road since December 2007, and which is jointly sponsored by the SCNHC and the Barbados Ministry of Tourism. The exhibit, entitled The Connection, comprises more than 70 pieces from South Carolinian and Barbadian artists representing various media that reflect the similarities of the two in the fields of agriculture, horticulture, arts, African American and maritime heritage. In addition to the artwork, the show includes an interpretive exhibit highlighting the rich historical and cultural connection still present between the island and the South Carolina of today.

The "international connection" has been highlighted in a new and innovative way as the exhibit marks the first time that a congressionally designated National Heritage Area has pushed beyond its borders to partner with another country in a project of this magnitude. In so doing, both locales are afforded a more complete understanding of their own past while also benefiting from the positive economic impact that such a heightened awareness of similarities brings.

Speakers, Touring & Local Cuisine

The trip will include tours, speakers, and traveling workshops with visits to the George Washington House, St. Nicholas Abbey, Caribbean Art Gallery, and various gardens and churches. In addition, the rich local cuisine will be highlighted throughout the trip.

The cost of the trip is $850 plus lodging and leaves from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. For more information, go to and click on The Connection.

SOURCE South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism

Reclaiming the Jewish past in Barbados

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Who were the 'Bearded Ones?'

Reclaiming the Jewish past in Barbados

San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage, April. 6, 2001

By Donald H. Harrison

Bridgetown, Barbados (special) --In just a glance, a visitor may see evidence of the decline and subsequent rise of the tiny Jewish community of Barbados.

The 17th-century cemetery is adjacent to the synagogue, which recently has been restored in large measure thanks to the efforts of Paul Altman.

CEMETERY AND SYNAGOGUE-- Paul Altman stands in 17th century cemetery adjacent to original synagogue of Barbados, which has undergone renovation. The grave of his grandfather,
Moses Altman, who led the family's migration from Poland to Barbados in 1931. also is in this cemetery.

When his grandfather, Moses Altman, came to Barbados from Poland in 1931, he found that the Jews had all left the island. Members of the once thriving community had scattered in many directions.

"Some went to Britain because of Barbados being British," Paul Altman told me. "Some went to the United States when the U.S. opened up. The various hurricanes were another reason some left. A lot of them became assimilated.

"Today, Barbadians of all creeds and colors will tap me on the shoulder and say, 'you know my grandfather, or my great-grandfather, left us something from the synagogue and we would like to contribute.'"

In 1925, Edmund Baeza, who then was considered the Caribbean island's last Jewish resident, sold the synagogue which had been capable of accommodating 300 congregants. Baeza donated the proceeds of the sale, amounting to 500 British pounds, to the Bevis Marks Synagogue in London, England.

There had been a longstanding relationship between Bevis Marks Synagogue--which follows the Sephardic rite--and the synagogue in Barbados, which was established approximately in 1654 by Sephardic immigrants from Brazil. While the exact date that the first Jewish settlers arrived in Barbados is not known, it is believed it was as early as 1628--one year after British settlement on this Caribbean island began.

FUTURE MUSEUM-- This old schoolhouse building, adjacent to the old Jewish cemetery, has been obtained by the Jewish community for a future museum.

After Baeza sold the synagogue building to Henry Graham Yearwood, it was used for a variety of purposes, including as a law library, turf club and warehouse. Except for weathering, the adjacent cemetery meanwhile was left unchanged--and now requires considerable renovation.

E.M. Shilstone, a local historian, had proposed to Baeza that the synagogue be maintained as a monument to Barbados' early Jewish settlers, among whom were members of the de Mercado family, who were credited with bringing to Barbados the sugar refining industry. After Baeza rejected his offer of a lower amount of money for the synagogue building, Shilstone carefully photographed the interior of the synagogue as well as the inscriptions on the gravestones in the cemetery.

Among them was an inscription on the tomb of Benjamin Massiah, extolling him for having been "a reader of the Jews' Synagogue for many years without a fee or reward and performed the office of Circumciser with great applause and dexterity..."

Moses Altman supported himself as a peddlar, gradually working himself up to a shop keeper. In 1932, his son Henry, followed him over, and eventually a new Jewish settlement of approximately 40 families took root in Barbados. They built themselves a small synagogue, which they named Shaare Tzedek, in a neighborhood of Bridgetown called Rockley. They continued to use the Jewish cemetery adjacent to the old synagogue building for their burials, however.

So matters stood until the late 1970s, when the government of Barbados acquired the old synagogue building by condemnation and made plans to level it so that the lot it stood on could be used for the expansion of the nearby Supreme Court building.

Historical preservation was far from a governmental priority at the time. In fact, Barbados' original Parliament Building once had stood next to the synagogue, and it was destroyed to make room for expansion. Known as Codd's House, it was a building which had housed some important history. It was there, for example, that the Emancipation Bill had been signed during the 1800s, forever outlawing slavery in Barbados.

As destruction came to Codd's House, so too was it planned for what once had been God's house.

Henry Altman became concerned, however, when the government proposed not only to destroy the former synagogue building, but also to take about 10 feet of the Jewish cemetery, which would require the relocation of some of the bodies buried there.

The Altman family immediately began a campaign to preserve both the synagogue and the cemetery.

RESTORED INTERIOR-- Almost every thing inside the old synagogue in Bridgetown, Barbados-- whether the chandeliers, bima, the reader's table or Ten Commandments-- have stories attached to them attesting to the dedication of the current Jewish community to remembering the past.

Henry Altman had an important ally in his son, Paul, who then was serving on the board of the Barbados National Trust. The son went to the Shilstone Library of the Barbados Museum and found Shilstone's photographs which showed exactly how the synagogue's interior once had looked. So armed, he paid a call on Barbados Prime Minister Tom Adams, who told him "if you can find the money to restore the building, we will give you the building."

Fired up, the small Jewish community in Barbados set about contacting potential allies throughout the world.

"Everyone said we were crazy; 'you will never do it!'" Altman recalled to me during an interview at the old synagogue, located within easy walking distance of the pier where our cruise ship, MV Olympic Voyager, had docked that morning.

"Where were we going to get $1 million U.S. currency to restore an old broken down building which no one might ever use?" Altman asked rhetorically. "We set about our task by simply putting one worker to chip away at the building, because that was all that we had funds for at the time. We told him to tell anyone who came and asked what he was doing to say that he was just getting some facts because a major restoration was starting, and that they could contribute to that."

The preservationist eventually attracted contributions from the Commonwealth Jewish Council in Britian, the American Jewish Congress the Canadian Jewish Congress, and individual donors.

BRIDGETOWN SHOPPING-- The flags of many nations wave over the crowded shopping avenue in Bridgetown Barbados.

"I went and attended various meetings, invited them here, and got people to write articles for newspapers in different areas, and people saw that we were serious," Altman recalled.

With the help of Shilstone's photographs, the community set about to restore the old building to its former self.

"It was like putting a puzzle together," said Altman. "One of the first things we did was we found out that the University of Florida had a program called PIC-- Preservation in the Caribbean. ...They sent us a School of Architecture graduate student who came and spent three months and worked with a firm in Barbados, who offered their services."

The Barbados Museum had a few pieces from the synagogue, like an original bench, and other pieces were located both on the island and elsewhere. Last year, for example, "a lady from the Winterthur Museum came here ... because she wanted to discuss the original chandeliers. But they wouldn't give them back, and I went as far as speaking with Mr. Shapiro, who was then president or chairman of Dupont (which underwrote the museum).

"He happened to be a Jewish man, whom I thought I could appeal to in terms of the cause, but he said it would be up to the curator of the museum and he couldn't impose his wishes on her," Altman recalled. "The feeling was that if you returned artifacts such as those chandeliers to their places of origin, then the museum would cease to have a reason to exist. I argued differently of course. I said this was one opportunity that presented itself, whereas many wouldn't."

Even though the synagogue couldn't recover its original chandeliers, it was able to commission artisans to make replicas, which were installed in the old sanctuary.

Altman was more successful with the "Ten Commandments" which originally had been placed over the aron kodesh. It turned out the tablets "were hanging over the swimming pool in the former residence of an ex governor general of Barbados." Known as Illaro Court, the house later had become the residence of the Prime Minister of Barbados. (I couldn't help but wonder if anyone had posted near the tablets, an 11th Commandment saying "Thou shalt not run near the pool.")

"When we were assembling the (synagogue) building, the Prime Minister at the time was Bernard St. John, who is now Sir Bernard St. John, and his wife, Stella," continued Altman, waving off my dive into humor. "Stella had a particular link with a man called Teddy Reitman, who was the honorary consul of Barbados in Israel. He had befriended the St. John family in Israel, and in fact,they had visited his house near Tel Aviv. Teddy Reitman approached Stella, and Stella was immediately willing. She said 'Come and take them,' and we put them back here."

Local artisans were commissioned to reproduce the old wood bima as well as the reader's table, which faced each other in the configuration typical of Sephardic shuls.

"We have superb craftsmen in Barbados, just like the ones who would have made the original ones back in the 1600's," Altman said. "These were done by a very talented man by the name of Andy Tempro-- our families have known each other for many years. He builds furniture. In fact, he is connected with Princess Margaret's son, Lindsey, who is in the area, and they have a common interest in the reproduction of antique furniture and that type of thing."

Altman said although there were always monetary pressures, he insisted upon quality. "For example, someone said they could do these moldings a lot cheaper if they did them out of fiber glass, and I said 'absolutely not. What was here was wood.' We used mahogany. I suppose because of my National Trust hat and links that I don't believe in synthetics when it comes to doing a restoration of an old building."

During the winter months, the Jewish community holds its services in the old synagogue building, which, as in days of old, has no air conditioning. But during the hot months of summer, they retreat to the smaller, but air conditioned, Shaare Tzedek for their services.

Besides restoration of the old synagogue, Altman has arranged for the repair of the cemetery and plans a Jewish museum in a nearby school house following renovation.

The cemetery project started only after "we had someone we could have 100 percent confidence in. We found that person in Evan Mielner-- a British fellow, who has a degree in stone work, and has experience as a hobby in archeology. ... He has done a tremendous amount of research. He belongs to the Bevis Marks he understands all the religious requirements that attaches to that type of Spanish graveyard."

Restoration of the cemetery "is a slow process, and he has left instructions for the gentlemen who are here. He (Mielner) comes three months a year and works on his hands and knees with them doing the work and then leaves a detailed set of instructions, and they continue. We have two men who slowly, laboriously, piece by piece, are doing it. If it takes ten years, it will take ten years, but it will be done right and that is my concern."

One of the local artisans is Charles Leslie, "who must be given full credit for what he has done," Altman said. "He has put years of his life into this work, and although he is not Jewish, he considers this his purpose in life to continue this job. He is so committed to it."

Besides repairing broken stones, the team has chiseled onto the stones lost letters, using for guidance inscriptions from Shilstone's book--as well as some records found at the Bevis Marks Synagogue.

I asked Altman to try to put in words what motivates him.

"I will tell you what is in my heart," he replied. "When I walked into this building for the first time, people walked me around and said that these tiles here were the original tiles, although at the time they were so dirty you could hardly see them, and that under the fake ceiling there was another ceiling. As I looked around, I saw the graveyard and I recognized the significance and the history, and I felt a part of it for whatever reason...

"Barbados has something special," Altman added. "It has that history; it has that attachment to the Jewish presence here, the African presence here, the British presence here. "

According to legend, the name " Las Barbados," meaning "the bearded ones," in Portuguese, refers to a type of fig tree found on the island by explorers. While he can't disprove the legend, Altman prefers his alternative explanation for the island's name.

"If you check anywhere in Barbados, the only Portuguese names that are in Barbados, and the ones which are from the original settlement, are in this graveyard," he said. "So I suggest that 'Las Barbados' really referred to those bearded Jewish settlers who came here..."

Who'd have thought? A Jewish island!

Crop Over

We've never been in Barbados but it sounds like fun. It's kind of like the Caribbean Junkanoo which we have attended.

Here's more info about this year's Crop Over from

Barbados gears up for a 'sweet' celebration: Crop Over 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Celebrations for Crop Over, Barbados's most popular festival, are now in gear and run until August 4. The festival, which dates back to the 1780s when Barbados was one of the world's foremost sugar producers, commemorates the end of the sugar cane season with an exciting and vibrant extravaganza of music and masquerade, heritage and culture. The grand finale, and a universally celebrated national holiday, known as Kadooment Day, occurs Monday, August 4 with a colourful and lively parade of costumed dancers and fireworks.

Crop Over kicks off with a grand opening gala and continues for five weeks of carnival inspired fun. Highlights include the Pic-O-De-Crop Finals, on Friday, August 1, where eight finalists compete for the year's crown and top prizes in an exciting calypso competition. Cohobblopot, taking place on Sunday, August 3, allows costume bands to show off their dazzling costumes to the sounds of local calypso hits, while competing for the title of King and Queen of Crop Over for 2008.

The final day of the festival culminates with Grand Kadooment, a summer street carnival filled with people dancing to Caribbean Soca music and wearing elaborate multi-coloured costumes and body paint.

The island of Barbados offers the most authentic Caribbean experience with its exceptionally rich culture and history rooted in remarkable landscapes, including St Philips beach, which was voted one of the world's sexiest beaches for 2008 by It is the first and only Zagat rated Caribbean island with numerous internationally renowned chefs who masterfully put signature spins on local delicacies and traditions.

Barbados is also an ideal stage for world-class events and has hosted numerous athletic championships, including the ICC Cricket World Cup Final 2007 and the 2006 PGA World Golf Championship - The Barbados World Cup.

Accommodations range from picturesque plantation houses and villas to quaint bed and breakfasts to award-winning five-star resorts. The newly renovated Grantley Adams International Airport offers non-stop and direct service from a growing number of US cities via Air Jamaica, American Airlines, Delta and US Airways, making Barbados the true gateway to the Eastern Caribbean.

Memories - 911

Monday, July 21, 2008

We have been to Barbados many times. While I am rebuilding this blog post-hackers I will try to remember some of these past trips and post about them here

The year of 911 my mom and my son had been with us for the first week. My son had to be back at college so on Sunday he shepherded my mom through the airport, customs and all and got her back home before he headed back to UMass/Amherst on Monday. Thank goodness they got back before the mayhem started!

On Tuesday we were out on a 4X4 with our favorite guide, Zario. Zario is a fun guy and and very knowledgeable about Barbados and world events. We were very happy to have him again because it was the "luck of the draw" which driver/guide we got.

I remember that morning being kind of stressed already - I was having trouble with one of my contacts and I was just grumpy.

Zario picked us up first, one of the benefits of staying at The Crane - everyone picks us first for everything and drops us off last. Then he picked up another couple from New York City who were staying at Bougainvillea.

The tour started off through the fields, down cliffs as usual. Zario had the radio on in the background. When we got to the first stop he told us that there was a "problem" in New York. That it seemed that a plane had hit a building. We thought that there was going to be a punch line somewhere. There wasn't.

As the tour went on, the news got worse. The couple from NYC was very worried about relatives.

By the time we got to lunch and met up with the other 4x4s everyone had heard. We were in a little chattal house restaurant, the TV was on CNN and everyone was just watching in silence and horror. Usually this lunch is very festive and fun. Not a care in the world. Not today.

We left the New York off at their hotel and went "home". The TV was full of New York news, then Pentagon news. We know people who work at the Pentagon. The news just got worse as we went along.

When Saturday came we had no idea if we could go back to the states or not. But we had to try.

We were able to fly to Puerto Rico with no idea if we'd be able to leave there or not.

Eventually, we were told we could fly out on American Airlines, on the first plane to get clearance to fly back to the states. We were flying into Dulles Airport, outside Washington, DC.

The captain and crew came marching up the corridor with huge American flags and everyone cheering wildly.

When we settled in, the captain thanked us for flying American - like we had a choice! - and more cheering.

When we got back to DC airspace we were met by two fighter planes, one on each side. There may have been one behind. The captain tried to tell us that they were there for our protection but I was sure that they would shoot us down in a heartbeat if we tried anything funny.

While we taxied both out of Puerto Rico and into Dulles the co-pilot held that flag out the window. Wild applause when we finally landed safely.

A very memorable trip!

Posted by MaryO at 3:14 PM 0 comments  

Starting again

I had a whole blog about Barbados a couple months ago. Then the hackers got it so it's gone. I can't rebuild the blog that I lost but I can start again, once more...

I wanted to get started on this again since we'll be going on our annual trip to our second home - Beautiful Barbados!

Posted by MaryO at 4:12 AM 0 comments