Domini­can Haven: The Jew­ish Refugee Set­tle­ment in Sosua, 1940 – 1945

Mar­i­on A. Kaplan
  • Review
By – January 13, 2012

I have heard of the per­se­cu­tion of the Jews in sev­er­al Euro­pean states and I ven­ture to inform you that there is a coun­try, the Domini­can Repub­lic, which has every prospect for the future. There your co-reli­gion­ists will be received with open arms.” With these words by the Domini­can leader Gen­er­al Gre­go­rio Luper­on, a safe haven was cre­at­ed. The small refugee agri­cul­tur­al set­tle­ment on the iso­lat­ed north­east­ern cor­ner of the island wel­comed Jews who fled from Nazi Ger­many in the late 1930’s. The Amer­i­can Jew­ish Joint Dis­tri­b­u­tion Com­mit­tee pro­vid­ed pas­sage to the island along with con­tin­u­al assis­tance. The Domini­can Repub­lic Set­tle­ment Asso­ci­a­tion (DOR­SA) pro­vid­ed a mod­el for oth­er Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries that har­bored refugees dur­ing and after the war. Although many of the peo­ple did not stay in the DR, choos­ing to immi­grate to coun­tries whose cul­tures were more famil­iar, their sto­ries offer exam­ple of what refugees face. The Domini­cans did not dis­crim­i­nate and warm­ly accept­ed the set­tlers. Those read­ers look­ing for a unique, pos­i­tive sto­ry focus­ing on the good­ness of peo­ple should con­sid­er this book. (Inter­est­ing­ly, Tru­jil­lo, the Latin Amer­i­can dic­ta­tor, sup­port­ed the project.) A bilin­gual (Span­ish and Eng­lish) exhi­bi­tion held at The Muse­um of Jew­ish Her­itage in New York City accom­pa­nied the launch­ing of the book. 

Mar­i­on A. Kaplan, author of Beyond Dig­ni­ty and Despair: Jew­ish Life in Nazi Ger­many, orga­nizes her his­to­ry into sev­en well defined chap­ters in chrono­log­i­cal order. The pho­tographs of life on the farm empha­size the role of agri­cul­ture in the endeav­or. Indeed it was farm­ing that was the dri­ving force of the set­tle­ment, giv­ing Jews a new voca­tion that enabled them to exist and even thrive in this haven. If the sto­ry of the Jews of Sosúa is a mod­el for imple­ment­ing a reset­tle­ment pro­gram, Mar­i­on Kaplan’s con­cise, orga­nized his­to­ry serves as an ide­al way of telling such a sto­ry. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, end­notes, index, pho­tos, timeline.

Sal­ly M. Brown served as librar­i­an at the Min­nie Cobey Memo­r­i­al Library at Con­gre­ga­tion Tifer­eth Israel in Colum­bus Ohio for twen­ty years. After mov­ing to Philadel­phia last year, she is serv­ing as librar­i­an at Main Line Reform Tem­ple in Wyn­newood, PA.

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