Post­ed by Nao­mi Firestone-Teeter

Sev­en hun­dred and fifty Jew­ish refugees fled Nazi Ger­many and found­ed the agri­cul­tur­al set­tle­ment of Sosua in the Domini­can Repub­lic. Why did dic­ta­tor Gen­er­al Rafael Trugillo admit these des­per­ate refugees when so few nations would accept those flee­ing fas­cism? In a new book out next month, Trop­i­cal Zion: Gen­er­al Tru­jil­lo, FDR, and the Jews of Sosua, Allen Wells, a not­ed his­to­ri­an of Latin Amer­i­can, and also the son of one of the orig­i­nal Sosua colonists, exam­ines the sto­ry of the Jews of Sosua, com­bin­ing vivid nar­ra­tives about the found­ing of Sosua, the orig­i­nal set­tlers and their fam­i­lies, and the geopo­lit­i­cal rela­tion­ships that led to the colony’s found­ing. Wells also explores FDR’s role in the colony and how his sup­port strength­ened U.S. rela­tions with Latin America.

About a year ago, Mar­i­on A. Kaplan also came out with a book on the Sosua colony called Domini­can Haven; The Jew­ish Refugee Set­tle­ment in Sosua, 1940 – 1945, which was a final­ist for the 2008 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards in Holo­caust Stud­ies. Her title expands our under­stand­ing of the chal­lenges, oppor­tu­ni­ties and bar­ri­ers to refugee set­tle­ment any­where in the world and begins to answer many ques­tions about this most pecu­liar case of refugee migra­tion.The Domini­can Haven is a com­pan­ion vol­ume to an exhib­it that was open last year at the Muse­um of Jew­ish Her­itage. Two exam­ples of pho­tographs from the book and exhib­it are below:

Dairy Farm­ing. Amer­i­can Jew­ish Joint Dis­tri­b­u­tion Com­mit­tee (JDC) Archives [NY14917]

Sosua set­tlers Rosa and Heinz Less­er on their fin­ca [farm]. Cour­tesy of Han­ni Less­er Thuna

Orig­i­nal­ly from Lan­cast­er, Penn­syl­va­nia, Nao­mi is the CEO of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. She grad­u­at­ed from Emory Uni­ver­si­ty with degrees in Eng­lish and Art His­to­ry and, in addi­tion, stud­ied at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don. Pri­or to her role as exec­u­tive direc­tor, Nao­mi served as the found­ing edi­tor of the JBC web­site and blog and man­ag­ing edi­tor of Jew­ish Book World. In addi­tion, she has over­seen JBC’s dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives, and also devel­oped the JBC’s Vis­it­ing Scribe series and Unpack­ing the Book: Jew­ish Writ­ers in Conversation.