Jammin’ Jamaicans


Some strange twists emerge from a recent Jamaican conference on Caribbean Jews.

Neil Rubin

A ton of locals can claim Jewish heritage, reports The JTA Wire Service’s Gil Shefler. Indeed, a scan of the telephone directory confirms that “Thousands of Cohens, Levys and Gabays are listed. But the local Jewish congregation numbers a mere 200 members.”

Among the island’s potential descendants from Clan Hebrew are Jamaican dance-hall musician Sean Paul, whose paternal grandfather was Jewish. Then there’s Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records, the mogul who made mega-bucks by signing and promoting musicians Bob Marley, U2 and Oasis. His mother’s maiden name was Lindo, same as a prominent island Jewish family.

Even the great calypso singer Harry Belafonte has ties to the Tribe. His Jamaican-born father’s family name is a corruption of Delevante, another of the island’s great Jewish misphochas.

Enter the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, Nation of Islam Anti-Semite in Chief and Bowtie Aficionado Extraordinaire. While touring the island, he once stopped by Kingston’s synagogue. He confessed to a guide his belief in Jewish Portuguese ancestry on dad’s side, which happened to be Jamaican.

So what about the most famous Jamaican, Bob Marley? No chance mahn… but a son did marry an Israeli, which makes their kids half “jammin’ junior Jews.”

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