Dedication Of Plaque At Former Jewish Burial Ground

The dedication of a plaque at the former Jewish burial ground at Radio Shack on Friday, October 5, 2012 with Dr. Jay Haviser of SIMARC, Dana Cohen-Sprott, lecturer and researcher, Catyana Skory of Broward Sheriff’s Office, Dr. Tony Falsetti, Forensic Anthropologist, Barabara Cannegieter, owner of Radio Shack, Rabbi Moshe Chanowitz. Also in attendance was Sharon Argov, Ombudsman of the American Intercontinental University and Director of Library Services.


After Rabbi Chanowitz said a blessing, he and Cohen Sprott unveiled the solid bronze plaque that was donated by Diamond International. The plaque commemorates the location of the Jewish burial ground in St. Maarten from 1740-1860. Dr. Haviser conducted an archaeological dig in August 2010 behind Radio Shack based on the research by Cohen-Sprott and a skull was discovered. Mrs. Sprott contacted the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Catyana Skory, the Forensic Artist in the Crime Lab has spent the last three years recreating the skull into a bust.

Cohen-Sprott lectured on the Lost Jews of St. Maarten on Thursday, October 4 at the Fall 2012 Lecture Series at the University of St. Martin (USM) in collaboration with the Philipsburg Jubilee Library (PJL). In her lecture Cohen-Sprott showed the audience cadastral documents and was able to pinpoint the exact location of the Jewish burial ground. Skory showed the process for the reconstruction of the skull to a life like bust. Skory donated the bust to the National Heritage Foundation and Museum (NHFM)

The bust will be displayed for the month of October in the Philipsburg Jubilee Library as part of the Anne Frank Foundation’s "Reading and Writing with Anne Frank" Exhibition. It will move to its permanent home at the NHFM in Speetjens Arcade and will be accompanied by a panel designed by Loic Bryan of Artistic Drive. This will be part of the permanent exhibition at the NHFM commemorating the Jewish history of St. Maarten.

Her presentation also showed the ruin that was the synagogue of the Jewish community of St. Maarten from 1783 until it was destroyed in 1819. Ground penetrating radar studies were carried out by Dr. Falsetti and Skory at the location of the former Jewish Synagogue. Photographic evidence from the 1940s and references from Dr. Hartog’s book, "The History of St. Maarten", as well as five oral histories indicated that there were graves behind the West Indian Tavern known today as the Guavaberry Emporium. In the oral histories it was pointed out that these graves had funny writing on them. After the survey, it was determined that these graves were removed in the mid 1980s and a septic tank is there now.

In her conclusion, Cohen-Sprott thanked the management of Taste Factory for their generous donation and emphasized the importance of supporting our local museums, librararies and institutions of higher learning, as their preservation and growth are the cornerstone to every developing nation.