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13 June 2011

Jews of Tahiti

In searching through the records of the Jewish communities of Australia and New Zealand, I continue to find occasional references to the Jewish community of Tahiti. This has lead me to try and learn a little more of these Jews of Tahiti.

Not a great deal is known of the first Jews to arrive in the islands, however it was most likely someone travelling with Captain James Cook, who arrived in 1769.

The first Jew to actually live in Tahiti, was probably Alexander Salmon (1822-1866), a French Jew who was a banker by trade and was the son of a Rabbi from London. Ariel Scheib, in an article on the Jews of Tahiti, located at http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/, discusses how Alexander Salmon, married into the Royal family of Tahiti, when he married Princess Arrioehau, the leader of the local Teva tribe. Their daughter became the last queen of the Tahiti Islands.

The modern day history of the Jewish people on Tahiti, starts in the 1960's with the arrival of Jews from Algiers. These North African Jews considered themselves to be French, Sephardic and Orthodox. The first Synagogue, was built in 1993 at Papeete. The Jewish Community today is still small, about 125 people, however they maintain a people with a rich heritage.

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