by Tamara Audi, The Wall Street Journal
KINGSTON, Jamaica—This island nation boasts miles of pristine beaches, reggae music and the Western hemisphere's largest butterfly.
Now, it's promoting a new asset to tourists: its Jews.
From the tourism minister on down, Jamaican officialdom has embraced a plan to market the nation's Jewish history as a way of wooing a new segment of travelers.
No matter that Jamaica has just one synagogue and no rabbi, or that its Jewish community is down to around 200 people. It was once home to a Jewish pirate named Moses, according to one account.
A global economic downturn and "ferocious" competition from Mexico, says Jamaican tourism director John Lynch, mean that every traveler counts these days. Jamaica's Jewish history, he concedes, has "been a well-kept secret."
Mr. Lynch wants to put together a tourism package that includes stops at historic Jewish cemeteries, a visit to the island's synagogue and a traditional post-worship repast with Jewish families—with some beach time thrown in.
Since most of the island's Jewish history is centered around Kingston, the strategy fits the government's desire to boost tourism in the scruffy capital city most vacationers skip.
In January, Kingston hosted a five-day conference on Jewish-Caribbean history that drew 200 academics, genealogists and history buffs from Israel to Oregon.
But Jamaica is still finding its way in this new market. Two conference attendees negotiated a kosher meal with a waitress at a Kingston restaurant, insisting that a fish not touch a cooking surface that might have been used to cook meat. "You'll wrap the fish in two pieces of foil?" a diner shouted as reggae music crackled in the background. "Yeah, mon," she said.
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