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Jewish Barbados

 Nidhe Israel Synagogue

In the last four months I have been to Barbados twice. I know that sounds a bit excessive; especially when it's not yet winter in Canada; but as a destination wedding planner who also books travel that's my job. I'm lucky enough to be allowed to go there on business; but the truth is Barbados holds a very special place in my heart.

Why does it hold a special place in my heart? Well it's because I'm Jewish. For almost 400 years Barbados has been a bit of a safe haven for Jews. In return the Jews have thanked the tiny island by being a huge part in helping Barbados become the prosperous epicenter of the Caribbean that it is.

Officially the Jews arrived in Barbados one year after the British in 1628. Unofficially, we were there much longer in the form of Marrano Jews. A Marrano Jew is a Spanish Jew that had been forcibly converted to Christianity by threat of death; but who secretly still practiced Judaism when the authorities weren't watching. In this case the Marrano Jews had arrived from Portugal after determining that life really wasn't that much safer for them after their conversions. That's the problem with threatening to kill someone unless they do what you want. The authorities knew the Jews had only converted because they didn't want to die and not because they believed in the Church. So off to Barbados the Marrano Jews went.

Barbados is named after the bearded fig tree which reminded the British of the Portuguese (Jews) they met upon landing on the island. Like the tree's the Portuguese men sported beards (sounds kind of Jewy of them, doesn't it?). Outside of Israel I can't think of another country in the world that derives it's name from Jews. Even with Israel it's more the other way around. We derive our name from the country; so as a Jew I have to say "Barbados I really love your name".

Equipment used to distill Rum

Now back to 1628 the year after the British arrived and the arrival of the first "official" Jewish community. These Jews were from Brazil and were themselves seeking refuge from people who would have preferred to see them dead. They brought with them skills, agricultural knowledge and technological advances that were at the time unique to Brazil. Specifically, sugarcane, coffee, and the technology that would later be used to distill a new product called rum. Yes, that's right; the three major products that were instrumental in creating an entire economy for Barbados; and eventually the Caribbean as a whole; came about because of the Jews. I think that's really neat.

The sad part of the story is that in order to maintain a viable sugarcane industry it required a huge workforce. That's when the British imported a workforce of slaves. Barbados was a British territory so Jews were not allowed to own slaves; which means thankfully they can't be accused of participating in this aspect of the sugarcane industry; but introducing an industry to Barbados that contributed to the slave trade is not an outcome the Jews could have anticipated or desired. There is no way the Jews could have competed against the Brit's massive "slave" workforce so they did what Jews do best; they adapted. They became the merchants, bankers and they were the leaders in the developing the spice trade. They encountered Anti-Semitism and persecution from the British; but all in all they thrived as successful businesspeople and contributed greatly to making Barbados what it was and is today.

During my last trip to Barbados a native Bajan remarked to me his displeasure regarding how the Jews were treated during Barbados early history. I was stunned. This kind and gentle man is the descendant of slaves. He was remarking on the injustice of Jews being taxed to high, occasionally being physically attacked, and having lies told about them. This mans ancestors were forcibly taken from their homeland, sold like a piece of meat, regularly beaten, and generally treated as inhumane. Compared to that the Jews of Barbados had everything to be thankful for. It's this type of dignity and compassion for people regardless of how much better off they are then them that makes me love the Bajan people. It's a mutual thing that we both have in common. He was thinking of the Jews while I was thinking of his ancestors. That's why together both cultures have created such a fabulous country.

 Nidhe Israel Museum (Jewish Musuem)

Years later Barbados came to the rescue of Jews again. During World War II Barbados became a safe haven for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. The Jews felt comfortable there. By that time with the mix of Jews who had married outside their religion and Marrano Jews many native Bajans had Jewish last names. It's a fact that I've found noticeable 70 years later during my visits.

Not only are the Jews a vital part of Barbados history and culture; but Barbados has it's place in Jewish history as well. The oldest Synagogue in the America's and the Western Hemispheres first Mikvah can both be found in Bridgetown on a street often called Synagogue Lane. The Synagogue has been commemorated by the government of Barbados on a stamp. It's also proudly featured on the Barbados Tourism Authorities web site. When I first stopped people on the street to ask directions to Synagogue Lane I was thanked by huge smiles of excitement. Not every Bajan fully knows the history of the Bajan Jews; but they sure do seem to like them. This is not an island where an Anti-Semite would do well.

I highly recommend that anyone who visits Barbados visit the Jewish Museum. It doesn't matter if someone is Jewish because the museum holds fascinating gems of history that will touch many souls. In speaking with the manager of the museum, who is Catholic, I was told about many spiritual and miraculous happenings that have taken place on the property. There were stories of non-Jews who upon walking into the Mikvah building experienced such a dose of spirituality they instinctively asked to be Baptised in the water. There were stories of people discovering long lost relatives who happened to walk in off the street. There bigger miraculous stories that would take way to much space to write about. There were also many smaller stories exactly like the one I told the museums manager. The story is that my father who never enters a synagogue here at home used to religiously attend services in Barbados while on business trips there. It's a small story; but one that has always made me feel close to both the synagogues there. I was happy to learn it's not an unusual story. It seems that many people who would never think to attend services in their own city are drawn to the services held in Barbados.

The clean water of the Mikvah

The Mikvah was reopened in 2008. The water is very well taken care of. It has a clean, crisp look to it. The community doesn't use it as a working Mikvah. They have no intention to start using it; but I've been challenged to find the first bride willing to immerse herself in it. I make this plea to anyone reading. If you are Halachically Jewish, engaged, will let me book the travel, want to get married in the Bridgetown Synagogue, and are willing to be the first bride to immerse herself in the Western Hemisphere's oldest Mikvah I will donate my destination wedding planning services to you as a gift.

If you are interested in being this lucky bride please email me at so we can begin planning your Jewish destination wedding in Barbados. All I ask is that my expenses be covered.


You Are Cordially Invited To Experience Hawaii.

There’s no place like Hawaii!

Picture yourself on one of Hawaii’s idyllic islands
enjoying the region’s most awe-inspiring activities – relaxing
on the white sand beaches of Oahu or snorkeling with spectacular
sea turtles in Maui. How about exploring the majesty of live volcanoes
on the Big Island or experiencing the challenge of one of over
70 of the world’s most beautiful golf courses. . .
Hawaii has something for everyone.

Wondering where to start in planning your Hawaiian Destination Wedding or Honeymoon?

It’s simple. Just attend
Virtuoso’s Hawaii Virtual Travel Show
June 2, 2011 anytime between 10am – 6pm PST.
It’s an internet-based exhibition hall filled with preferred
travel companies that will showcase the best Hawaii has to offer.

One lucky attendee will win a $1,000 gift card!

And as an added benefit for attending, you’ll be the first to hear about
all the special offers and added amenities you can take advantage of,
only when you book a Hawaiian vacation through your Virtuoso travel advisor; Sandra Aaron at The Travel Network during the month of June.

Click here here to register directly

When Registering please say you were invited by Sandra Aaron of The Travel Network.


A Very Romantic Movie Trailer Proposal

When I first heard about this movie trailer marriage proposal on Youtube I wondered if the movie Hangover 2 was really the best choice for a romantic proposal of marriage. Then I saw the video and it proved that when love is involved the movie really doesn't matter.

Take a look at this wonderfully romantic proposal. She's a lucky girl. I suspect he is also a lucky guy. Congratulations to a couple of great movie fans.


Royal Wedding - Prince Williams Grooms Cake Recipe

Oprah has done it again. She got the recipe to Prince Williams grooms cake. I couldn't resist sharing. Now that the recipe has been made public I predict this delightful confection will be making it's way to many more weddings this season.

Here is the Recipe. If anyone bakes it at home I would love to hear how it turned out.

Chocolate Biscuit Cake - The Official Grooms Cake of Prince William and Kate Middleton
Servings: Makes one 6-inch round cake (8 portions)
  • 1/2 tsp. butter , for greasing
  • 8 ounces Rich tea biscuits
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter , softened
  • 4 ounces granulated sugar
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate , for the cake
  • 1 egg
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate , for coating
  • 1 ounce chocolate , for decorating
To make cake: Lightly grease a 6" x 2 1/2" cake ring and place on a tray on a sheet of parchment paper.

Break each of the biscuits into almond-size pieces by hand and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until the mixture starts to lighten.

Melt the 4 ounces of dark chocolate and add to the butter mixture while constantly stirring.

Beat the egg into the mixture.

Fold in the biscuit pieces until they are all coated with the chocolate mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake ring. Try to fill all of the gaps on the bottom of the ring because this will be the top when it is unmolded.

Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

To coat and decorate: Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let it stand while you melt the 8 ounces of dark chocolate.

Slide the ring off the cake and turn it upside down onto a cake wire.

Pour the melted chocolate over the cake and smooth the top and sides using a palette knife.

Allow the chocolate to set at room temperature.

Carefully run a knife around the bottom of the cake where the chocolate has stuck to the cake wire and lift it onto a tea plate.

Melt the remaining 1 ounce of chocolate and use to decorate the top of the cake.

Sarah Houston Launches Her First Canadian Store

Video by James Frodyma with music by Ravishers

On March 3, 2011 my colleague, wedding planner Erin Bosak of Exquisite Affairs and I had the immense honor of attending the ultra-exclusive launch party of Sarah Houston's new flagship store.

If you don't know Sarah, she is an internationally renowned wedding gown designer who is based right here in Canada. Sarah is known for creating each gown with the highest quality of silks. Her gowns each have their own unique personality. Formally I had only viewed photographs of her collections. I can honestly say that not only are her gowns more beautiful in person; but for the first time in my life I walked into a bridal salon and literally fell in love with almost every dress. 

Sarah Houston Couture Bridal is located at 24 Hazelton Avenue in the Yorkville area of Toronto. Appointments can be made by calling 416.921.8882

To view the collection online please visit her web site at


Get Married 40 Feet Underwater

An example of an Underwater Wedding - Crystal Bay, Bali

You've seen the video's on Youtube; but does the idea of having your own underwater wedding sound to difficult to coordinate? Not anymore thanks to the Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort & Spa.

Scuba certified brides and grooms at the resort can now "take the plunge" 40 feet underwater with their new scuba wedding package. The ceremony takes place in the worlds second largest coral reef. The package includes ceremony, photography, scuba gear, the brides bouquet, a bottle of champagne, and a romantic dinner for two at the upscale Alfredo Di Roma Restaurant. It's the perfect mixture of romance and adventure.

If you're a couple who loves the beauty of marine life and you're looking for something a bit different this could be the perfect wedding package for you.


The LEGO Love Boat

Princess Cruises is probably one of the most famous brand of cruise ships around. If you don't know Princess then chances are really good you know it's alter ego The Love Boat.

The 1970's hit television show Love Boat sparked a renewed interest in cruising that is still going strong. Maybe it's my age; but this morning I was pleased to discover an article on World Tourism News that brought back fond childhood memories.

Australian native Ryan McNaught has built a replica of the original Love Boat out of LEGO. It measures 10.5 feet long and nearly 5 feet high. It's made from more than 250,000 LEGO bricks. This massive LEGO creation took 6 months to construct. One side of the ship duplicates the exterior. The other side is an open concept that displays the ships interior; complete with tiny LEGO versions of the shows cast. The only thing this LEGO ship is missing is a tiny little bride and groom. The Love Boat isn't only a place to find love. Princess Cruises have wedding packages too.

To view this ship visit McNaughts Flickr page which also includes examples of his other LEGO creations.

If you are interested in experiencing a bigger version of the Love Boat; Princess Cruises is holding a special three day sale which includes savings up to $1,000 per person, free balcony upgrades and up to $100 cash back on Mediterranean and Greek Isles cruises. The sale ends January 21, 2011. Feel free to contact me for details on this sale.


The Goring Hotel for your own Royal Wedding or Honeymoon

Last year was a year of celebration for The Goring Hotel in London, England. Last March marked 100 years since the Goring family opened the doors of this famed hotel. It's been run by the Goring family ever since.

The celebrations of it's 100th birthday might be over; but the reasons to celebrate are still going strong. It's rumored that the Royal family has rented out the entire hotel for the exclusive use of guests attending Prince Williams and Kate Middleton's wedding. Now I don't know if this is true. I'm certainly not going to turn this blog into a gossip column so unless someone from the Royal family telephones me directly to tell me this news I'm keeping it in the rumour pile.

What isn't rumoured is that The Goring Hotel will have something to celebrate this year beyond a Royal Wedding. Jeremy Goring has commissioned well known designer Russell Sage to convert the entire 5th floor of his hotel into one giant suite. This suite will be named the Royal Suite

The new suite will consist of 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a drawing room, and a study/dining room which will hold a baby grand piano. It's expected that Sage's design will stay true to his previous work for The Goring Hotel in that it will be contemporary with rich historical influences. Sage will design each piece of furniture himself using British craftsmen to construct them. Gainsborough silk will be used on the walls, as well as hand-painted wallpaper from Fromenthal. The smallest room; nicknamed the Throne Room will be completely lined in silk.

The new Royal Suite will be available for rental to the public in May, 2011.  It's also good to note that the Goring Hotel is a Virtuoso property so guests booking through a Virtuoso travel adviser receive extra benefits. If you are looking for old world charm The Goring is a wonderful place to host a wedding.


Dream Destinastion Wedding Planning Contest

One lucky couple will win full destination wedding planning services from Mindless Sophistication Events.

E-mail and tell us about your dream destination wedding. Put "Destination Wedding Planner Contest" in the subject line.

The winner will be picked at random. The winner will be announced on January 28, 2011 on Twitter and Facebook.



*Conditions apply: Travel must be booked through our exclusive travel partner. The winner must be from an area where it is legal to hold this contest and be legally allowed to book travel with a Canadian based travel company. We will determine if travel booking is allowed before announcing the winner. This prize is for planning services ONLY.