You might not expect to find a synagogue in the Cayman Islands, where the population is almost exclusively Protestant. Yet nestled amidst the lovely gardens behind the Mango Manor inn is one of the smallest and most charming Jewish temples around.
The Jewish population of Cayman Brac is comprised of just a few members, including the couple who built this synagogue with their own hands. Lynne met George Walton in college. She was an Ashkenazi Jew from Brooklyn and he was a “Bracker,” a native of Cayman Brac, descended from one of the early families with Sephardic roots. The two married and traveled the world. After George retired from 20 years of Air Force service, the couple returned to Cayman Brac and opened a bed and breakfast.
The Caymans are very Christian and there was no place for Jewish worship on Cayman Brac. George wanted his wife to have a spiritual home, so in 2002 he built her a synagogue in the garden.
Temple Beth Shalom is humble, but not shabby in the slightest. The round white building stands out against the blue Caribbean sky. George laid pearl granite floors and Italian marble beams. Lynne carved the heavy mahogany doors, which read, “HOUSE OF WELCOME, MAY ALL WHO ENTER HERE FIND PEACE.” The domed ceiling is painted like a starry sky, with 12 lanterns representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Over the years the couple has collected important Jewish artifacts, including a Byzantine oil lamp given to them by the British Commonwealth Jewish Council for their work in promoting Judaism in the Caymans. Services are held most every Friday, with Lynne often acting as lay rabbi unless someone more learned is present. Even if there are visiting rabbis and cantors, she still plays a mean shofar and delights in giving tours of the synagogue her husband built for her. Temple Beth Shalom has also become a sort of community and events center, hosting island weddings as well as orchestral concerts, AA meetings, etc.
The tiny synagogue has established Cayman Brac as a popular destination for vacationing Jews, but as the door’s inscription suggests, people of all faiths are welcome.