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Group of islands in the eastern Caribbean Sea. The three largest, St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, are inhabited. These islands, formerly the Danish West Indies, were purchased by the U.S. from Denmark in 1917.

There are an estimated 250 Jewish families in the Virgin Islands. St. Thomas has had a Jewish population since 1764. The Jewish settlers, mainly sailors and merchants, came from the nearby island of St. Eustatius, one of the Dutch West Indies. By 1850, about 500 Jews lived in St. Thomas. The flourishing commercial and maritime settlement built a number of synagogues successively, Orthodox-Sephardic in character except for a brief period of Reform. The economic decline, resulting from the abolition of slavery in 1848 and the removal of the Royal Mail Steamship Company in 1855 to Barbados, led many Jews to leave the island. Jews figured prominently in the public life of the Virgin Islands. Among important Americans descended from Jewish families of the Virgin Islands was Judah P. Benjamin, distinguished lawyer and Secretary of State for the Southern Confederacy. In recent years it has become fashionable for American Jews to celebrate Bar and Bat Mitzvah in the Virgin Island.

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