A few hundred years ago, the Jewish people helped bring the modern chocolate trade to its present-day state. They brought their knowledge, skills, and connections to the New World and changed the way that chocolate is manufactured and consumed. Without them, modern confectionery would not be possible.
The story of the Jews and chocolate begins with the arrival of the Iberian Jews to the Caribbean area. In 1650, Benjamin Da Costa d’Andrade settled in Martinique. He was a secret Jew. He traded cocoa, vanilla, and sugar with other Jewish traders. He also opened the first cacao processing plant in French territory. Soon, he was exporting a variety of cacao varieties to Europe.
Later, Luis Moses Gomez, an escaped Inquisition prisoner, moved to New York. His family operated a successful chocolate business for two generations. Their factory supplied chocolate for hot drinks to Dutch customers. This family eventually settled in Albany, New York.
When the Dutch seized the northern part of Brazil in the early 1700s, it was because of their mastery of cane sugar extraction. This led to a new craze for chocolate drinks. With its great popularity, Curao became a powerhouse in the chocolate industry.
In addition to their connections in South America, the Jews of CuraASSao contributed to the construction of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. They were involved in cacao manufacturing, rum distilleries, and vanilla refineries. Although they were not allowed to sell their products publicly, they still made a significant contribution to the New World.
Another example of the Jewish involvement in the chocolate business is the Gomez family. Aaron Lopez was born in Lisbon in 1731. He was circumcised at age 21 and later went on to live in Massachusetts where he took the name Duarte. After he moved to the New World, his family ran a successful chocolate business for two generations.
Some of the more important Jewish contributors to the modern chocolate trade include Benjamin d’Acosta de Andrade, Aaron Lopez, and Simon and Hyman Gratz. These Jewish brothers were involved in trading Mexican cocoa and vanilla, and in creating machinery to process sugar.
Other significant contributors to the modern chocolate trade include Austrian baker Franz Sacher, Belgian and Swiss chocolatiers, and Belgian and Dutch chocolate makers. Chocolate has transformed many aspects of our lives. It has been used as a ritual food, is available in festive foods, and even has become a part of our culture. If you want to learn more about the Jewish contribution to the chocolate trade, check out the Semite Museum’s exhibit on the history of Jewish contributions to the chocolate industry. Until February 25, 2018, the museum is holding a special exhibition with historical materials and contemporary materials.
It is believed that the Saint-Esprit Jewish community in Bayonne, France, played an important role in the development of the modern chocolate trade. Although little evidence of their work exists, the city was home to a large number of Jews who were already merchants. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the city became a center for French and French-American chocolatiers. There were only a handful of Jews in Bayonne who were experts in chocolate-making. However, they were unable to practice their art, and had to pass it on to Christian apprentices. Because of the tension between the local municipal leaders and the Jewish community, the chocolate guild was banned in 1767.