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History of the Jews in Latin America

The history of the Jews in Latin America dates back to Christopher Columbus and his first cross-Atlantic voyage on August 3, 1492, when he left Spain and eventually "discovered" the New World. His date of departure was also the day on which the Catholic Monarchs Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon decreed that the Jews of Spain either had to convert to Catholicism, depart from the country, or face death for defiance of the Monarch.

There were at least seven Jews (either crypto-Jews or Marranos) who sailed with Columbus in his first voyage including Rodrigo de Triana, who was the first to sight land (Columbus later assumed credit for this), Maestre Bernal, who served as the expedition's physician, and Luis De Torres, the interpreter, who spoke Hebrew and Arabic, which it was believed would be useful in the Orient - their intended destination.

In the coming years, Jews settled in the new Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the Caribbean, where they believed that they would be safe from the Inquisition. Some took part in the conquest of the "New World," and Bernal Diaz del Castillo describes a number of executions of soldiers in Hernan Cortes's forces during the conquest of Mexico because they were Jews.

By the mid-17th century, the largest Jewish communities in the Western Hemisphere were located in Suriname and Brazil.

Nevertheless, several Jewish communities in the Caribbean, Central and South America flourished, particularly in those areas under Dutch and English control. By the 16th century, fully functioning Jewish communities had organised in Brazil, Suriname, Curacao, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Barbados. In addition, there were unorganised communities of Jews in the Spanish and Portuguese territories, where the Inquisition was active, including Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico, however, these Jews generally concealed their identity from the authorities.

Today, Latin American Jewry is composed of more than 500,000 people, most of whom live in Argentina and Brazil.


Jews fleeing the Inquisition settled in Argentina, but assimilated into the Argentine society. Portuguese traders and smugglers in the Virreinato del Rio de la Plata were widely considered Jews but no organised community emerged after independence. After 1810, Jews, especially Jews from France, began to settle in Argentina in the mid-19th century. In the late 1800s, just as they did in the United States, many Jews arrived from Eastern Europe, fleeing persecution; they were called "Rusos" (Russians).

Today, around 195,000 Jews live in Argentina, mostly in Buenos Aires, comprising the third largest Jewish community in the Americas, after the United States and Canada. They are legally granted the two days of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the first two and last two days of Passover as legal holidays.


Jewish presence in Bolivia started at the very beginning of the Spanish colonial period. A safe haven destination for Sephardic Conversos during the Spanish Colony was Santa Cruz, Bolivia. In 1557 many Crypto-Jews from Paraguay and Buenos Aires joined Nuflo de Chavez and were among the pioneers who founded the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

During the 16th century, several marranos settled in Potosi, La Paz and La Plata, but soon gained economic success in mining and commerce and faced persecution from the Inquisition and local authorities. Most of these marrano families also moved to Santa Cruz for it was the most isolated urban settlement and because the Inquisition did not bother the Conversos of Santa Cruz for this frontier town was meant to be a buffer to the Portuguese and Guarani raids that threatened the mines of Peru. Several of them settled in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra and its adjacent towns of Vallegrande, Postrervalle, Portachuelo, Terevinto, Pucara, Cotoca and others.

Several of Santa Cruz oldest Catholic families are in fact of Jewish origin; some traces of Judaic practices are still alive among them and have also influence the rest of the community. As recently as the 1920s, several families preserved seven-branched candle sticks and served dishes cooked with reminiscing kosher practices. It is still customary among certain old families to light candles on Friday at sunset and to mourn the deaths of dear relatives on the floor. After almost five centuries, some of the descendants of these families still acknowledge their Jewish origin, but practice Catholicism (in certain cases with some Jewish syncretism).

From independence in 1825 to the end of the 19th century, some Jewish merchants (both Sephardim and Ashkenazim) came to Bolivia, most of them taking local women as wives and founding families that merged into the mainstream Catholic society. This was often the case in the eastern regions of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando, where these merchants came either from Brazil or Argentina.

During the 1900s, substantial Jewish settlement began in Bolivia. In 1905, a group of Russian Jews, followed by Argentines, settled in Bolivia. In 1917, it was estimated that there were only 20 to 25 professing Jews living in the country. By 1933, when the Nazi era in Germany started, there were 30 Jewish families. The first huge amount of Jewish immigrants was in the 1930s and there were 7,000 of them estimated at the end of 1942. During of the 1940s, 2,200 Jews emigrated however from Bolivia. But for the ones who remained, have settled their communities in La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro, Santa Cruz, Sucre, Tarija and Potosi. After World War II, a small amount of Polish Jews came to Bolivia. By 1939, Jewish communities gained greater stability in the country.

Today, there are approximatelly 600 Jews living in Bolivia. There are synagogues in the cities of Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and La Paz. Most Bolivian Jews live in Santa Cruz.


Jews settled early in Brazil, especially when it was under Dutch rule, setting up a synagogue in Recife - the first synagogue in the Americas - as early as 1636. Most of these Jews had fled Spain and Portugal to the religious freedom of the Netherlands during the re-establishment of the Inquisition in first Portugal, Spain and again Portugal. In 1656, following the Portuguese reconquest of the area, they left for the Caribbean and New Amsterdam, later to become New York.

Jews resettled in Brazil in the 19th century after independence and immigration rose throughout the 19th and early 20th century. Jewish immigration to Brazil was rather low between 1881-1900 although this was the height of world wide immigration to Brazil. Between 1921 and 1942 world wide immigration to Brazil fell by 21%, but Jewish immigration to Brazil increase by 57,000% largely because of anti-immigration legislation and immigration quotas passed by the United States, Argentina, Canada and South Africa. Furthermore, the Brazilian government maintained a good relationship with immigration legislation which they did not enforce. Lastly, the Jews in Brazil developed strong support structures and economic opportunities in the Jewish community which were pull factors that attracted Eastern European and Polish Jewish immigration.

Posted by JSF

The Census of 2000 lists approximately 87,000 people who follow Judaism . Brazilian Jews play an active role in politics, sports, academia, trade and industry, and are overall well

integrated in all spheres of Brazilian life. The majority of Brazilian Jews live in the state of Sao Paulo but there are also sizeable communities in Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Minas Gerais and Parana.


See List of Chilean Jews.

Despite being a relatively small community and accounting for no more than 1% of the country's religious minorities, Jews in Chile have achieved prominent positions in the Chilean society and have played a key part in the diverse composition of the country's culture both before and after its independence in 1810. Most of Chilean Jews today reside in Santiago and Valparaiso, but there are significant communities in the north and south of the country.

Some of the country's most recognised personalities are Jews. The famous host of Latin TV sensation and longest running TV show in the world 'Sabado Gigante', Mario Kreutzberger - otherwise known as "Don Francisco" - is a Chilean Jew of German origin. Among the Chilean Jews who have achieved recognition in the field of Arts and Culture are Alejandro Jodorowsky, now established in France and best known for his literary and theatrical work. Others include Nissim Sharim (actor), Shlomit Baytelman (actress) and Anita Klesky (actress). Volodia Teitelboim, poet and former leader of the Chilean Communist Party is one of the many Jews to have held important political positions in the country. Others include Tomas Hirsch, leader of the radical green-communist coalition and former presidential candidate in 2005 plus two current state ministers, Karen Poniachick (Minister for Mining) and Clarisa Hardy (Minister for Social Affairs). In the field of sport, tennis player Nicolas Massu (gold medallist in Athens 2004 and former top-ten in the ATP rankings) has Jewish background.

Many of the country's most important companies - particularly in the retail and commercial field - have been set up by Jews, for example, Gendelman and Hites (commercial retailers) and Rosen (Mattress and Bed Industries).


The first wave of practicing Jews came from Jamaica and Curacao. These Jews started practicing their religion openly at the end of the 18th century, even though it was not officially legal to do so. Once Judaism was made a legal religion, the government granted the Jews a plot of land for a cemetery.

During the early part of the 20th century a large number of Sephardi immigrants came from Greece, Turkey, North Africa and Syria. Shortly after, Jewish immigrants began to arrive from Eastern Europe. A wave of Ashkenazi immigrants came after the rise of Hitler in 1933. From 1939 until the end of World War II immigration was put to a halt by anti-immigrant feelings in the country. The Jewish population grew dramatically in the 1950s and 1960s, when several institutions such as synagogues, schools and social clubs were established throughout the largest cities in the country.

In the present, most of the Jews in Colombia are concentrated in Bogota, with about 5,000 members. There are small communities in Cali, Barranquilla and Medellin and some Jewish presence in resort cities such as Cartagena, Santa Marta and the island of San Andres. The size of the Ashkenazi and Sephardi population is about the same. There are nine official synagogues throughout the country. In Bogota, the Ashkenazi, Sephardi and German Jews each run their own religious and cultural institutions. One organisation, Confederacion de Asociaciones Judias de Colombia, located in Bogota, is the central organisation that unites all Jews and Jewish institutions in Colombia.

Due to the unstable economy and violence against Jews, many have left Colombia. Most have gone to settle in Miami and other parts of the United States.

Costa Rica

The first Jews in Costa Rica were probably conversos, who arrived in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the 19th century Sephardic merchants from Curacao, Jamaica, Panama and the Caribbean followed. They mostly lived in Central Valley and were soon assimilated into the country's general society and eventually gave up Judaism altogether. A third wave of Jewish immigrants came before World War I and especially in the 1930s as Ashkenazi Jews fled a Europe threatened by Nazi Germany. Most of these immigrants came from the Polish town Zelechow. The term Polacos, which was originally a slur referring to these immigrants, has come to mean salesman in colloquial Costa Rican Spanish. The country's first synagogue, the Orthodox Shaarei Zion was built in 1933 in the capital San Jose (located along 3rd Avenue and 6th Street). Along with a wave of nationalism, there was also some anti-Semitism in Costa Rica in the 1940s, but the co-existence between the Jews and the Catholic majority has only led to few problems. Recently there has been a fourth wave of Jewish immigration consisting primarily of American and Israeli expatriates retiring or doing business in the country. The Jewish community now consists of 2,500 to 3,000 people, most of them living in the capital.

The San Jose suburb of Rohrmoser has a distinct Jewish presence. A couple of synagogues are located here, as well as a kosher deli and restaurant. The Plaza Rohrmoser shopping centre has the only kosher Burger King in the country. The http://www.centroisraelita.com Centro Israelita Sionista (Zionist Israeli Center) is a large Orthodox compound where a synagogue, library and museum are located.


Jews, have lived on the island of Cuba for centuries. Some Cubans trace Jewish ancestry to Marranos who fled the Spanish Inquisition, though few of them practice Judaism today. There was significant Jewish immigration to Cuba in the first half of the 20th century. There were 15,000 Jews in Cuba in 1959, but many Jews left Cuba for the United States after the Cuban revolution. In the early 1990s, Operation Cigar was launched, and in the period of five years, more than 400 Cuban Jews secretly immigrated to Israel [*] [*]. In February 2007 the New York Times estimated that there are about 1,500 Jews living in Cuba, most of them living in Havana [*].


Curacao has the oldest active Jewish congregation in the Americas - dating to 1651 - and the oldest synagogue of the Americas, in continuous use since its completion in 1732 on the site of a previous synagogue. The Jewish Community of Curacao also played a key role in supporting early Jewish congregations in the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries, including in New York City and the Touro Synagogue of Newport, Rhode Island.

Dominican Republic

Sephardic Jewish merchants arrived in southern Hispanola during the 16th and 17th centuries, fleeing the outcome of the Spanish Inquisition. Over the centuries, many Jews and their descendants assimilated into the general population and some have converted into the Catholic religion, although many of the country's Jews still retain elements of the Sephardic culture of their ancestors.

Sosua, meanwhile, is a small town close to Puerto Plata was founded by Ashkenazi Jews fleeing the rising Nazi regime of the 1930s. Rafael Trujillo, the country's dictator, welcomed many Jewish refugees to his island mainly for their skills rather than for religious persecution, and with a hidden motive on his part to encourage European and Middle Eastern immigration instead of Haitians. Present-day Sosua still possesses a synagogue and a museum of Jewish history. Descendants of both Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews can still be found in many other villages and towns on the north of the island close to Sosua.


Many Jews are from the Sephardi ancestry. Some assume that they were one of the settlers in Ecuador. They came from Germany in 1939, on a ship called the "Koenigstein". During the years 1933-43, there were a population of 2,700 Jewish immigrants. In 1939, the Jewish population, mostly German and Polish Jews, were expelled by a decree of the Italian influenced government of Alberto Enriquez Gallo. The antisemitism spread in the population, but was stopped by the intervention of the American embassy. In 1945, there was a population of 3,000. About 85% of them were European refugees. The rise of Jewish immigration to Ecuador was when the Holocaust started. In 1950, there was an estimation of 4,000 persons living in Ecuador. But that number today has declined to 500 Jews. Most of the Jewish communities in Ecuador are from German origin. The majority of Ecuadorian Jews live in Quito and Guayaquil. There is a Jewish school in Quito.

El Salvador

Alsatian-born Bernardo Haas, who was has came to El Salvador in 1868, was believd to be the country's first Jewish immigrant. Another Jews, Leon Libes was documented as the first German Jew in 1888. Sephardic families also arrived from countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and France. De Sola helped to found the first synagogue and became an invaluable member of the Jewish community. In 1936, World War II caused the Jewish community to help their ancestors escape from Europe. Some had their relatives in El Salvador. But some where forced to go into countries such as Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala and Panama. On July 30, 1939, President Martinez barred an entry of fifty Jewish refugees Going to El Salvador on the German ship Portland. On Sept 11, 1948, the community started and continues to support a school "Colegio Estado de Israel".

French Guiana

Jews arrived in French Guiana by the way of the Dutch West India Company. Later on September 12, 1659, came Portuguese Jews from Brazil. The company appointed David Nassy, a Brazilian refugee, patron of an exclusive Jewish settlement on the western side of the island of Cayenne, an area called Remire or Irmire. From 1658 to 1659, Paulo Jacomo Pinto began negotiating with the Dutch authorities in Amsterdam to allow a group of Jews from Livorno, Italy to settle in the Americas. On July 20, 1600, more than 150 Sephardic Jews left Livorno (Leghorn) and settled in Cayenne. The French agreed to those terms, an exceptional policy that was not common among the French colonies. Nevertheless, nearly two-thirds of the population left for the Dutch colony of Suriname. Over the decades, the Leghorn Jews of Cayenne immigrated to Suriname. In 1667, the remaining Jewish community was captured by the occupying British forces and, moved the population to either Suriname or Barbados to work in sugarcane production. Since the late 1600s, few Jews have lived in French Guiana. In 1992, 20 Jewish families from Suriname and North Africa attempted to re-establish the community in Cayenne. A chabad organisation exists in the country and maintains Jewish life within the community. Today, 80 Jews live in French Guiana, predominately in Cayenne.


The Jews in Guatemala are immigrants from Germany and Eastern Europe. that arrived in the 19th century. Many immigrated during World War II. There are approximatley 1,200 Jews living in Guatemala today. Most live in Guatemala City, Quezaltenango and San Marcos. The group of Jews are Sephardi. Today, the Jewish community in Guatemala are made up of German and Eastern European Jews.


When Christopher Columbus arrived in Haiti, he had an interpreter, Luis de Torres. Luis was one of the first Jews to settle on Haiti in 1492. When Haiti was conquered by France in 1633, many Dutch Jews came from Brazil, who has arrived in 1634. In 1683, the Jews were expelled from Haiti, and the other French colonies. But a few remained as leading officials in French trading companies. In the mid-1700s the Jews that were expelled returned. When the slave revolt happened (Toussaint LOuverture), many people of the Jewish community were murdered, and some were expelled. A few years later, Polish Jews arrived due to the civil strife in Poland and settled down in Casal, in the region of Grand-Anse. Most Jews attempted to settle in port cities. It was a few years ago when archaeologists discovered a synagogue of Crypto-Jews in Jeremie. In Cap-Haitien, Cayes and Jacmel, a few Jewish tombstones have been uncovered. By the end of the 19th century, Jewish families immigrated from Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. These Jews brought their Sephardic culture. In 1915, there was a population of 200 Jews in Haiti. During the 20 years of American occupation, many of the Jews left to the United States. In 1937, the government issued passports and visas to Eastern Europe, to escape the Nazi persecution. During this time, 300 Jews lived on the island. Most of the Jews stayed until the late 1950s.

As of 2010, the number of known Jews in Haiti is estimated at 25, residing in the relatively affluent suburb of Petionville, outside Port au Prince.

Haiti and Israel maintain full diplomatic relations, but Israel's nearest permanent diplomat ot the region is based in neighboring Dominican Republic.


During the 1800s-1980s, Jewish immigrants came to the Honduras, mainly from Russia, Poland, Germany, Hungary and Romania. There were also immigration from Greece, who are of Sephardi origin and Turkey and North Africa, who are from Mizrachi Jews origin. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, it has been absorbed a huge number of Jewish immigrants from Israel. Through the past two decades, the Honduras experienced a resurgence of Jewish life. Communities in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula grew more active. In 1998, the hurricane Mitch destroyed the synagogue, which was part of the Jewish community center in the Honduras. But the Jewish community contributed money to re-build the temple. Most Honduran Jews live in Tegucigalpa.


There have been Jews in Mexico dating back to as early as 1521. Many Sephardic Jews fled Spain to escape the Inquisition, but no infrastructure was left by them in what is the modern day Mexican Jewish community. Due to the strong Catholic Church presence in Mexico, few Jews migrated there after the Spanish Conquest of Mexico. Then, in the late 1800s, a number of German Jews settled in Mexico as a result of invitations from Maximilian I of Mexico, followed by a huge wave of Ashkenazic Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe. A second large wave of immigration occurred as the Ottoman Empire collapsed, leading many Sephardic Jews from Turkey, Morocco and parts of France to flee. Finally, a wave of immigrants fled the increasing Nazi persecutions in Europe during World War II.

Today, there are more than 50,000 Jews in Mexico, the third largest Jewish community in Latin America.


The first Jewish immigrants to arrive in Nicaragua came from Eastern Europe after 1929. The Jews in Nicaragua were a relatively small community, the majority lived in Managua. The Jews made significant contributions to Nicaragua's economic development while dedicating themselves to farming, manufacturing and retail sales. The Jewish community encountered anti-semitism by individuals, the majority who claimed that Nicaraguan Jews were responsible for Israeli arms sales to the Somoza regime. Many of these individuals were part of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). There was much hostility between the Sandinista government, which came into power in 1979, and the Jews. This was mostly due to the Sandinista governments close relationship with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

It was approximated that the highest number of Jews in Nicaragua reached a peak of 250 in 1972. However, in fear of persecution and imprisonment by the Sandinista National Liberation Front, all the remaining Jews fled Nicaragua, they went into exile mainly in the United States, Israel, and other countries in Central America.

After the Daniel Ortega ran and lost the presidential elections in 1990 a small amount of Jews returned to Nicaragua. The current Jewish population is estimated at around 50 persons. Prior to 1979 the Jewish community had no rabbi or briss. The Jewish community now includes 3 brises, however, as of 2005, the community does not have an ordained rabbi or a synagogue.


Toward the 19th century, Jewish immigrants arrived to Paraguay from countries such as France, Switzerland and Italy. During World War I Jews from Palestine (Jerusalem), Egypt and Turkey arrived to Paraguay, mostly sephardic Jews. In the 1920s, there was a second wave of immigrants from Ukraine and Poland. Between 1933 and 1939, between 15,000 and 20,000 Jews from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia took advantage of Paraguay's liberal immigration laws to escape from Nazi-occupied Europe. After World War II, most Jews that arrived in Paraguay were survivors of concentration camps. Today, there are 1,000 Jews mostly living in Paraguay's capital, Asuncion. Most are of German descent


''see also B'nai Moshe

In Peru, there have been Jews since the Spanish Conquest. At first, they had lived without restrictions because the Inquisition was not active in Peru at the beginning of the Viceroyalty. Then, with the advent of the Inquisition, Jews began to be persecuted, and, in some cases, executed. In this period, Jews were called "marranos", and the converts, "cristianos nuevos" or new Christians.

In modern times, before and after the Second World War, some Ashkenazic Jews, south and west Slavic and Hungarians mainly, migrated to Peru, mostly to Lima.

Today, Peruvian Jews represent an important part of the economics and politics of Peru.

Puerto Rico

see also Jewish immigration to Puerto Rico''

Puerto Rico is currently home to the largest Jewish community in the Caribbean, over 3,000 Jews, supporting four synagogues; three in the capital city of San Juan: one each Reform , Conservative and Chabad, as well as a Satmar community in the western part of the island in the town of Mayaguez known as Toiras Jesed for Minyanim information. Jews were officially prohibited from settling in Puerto Rico through much of its history, but many managed to settle in the island as secret Jews and settled in the islands remote mountainous interior as did the early Jews in all Spanish and Portuguese colonies . Many Central and Eastern European Jews came after World War II, but the majority of the current population are descendants of Jews who fled from Cuba after Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution in 1959. In the late 1800s during the Spanish-American War many Jewish American servicemen gathered together with local Puerto Rican Jews at the Old Telegraph building in Ponce to hold religious services. Many of those Puerto Rican Jews were descendants of migrants from France, the Netherlands, Saint-Barthelemy and Curacao with surnames that include Bravo, Beauchamp, Duprey, Morenu, Ledee, Leduc, and Levy.

Like in many former Spanish colonies founded soon after the Spanish Inquisition, there are some Puerto Ricans who are crypto-Jews , descendants of forcibly converted Jews. Some of them maintain elements of Jewish traditions, although they themselves are, or were raised as Christians; this may include ancestors or members of families with last names like Gomez, Delgado, Mendez, Hernandez, Rodriguez, Toledo,Ramirez, Saez, Cardoso, Espinoza, Sabat, Machado, Abrams, Lopez,Lopes, Montijo, Sharron, Perez,Vargas, ''Aguilar', "Caballero" and"'Montanez".

Once the Jews had arrived in Puerto Rico, Judaism was declared illegal. They were originally promised freedom to practice their religion, but that was taken from them once they actually arrived in Puerto Rico. These Jews had to live their lives hiding who they really were. Most of the Puerto Rican customs are Jewish in origin, such as watching the dead overnight the burying them the next day. Becuase of the lack of Jewish men for the young Jewish girls to marry, these girls were allowed to marry non-Jewish men. The Jewish mother would wait until her daughter was approximately 12 years of age and old enough to keep secrets and she would then be told of her Jewish heritage and concept of maternal lineage. The males of the family including the husband and sons we be kept out of the loop. Hence you would have a "regualr" family, where the daughters and mother would know of the Jewish heritage, except for the males. Of course, since Judaism was illegal the Jewish heritage during most of Puerto Rican history consisted of telling the young daughter of her maternal Jewish heritage and nothing else. Jewish prayers were not allowed, Hebrew was not taught, and the Sabbath was not kept. Keeping the Sabbath could have resulted in serious persecutions including and not limited to the "kidnapping" of the children to be raised by non-jews. Puerto Rico has been notorious in hiding that Jews had even lived in Puerto Rico, by officially stating, and even teaching in the public school that there were absolutely no Jews in Puerto Rico until after the European Jewish immigration during the 30's and 40's. The fact is that Jews have lived in Puerto Rico since the time of Columbus.


Suriname has the oldest Jewish community in the Americas. During the Inquisition in Portugal and Spain around 1500, many Jews fled to the Netherlands and the Dutch colonies to escape torture and condemnation to the stake. Those who were converted to the Catholic fate were called "Marranos". The stadtholder of the King of Portugal gave those who wanted to depart some time to let them settle, and supplied them with 16 ships and safe conduct to leave for the Netherlands. The Dutch government gave an opportunity to settle in Brazil. But most found their home in Recife, and merchants became cocoa growers. But the Portuguese in Brazil forced many Jews to move into the northern Dutch colonies in the Americas, The Guyanas. Jews settled in Suriname in 1639. A few years, when World War II arrived, many Jewish refugees from the Netherlands and other parts of Europe fled to Suriname. Today, 200 Jews live in Suriname.


Uruguay has a long established Jewish community. It dates back to the 16th century. Few documents relating to Jewish history during the Colonial period are extant. In 1726, the governor of Montevideo called upon the first settlers to be "persons of worth, of good habits, repute and family, so that they be not inferior nor of Moorish or Jewish race." The first record of Jewish settlement is in the 1770s. With the end of the Inquisition in 1813, the political and social system of Uruguay evolved to a greater level of openness and tolerance. This openness provided the basis for continued Jewish residence beginning in the 19th century. Some Jews have left for Argentina or Brazil later on. In 1929, the Ashkenazi Jewish community set up an educational network. Jewish schools have been functioning in various parts of the country since the 1920s. In the 1930s, there were significant Fascist and liberal anti-immigration elements that opposed all foreign immigration, weighing heavily on Jewish immigration. Jews were singled out and many people opposed Jewish inclusion in Uruguayan society. Today, the Jewish community of Uruguay is made up of Polish-Russian families. 75% are Ashkenazi, which 11% are Sephardic.

See also: Israel-Uruguay relations


The history of Venezuelan Jewry most likely began in the middle of the 17th century, when some records suggest that groups of marranos lived in Caracas and Maracaibo.

At the turn of the 19th century, Venezuela and Colombia were fighting against their Spanish colonizers in wars of independence. Simon Bolivar, Venezuela's liberator, found refuge and material support for his army in the homes of Jews from Curacao.

According to a national census taken at the end of the 19th century, 247 Jews lived in Venezuela as citizens in 1891. In 1907, the Israelite Beneficial Society, which became the Israelite Society of Venezuela in 1919, was created as an organization to bring all the Jews who were scattered through various cities and towns throughout the country together.

By 1943, nearly 600 German Jews had entered the country, with several hundred more becoming citizens after World War II. By 1950, the community had grown to around 6,000 people, even in the face of immigration restrictions.

Currently, there are more than 35,000 Jews living in Venezuela, with more than half living in the capital Caracas. Venezuelan Jewry is split equally between Sephardim and Ashkenazim. All but one of the country's 15 synagogues are Orthodox. The majority of Venezuela's Jews are members of the middle class.

Current Jewish populations in The Americas and the Caribbean

1 Anais da Biblioteca Nacional do Rio de Janeiro; v. 74. Rio de Janeiro: Departamento de Imprensa Nacional, 1953.

See also

List of Caribbean Jews

Jewish immigration to Puerto Rico


Mordechai Arbell, Dennis Channing Landis, Ann Phelps Barry Spanish and Portuguese Jews in the Caribbean and the Guianas: A Bibliography, Interamericas, 1999, ISBN 0-916617-52-1

Mordechai Arbell The Portuguese Jews of Jamaica, Canoe Press, 2000, ISBN 976-8125-69-1

Marjorie Agosin Memory, Oblivion, And Jewish Culture In Latin America, University of Texas Press, 2005, ISBN 0-292-70667-7

Alan Fredric Benjamin Jews of the Dutch Caribbean: Exploring Ethnic Identity on Curacao, Routledge, 2002, ISBN 0-415-27439-7

Judah M. Cohen Through the Sands of Time: A History of the Jewish Community of St. Thomas, UPNE, 2004, ISBN 1-58465-341-8

Judith Laikin Elkin. The Jews of Latin America (rev) Holmes & Meier, 1998. ISBN 0-8419-1369-2

Ariel Segal Frielich Jews of the Amazon: Self-Exile in Earthly Paradise, The Jewish Publication Society, 1999, ISBN 0-8276-0669-9

Jeffrey Lesser & Raanan Rein. Rethinking Jewish-Latin Americans. University of New Mexico Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8263-4401-4

Ruggiero, Kristin The Jewish Diaspora In Latin America And The Caribbean: Fragments Of Memory, Sussex Academic Press, 2005, ISBN 1-84519-061-0

The Jews and the Expansion of Europe to the West, 1450-1800, Berghahn Books, 2001, ISBN 1-57181-430-2

Leo Spitzer. Hotel Bolivia. Hill and Wang, 1998. ISBN 0-8090-5545-7

External links

Jews in Argentina

Jews in Bolivia

Jews in Brazil

Jews in Chile

Jews in Colombia

Jews in Costa Rica

Jews in Cuba

Jews in Ecuador

Jews in El Salvador

Jews in French Guiana

Jews in Guatemala

Jews in Haiti

Jews in Honduras

Jews in Martinique

Jews in Mexico

Jews in Paraguay

Jews in Peru

Jewish Puerto Rico

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Jews in Uruguay

Jews in Venezuela

The Foundation For Jodensavanne

Brazil's Jews face 60% intermarriage rate Includes history and current stats

Latin American Jews contend with spike in anti-Semitism By Sara Miller Llana, The Christian Science Monitor July 26, 2009

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