Jews were prohibited from entering Spanish America throughout the colonial period. Although a few Jews who could not be regarded as *New Christians managed to enter illegally, the history of Jews in Spanish colonial America is primarily that of the New Christians who were *Crypto-Jews. Several members of Columbus' crew were New Christians, but shortly after his voyage the Catholic sovereigns closed their American possessions to New Christians and their immediate descendants. The ban was regularly renewed, but there were times when the New Christians could enter Spanish America legally, especially after their general pardon by Philip III in 1601. Despite the restrictions, New Christians managed to enter the New World on a fairly regular basis until the middle of the 17th century at least, and at times with the connivance of high authorities in Spain, who needed their enterprise for the development of the American possessions. A large number of New Christians and Crypto-Jews from Portugal migrated to the New World during the union of the crowns of Spain and Portugal (1580–1640). It is impossible to tell how many Crypto-Jews were among the New Christians. However, two facts are clear: first, not all the New Christians were inclined to the secret practice of Judaism, and second, it is natural to suppose that there were more Crypto-Jews than those arrested by the Inquisition. This assumption is reinforced by the use in these centuries of the word Portuguese as a synonym for Crypto-Jew. The Inquisitional documents provide the only extensive source of information about the Crypto-Jews' identity and activities. Initially, Episcopal Inquisitions, under the guidance of secular or regular clergy, flourished in Spanish America. New Spain witnessed an *auto da fé as early as 1528, when the alleged "Judaizers" or Crypto-Jews Hernando Alonso and Diego de Morales were sent to the stake. Branches of the Holy Office of the *Inquisition, in Spain, were introduced in 1570 in Lima, for the viceroyalty of Peru, and in 1571 in Mexico City, for the viceroyalty of New Spain. A third major Inquisition was later established in Cartagena (Colombia) in 1610 for the viceroyalty of New Granada. These Inquisitions held regular autos da fé until the end of the colonial period, but their activity against the Crypto-Jews took place chiefly in the period prior to 1660. In both New Spain and Peru they were especially active in two periods, during the 1580s and 1590s, and during the 1630s and 1640s. In New Spain the first period corresponds to the arrests and trials of most of the *Carvajal family, and the second to the Great Complicity, in which the most striking figure was Tomas Trevino de *Sobremonte. In similar trials held in 17th-century Peru, the most striking figures were Francisco *Maldonado de Silva, surgeon, philosopher, and apologist for Judaism and Manuel Bautista Perez, regarded as the richest man in the viceroyalty. It is impossible to ascertain the number of Crypto-Jews in Spanish America, but there is reason to believe that it exceeded the number of those arrested and tried. Although the claims circulating about large numbers of Crypto-Jews in Latin America are not supported by the evidence, there were many cases unveiled during the 20th century of native populations that observed certain Jewish traditions supposedly transmitted by Crypto-Jews who were hiding among them. At the same time it should be borne in mind that most Crypto-Jews brought to trial were reconciled with the Church, and despite the Inquisition's vaunted vigilance, were not heard from again, thus suggesting at least the possibility that they had made their peace with the Church.
[Martin A. Cohen]
See also *America.
JEWS IN THE CARIBBEANS
During the second half of the 17th century Spanish-Portuguese Jews settled in the new colonies that were founded along the Wild Coast (the Guianas) and in the Caribbean Islands. They came from Dutch Brazil, as well as from Amsterdam, London, Bordeaux, and Hamburg. They engaged in the plantation economy, producing sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and other staples, and took an active part in commerce, shipping trade, maritime insurance, and public services.
In the Protestant colonies of Holland, England, and Denmark the Jews were free to practice their own religion. Jews were officially expelled from the French Catholic colonies in 1685, but their presence was generally tolerated by the local authorities. They founded well-organized communities that preserved the Portuguese language and their customs and traditions, including synagogues with sand-covered floors.
The Spanish-Portuguese Jews in the Caribbeans maintained ethnic and family ties as the basis of economic and social networks and preserved with zeal their unique traditions. To overcome their small numbers and constant mobility between the islands, they developed chains of communication for the preservation of endogamic marriages, social assistance, and religious services.
Curaçao, the "Mother of the Jewish Communities in the New World," was a source of inspiration and assistance to other Sephardi communities in the Western Hemisphere. With its economic decline early in the 19th century, several Jews from Curaçao immigrated to the independent Latin American republics in the Circum Caribbean. They established small Jewish settlements along the coasts of Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama. They prospered economically, and were well integrated into the social and political elites of the Circum Caribbean, but gradually intermarried into the Catholic population.
[Margalit Bejarano (2nd ed.)]
Jewish Emancipation in Latin America
The movements for political and religious emancipation in Latin America slowly but markedly influenced Jewish settlement in that part of the world. The Inquisition, an institution brought from Europe to America, was abolished during the first years of the struggle for independence from Spain (1811 in New Granada and *Paraguay; 1813 in Mexico, Peru, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina), but was restored in Mexico, Peru, Chile, and New Granada in 1815 upon the return of Ferdinand VII to the Spanish throne. It was finally suppressed throughout the continent a few years later when independence had been won.
The governments of Latin America were influenced by the liberal ideas of the French encyclopedists and the American and French Revolutions. The abolition of the Inquisition and the spread of liberalism permitted the settlement of Jews in Latin American countries. However, during the first half century after emancipation few Jews moved to Latin America. Those who did, mainly economically motivated West European Jews, did not enjoy full equality and suffered from the residue of Catholic intolerance. Unlike the United States and France after their revolutions, the newly independent Latin American countries were not compelled to adopt a particular policy toward the Jews because they had so few Jewish inhabitants during the early 19th century. The first liberal religious legislation rather pertained to the various Protestant churches in response to the presence of the British who were economically involved in South America.
Intermittent Jewish immigration eventually produced the need for organizing Jewish communities in several cities. No major political disabilities or religious restrictions hindered the Jews in the 1860s when they founded their first institutions in Latin America. Although there was never any legislation specifically emancipating the Jews, religious freedom for the Jews was taken as an extension of the freedom granted to Protestants. In general, as the Jewish communities of Latin America organized, the respective governments accorded recognition to Jewish religious institutions.
[Victor A. Mirelman]
Jewish Immigration to Latin American Countries
The overwhelming majority of the Jewish immigration to Latin America was established in countries whose population mainly originated in Europe. In the first decades of the 19th century, following independence from Spain and Portugal, only a small number of Jewish immigrants found its way to Latin America. Jews from Morocco immigrated to the northeastern coast of Brazil, and settled in Belem (State of Para). Following the rubber boom of the mid-19th century around the Amazon region they penetrated along the Amazon River reaching as far as Iquitos in Northern Peru. At the same time, Jews from the Caribbean islands, particularly from Curaçao and St. Thomas, settled in Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica, where many of them eventually were assimilated. Another small wave of Jewish immigrants arrived from Central and Western Europe, particularly from Germany, France, and England, bringing Jewish businessmen, many of them without women, to Chile, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil.
Organized immigration, however, started only following the *May Laws of 1881 in the Russian Empire that resulted
Between 1921 and 1930, around 100,000 Jews immigrated to the Latin American countries. From the rise of Nazism to the end of the Holocaust (1933–45), when the need of Jewish emigration from Europe was at its height, the explicit or concealed policy that regulated Jewish immigration was changed. Restrictions limiting the immigration of Jews were instituted using economic, political, racial, and religious selectivity to prevent "too many" Jews from joining Latin American Catholic society and from competing with local merchants, workers, professionals, and entrepreneurs. From 1940, Jewish immigration was severely curtailed and almost illegal. Nevertheless, in spite of restrictions and closed borders Jewish immigration continued, and according to conservative estimates in 1933–45 between 113,500 and 120,400 Jews immigrated to Latin America, legally, by circumventing the laws, or through the underground. People coming from the same country tended to settle in the same area in their new homeland. A considerable number of the 12,000 immigrants from Arab countries arriving in Brazil between 1957 and 1960 settled in *São Paulo where 5,000 Jews from Egypt had established themselves over the years. In Guatemala, Jews from Germany form the largest Jewish community which is situated in the capital, Guatemala City.
Most Latin American countries quickly became lands of emigration as well as immigration. During the first years after World War II, thousands of immigrants established in Paraguay and *Bolivia continued on their way to Argentina and Chile, sometimes crossing borders illegally. Once their visas had been approved, numerous immigrants from Cuba and *Haiti streamed into the United States. Also many immigrants who went to *Ecuador, a country friendlier than most toward Jewish refugees, emigrated after living there for some time. Political upheavals and economic crises were the main factors of emigration after World War II, as illustrated by the revolutions in Cuba (1959) and in Nicaragua (1979), the coup d'états headed by military forces in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay in the 1960s and 1970s as well as by the social and personal insecurity in Colombia and Venezuela in the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century. Emigration was also motivated by the economic crises of the late 1990s and early 2000s that caused the impoverishment of large Jewish sectors, particularly in Argentina. Emigration from Latin America was directed to Europe, Israel, and the United States as well as to other Latin American countries with better economic prospects, such as Venezuela (prior to the rise of Chavez) and Mexico. It is very difficult to calculate the figures for these migratory movements. Accurate numbers are available only with respect to aliyah: 89,684 Jews immigrated to Israel from Latin America in the period between 1948 and 2004, but not all of them stayed there and a certain percentage re-emigrated to other countries or returned to their countries of origin.
Economic and Social Status
Until the 1880s, most of the Jewish immigrants to Latin America made their living as merchants. The Moroccan Jews, in the Amazon region, were peddlers who catered to the workers in the rubber industry. The Caribbean Jews and the immigrants from Europe were often representatives of large business firms, and integrated into the upper middle class. The largest community, however, developed in Argentina as a result of the country's liberal immigration policy from the 1880s and with the establishment of the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA) agricultural settlements. Argentina became the favored destination of Jewish immigration to Latin America. For two decades agriculture was the main occupation of Argentinean Jews. At the same time Argentina's population of predominantly European origin (90%), and its relatively early industrialization compared with the rest of Latin America, also attracted Jewish population to urban settlement and allowed Jewish communities to prosper. Jewish immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who came with experience in trade and labor and who settled in undeveloped regions where the economy was based on the export of agricultural products or raw materials discovered a vast field of activity in the area of commercial brokerage and the production of consumer goods. The activity of the Jewish traders, who usually started as peddlers, brought about an increased demand for clothing and furniture. This demand was partially met by Jewish workers who began to produce these items locally. The two world wars and the industrialization of several countries stimulated the development of economic activities in which Jews happened to be involved and encouraged the opening of new areas. Thus many Jewish proletarians – who were numerous in Argentina and prominent in Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Cuba, and other countries – improved their economic status, so that gradually most Jews moved into the middle class, and the number of blue collar employees became minimal.
The economic transformation of Latin American Jewry has been similar to that of other immigrant groups in their respective countries. Sephardi Jews, like other immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, generally started as peddlers, and gradually moved into trade. Ashkenazi Jews were divided between commerce and industry. In the Southern Cone (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil) the Jews became part of the growing middle classes that emerged
Another factor affecting the status of Latin American Jewry throughout the 19th and 20th centuries was the influence of the majority religion, Catholicism. This did not result in religious extremism in everyday life, nor did it curtail the freedom of religious observance of non-Catholics; but it invited the belief, in many countries, that Catholicism, or at least Christianity, is one of the fundamentals of local nationalism. In most Latin American countries the growth of nationalism was also related to basic economic and social problems. Nationalism has served to diminish the influence of cultural pluralism and immigrants who were loyal to other traditions were looked upon as aliens. Economic grievances in some Latin American countries (Cuba, Costa Rica, and Mexico, among others) have fostered the antisemitic outgrowths of nationalism. The activities of antisemitic groups have been greatly assisted by the Nazis during the 1930s and 1940s and by the Arabs since the 1950s. Many Latin American countries, especially Argentina and Paraguay which served as havens for Nazi criminals after World War II, were for many decades important focuses for both leftist and rightist antisemitic activity. Yet prolonged violent antisemitism has not characterized any of the Latin American countries, not even those with extreme nationalist governments.
Patterns of Jewish Organization
The first Jewish organizations in Latin America were established in the 19th century and were intended to fulfill fundamental religious needs. For the most part, the organizations were modeled after the congregations in the countries of Western Europe from which their founders originated. Thus, the first communities in Venezuela, Panama, and Colombia bore the stamp of Dutch and Anglo-Jewish culture; the first organizations in Argentina, Peru, and Brazil followed the pattern of Jewish institutional life in France and Germany; and the small Jewish communities of the Amazon region in Brazil copied the model of Tetuan and Tangier. Although many descendants of the founders of these Jewish institutions had severed their Jewish affiliations as a result of intermarriage and conversion, some of these institutions still exist. The first immigrants from the Middle East and Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries founded their own religious, charitable, health, and cultural organizations. The Sephardim from the same community of origin tended to found comprehensive communal frameworks that supplied all their social and cultural needs. Each community had its synagogues, welfare institutions, religious schools, and a cemetery. The Jews from Syria, particularly from Aleppo, were considered the most traditional and strictly religious, while the Ladino-speaking Jews, from Turkey and the Balkan countries, were more influenced by trends of modernity and secularism.
The Ashkenazim, who immigrated prior to World War I and in the interwar period, brought with them from Eastern Europe organizational patterns of a secular-ideological nature and adapted them to the realities of their new homelands. The most prominent groups among them in the political and cultural field were the various Zionist parties, the *Bund, and the extreme left which crystallized during the 1920s into Jewish Communist and pro-Communist organizations. Each group maintained many cultural activities, published bulletins, and, during the 1920s and 1930s, began to develop educational institutions. This process of institutional proliferation was accompanied by the establishment of Yiddish daily and weekly newspapers, and the beginnings of local Yiddish literature.
The many Jewish immigrants in the proletarian class initiated attempts at organizing professional unions (especially in Argentina, and to a lesser extent in Brazil, Uruguay, and Cuba). Jewish immigrants in the lower levels of trade and labor formed cooperative economic and financial organizations which eventually became large banking institutions whose Jewish origins were sometimes reflected in their names and social activities. In the agricultural settlements of Argentina and Brazil the Jewish cooperative trade organizations even preceded the urban cooperative unions; and in Argentina the Jewish agricultural cooperative was a pioneer in the field of agrarian cooperatives for consumption and marketing in general throughout the country.
Another characteristic of the East European immigrants was their establishment of Landsmanshaftn – organizations of people who came from the same city or territory – which were formed relatively late (in Argentina not until World War I). After the Holocaust these organizations increased their activity, concentrating their efforts on perpetuating, particularly through literary projects, the memory of the destroyed European communities from which the members had come.
Whereas legislation of East European countries offered a legal basis for the creation of the Jewish communities and compelled the Jews to remain within their confines, no such necessity existed in Latin America where the Jewish community was established and maintained only by the volition of the organizers. The great ideological diversity among the Jews made their unity difficult. But the inclination of all groups, secular as well as religious, to observe Jewish burial rites brought into existence the burial societies which ultimately evolved into comprehensive congregations similar to those which flourished in Poland between the two world wars. Outstanding examples of the expansion of burial societies into large, multi-branched congregations are the *AMIA – the Ashkenazi Community of Buenos Aires, the Nidḥei Yisrael
The communal organization of the Sephardim was ethnic and religious. In large communities, such as Buenos Aires and Mexico City, Jews from Aleppo and Damascus maintained separate communal frameworks. Ladino-speaking Jews, from Turkey and the Balkan countries, amalgamated their institutions. In small communities, particularly in the provincial towns, all the Sephardim were gradually united. The main framework that united the Jews from the Middle East, the Balkan countries, and North Africa was the Zionist movement. Unlike the Ashkenazim, the Zionist ideology of the Sephardim was not secular, and was accepted as an integral part of their religious creed. They did not share the ideological divisions of the Zionist parties in Eastern Europe and they felt offended by the constant use of Yiddish in Zionist activities organized by the Ashkenazim. Most Latin American countries had Sephardi committees that organized the Zionist campaigns among their own communities. FESELA – Federación Sefaradí Latinoamericana (Latin American Sephardi Federation), was founded in 1972 as an umbrella organization of Sephardi federations and their representative organ in the World Zionist Organization.
Even the rise of such secular institutions as social clubs, youth groups, and the Zionist Movement did not unite the Sephardim, the Jews of the Mediterranean basin, and the Ashkenazim. The exception is Mexico where the Centro Deportivo Israelita (Jewish Sport Center) is a kind of social, cultural, and sports center in which members of the different communities are associated. Jewish immigration from Central Europe during the 1930s added new organizations throughout the continent. Some newcomers joined existing communal organizations, but attended independently to their religious, social, and even welfare needs. In such countries as Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Peru, they established separate congregations, and in others such as Guatemala, Ecuador, and Bolivia they founded the main congregations. In addition, the Central European immigrants founded the umbrella organization Centra which encompassed all of their groups in Latin America, and which afforded assistance to educational and youth organizations throughout the continent.
Another type of organization prevalent in the Jewish communities of Latin America are cultural, sports, and entertainment centers. The oldest is the *Sociedad Hebraica Argentina (1926) in Buenos Aires. First established by the youth born in Latin America, these organizations expressed their desire for Jewish and local cultural and linguistic integration and promoted from the very beginning activities in Spanish or Portuguese. They increased in number during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s and offer entertainment, relaxation, and sports to the Jewish community as a whole. Some of them (in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Caracas) adopted the name Hebraica, although at the beginning no organizational connection existed between them and the organization of the same name in Buenos Aires. Others, in Mexico and Santiago de Chile, assumed the names Centro Deportivo Israelita and Estadio Israelita respectively. Some of these clubs, such as the Hebraica in Sao Paulo and the Centro Deportivo in Mexico, became the largest and most influential social frameworks that unite all the Jewish sectors. Maccabi groups, generally less wealthy and more limited in scope, exist in such cities as Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and São Paulo. In the 1960s all these organizations incorporated in the Maccabi World Union and also established the Confederación Latinoamericana Macabi – CLAM, which, among other events, organizes the Juegos Macabeos Panamericanos (Panamerican Maccabi Games) that are recognized by the International Olympic Committee as one of the five regional games. The first Games were organized in Buenos Aires in 1964 with 500 sportsmen. Since then the Games were hosted by the Maccabi organizations in São Paulo (twice), Lima, Mexico City (twice), Caracas, Montevideo, and Santiago de Chile. The Games in 2007 will take place in Buenos Aires (third time) and 5,000 competitors are expected to participate.
Antisemitism, which has increased since the 1930s and has physically threatened Jewish communities, brought into existence throughout Latin America comprehensive organizations to represent the Jewish community vis-à-vis the authorities and to fight discrimination. They are generally organized on a federal basis and in several places, Brazil, for example, the local federations also fulfill communal functions. These umbrella organizations were created in the 1930s in response to the antisemitic attacks that characterized that decade. The most prominent, the *DAIA of Argentina, was established in 1935. The Latin American umbrella organizations are affiliated with the *World Jewish Congress and in 1964 they established the Congreso Judío Latinoamericano (Latin American Jewish Congress). During the early years of its development, Latin American Jewry enjoyed great assistance from world Jewish organizations. The *Jewish Colonization Association (ICA), which established the agricultural settlements in Argentina and Brazil, also supported Jewish education in these countries and in Uruguay. In addition, it assisted immigration to Latin America and aided the new arrivals through the establishment of local branches. HIAS, HICEM, and the American Jewish *Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) helped Jewish migration and settlement in Latin American countries and to a certain extent to organize Jewish communities, particularly in Cuba and Mexico. These organizations were particularly helpful in assisting the refugees from Nazi Germany who found shelter in Latin America during the Shoah, such as in the case of the small agricultural settlement in Sosua in the Dominican Republic or the transition migrants in Cuba. In 1930 the American *B'nai B'rith opened its first Latin American lodge in Argentina that was followed by the establishment of branches throughout Latin America. HIAS and the *American Jewish Committee, which is associated with local organizations, began to function in Latin America in 1945 and maintained for many years offices in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Mexico. The American Conservative movement started its activities in Latin America in the 1960s, becoming
For several decades Zionism was the most influential ideology among Latin American Jews. The Zionist movement was first created in Argentina in 1897, with the first immigrants in agricultural colonies and in the cities. It accompanied all the Jewish settlements throughout the continent, but during the 1930s and 1940s had to compete with anti-Zionist ideologies, such as the Bund and the Communists, which had a strong impact on the Jewish population from Eastern Europe, and against the indifference of other Jewish sectors. Zionists from Latin America participated in the Zionist Congresses, established federations and parties, founded committees that supported Keren Kayemet, Keren Hayesod, and other national campaigns, and were active in promoting educational work and youth movements, as well as political activities on behalf of the foundation of the State of Israel. Since 1948 this process has increased considerably so that in the 1960s differences between the Zionists and the Bund, which were prominent mainly in Argentina and Mexico, decreased considerably. Today the anti-Zionists in Latin America are a small minority: the Communists and extreme left wing Jewish students on one hand, and some ultra-Orthodox religious factions on the other. A recent study on the demographic and ideological positions among Argentinean Jews asserts that Israel is a central factor in Jewish identity for at least 85% of them.
The impact of Zionism is clearly seen also in the number of Latin Americans who have settled in Israel. In the 56 years between 1948 and 2004, 89,684 Jews from Latin American countries immigrated to Israel, according to the figures of Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics. This aliyah, which in the 1950s and part of the 1960s had very strong ideological and political roots, established ten kibbutzim and several moshavim, and helped complete many others. A comparison between the number of immigrants to Israel from each country and the total Jewish population in the present shows that Colombia and Uruguay contributed the highest proportion of their community members to the process of aliyah (70% and 41%, respectively) and after them are Argentina (28%) and Chile (25%). It is estimated that a few thousand among the olim from Latin America re-emigrated later to their countries of origin or to other countries in Europe and North America.
[Haim Avni /
Efraim Zadoff (2nd ed.)]
A revolution in the demographic study of Latin American Jewry has occurred since the 1970s, cutting back considerably the estimates that were accepted by scholars until then. Current and systematic estimates made by the Jewish Demography and Statistics Division of the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem concluded that in 2005 there were 397,600 Jews all over Latin America. Some local research, such as the study completed in 2004 in Buenos Aires with the support of the JDC, confirms this figure. Since the 1970s there has been a clear tendency toward demographic regression, caused by many factors, such as lack of immigration, low birth rate, high percentage of aged people, mixed marriages, assimilation, and emigration to Israel, the United States, and other countries (see Table below). The most unpredictable of these factors is the migration that is mainly influenced by the economic and to a lesser extent by the political situation in the respective countries. The economic factor was particularly influential in motivating the emigration from Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, and Venezuela, and the political factor in the cases of Cuba, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and Uruguay.
The Jewish communities in the Latin American countries generally became concerned with Jewish education only after the facilities for basic Jewish and social needs (burial, marriage, circumcision, public worship, kashrut, and social welfare for the needy, sick, and immigrants) had been provided. The first
At the very beginning of the 1920s new trends came to the fore in Jewish education and modern schools were established. In Argentina and Uruguay modern secular Jewish schools were opened as a result of the profound influence of educational changes in the communities of origin. The schools assumed "imported" patterns and Jewish political ideologies, which characterized the mainstream of Jewish complementary schooling in these two communities in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. The children attended these schools three–four hours a day five days a week. At the end of the 1960s, the schools received more than a third of the children of primary school age.
In the other communities a different pattern evolved since the Jewish parents were not satisfied with the state schools. With the help of wealthy individuals and afterwards with the support of parents who had gradually improved their economic situation, modern Jewish day schools were established with general and Jewish studies. These schools competed not only with the state schools but also with other private schools. The first modern day school was established in Mexico in 1924, and probably the last day school was established in Quito, Ecuador, in 1973. In the 1970s all the Jewish schools in Latin America (including Argentina and Uruguay) became day schools. In addition there are also Sunday schools, which give special bat or bar mitzvah lessons on Sunday or another day of the week. Until the 1960s or 1970s almost all the schools, complementary and day, devoted around 20 hours a week to the study of Jewish subjects. The Jewish curricula included history, literature, Bible, Yiddish and/or Hebrew, geography of Ereẓ Israel, and in the case of religious schools (less than a third) prayers and religious literature.
In the beginning the teaching staffs were made up of immigrants. In the 1940s secondary pedagogic schools were established in Argentina (1940, 1943, and 1945), producing a new generation of local teachers who were also able to direct the schools. In Mexico a teachers' seminar for graduates from the existing Jewish schools was founded in 1946. Like other communities, when the generation of immigrant teachers disappeared, the schools in Mexico were obliged to import teachers and principals from Israel or Argentina. In recent decades many local teachers were sent to study in Israeli universities in the framework of special programs and returned to their communities as senior teaching staff and school principals.
The day school structure is problematic with regard to Jewish studies since their main aim is to offer general studies at a high level. This often causes neglect of Jewish studies. On the other hand, the day school assures continuity in enrollment and has solved the problem of dropout among children over the years after it had been a serious problem in the complementary schools. For example, in Argentina in the mid-1960s the complementary primary schools and kindergartens received around 40% of the children of that age. From the end of the 1970s this went up to 55–65%. In other communities where day schools were established from the very beginning, such as Mexico, Venezuela, Panama, and Costa Rica, school attendance was over 80%, including secondary school.
Since the 1990s there have been attempts to establish complementary schools and courses, especially in Argentina, with the aim of attracting children who for diverse reasons (economy, distance, ideology) do not attend Jewish day schools. These frameworks succeeded recently to attract some 2,500 teenagers.
Other important frameworks in Jewish education are the informal activities and organizations. There are organizations with a clear ideological shading, the most common being the Zionist youth movements – the tenuot no'ar of all the political camps, from Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir on the left to Betar on the right and including the religious Bnei Akiva, which since the 1940s has been present in all the Latin American communities. Over the last six decades there have also been religious youth organizations such as Ezra (Po'alei Agudat Israel) and youth organizations of the Conservative (Ramah) and Reform communities (Netzer, Chazit Hanoar). There was also a youth movement of the Communists and their followers, and there were attempts to establish a Yugnt Bund Gezelshaft, as well as social and cultural activities offered by community centers and the social and sports clubs. Most of these institutions organized summer camps with varying Jewish content.
Yiddish, the language of the majority of the Jewish immigrants, was the first language of journalistic Jewish creativity in Latin America. Jewish newspapers, journals, and literary, social, and political publications existed in almost every community. The first known publications were printed in Buenos Aires in the 1890s, in Yiddish: Viderkol (edited by Michl Hacohen Sinai) and Der Yiddisher Fonograf and Di Folks Shtime. The first periodical publication in Spanish was El Sionista (edited by Jacobo Liachovitzky) in 1904. In the 1900s were published the Bundist Der Avangard (1908), the Zionist-Socialist Broit un Ehre (edited by León Jazanovich), and Yiddisher Colonist in Argentine oriented to the population in the agricultural colonies managed by ICA.
The migratory wave which brought to Argentina's cities close to 100,000 Jews increased the demand for a daily Yiddish newspaper. Di Yiddishe Tzaitung (Monday to Friday) was founded in 1914 and was edited successively by Leon Maas, José Mendelson, and Matías Stoliar, and from 1918 the daily
Spanish newspapers started to appear in 1917 in Buenos Aires: Israel edited by Samuel de A. Levy with a social and communal orientation and the magazine Vida Nuestra edited by León Kibrick with a cultural agenda. Al-Gala ("Exile") was edited in the same year by Aharon Sethon, and is probably the only periodical Jewish publication in Arabic that appeared in Latin America.
Many new periodicals in Spanish appeared from the 1920s, covering a very wide spectrum of genres, international and local news: Mundo Israelita (1923) edited successively by León Kibrick, Salomón Resnick, León Dujovne, and Gregorio Faingersh; La Luz (1931) edited by David, Nissim, and David Elnecave. Both were still being published in the early 21st century. An attempt to publish a daily with general news was made with Amanecer (1956–57), but ended in failure.
The ideological field was fertile ground for publications in Yiddish as well as in Spanish: Unzer Tzait, ICUF, Dos Arbeter Palestine, Di Yiddishe Velt, Fraie Shtime, Nueva Sión, Nueva Presencia, Renovación, La Voz de Israel, and others. Several cultural journals were published, such as Judaica edited by Salomón Resnick, Davar of the Sociedad Hebraica Argentina, Majshavot published by the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano with Religious Conservative orientation, and Comentario of the Instituto Judío Argentino de Cultura e Información, close to the American Jewish Committee.
The German-speaking sector founded in the early 1940s the Juedische Wochenschau, edited by Hardy Swarsensky, which in later years was transformed into a bilingual (German and Spanish) publication. German periodicals were published by Jewish refugees also in other countries, such as the Juedische Rudnschau in Havana.
The few publications that appeared in Argentina in Hebrew were a unique phenomenon in Latin America: Hechalutz in the 1920s, Darom edited by the Hebraist Organization from the early 1940s until the 1970s, Tzohar edited by teachers and students of the Teachers' Seminary in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and Rimon edited by teachers and students of Ha-Midrasha ha-Ivrit in the mid-1960s.
As in Argentina, Jewish journalism played an important role in Jewish life throughout Latin America. In Brazil several journals were published in Yiddish, like Yiddishe Folkstzaitung, Yiddishe Presse, and Dos yiddishe Vochenblat in Rio de Janeiro, Di Mentchhait (Porto Alegre), and Kol Israel (Belem do Para). In Uruguay there were Dos Yiddishe Lebn, Folksblat, Haint, Montevideer Shtime, Uruguayer Yiddish Vort, and many others, with a variety of ideological-political and communal orientations. In Mexico two journals supplied daily information to the Yiddish-speaking public, Di Shtime and Der Veg, which continued to be published until the 1970s and 1980s, respectively. Other Mexican publications were more politically oriented: Farn Folk, a bi-weekly of the United Zionist Organization published since 1934 and edited by Meir Berger; Forois, a monthly of the Bund party which began to be published in 1941; and Fraivelt, a monthly of the followers of the Communist Party published in 1943–52. In Cuba the Havaner Lebn appeared from 1932 to 1960, edited from 1935 by Sender Kaplan. Several other Yiddish publications include Oifgang (1929–34), Dos Yidishe Vort, and the Communist Kubaner Yiddish Vort in the 1940s.
The Yiddish journals published in Chile include Yiddishn Vochenblat in Chile edited by Noah Vital in the 1930s and Dos Yiddishe Vort with a section in Spanish that became its only language.
Jewish schools, particularly in Mexico City and in Buenos Aires, published bulletins and yearbooks that reflected their ideological trends and reported their activities and were sometimes used to raise funds.
Throughout Latin America, publications in Spanish or Portuguese coexisted with the main publications in Yiddish. By the 1960s, however, readers of Jewish languages were an insignificant minority. Chile was an exception, since from the very beginning the main language in Chilean Jewish journalism was Spanish. The first Jewish Chilean journal – Renacimiento – was published in Spanish from 1919, edited by Arturo David.
From the 1920s many journals were published in Chile, like Nuestro Ideal by Abraham Drapkin–Darom, La Patria Israelita by Boris Cojanov, Nosotros by Natalio Berman, Mundo Israelita by Robert Levy, Mundo Judío, organ of the Zionist Federation and edited by Marcos Levy, Alma Hebrea published in Temuco by Isaac de Mayo in the 1930s.
In Brazil, besides the informative publications in Portuguese of Jewish religious or social and sports institutions like A Hebraica of the Hebraica Community Center, Chabad News of Chabad, O Macabeu of the Circulo Esportivo Israelita Brasileiro Macabi, FISESP Comunicação of the Jewish Federation of the São Paulo State, or Morasha of the Sephardi Community of São Paulo, there were important cultural journals and magazines with a cultural content, some of them still being published with notable success. Resenha Judaica, published in São Paulo, was for 30 years (1970–2000) an important weekly journal with wide circulation, and after 2000 was continued by Semana, which became a magazine. Other important magazines are O Hebreu published monthly in São Paulo since 1984, the weekly Shalom, and the monthly Judaica. Also there is a bi-weekly journal published since 2000, Tribuna Judaica, with news about community life and Israel.
In Mexico the first important publication in Spanish was Tribuna Israelita founded in 1944 by Sergio Nudelstejer and becoming the organ of the Comité Central, the umbrella political organization of the Jewish institutions. Almost every community organization has its own bulletin and there
Jewish journalism has been active also in the electronic media. Several radio stations have been running Jewish programs. One of the first programs, Hora Israelita, was founded in São Paulo in 1940 by Siegfried Gotthilf. After his death (1952) his son Francisco directed the program under the name of Programa Mosaico. In 1961 he moved the program to television and though he changed channels many times, this weekly program is still transmitted every Sunday, being the longest-running program on Brazilian television. Radio programs were broadcast in many cities of Latin America, such as Shalom Israel in São Paulo, La Voz de Sión in Montevideo, and La Hora Hebrea in Buenos Aires. Since 1992 there has been a Jewish radio station, FM Jai, in Buenos Aires directed by Miguel Steuerman. There are also Jewish TV programs like the weekly Le Haim and Shalom Brasil in São Paulo and the weekly program of the AMIA in Buenos Aires which, despite a few interruptions, has been transmitted since the 1960s. An attempt to establish a cable channel – Alef – failed.
From the mid-1990s Jewish institutions and journals started to use the Internet as a new channel of communications. Today almost every community and institution can be visited through its website, and Jewish journals, like Tribuna Israelita of Mexico, La Palabra Israelita of Santiago de Chile, and Nuevo Mundo Israelita of Caracas, are accessible through the Internet. Several organizations send daily, weekly, or monthly bulletins with news, information, and cultural material to their members. Among them are Micro Ejecutivo de Noticias de la DAIA and the Boletín OJI of the Latin American Jewish Congress. There are also independent Jewish websites, such Morasha or Net Judaica in Brazil and Shalomonline – la comunidad judía en internet.
Ties with Israel
Latin American countries had often proved their sympathy and support for the Jewish renaissance both before and after the establishment of the State of Israel. The support given by Latin American politicians and intellectuals was explained by a combination of factors: their Judeo-Christian tradition which cherishes values connected with the land and the people of the Bible; their identification with the Jewish struggle for national independence, with Israel's attempt to integrate various ethnic groups, and cultivate neglected and desolate land; their objectivity in Middle East politics in which they had no direct interest; and the existence of active Jewish communities in Latin America and of influential descendants of the original Jewish immigrants (from Spain and Portugal) who still felt some kinship with the Jewish people. In spite of the fact that large segments of the population in Latin American countries originated in Arab-speaking countries and some Arabs became members of legislatures and governments, influential personalities mostly of the Latin American world rallied to the Zionist cause and supported the establishment of the State of Israel. The main reason for the moderation of the Arab elements was the predominance of Christian Lebanese, among them those who were not fervent supporters of the anti-Israel Arab nationalism. Pro-Zionist committees, in which prominent non-Jews in Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, and Costa Rica participated, came into existence in 1945. By the next year similar committees had sprung up in most Latin American countries. The list of sponsors included Alfonso Francisco Ramirez (then a member of the Mexican Supreme Court), José Figueres (the president of Costa Rica in 1948–49, 1953–58, and 1970–75), and José Galvez (then vice president of Peru). The *Jewish Agency promoted these beginnings of Latin American support. Benno Weiser (later Israel ambassador to various Latin American countries under the name of Benjamin Varon) and Moshe Tov (d. 1989, also later an Israel ambassador in Latin America), driving forces in the Latin American department of the Jewish Agency, won the political backing of these governments for the plan to partition Palestine in 1947–48. They were greatly assisted in these endeavors by the prestige of the famous Argentinean Jewish writer Alberto *Gerchunoff who actively intervened with political and spiritual leaders of Latin America on behalf of the Jewish interests in Palestine. The help extended by Latin American countries in the UN debate about the partition of Palestine was of decisive importance. Of the 11 members of the UN Special Committee on Palestine (1947) three were from Latin America: Arturo García Salazar of Peru, Jorge García Granados of Guatemala, and Enrique Rodríguez Fabregat of Uruguay. García Granados and Rodríguez Fabregat in particular gave unfailing support. Pedro Zuloaga, the alternate representative of the Venezuelan delegation in the second General Assembly of 1947, was most active in reconciling differences between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. on the Palestine question. The president of the UN General Assembly Oswaldo Aranha, representative of Brazil, prevented the delaying tactics of all the anti-partition forces in the Assembly and put the plan for the partition of Palestine to a vote on Nov. 29, 1947. The Latin American countries cast approximately 40% of the total votes favoring the establishment of a Jewish state. Thirteen Latin American states voted for the plan and six states abstained; Cuba was the only Latin American country to vote against it.
In April 1948, during the second special session of the UN General Assembly, the majority of Latin American countries prevented the passing of a resolution favoring the establishment of a UN trusteeship in Palestine. The Latin Americans of the third assembly opposed the suggestion of the UN Mediator, Count *Bernadotte, that a big part of the Negev be returned to the Arabs. In May 1949, 18 of 20 Latin American delegations in the UN invited Israel to join the UN as a full member (half
In the 1970s the attitudes in the Latin American governments changed, and at the beginning of 1974, observers pointed out that the Israeli cause in Latin America was at a low ebb, despite the fact that public opinion, as expressed by the leading press, continued to support Israel.
There were strong indications that several Latin American countries intended to intensify their ties with the Arab world. A "Syrian Week" took place in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 1974. The Buenos Aires University's Institute on the Third World arranged with the Libyan Embassy to publish Perón's works in Arabic and Kaddafi's thoughts in Spanish. In 1975 the first Islamic Center in Latin America was inaugurated in Brazilia. The Panamerican Arab Congress met in 1974 in Buenos Aires and in 1975 in São Paulo. In Bolivia, a Federation of Bolivian-Arab Organizations began in 1974 to publish an anti-Jewish magazine. Arab and Latin American delegations exchanged visits.
The increase of Arab influence was noticeable during the votes on the Middle East taken at international organizations. In many forums, such as UNESCO, the International Women's Year Conference, the Conference of Non-Aligned States, and also in the sessions of committees of the UN General Assembly, several Latin American representatives abstained or supported anti-Israeli or anti-Zionist resolutions. In numerous cases local public opinion, general and Jewish, strongly criticized the government's stand, but this did not change official policy. UN Resolution 3379 (November 10, 1975) condemning Zionism as racism was supported by Mexico, Brazil, and Cuba while most other states (Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador) abstained. Public opinion was one of the factors that changed the Latin American position when this resolution was revoked (December 1991). The issue arose again in the Session of the Commission on Human Rights in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, and this time many Latin American countries helped defuse the attacks against Israel and Zionism (Argentina among them). While relations between Israel and Latin America were affected in the 1970s and 1980s by the fluctuations of oil prices and the pressure of OPEC, the 1990s and 2000s were influenced by the perspectives of the peace process in the Middle East.
There are various cultural agreements between the Latin American countries and Israel implemented by the Instituto Cultural Israel-Iberoamérica that organizes intellectual and artistic exchanges between Israel and the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world.
Commerce between Latin America and Israel was significantly upgraded between the 1960s and the early 2000s. Many bilateral agreements, the diversification of the goods that Latin American countries and Israel produce and consume, and the better mutual knowledge of the markets increased trade considerably. Imports from Latin America increased from about $3.4 million (1960) to $603 million (2004), and exports from $3.5 million to $1,366 million. Bilateral trade relations are encouraged by many public institutions like the Cámara de Comercio Israel-Iberoamérica (Chamber of Commerce) and the Cámara Brasil – Israel de Comercio e Industria (Brazil-Israel Chamber of Commerce and Industry). Israel is well known in Latin America also for its projects of international cooperation. Thus, technical aid and cooperation have become the basis of contacts between some Latin American countries and Israel. Israeli experts in agriculture, irrigation, cooperatives, rural development, science, education, public health, and technology have worked in Latin America. Thousands of Latin American students and technicians participated in courses in Israel in the last decades, and thousands of Israeli experts worked in technical aid projects in Latin-American countries from the 1960s, and several technical cooperation agreements have been signed with Latin American countries. Furthermore, special technical cooperation agreements were implemented in conjunction with regional and inter-American organizations like the Organization of American States (in which Israel has a position of observer) and the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (Inter American Development Bank).
[Shlom Erel /
Efraim Zadoff (2nd ed.)]
From the 1960s to the early years of the 1980s difficult periods under non-democratic regimes controlled by army officers affected most of the Latin American countries, in some
Nevertheless, the terrorist attacks in Buenos Aires against the Israeli embassy (1992) and the total destruction of the AMIA Ashkenazi community building (1994), the reaction of some sectors of the population, and the failure to apprehend the perpetrators had their effect on the Jewish public in Argentina and in many other Latin American communities: on the one hand, Jews were made to feel less secure and felt the need to take more responsibility for the protection of Jewish sites; on the other Jewish cohesion and solidarity were reinforced. The social situation created by the economic crises in some countries and the solidarity of community institutions offering their help to the needy strengthened Jewish society and its sense of mutual responsibility.
[Efraim Zadoff (2nd ed.)]
M.A. Cohen, The Jewish Experience in Latin America (1971); idem, in: AJA, 20 (1968), 33–62; L. Garcia de Proodian, Los Judíos en América, sus actividades en los virreinatos de Nueva Castilla y Nueva Granada – siglo xvii. (1966); J. Laikin Elkin and A. Lya Sater, Latin American Jewish Studies: An Annotated Guide to the Literature (1990); S.B. Liebman, Faith and Flame: The History of the Jews of New Spain (1969); idem, New World Jewry, 1493–1825: Requiem for the Forgotten (1982). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. Avni, Judíos en América: Cinco siglos de historia (1992); S. DellaPergola, World Jewish Population, in: American Jewish Year Book, 105 (2005); A. Jmelnizky and E. Erdei, La Población Judía de Buenos Aires – Estudio sociodemográfico (2005); <http://www.meida.org/home.html>; Judaica Latinoamericana, vols 1–5 (1988–2005); J. Laikin Elkin, Jews of Latin America, (1997); D.B. Lockhart, Jewish Writers of Latin America. A Dictionary (1997); D. Sieskel, "Ketav Et Ẓiyyoni be-Aravit, be-Argentina" in: Kesher, 10 (1991), 80–85; E. Zadoff, "Jewish Education in Other Latin American Countries," in: H.S. Himmelfarb and S. DellaPergola, Jewish Education Worldwide – Cross-Cultural Perspectives (1984); E. Zadoff (ed.), Informe de la Comisión Israelí por los Desaparecidos Judíos en Argentina (2003), <http://www.mfa.gov.il/desaparecidos>. See also bibliographies in articles on individual Latin American countries.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.