NICARAGUA, Central American republic. Although some Jews settled in Nicaragua in the 19th century, a new community was founded by Jews who arrived from Eastern Europe after 1929. They established the Congregación Israelita de Nicaragua, the most important Jewish association in the country. The majority of the Jews lived in Managua and engaged in commerce, industry, and agriculture; the few who lived in the interior also engaged in agriculture and commercial representation. The congregation maintained close ties with Jewish institutions abroad. All the women in the community belonged to *WIZO, which had been active in the country since 1941. Since 1935 the congregation had its own cemetery and, since 1964, its own synagogue in Managua. Services were held on the Sabbath and on all festivals, and rabbis from abroad were invited to officiate.
The community peaked in 1972 with 250 Jews, most living in the capital Managua, but after the disastrous earthquake of December 1972 many Jews emigrated. In 1978, the synagogue in Managua was attacked by five Sandinistas guerrilla fighters. The Sandinista government, which ruled from 1979 to 1990, took different measures against the small Jewish community, which culminated in the virtual expulsion of the few Jewish families that remained in Nicaragua and the implementation of antisemitic propaganda. The government sequestered the synagogue and other Jewish property and imprisoned the community leader Abraham Gorn (at age 70), who however managed to escape. Until 1979 there was a central Jewish organization, but in the early 21st century only a few Jews lived in the country.
Relations with Israel
Nicaragua voted in 1947 for the UN Resolution on the partition of Palestine, and from the establishment of the State of Israel very cordial relations existed between the two countries. Israel was represented in Managua by a nonresident ambassador residing in Costa Rica, and Nicaragua was represented in Israel by a nonresident ambassador residing in Rome. Israel enjoyed Nicaragua's wholehearted support in the international arena, and Nicaragua repeatedly took steps to counteract anti-Israel moves in the United Nations. Israel developed a ramified program in the area of technical aid. Nicaraguan trainees participated in courses in Israel, mainly in the fields of agriculture and community organization. Israel experts were active in Nicaragua in the field of agricultural settlement and conducted a mobile course in agricultural cooperation. In 1969 the scope of trade reached $100,000 in Israeli exports to Nicaragua, mainly in synthetic fibers. In the 1970s Nicaragua became an anti-Israel stronghold, in Latin America and on the international front, particularly following the take-over of power by the Sandinista Junta in July 1979. In 1982 the Sandinista government severed diplomatic relations with Israel, but with the ousting of the Sandinista regime in 1990, ties with Israel were restored.
[Moses Aberbach /
Efraim Zadoff (2nd ed.)]
J. Beller, Jews in Latin America (1969).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.