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Peru

PERU, republic in South America; general population (2005) 27,000,000, Jewish population (2004) 2,600.

Colonial Period

The discovery of Peru and its mineral potential attracted a large number of *Crypto-Jews known as "Portuguese," who disregarded the restrictions on the immigration of *New Christians and arrived in the capital *Lima which was founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535. On February 7, 1569, Philip II, king of Spain, issued the decree that ordered the establishment of the Inquisition in Lima, which started the persecution of Crypto-Jews and descendants of Jews. Until 1595 the number of victims was very small, and the Crypto-Jews were able to prosper, especially in commerce of import and export. The first auto da fé in Lima was carried out on December 17, 1595, with ten "Judaizers," four of whom were freed, but one, Francisco Rodríguez, who was burned alive. On December 10, 1600, 14 Crypto-Jews were punished, and on March 13, 1605, another 16. After that date the frequency and numbers declined. This was due to the general declaration of pardon for "Judaizers" declared in 1601 that consequently attracted a large number of New Christians, many of them Crypto-Jews, who attained important status in the economic life of the Spanish colony. Thus the sensational trials against Crypto-Jews were generally directed against the rich and wealthy, with the Holy Office confiscating their properties after their condemnation. This was the case of Antonio Cordero – local representative of a merchant from Sevilla – who was denounced by a local trader for not being prepared to sell to him on Saturday and for refusing to eat pork. The case was investigated secretly with torture, and later led to the great auto da fé of January 23, 1639, in which 70 persons were accused as Judaizers. The most famous among them was Francisco Maldonado de Silva, who during the 12 years that he spent in prison remained loyal to the Jewish faith and also converted two Catholic prisoners to Judaism. All the rest were members of what the Spanish authorities called "The Great Conspiracy" Crypto-Jewish congregation in Lima. The last victim of this congregation was Manuel Enríquez, burnt at the stake in 1664, together with the effigy of doña Murcia de Luna who died under torture. This display of severity was accompanied by the menace of total expulsion in 1646 which was evaded through the payment of the tremendous sum of 200 thousand ducats; this was the final episode of many years of offenses against Crypto-Jews. According to unsubstantiated sources there were 6,000 Crypto-Jews in Peru.

The last victims accused as "Judaizers" were Ana de Castro, on December 23, 1736, and Juan Antonio Pereira on November 11, 1737. The final activity of the Inquisition in Lima was recorded in 1806. By that time persons recognized as Crypto-Jews had disappeared.

One of the famous Crypto-Jewish families in colonial times was the "León Pinelo" family whose name was adopted by the Jewish school in Lima in 1946.

Contemporary Period

EARLY IMMIGRATION, 19th CENTURY

There are no archival records on the early immigration of Jews to Peru in the Republican period, yet their presence can be traced through the search in directories of social clubs of foreign residents or in the advertisements of Jewish business firms that started to appear in the newspapers and in the commercial directories from the middle of the 19th century. In 1852, in the daily El Comercio, the photographer Jacobo Stein and Co., a Polish Jew from New York, with "a daguerreotype at the disposal of the beauties of Lima," advertised his services. Other advertisements publicized the confectionery Phailes and Blanc (1853) and the tobacco shop José Cohen and Brothers (1855). The director of the English Club was E. Bergman (1857) and several German Jews were members of the Club Germania from 1863. Other Jewish names, such as Alsop, Isaac, Villiers, and Michael appear in the 1864 directory of the Sociedad de Carreras (Professionals Association) that later became the Jockey Club of Peru. These names are the evidence of the presence of Jewish professionals and merchants in Peru, many of whom were born in Alsace Lorraine and other places in Germany and France, escaping from Europe following the failure of the 1848 revolution, as a result of the economic and political crises and of antisemitism. Other Jews arrived from England and the United States, representing construction companies, railways, and other industries that traded with Peru. In 1875 there were around 300 Jews in Lima, 55% of them were Germans, 15% French, 10% English, 10% Russians, and 20% others. They were industrialists, bankers, diamond dealers, jewelers, engineers, merchants, and professionals. Among them were representatives of the famous French firms of Rothschild (first exchange and stock agents), Dreyfus (jeweler and guano dealer), and others.

THE CEMETERY

In 1868 10 Jews fell victim to the yellow fever epidemic that caused the deaths of 6,000 Peruvians. The Jews were buried in the old Britannic Cemetery of Callao (Protestant). In total, 25 Jews were buried in the Britannic Cemetery between 1861 and 1871. The need to bury Jewish dead and to assist their widows and orphans motivated the Jewish residents in Lima to establish a beneficiary association. In April 1869 they created a provisional directory called Sociedad de Beneficencia Israelita (Jewish Beneficiary Association), presided over by Jacobo Herzberg and Miguel Badt. This association was officially founded in July 1, 1873, under the presidency of Natazzius Hurwitz, with deputies Paul Ascher and Jacobo Brillman. In March 1875 they laid the cornerstone for the Jewish cemetery of Baquíjano (Campo Santo Israelita de Baquíjano), in the same ground occupied today by the Jewish cemetery of Bellavista. The land was bought from Enrique Meiggs, and the license was obtained by two American Jewish engineers who worked with him in the railway company through their diplomatic legation.

DECLINE

The Jewish population, however, started to decrease, and by 1898 only 43 Jews remained in Peru. Jewish immigration was discontinued owing to the economic consequences of Peru's defeat in the war with Chile in 1879. In addition, almost all the Jewish immigrants were men, and the majority married non-Jewish Peruvian women, thus losing the Jewish tradition in their homes and among their descendants. Towards the end of the 19th century there was hardly any Jewish activity in Lima, and only elderly persons preserved their Jewish identity.

IQUITOS

At the same time that European Jews settled in the coast city of Lima, about 1870 a different wave of Jewish immigrants reached the Peruvian jungles. These were young Jewish men, arriving from the Brazilian cities Manaos and Belém (State of Pará), who had come originally from Tangier (Morocco) and were sailing to explore the Amazon River. They settled in the city of *Iquitos, especially during the rubber boom. Later, penetrating along the Amazon River, they opened new routes in the jungle. It is estimated that 200 Jews arrived in Iquitos during those years. In 1895 they purchased a plot of land in the General Cemetery of Iquitos in which they buried their dead. In 1909 they founded the Sociedad de Beneficencia Israelita de Iquitos (Jewish Beneficiary Association of Iquitos) with 38 members. Among the most frequent names are Benzaquén, Alexander, Cohen, Edery, Toledano, Bendayán, Abensur, etc. The 1912 crisis and the fall of rubber prices caused a large movement of emigration, and very few Jews, married to local women, remained in Iquitos. By 1949 there were only 17 of the original Jewish immigrants. Today there is a small community composed of their descendants, who convene to celebrate Friday nights and the Holy Days. Some of them made aliyah and settled in Israel. (For the contemporary history of this community see *Iquitos.)

SECOND MIGRATORY WAVE, 20TH CENTURY

Sephardi immigration to Peru started around the beginning of the 20th century with the arrival of Jews from Turkey (108 from Istanbul, Smyrna, and Edirne), a few from Greece (12 from Salonica), Morocco (eight from Tangier), and Egypt (six from Cairo). Among them were the Calvo, Levi, Sarfaty, Alalú, Varón and Alcabés families. They joined the Sociedad de Beneficencia Israelita that was founded by the German Jews, but in November 1920 they established their own institution. This Sephardi communal organization, the Sociedad de Beneficencia Israelita Sefaradí, was constituted officially on November 24, 1925, and on September 17, 1933, it inaugurated its synagogue and social premises at the same location it still occupies in the early 21st century.

Ashkenazi Jews started to immigrate to Peru around 1912, coming principally from Romania (55%) and Poland (25%), and the rest from Russia (10%), Hungary (5%), and other European countries. Among them were the Eidelman, Gans, Vainstein, Gleiser, and Waisman families. They settled in the neighborhood of Chirimoyo and, on June 11, 1923, founded the Unión Israelita del Perú that was officially recognized on November 16, 1929. After moving among rented places they purchased a plot in 1933, inaugurating their synagogue and social premises on July 29, 1934.

German-speaking Jewish refugees arrived in Peru between 1933 and 1939 from Germany (70%), Austria (25%), and other countries. In 1935 they revived the old Sociedad de Beneficencia Israelita that received a new legal status as the Sociedad de Beneficencia Israelita de 1870. They inaugurated their own building on September 24, 1948.

The majority of the Jews, Sephardim and Ashkenazim, dedicated themselves to peddling, traveling in the provinces to buy and sell merchandise, introducing the use of credit that was little known at the time. Many of them settled in the different provinces of Peru, particularly near the important intersections of highways and railways or near the port cities Callao, Huancayo, Trujillo, Arequipa, Piura, Lambayeque, and Ica. German Jews who were musicians, professionals, or scientists tended to settle in Lima, where they could work in their profession. Some of them, however, went to the provincial towns, where it was easier to validate their European title and exercise their profession as doctors, pharmacists, engineers, and professors. It is estimated that in 1947 there were 2,800 Jews in Lima and 1,200 in the provinces.

Towards the end of the 1950s the Jewish families left the provinces and concentrated in Lima, in order to provide Jewish education to their children in the León Pinelo School (founded in 1946) and to facilitate their studies in the universities of the capital. Moreover, in Lima they could find a Jewish social framework in which they could meet a potential mate. By the end of the 1960s practically no Jews were left in the provinces of Peru.

INSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The Zionist Federation was founded in 1925 by Ashkenazim and Sephardim, and its first president was Sassone Sarfaty. In 1935 the Comité de Protección al Immigrante Israelita (Comité for the Defense of the Jewish Immigrant) was founded, being affiliated to HICEM, the JDC, and later to HIAS and ICA. The committee took care of the legal and illegal immigrants, obtained visas for them, sought employment for them, helped establish their relatives, sent money and packages to Europe. It also provided services to immigrants in transit to other countries, maintained a Home for Immigrants (1939–41) and Spanish courses. After the war it took care of the remittances of war reparations from Germany.

In 1940 WIZO was created (headed by Teresa Topf), in 1944 OSE-ORT (headed by Max Heller), in 1949 the Pioneer Women Organization (headed by Charna Goldemberg). From 1941 there was a permanent Campaign for the War Victims, in which several members of WIZO, OSE, the British Red Cross, and other groups of women from the three congregations were active. In 1945 the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) was established.

The growing influence of antisemitism throughout the world, including in Peru, and the news on the atrocities committed by the Nazis against the Jews motivated the decision of the Jews of Lima to form an association for common civil objectives. On February 4, 1942, they founded the "Directory of the Jewish Community of Peru," headed by Max Heller, Jacobo Franco, and Leopoldo Weil, that on June 20, 1944, was registered as the Asociación de Sociedades Israelitas del Perú (Association of the Jewish Organizations of Peru). Also merged under this umbrella organization were all the activities of the cemetery that had been conducted since 1940 by one ḥevra kaddisha. Created during the same year was also the Bikur Cholim society and the Hogar de Ancianos (old age home).

The umbrella organization changed its name in 1975 to Asociación Judía del Perú, under which it still functions. During the war years, the main tasks of this representative organ were concentrated on the external front in the struggle against antisemitic manifestations that occasionally appeared in the press and in Peruvian public life. Likewise they collected products and money which they sent to Europe to assist Jewish survivors, and they took care of the few Jewish families that were able to immigrate to Peru.

During the Holocaust period, immigration to Peru was affected by the official negative policy towards the admission of non-white and non-Christian immigrants. Despite the sympathy expressed by the Peruvian representative in the Evian Conference towards the Jewish refugees, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prohibited its consuls in Europe from issuing visas to Jews. This discriminatory policy was the main reason that between 1933 and 1943, when Peru broke relations with Germany, legal Jewish immigration numbered only around 500 persons.

In June 27, 1945 the Comité Peruano Pro Palestina Hebrea (Peruvian Committee in Favor of a Jewish Palestine) was established, headed by the president of the Senate, José Gálvez Barrenechea, with distinguished members, such as Luis Valcárcel, Gerardo Klingue, Manuel Beltroy, and César Miró. The committee's mission was to disseminate among intellectuals, journalists, and politicians the idea of the Jewish people's need to obtain its own state and to gain the sympathy of the Peruvian people in this cause. This led to Peru's vote in favor of the Partition of Palestine in the UN Assembly of November 29, 1947. The main Jewish activists who supported this task were Marcos Roitman, Marcos Perelman, Walter Neisser, and Isaac Wecselman.

In recognition of his Zionist activities, Marcos Roitman was nominated in 1951 as the honorary consul of Israel in Peru, inaugurating the consulate in 1953. In 1956 diplomatic relations between Israel and Peru were raised to the level of legations and in 1958 to that of embassies, with Tuvia Arazi as the first ambassador of Israel in Peru.

On the internal front the Jewish community was active in creating youth movements, a home for golden agers, assistance to the needy, a social club, synagogues, a cemetery, and in particular to provide Jewish education. In 1934 a Peruvian branch of Maccabi was opened, followed in 1936 by the Sephardi youth movement Hashachar and in 1942 by Hashomer of the German Jews. In 1938 Betar was founded and in 1943 all the youth movements (except Betar) were merged in the Asociación Juvenil Israelita – AJI (Association of Young Jews) that identified itself with the Zionist movement and in 1947 was affiliated to Ha-No'ar ha-Ẓiyyoni. In 1962 the German Jews established the apolitical group Kineret. A Communist youth movement, Juventud judía vanguardista-comunista (Jewish Youth of Communist Avant-Garde) was founded in 1945 but existed only for two years.

In March 1945 the Comité Pro Colegio Hebreo (Committee for a Jewish School) was founded, headed by Israel Brodsky, who inaugurated the Leon Pinelo School on April 24, 1946. (On the history of the school, see *Lima.) Since 1954 the school has been located in the same building, educating the great majority (over 90%) of the Jewish population from kindergarten to high school.

LATER DEMOGRAPHIC AND INSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The demographic and economic experience of the Peruvian Jews resembles the expansion and contraction of an accordion, but, arriving at the limits of their possible contraction, they risk facing extinction (see table below). Starting with a small group of very poor individual Jews who immigrated in the 1910s, they grew into a prosperous community in the 1950s and 1960s. Later, however, started a process of decrease and decline that brought them to a crossroad at which they had to choose between the reorganization of the community and its adaptation to the actual economic and demographic reality, or the continuity of the institutional inertia, that might lead to the loss of attraction of communal frameworks, especially the synagogues and the prestigious Jewish Leon Pinelo school.

Peru  Documented Jewish Population, 18752004 Peru – Documented Jewish Population, 1875–2004

Year No. of Jews Places Total in Peru
1875 300 / 50 Lima / Iquitos 350
1898 43 / 200 Lima / Iquitos 243
1917 300
1930 1,000
1933 1,500
1939 2,500
1947 2,800 / 1,200 Lima / Provinces 4,000
1968 5,300 / 150 Lima / Provinces 5,450
1988 3,200 Lima 3,200
2000 2,700 Lima 2,700
2004 2,600 Lima 2,600

The 1960s were a period of generational change in which the Jews of the second generation, most of whom were born and educated in Peru, assumed the leadership of the community. Communal prosperity continued, relations with Israel were strengthened, Keren Hayesod increased its campaigns, more people went on aliyah to Israel, and the Jewish school attracted more than 80% of the Jewish children in Lima with sheliḥim (emissaries) from Israel acting as director and teachers.

Hebraica (the social club) appointed a director of activities from abroad, and three new rabbis were nominated for the three congregations. While the communities in the provinces were disappearing, the community in Lima was growing until it reached 5,500 persons.

In the 1970s, however, the contraction of the Jewish community began, both economically and demographically, due to the military coup d'état of General Velasco (1968–80) that affected the land owners (agrarian reform), industry (industrial community), and real estate (law of renting). The national economic crisis, the politicization of the universities with strikes and decline in level of quality scared the young Jews who started to emigrate in order to study abroad, particularly in Israel and the United States. The number of mixed marriages increased, and there appeared the first manifestations of open antisemitism through an anti-Zionist attitude and support of the Palestinians. At the same time there was an increase in delinquency and insecurity that motivated the beginning of emigration of Jewish families who made aliyah or sought other destinations on the American continent. The Jewish population fell to 4,500 in the late 1970s.

The 1980s were a period of communal weakening, with a growing emigration that resulted from the economic crisis caused by the external debt, the delinquency, the kidnappings, the terrorism of the underground guerrillas Sendero Luminoso ("Shining Path") and the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amarú – MRTA (Revolutionary Movement Tupac Amaru), all of which generated pessimistic future expectations. The birth rate of the Jews declined and, combined with the above-mentioned factors, the school population, which in 1976 comprised 1,024 pupils fell to 540 in 1990. The Jewish institutions suffered from economic impoverishment. The proliferation of children of mixed marriages started the debate on "who is a Jew." At the end of the 1980s the number of Jews was reduced to 3,200.

In the 1990s the communal decline became evident. The country's economic deterioration continued, and unemployment and Jewish poverty grew in the community. The dictatorship of Fujimori, in its second administration, created tension, fear, and confusion. Aliyah decreased because of the problems in Israel and the feeling of marginalization of the immigrants from Latin America with respect to the Russians. Mixed marriages increased, as did emigration to the United States. The number of pupils in the Jewish school was reduced to 430. After 18 years, towards the end of this decade the annual trip to Israel of the school children was suspended due to economic reasons, as well as to the security situation in Israel. There was a constant decline of Jewish donors. At the same time there started a religious revival in certain sectors of middle-aged Jews; a rabbi of Chabad joined the Peruvian Jewish community, being supported by part of the few disposable donations, particularly of the Ashkenazi Unión Israelita. The number of Jews fell to 2,700.

While the religious revival is a general phenomenon in the world, in the case of Peru it coincides with the repetition of a well-known historical situation, in which Jews who feel instability and uncertainty in the future come closer to religion in search of refuge and answers.

In the 2000s, in an atmosphere of a certain national optimism for the recuperation of democracy that followed the election of President Alejandro Toledo, there emerged the demand for an urgent regeneration of the community in order to reorganize its large patrimony that contains superfluous services.

Over the years the Jews who were born and educated in Peru started to occupy important places in the professions, art, business, and finances of the country, and more recently in its political life. Within the Jewish community, the highest rank was achieved by the engineer Eduardo Bigio, who was president of the Committee of Human Relations of the Jewish community, from its foundation in the 1970s until his aliyah in 2001. Bigio was also president of the Committee of the Third World in the World Jewish Congress, having worked for more than 40 years in the defense of Jewish causes in the public life of Peru. In the sphere of national politics, the highest level was achieved by Efraim Goldemberg, as minister of foreign affairs and later minister of economy, under the administrations of Alberto Fujimori; the second vice president David Waisman, under the administration of Alejandro Toledo; and the Member of Congress Jacques Rodrich. The fact that Eliane Karp, the wife of President Toledo, is a Jew who had lived in Israel is also significant for the Jewish community.

CURRENT PROBLEMS

The Jews of Peru, like other communities who share similar characteristics, are confronting problems and tensions both on the level of each individual family and on that of the whole community. Each family has to find the balance between the cost of communal affiliation and the benefits it expects to receive (from the school, clubs, social assistance, etc.). It is evident that discontinuity of affiliation may lead to assimilation in the present generation or in that of their children. A second problem concerns the confrontation between the expectations of a universal and international English-speaking education and an education that gives priority to the Jewish dimensions. The preference for non-Jewish schools endangers the subsistence of the community, which is incapable of maintaining a Jewish school for a small number of students. A third problem is the capacity of the Jewish community to organize itself, in view of the demographic decline and the deterioration of the average family income. The cost of maintenance of Jewish institutions, with their administration and professional leadership, is becoming very steep. Communal services are often based on the donations of a few philanthropists, so that they depend on the good will and economic situation of individual persons more than on their capacity to institutionally balance their costs. The last and most serious problem is the "elitization" that results from the division of the Jews according to their economic capacities. While the economic burdenof maintaining the unity and homogeneity of the community is becoming very heavy, particularly among families who are less devoted to Jewish solidarity, the economic elite becomes more preoccupied with its economic well-being, weakening the communal spirit. This leads to a polarization of the community, a situation in which only the rich can enjoy the expensive services and the impoverished families drop out.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

N. Lorch, Ha-Nahar ha-Lohesh (1969); Asociación Filantrópica Israelita, Buenos Aires, Zehn Jahre Aufbauarbeit in Suedamerika (Ger. and Span., 1943); Sociedad de Beneficencia Israelita de 1870, 25 Jahre Hilfsverein deutschsprechenden Juden (1960); J. Shatzky, Yidishe Yishuvim in Latayn Amerike (1952), 175–80; A. Monk and J. Isaacson, Comunidades Judías de Latino-américa (1968), 109–12; J. Toribio Medina, Historia de la Inquisicion de Lima, 2 vols. (19562); M.A. Cohen, in: The Jewish Experience in Colonial Latin America (1971), introd. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: L. Trahtemberg, La Inmigración Judía al Perú 18481948 (1987); idem, Los Judíos de Lima y de las Provincias del Perú (1989); idem, Participación del Perú en la Partición de Palestina (1991).