Jewish Communities Grow Across Latin America

Half Million Jews in Economically Vibrant Region

By Diego Melamed (JTA)

Published September 10, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page
jta

When the Sao Paulo Hebraica Sports Club and Community Center in Brazil opened the Aleph School earlier this month, it welcomed 450 students and had 120 more on the waiting list for next year.

Hebraica, which is similar to an American Jewish community center, has reached 24,000 members and has a $30 million budget. Meanwhile, Sao Paulo’s oldest synagogue, Temple Beth El, recently dedicated a new building, leaving the original one to become the Jewish Museum of Sao Paulo.

In Panama, the Jewish community has grown by 70 percent in the past 10 years. The 8,000-member community in that period has seen a rise from three to 10 b’nai mitzvah a week.

In Argentina, the number of children in Jewish preschool programs has soared by nearly 1,000 – from 3,952 in 2005 to 4,914 in 2012.

Nearly wherever one looks, Jewish life is growing in Latin America, which is now home to an estimated 500,000 Jews. The growth comes as the region continues to transform economically as part of a social evolution following the end of military dictatorships that ruled many countries into the 1980s.

From 2000 to 2010, poverty in the region dropped from 44 percent to 32 percent of the population, according to the Economic Committee for Latin American and the Caribbean, or CEPAL. In large part it is because of the increase in jobs that has come from rising prices for the region’s commodities and natural resources, such as copper, oil, soybeans, meat, fruits and other agricultural products.

And more growth is on the horizon. Latin America will contribute to global growth more than Europe in the next seven years, according to CEPAL, which released a study in August that said the 2013-2020 period “will be a low-growth cycle for industrialized economies while it will display dynamism in emerging economies.”

Despite the growth, challenges remain for many Jewish communities.

“We have strong signals of a new flourishing situation, but we also will still have a variety of problems, like the poor knowledge about Judaism in our members and some type of hidden anti-Semitism in the general society,” said Alberto Milkewitz, director of the Isaraelite Federation of Sao Paulo.

But that hasn’t dimmed optimism among Jewish leaders.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.