Sun and Shuls Make Uruguay Beach Town Jewish Hot Spot

Punta Del Este Lures Latin Jewry in Southern Summer

Sun and Shuls: Punta del Este has long been a magnet for South America’s glitterati. Now it’s attracting Jews from all over the region as well.
getty images
Sun and Shuls: Punta del Este has long been a magnet for South America’s glitterati. Now it’s attracting Jews from all over the region as well.

By JTA

Published February 04, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

“Jews always looked for liberty and here we have this,” said Wilson Tobal, 78, who owns high-end furniture stores here and in Buenos Aires. “More than that, high-class Jews from Brazil and Argentina have more security here, so they can relax, enjoy time with their kids on the streets without fear and celebrate their Judaism at local temples.

“In both Argentina and Brazil there are guards at the temples. Here we celebrate Shabbat ceremonies with open gates and nothing has ever happened.”

The first Chabad emissary arrived in Punta del Este in 1985. The Chasidic outreach group converted a mansion into a hostel, Yaacob House, where Israeli backpackers and local Jews can find accommodations for just $20 per night in a neighborhood where houses typically cost around $2 million.

“We also offer Shabbat services and meals for young people who spend their summer in villages in Punta del Diablo and Jose Ignacio,” said Rabbi Elieser Shemtov, referring to two beach towns further up the coast. “Tourism in Uruguay is expanding eastward and so is Chabad.”

With Argentina’s financial crisis of the late 1990s, many middle-class Jews left for Europe and the United States. Some, however, came here, for more economic and physical security.

One was Yael Cohen, who emigrated with her husband after they were kidnapped and assaulted by thieves. She sold her pharmacy in Buenos Aires and bought another in Punta del Este, where she now resides.

“We saw crimes on TV, and when it happened to us we decided to look for a more quiet life,” Cohen told JTA. “Here we are calm and happy.”

Last year, architect Daniel Weiss became the first president of Cantergril, the country club started by Litman, when he was elected to a two-year term. In late January, in the latest sign of the Jewish imprint here, Argentinian Samuel Liberman announced he was building a $600 million hotel and shopping center – a sum six times as much as the complex being planned by Trump.

The Jewish institutional presence has grown, too, as it has elsewhere in Latin America in recent years. The Comunidad Israelita de Punta del Este, or CIPEMU, was created in 2005 and now counts 800 members. A new school, Nefesh, was launched last year. And a yeshiva is being planned with support from Jewish families from Argentina and Brazil.

“I’m very moved right now,” said Johanna Cohen, an Argentinian who was walking to Friday night services recently with her two daughters, “walking on this costal street going to the temple with all these people who share history and values.”


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!
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • The Cossacks were a feature in every European Jewish kid's worst nightmare. Tuvia Tenenbom went looking for the real-life variety in Ukraine — but you won't believe what he found. http://forward.com/articles/202181/my-hunt-for-the-cossacks-in-ukraine/?
  • French Jews were stunned when an anti-Israel mob besieged a synagogue outside Paris. What happened next could be a historic turning point.
  • 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.