Shalom Life | June 27, 2014

Shalom, Uruguay: A Jewish Culture Guide

Although the Uruguayan Jewish community is relatively young, it is large, proud, and strong. With so much to offer, Uruguay is definitely worth the visit.

By: Sarah Bauder

Published: June 17th, 2014 in Culture » Society » News

Shalom, Uruguay: A Jewish Culture Guide

And we’re off, to anywhere and everywhere, as we say ‘Shalom’ every week to different global travel destination. World cities, provincial towns, and even the most unassuming of suburbs are infused with Jewish history and culture, some of which is waiting to be discovered.

For the pious follower, the curious traveler, or the intrepid adventurer, we’ll unearth the best of what to do and where to go. Be it an emerging subculture, a historical landmark, or simply a triumph of art in any form, Jewish experiences are found around the world; and likely as well in your backyard.

It may be in the destination, the journey, or the company, but there is much to uncover and celebrate near and far, so hurry up and get going.

Shalom, Uruguay

Like many South American nations, the first Jewish presence in Uruguay were Conversos during the 16th century. Blessedly however, the long arm of the Inquisition didn’t have a significant reach to the region. The first Jewish settlement in Uruguay can be traced to the late 18th century.

The present-day community dates to 1880, according to the World Jewish Congress. By 1909, there were an estimated 150 Jews residing in the capital, Montevideo. Eight years later, the community founded the first synagogue. By 1918, there were approximately 1,700 Jews living in Uruguay. During the 1920’s and early ‘30’s, the country saw an influx of immigration.

However, by the mid 1930’s, Fascist leanings took hold in Uruguay, which imposed immigration quotas. However by 1939 said restrictions were lifted, and some 2,200 Jews, mainly from Germany, settled in the country, according to the World Jewish Congress. Post World War II, Jews from Eastern European nations and the Middle East settled in Uruguay.

Today, there are an estimated 20,000 Jews residing in Uruguay, with the majority calling Montevideo home. The Uruguayan Jewish community is comprised of Polish-Russian, Sephardi, Hungarian, and German. All Jewish organizations in the country fall under the umbrella Comite Central Israelita del Uruguay. There are several Zionist organizations, youth movements, women’s organization, and B'nai B'rith represented in the country.

Holocaust Memorial

As of 2003, there are 20 synagogues in Uruguay, only one of which (Yavne Community Center synagogue in Montevideo) operates daily. Chabad operates two centers in the country, one in the capital and another in Punta del Este. There are four Jewish schools in Uruguay, and likewise, Chabad also operates a school.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Montevideo has a Jewish museum, documentation center, and a Holocaust memorial museum, which has been given the designation of a national historic landmark. If you prefer a guided tour, Judaic Tourism offers 3-hour tours of Montevideo. All said tours include guides, transportation, and admission to sites. If you desire to keep kosher in Uruguay, there are numerous options. Both locally produced, and imported kosher food is readily available, and there are several kosher restaurants throughout the country, primarily in various Jewish institutions, according to the World Jewish Congress.

Although the Uruguayan Jewish community is relatively young, it is large, proud, and strong. With so much to offer, Uruguay is definitely worth the visit.

Links:

http://www.cciu.org.uy/

http://www.jabad.org.uy/

http://www.worldjewishcongress.org/en/communities/show?id=122

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