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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Paraguay

Immigration movements - marriages - Herzl Israel
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971:
                Paraguay, vol. 13, col. 85-86, synagogue in Asunción
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Paraguay, vol. 13, col. 85-86, synagogue in Asunción

from: Paraguay; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 13

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)



<Paraguay, South American republic.

[First immigration and community]

A few isolated Jews came to Paraguay from France, Switzerland, and Italy toward the end of the 19th century and merged with the native population without ever establishing a Jewish community.

On the eve of World War I a number of Sephardi Jews immigrated from Palestine. The families Arditi, Cohenca, Levi, Mendelzon, and Varzan formed the first hevra kaddisha (Alianza Israelita) in 1917 and established the first synagogue with other Sephardim from Turkey and Greece.

A second immigration in the early 1920s brought Jews from the Ukraine and Poland who (col. 85)

founded the Ashkenazi community, Unión Hebraica.

[1933-1939: influx of 15-20,000 Jewish refugees from NS Europe - transit station to other states]

Between 1933 and 1939 between 15,000 and 20,000 Jews from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia took advantage of Paraguay's liberal immigration laws to escape from Nazi Europe. Most of them used Paraguay or their Paraguayan visas as stepping stones to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay where immigration laws were more severe.  The small fraction that remained in Paraguay established the Unión de Israelitas pro Socorro Mutuo. This group built the main synagogue, later located within the premises of the Unión Hebraica.

[[...]] There were some short-lived anti-Semitic decrees in 1936 and some anti-Semitic incidents prior to the establishment of the strong-arm regime of General Alfredo Stroessner in 1954. After that time, Jews were not disturbed.


[since 1945: more immigrants - emigration to neighboring states - Herzl Israel - figures]

After world War II a last group of immigrants, mostly survivors from the concentration camps, arrived. [[...]] The size of the community is decreasing through emigration to Argentina and Brazil, but there are also occasional immigrants from those countries, especially due to marriage.

[[...]] Paraguay voted in 1947 for the UN Resolution on the partition of Palestine and has been friendly to [[racist Zionist]] Israel ever since. The population, which lost two-thirds of its members in the war against an array of larger nations between 1865 and 1870, tends to empathize with Israel. An Israel Embassy [[of racist Zionist Israel]] was established in 1968. The Consejo Representativo Israelita de Paraguay represents the Jewish community vis-ŕ-vis the public and authorities. There is also a sports club, a [[racist Zionist]] *B'nai B'rith, *Wizo chapter, and a [[racist Zionist]] *Ha-No'ar ha-Ziyyoni movement. In 1968 another youth organization, Centro Israelita Juvenil, was established.


In 1968 the Jewish community was estimated at some 300 families or 1,000 persons. There is a continuous trickle of emigrants to [[racist Zionist]] Israel, and some 50 people have settled there.


Most Paraguayan Jews engage in commerce or industry. There are about 25 Jewish professionals, most of whom studied in Paraguay. The community supports a Jewish school, named "Escuela Integral Estado de Israel", in which Hebrew is taught in addition to the Paraguayan curriculum. About 50 Jewish students are enrolled at the university, in addition to others who study abroad.

[Other immigrants in Paraguay: Arabs, Germans]

The Jewish community is heavily outnumbered by the richer and more influential Arab colony, whose members engage in Paraguayan politics and have intermarried with the country's most important families.

There are also some 40,000 Germans or people of German descent, many of whom had openly supported the Nazis before and during World War II. A number of prominent Nazis, among them Dr. J. *Mengele of *Auschwitz, found temporary shelter in Paraguay.

[[Jews and Nazis were confronted for decades yet in Paraguay after 1945]].


-- Associación Filantrópica Israelita, Buenos Aires: Zehn Jahre Aufbauarbeit in Suedamerika (Germ. and Sp., 1943)> (col. 86)



Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Paraguay,
                          vol. 13, col. 85-86
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Paraguay, vol. 13, col. 85-86