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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Uruguay

Inquisition - immigration waves - professions - agricultural settlements - Jewish banking - institutions - racist Zionists - Bundists and Yiddish culture - cultural life - numbers - relations with racist Herzl Israel

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Uruguay, vol. 16,
                    col. 12. The Sholem Aleichem School of Montevideo,
                    Uruguay, Courtesy Comité Central Israelita,
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Uruguay, vol. 16, col. 12. The Sholem Aleichem School of Montevideo,
Uruguay, Courtesy Comité Central Israelita, Montevideo

from: Uruguay; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 16

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)



<URUGUAY, South American republic, general population 2,818,000 (est. 1968); Jewish population 50,000

The Colonial Period. [Inquisition until 1813]

There are few documents relating to Jewish history during the colonial period in Uruguay. In 1726 the governor of *Montevideo,  Bruno Mauricio de Zabala, still adhered to the accepted Spanish formula when he stipulated that the first settlers be "persons of worth, of good habits, repute and family, so that they be not inferior nor of Moorish or Jewish race", and in 1760 Pedro Lagu, a clergyman from Colonia del Sacramento, expressed to the Inquisition his suspicions regarding the existence of Jewish life in his city. More reliable sources, however, are lacking.

With the demise of the Inquisition in 1813, the political and legal system prevailing in Uruguay, together with its tolerant population, provided the viable foundation for Jewish residence during the modern period.

The Modern Period.

[Separation of religion and state in 1918 - 1919 riots - immigration waves 1900-1940]

The Constitution of 1918, championed by José Batlle y Ordóñez, established the principle of separation of church and state and defined the legal status of aliens, as well as their role in the political life of the country. (col. 10) [[...]]

In January 1919, under the pretext of repressing (col. 13)

revolutionaries and Bolsheviks and as a result of the events during Argentina's "Tragic Week", punitive measures were taken against workers and certain elements of the lower class. Eighty percent of the Jewish population was investigated by the police and there were many instances of imprisonment and expulsion. (col. 14) [[...]]

The generally liberal-minded public, as well as the (col. 10)

constitution, which accords social and economic equality to native and alien alike, provided the conditions for a successful Jewish community from the 1920s. The constitutions of 1934 and 1952, which altered the composition of the government, did not affect the prevailing legislation.

The earliest available information about Jewish immigration to Uruguay dates from 1898; a 1909 report indicates there were 150 Jews in Montevideo. In 1917-18 there were 1,700 Jews in the country, 75% of whom were Sephardim, the rest of Russian, Rumanian [[Romanian]], Polish, and Alsatian origin. Immigration increased notably between 1925 and 1928, when Uruguay also served as a transit point - in some cases for illegal transit - to Argentina, which at that time had stringent immigration regulations. In 1933 there was again an increase in immigration, although just prior to World War II new limitations were imposed. In 1939 2,200 Jews entered the country, while in 1940, only 373. (col. 11) [[...]]

During the 1930s "anti-alien" campaigns were organized, posing a serious threat to the Jewish community. Their instigators were radical nationalists and local and foreign Fascists (Vanguardia de la Patria), but large numbers of traditionally liberal elements also participated. Familiar forms of racial discrimination were invoked in sidewalk demonstrations, in the press, and on the radio. The alien character of the Jews was underscored, and demands were voiced for a ban on Jewish immigration and for the exclusion of Jews from commercial activities and other sources of income. The community organized itself in self-defense. Measures against the rise of Fascism were adopted by the administration of General Alfredo Baldomir (inaugurated 1938), and during World War II the community enjoyed the protection of the government. (col. 14) [[...]]


[Professions - influx from Germany and commerce and minor crafts - agricultural settlements]

At first the Jews in Uruguay engaged primarily in minor commerce (food, clothing, used articles), peddling, light industries (needles, leather, furs, textiles), independent or salaried crafts (tailors, hairdressers, watchmakers, printers), and salaried jobs (construction, factories). During the 1929-33 economic crisis, the Jewish community suffered severely, but it regained prosperity with the economic revival. At the same time, the German (col. 12)

immigration of the 1930s gave impetus to commerce and minor crafts, and the economic upswing continued during World War II. (col. 13) [[...]]

Three attempts at Jewish agricultural settlement in Uruguay proved abortive. The first was the "19 de Abril" settlement, founded in Paysandú by 38 families that hat previously tried to settle in the ICA settlements [[settlements of Jewish Colonial Association]] in Brazil. They received 9,880 acres of land from the Instituto de Colonización [[Colonization Institute]] of the Uruguayan Republic. Overcoming a difficult beginning, the settlers met with success after a ten-year period, but the settlement gradually lost its Jewish members; during the 1930s, five Jewish families remained, and in 1950 there was only one. [[Other professions in the towns were more attractive and by this the Jews were leaving the farms]].

Another Jewish colony founded in 1924 in Mercedes failed shortly afterward. The third, the "Tres Árboles" [[Three Trees]] settlement (1938-39), was a Communist-inspired Jewish venture, but it failed primarily because of the bankruptcy of the Banco Israelita del Uruguay [[Israelite Bank of Uruguay]], on which it depended. (col. 13) [[...]]

[[The natives who were driven away or exterminated are never mentioned in the Encyclopaedia Judaica]].

[Jewish banking in Uruguay]

Jewish economic development was bolstered by loan and mutual assistance funds that eventually developed into banks. The Primera Caja Israelita de Prestamo y Ayuda [[First Israelite Credit Bank]] (1925) became the Banco Israelita del Uruguay [[Israelite Bank of Uruguay]], one of the financial strongholds of the "progressists". Its collapse in 1939 precipitated a chain of bankruptcies among small merchants and industrialists and brought about the failure of the agricultural settlement "Tres Árboles" [[Three Trees]]. The bank managed to reopen and resume operations, however. The Centro Comercial e Industrial Israelita del Uruguay [[Israelite Comercial and Industrial Centerl of Uruguay]] (1933), known from 1950 as the Banco Palestino-Uruguayo [[Palestinian-Uruguayan Bank]], is a well-established institution with branches even outside the country. In Israel it works in particular with Bank Leumi.

Two well-established commercial cooperatives, originally peddlers cooperatives, are the Corporación Comercial S.A. [[Commercial Corporation]] ([[racist]] pro-Zionist, founded in 1930) and the Cooperative Comercial del Uruguay [[Commercial Cooperative of Uruguay]] (progressive, founded in 1936), which closed with the collapse of the Banco Israelita [[Israelite Bank]] and recommenced activities in 1945 under the name La Amistad, S.A. [[The Friendship, S.A.]] Less important institutions include the Di ershte gmilus Khesed Kase [[Yidd.]] (1931) and Akhim Rakhamin ve-gmilus khasodim [[Hebrew]] (1938), founded by Polish refugees.

[Growing Jewish middle class since the 1940s]

Economic changes in Uruguay during the 1940s brought about transformations in the Jewish community. The predominantly labor, artisan, and small-business class of the 1920s gradually gave way to a social group that consists of middle-class merchants, industrialists, salaried employees, and professionals, with few laborers and few very wealthy individuals. (col. 13) [[...]]

[Immigration since 1945 - Eichmann trial - anti-Semitic outbursts]

After the war, displaced persons from Europe began to arrive [[and old Nazis from Germany also came to South America, also to Uruguay]]. During the 1950s Hungarian and Middle Eastern Jews also sought refuge in the country. (col. 11) [[...]]

[[Add to all this Jewish immigration it can be admitted that lots of Jews immigrated under changed names and changed religion with forged documents under the quota of other nationalities]].

During the Eichmann trial (1961) serious anti-Semitic disturbances [[by the old Nazis from Germany in Uruguay and their friends]] were provoked by local neo-Nazi associations linked to foreign cells. The Jewish community, supported by certain branches of the government and liberal political and intellectual groups, organized its defense once again. In the 1960s there were sporadic anti-Semitic outbursts associated with nationalist-radical and neo-Nazi-affiliated groups, some of them originating in Argentina. (col. 14) [[...]]


While the Jewish community tended to develop in a nationalist-secular direction, it showed great concern for the survival of its Jewish tradition. Initially, the most important communal institution were Ezra (1909), Hevra (Ḥevra) Kaddisha Ashkenazit (1916), and Hesed (Ḥesed) Shel Emet (1916, Sephardim), which maintained the cemetery, and administered mutual assistance. Others were formed after World War II: the Comité de Protección de Imigrantes [[Immigrant Protection Committee]], supported by the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA), and later a branch of HICEM; the Hogar Obrero [[Working Home]], affiliated with Po'alei Zion, which maintained a workers' kitchen and a fund for the unemployed; and a leftist cultural center Morris Winchewsky founded in 1917 as a politically unaligned institution that later became an important "progressist" (pro-Communist) institution. There were also many Yiddish-speaking landsfaraynen [[Country Clubs]], the most prominent of which were Bessarabian, Lithuanian, and Polish. Guilds for Jewish tailors, barbers, textile merchants, bakers, and carpenters were formed during the 1940s. After 1933 various institutions were organized to aid the victims of Nazism, and the German-Jewish community formed the Nueva Congregación Israelita [[New Israel Congregation]] with religious, educational, cultural, and financial activities.

[Racist Zionists in Uruguay: Balfour Declaration demonstrations - campaigns - Territory Federation since 1960 for emigration to racist Zionist Free Mason CIA Herzl Israel]

The [[racist]] Zionist movement began its activities in 1911, when Dorshei Zion was founded, initially as an extension of the Argentinian Zionist Federation. The events affecting world Jewry and the activities of the [[racist]] Zionist movement evoked sympathy and support from the Jewish populace during World War I: mass demonstrations acclaimed the Balfour Declaration, members of the community joined the Jewish Legion, protests were registered against the pogroms in Central Europe during the 1920s, and campaigns were staged to protest the Arab riots in Palestine in 1928-29.

The [[racist]] Zionist parties gave way to the separate organizations of Mizrachi, Revisionist, Po'alei Zion, and General Zionists. In 1945 the [[racist]] Zionist movement began to gain great momentum. The Concejo Central Sionista [[Central Zionist Congress]], comprised of representatives of all the institutions, including the Federación Juvenil Sionista [[Zionist Youth Federation]], was formed, and in 1960 the Federación Sionista Territorial Unificada [[United Zionist Territory Federation]] was founded as a representative body of the Jewish Agency in charge of (col. 11)

aliyah. All [[racist]] Zionist factions, including youth, pioneer, and women's groups, are represented in that body. (col. 12) [[...]]

[C.C.I. - syndicalists - Asociación Cultural Jaim Zhitlowsky - left groups with Bund and Yiddish culture]

Established in 1940 as the overall representative of the Jewish community vis-à-vis the government, the C.C.I. [[Comté Central Israelita]] played a crucial role in combating anti-Semitism, especially during World War II, during subsequent sporadic resurgences of neo-Nazism, and at the time of Adolf *Eichmann's capture and trial. The vast majority of the leadership of the communities was [[racist]] Zionist [[and the anti-Zionists were dominated]]. Consequently, the C.C.I usually maintained [[racist]] pro-Zionist positions and policies [[against the whole Arab world and it's allies]].

Parallel to widespread Zionist affiliation in the Jewish working class were anarcho-militant syndicalists, a sprinkling of Trotskyites, socialists, Bundists, and especially Communists, known as the "progressists".

The most important unifying organization for the latter was the Asociación Cultural Jaim Zhitlowsky (founded around 1935), which also had a youth organization consisting of 300 members. Members of the Asociación received medical benefits provided by the Mutualista Israelita del Uruguay (founded 1940), and the Asociación maintained a separate section in the Jewish cemetery.

While the Bund (founded in 1929) was especially efficacious in its work in the sphere of Yiddish culture, carried out through the Liga Cultural I. Peretz, collaborating sporadically with Po'alei Zion, partisan discord characterized relations between the [[racist]] Zionist and "progressist" blocs, particularly from the 1930. In the face of steadily increasing anti-Semitism, in 1938 an attempt was made to forge a united front through the short-lived Comité Contra el Nazismo y el Antisemitismo [[Committee against Nazism and Anti-Semitism]] in order to defend the community and represent it vis-à-vis the government. Nevertheless, internal dissension continued and deepened during the war years. After the establishment of the [[racist Zionist Free Mason CIA Herzl]] State of Israel and during the Stalinist persecutions of 1948-52, some "progressists" joined the ranks of the Zionist-oriented community; the majority, however, maintained their pro-Communist affiliations.

[Economy in the 1960s: destruction of the Jewish middle class in the 1960s inflation times]

The general economic crisis and continued inflation during the late 1960s have resulted in the gradual disintegration of Uruguay's middle class, a phenomenon that has greatly affected the Jewish community. (col. 13) [[...]]


Social contact among first-generation Uruguayan Jews and the non-Jewish community takes place mainly on the occupational level and trends to be superficial. The second generation has achieved a greater degree of integration and assimilation, and mixed marriages are to be found among its ranks. There are no Jews in the upper social strata or in the military. A small number is found in high government positions, although active involvement in political life is a recent phenomenon. The community as a whole is nonpartisan, and there are only isolated cases of Jewish members in the legislative bodies. Anti-Semitic campaigns were unleashed at periods coinciding with economic crises, social instability, and authoritarian rule. (col. 13) [[...]]


Since their inception, both the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi communities have maintained religious studies. In 1929 the Ashkenazi hevra (ḥevra) kaddisha [[Jewish burial society]] established an educational network in collaboration with ICA. The most prominent educational institutions are

-- the [[racist]] pro-Zionist Herzl School founded in 1928;
-- the Talmud Torah Eliezer ben Yehuda, founded in 1928 by the Sephardi hevra kaddisha;
-- the Sholem Aleichem School founded in 1941 by the left Po'alei Zion;
-- the Mizrachi school and Yeshivah ha-Rav Kook, founded in 1945, which added the Ma'aleh secondary school in 1956;
-- and the ultra-Orthodox talmud torah and heder (ḥeder) [[school for children until 13]] Adat Yere'im, founded in 1948.

The most important of all the institutions is the Escuela Integral [[Integrated School]], founded in 1962, which in 1970 had an enrollment of over 1,000 students. Jewish schools have been functioning in various parts of the interior since the 1920s. A teachers' seminary was organized in 1954 by the Va'ad ha-Hinnukh (Ḥinnukh) of the Ashkenazi community. The so-called "workers' schools", active from 1925 to the 1950s, followed the Yiddishist, leftist, non-Zionist ideology. the most important of these institutions is the Jaim Zhitlowsky school (founded in 1930).

Informal education is given by the Zionist and pioneer youth groups, including Benei Akiva, Dror, Ha-Shomer ha-Za'ir (Ẓa'ir), Ha-No'ar ha-Ziyyoni (Ẓiyyoni), and Betar.

Local youth organizations include

-- the Union Universalista Kadima (founded 1940);
-- Hebraica-Macabi (social and sports activities);
-- Juventud Sefaradí [[Sefardi Youth]];
-- and the youth section of the Nueva Congregación Israelita [[New Israelite Congregation]].

Their activities are coordinated by the Federación Juvenil Sionista [[Zionist Youth Federation]] (founded 1941), which in turn is represented in the Federación Sionista Territorial [[Zionist Territorial Federation]], the Comité Central Israelita [[Israeli Central Committee]], and the [[racist Zionist]] World Jewish Congress. It also collaborates with non-Jewish youth organizations. The "progressist" youth are organized in the Federación Juvenil Jaim Zhitlowsky [[Jaim Zhitlowsky Youth Federation]], which has two centers. Its membership declined in the post-Stalin period.



In view of the predominantly secular trends in the community, there is little religious extremism. Basic tradition is observed, and the communities assume responsibility for the fulfillment of (col. 14)

ritual. In the Ashkenazi community, which is under the supervision of the Va'ad ha-Ir le-Inyanei ha-Dat, religious and communal functions have been separate since 1942. There are small groups of extreme Orthodox Jews who came from Hungary and Transylvania in the 1950s and formed the Kehillah Adat Yere'im. An interfaith organization made up of Catholics, Evangelists, and Jews is active in promoting inter-religious harmony and engages in social work.

Cultural life, however, is predominant and is integrated into the program of the majority of the communal social, political, and educational institutions. For the most part, the cultural activities are of an informative character on subjects of both Jewish and general interest and are usually carried on in Spanish . Among members of the older Ashkenazi generation Yiddish is more common. A small number of Hebraists has founded the Moadon Ivri.

[Jewish literature in Uruguay]

The most important local literary activity is translation of the works of Jewish writers into Spanish. A few authors among the first generation have written original literary works on Jewish philosophical, religious, and historical themes in Yiddish and Hebrew. Authors of the second generation have written essays and literature of a general nature in Spanish.

*YIVO has a branch in Uruguay with an archive and a library, and the Jewish writers and journalists have their own association.

[Jewish press in Uruguay]

The Jewish press in Uruguay was at first closely linked with the Argentinian press. Starting in 1920 with the Spanish Voz Hebrea [[Hebrew Voice]] through the dailies Der Tog [[Yidd.: The Day]] and Morgentsaytung [[Yidd.: The Morning]] of the 1930s, the Uruguayan Jewish community still had three dailies in the 1960s: Folksblat [[Yidd.: Popular]] (founded in 1934), Haynt (founded in 1957), and the Communist Unzer Fraynt [[Yidd.: Our Friend]] (founded in 1935). Only two exist today (1970): the Spanish weekly Semanario Hebreo (founded in 1954) and the religious biweekly Der Moment (founded in 1940), which continued to be sold in the main streets of Montevideo. There are several other publications of an informal informative character, the most prominent being the Gemeindeblatt [[Germ.: Communal Paper]] (founded in 1938), a monthly bulletin of the German-speaking community.

[R.P.RA.] (col. 15) [[...]]

[Numbers 1970]

Although a census of the Jewish population has not been taken, it is estimated that about 50,000 Jews live in Uruguay (1970), 48,000 of them in the capital, Montevideo. About 1,200 Jews are thought to live in the interior, and some 90 Jewish families lived in Paysandú, the second largest city. Seventy percent of the Jews are East European, 15% West European, 12% Sephardim, and 3% Hungarian. (col. 11) [[...]]

In 1970 the Montevideo Jewish community comprised four kehillot [[congregations]]:

-- Comunidad Israelita de Montevideo [[Israelite Community of Montevideo]] (Ashkenazi, founded in 1932), with 4,000 members;

-- Comunidad Israelita Sefaradía [[Israelite Sefardi Community]] (founded in 1932), with 1,500 members;

-- Nueva Congregación Israelita [[New Israelite Congregation]] (German-speaking, founded in 1936), with 1,500 members;

-- and Sociedad Húngara de Montevideo [[Hungarian Society of Montevideo]] (founded in 1942), with 200 members.

They are united under the umbrella organization Comité Central Israetita (C.C.I.), which is affiliated with the [[racist Zionist]] World Jewish Congress. (col. 12) [[...]]

In 1970 industry, commerce in textiles, furs, furniture, pharmaceutical products, plastics, metallurgy, and electronics were well established. Members of the professions occupy intermediate positions on the economic ladder, and a small number of Jews were partners in agricultural corporations that dealt in rural land and its products. (col. 13)

Relations with [racist Zionist Free Mason CIA Herzl] Israel.

As early as 1920, at the San Remo Conference, Uruguay expressed its support for Jewish aspirations in Erez Israel (Ereẓ Israel) [[Land of Israel]] and the *Balfour Declaration through its representative at the League of Nations. In April 1947, it was among the nations that voted for the establishment of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), one of whose members was Enrico Rodrigues Fabrigant of Uruguay. Friendly relations between the two countries began with the enthusiastic support of Uruguay's UN representative for the plan to partition Palestine and establish a [[racist]] Jewish state.

At the assembly  and the deliberations that preceded the acceptance of the plan on Nov. 29, 1947, the Uruguay delegation contributed much effort to mobilizing support for it. Uruguay was also the first Latin American country, and among the first countries in the world, to recognize the [[racist Zionist Free Mason CIA Herzl]] State of Israel (May 19, 1948).

Montevideo was the first Latin American capital and the fourth city in the world in which an  [[racist Zionist]] Israel diplomatic representation was set up (Nov. 1, 1948). On May 11, 1949, Uruguay stood out in its negative vote on the question of international administration over Jerusalem. The Uruguayan legation established in Tel Aviv in 1951 was transferred to Jerusalem in 1956. After the Six-Day War (1967), Uruguay was among the states that abstained in the UN vote against the union of Jerusalem.

Streets in the capital of each country have been named in honor of the other, and parliamentary delegations have exchanged visits (1957-58). The two countries have signed a trade and maritime agreement, and a forest has been planted in the Judean Mountains honoring the Uruguayan (col. 15)

national hero, Artigas (1958). In the same year, the diplomatic representations in Montevideo and Jerusalem were raised to the status of embassies, and the foreign ministers of each state exchanged visits in 1959 and 1966. A visit by the president of the [[racist Zionist Free Mason CIA Herzl]] State of Israel to Uruguay and the reciprocal visit of Uruguayan ministers, members of parliament, scientists, authors, and artists have been clear expressions of the friendly relations between the two states.

When the then-foreign minister of Israel, Moshe-Sharrett, visited Uruguay in 1953, he signed a cultural agreement with the government. The Uruguay-Israel Institute for Cultural Relations has been set up there.

In 1968 the export from [[racist Zionist Free Mason CIA Herzl]] Israel to Uruguay was $214,000 and in 1949 it was $212,000. [[Racist Zionist Free Mason CIA Herzl]] Israel imported $3,360,000 worth of goods from Uruguay in 1968 and $4,433,000 worth in 1969. [[Racist Zionist Free Mason CIA Herzl]] Israel exports mostly minerals and chemicals to Uruguay and imports meat and wool. A trade agreement was signed between the two countries on June 13, 1968, and an agreement for scientific and technical cooperation was signed at the same time. An agreement for cooperation in the field of atomic development was signed on June 23, 1966. Israel had provided Uruguay with scholarships in such fields as agriculture, cooperative living, social work, and education.



-- A. Sapolinsky in: In the Dispersion, 2 (1963), 74-88; 3 (1963/64), 90-107
-- J. Beller: Jews in Latin America (1963), 218-30
-- J. Shatzky: Yidishe Yishuvim in Latayn-Amerike [[Yiddish Jews in Latin America]] (1952), 15-25
-- World Jewish Congress: Judíos en el Uruguay [[Jews in Uruguay]] (Sp. 1957)
-- I. Ganon, in: Commentario, 14 no. 54 (1967), 52-56
-- J. Jarosolinsky: ibid, 76-83
-- B. Lewin: Los Judíos bajo la Inquisición en Hispanoamérica [[The Jews and the Inquisition in Spanish America]](1960)
-- A. Monk and J. Isaacson (eds.): Comunidades Judías de Latinoamérica [[Jewish Communities in Latin America]] (1968), 115-21.> (col. 16)



Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Uruguay,
                              vol. 16, col. 10
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Uruguay, vol. 16, col. 10
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Uruguay,
                              vol. 16, col. 11-12
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Uruguay, vol. 16, col. 11-12
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Uruguay,
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Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Uruguay, vol. 16, col. 13-14
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Uruguay,
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Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Uruguay, vol. 16, col. 15-16