[Curaçao as a Jewish center
- Jewish immigration from Portugal]
VENEZUELA, South American republic.
There is no evidence attesting to the presence of
Crypto-Jews in Venezuela during the colonial period. It may
be assumed that the proximity of the organized Jewish
communities in the Dutch colonies - in particular *Curaçao -
permitted commercial ties with Venezuela in the second half
of the 18th century.
Simón Bolivar, Venezuela's liberator, found refuge and
assistance in the home of Jews in Curaçao during the
country's War of Independence.
The ties between Jews in the nearby islands - especially the
Dutch colonies - and Venezuela increased toward the
beginning of the 19th century after Venezuela's
constitutions of 1819 and 1821 established religious
freedom. The first Jewish family settled in Coro presumably
in 1820. Several years later a Jewish cemetery was
established in that town which still serves the few Jewish
families living there today. The oldest tombstone dates from
1832 and due to its historical importance the cemetery was
proclaimed in 1971 a national monument.
In the 1840s the presence of Jews in other Venezuelan cities
brought about the establishment of Jewish cemeteries in
Caracas, Barcelona, and Puerto Cabello. In 1855 the Jews of
Coro were attacked and robbed by their neighbors. The Dutch
authorities intervened vigorously in defense of the Jews and
also demanded compensation for their subjects' suffering.
The communal life of the Jews of Portuguese extraction, who
mostly immigrated from Curaçao, was very loosely knit. In
1864 one of them commented on the fact that there was as yet
no permanent place of prayer in Venezuela. Despite hopes to
the contrary and the activities of rabbis from Curaçao,
these Jews became assimilated during the 19th century
[[respectively they were "christianized"]].
The disintegration of religious life in the Curaçao
communities on the one hand, and the lack of continuous
religious tolerance in Venezuela on the other are thought to
have caused Jewish assimilation.
In 1891 the social-literary organization Armonía [[Harmony]]
was established, and among its active participants were the
poets Elías David Curiel and Salomón López Fonseca. But the
"Dutch" strata of Venezuelan Jewry disappeared, leaving
behind only such family names as Curiel, Capriles, Fonseca,
etc., which are prevalent among non-Jewish Venezuelans.
immigration from North Africa, from eastern Europe
and from central Europe]
With the arrival of Jews from North Africa at the turn of
the 20th century, the contemporary Jewish community began to
develop slowly. In 1891, 247 Jews were counted in Venezuela;
in 1917, according to one estimate, the number increased to
475. The national census of 1926 recorded 882 Jews, but
there were Jews among the 62,328 persons who did not declare
their religious affiliation.
Although East European Jews, especially from Bessarabia,
were in the country in 1926, the political and,
particularly, the economic conditions precluded the
immigration of many Jews during this period.
Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe increased during the
second quarter of the 20th century - and after 1934 was
augmented by immigration from Central Europe. But by then
Venezuela had imposed restrictions on Jewish immigration.
[[Possibly Jews have immigrated under other national quotas
indicating other religions which is not mentioned in the
By 1943 the entry of approximately 600 German Jews had been
registered, and after the war several hundred more had
[Restrictions after 1945 -
baptismal certificates - immigration wave after 1958]
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Venezuela, volume 16, col.
91, Jewish cemetery in Coro
In October 1950 the Jewish population was estimated at
5,000-6,000 persons, but its growth was hampered by
prohibitions and restrictions whose enactment was attributed
to the Jews' inability or unwillingness to assimilate. These
restrictions remained in effect until the end of the 1950s,
but they did not prevent the immigration of those Jews who
presented a baptismal certificate.
During the period 1957-59, and especially after the fall of
the dictatorship of Pérez Jiménez in 1958, about 1,000 Jews
from Egypt, Hungary, and Israel were admitted to the
country. An unknown, yet large number of Jews immigrated
from other Latin American countries. There has been limited
immigration during the last few years.
In 1970 the Jewish population was c. 15,000, the majority of
whom were living in the capital. More than half of
Venezuelan Jewry lives in Caracas; the remainder are
concentrated mainly in Maracaibo, Valencia, and Maracay. As
a country which has imported most of its consumer goods -
including food - Venezuela has offered fertile ground for
commercial and industrial undertakings. Many East European
Jews, who began as peddlers, have established retail and
wholesale shops, while many Germans, North Africans, and
some East Europeans have concentrated in various branches of
Members of the second generation from all of these groups
have completed university - some in the United States - and
practice the liberal professions. The economic situation of
Venezuelan Jews has constantly improved, and the community
enjoys prosperity. The majority of the Jews belong to the
middle and upper classes.
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Venezuela, volume 16, col.
90, map of Venezuela with
the Jewish communities of 1969: Maracaibo, Valencia,
Maracay, and Caracas.
[Sephardi and Ashkenazi
The oldest Jewish organization in
Caracas was founded in the 1920s by the Sephardim-North
Africans and others - and is known today as the Asociación
Israelita de Venezuela. This congregation, which numbers
approximately 800 families, maintains a synagogue and two
rabbis. The Ashkenazi community in (col. 91)
Caracas is split into three groups. The largest, comprising
approximately 1,300 families, is the Unión Israelita
[[Israelite Union]]. It maintains a synagogue, a rabbinate,
a social center, and a library. The other two groups are the
Orthodox Shmorei Shabbat and the ultra-Orthodox Rabinato de
The Zionist Federation in Caracas was reestablished in 1953
after several previous short-lived attempts at organization
in the 1920s and '30s. It comprises - in addition to the
[[racist]] Zionist parties, the Jewish National Fund, and
Keren Hayesod - WIZO, Maccabi, and [[racist]] Zionist youth
groups. Two [[racist Zionist]] B'nai B'rith lodges, Caracas
and Bolivar, were founded in 1954 and 1956 respectively.
The Sephardi an Ashkenazi communities, together with the
Zionist Federation and B'nai B'rith, are united in the
Federación de Associaciones Israelitas de Venezuela
[[Federation of Jewish Congregations of Venezuela]], an
umbrella organization affiliated with the World Jewish
Congress. The Federación was established in 1965 to protect
the Jewish community from the anti-Semitism then threatening
Maracaibo, whose Jewish population was estimated at 700 in
1959, has an organized community which has founded a local
school and a [[racist Zionist]] B'nai B'rith lodge.
[Racist Zionist schools]:
In 1947 the Ashkenazi congregation Unión Israelita de
Caracas led in the establishment of the Colegio Moral y
Luces [[Moral Collage of Enlightenment]], Herzl-Bialik
integrated school. The student enrollment has increased from
550 in 1955 to about 1800 in 1970 and the school comprises
kindergarten through hight school. It is housed in a
spacious building and transports students in buses from
every part of the city.
Both the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities are actively
engaged in school affairs, and the institution's high
academic standard has attracted non-Jewish students, who
compose 7-10% of the total student body. In 1971 one section
of the school came under the auspices of the recently
created organization Hebraica in which both the Ashkenazi
and the Sephardi communities take part. A newly acquired
building located in a large park assured the necessary room
for further expansion.
The integrated school maintained by the Maracaibo Jewish
community, known as Bilu, had a student enrollment of about
120 in 1959.
Although the vast majority of Jewish children in Venezuela
attend Jewish educational institutions, Jewish cultural life
is neither diversified nor has the community produced
authors who write on Jewish themes. In the field of
journalism, some sporadically appearing Yiddish and Spanish
papers are published as well as several institutions'
Political Status and Ties
with [racist Zionist Free Mason CIA Herzl] Israel.
Despite sporadic anti-Semitic outbursts, such as those in
1964-65, and the overtly discriminatory immigration
legislation, anti-Semitism is not widespread. Even during
the periods of dictatorship, which have prevailed during
most of the 20th (col. 92)
century, the Jewish community has not been singled out for
oppression. However, Jews engage little in politics and only
a few are to be found in public administration. Venezuelan
Jews have maintained strong ties with Israel, and many have
visited the country. The number of volunteers from Venezuela
after the *Six-Day War was large and the community's
financial contributions to Jewish causes have been
Since November 29, 1947, when Venezuela voted in the
UN for the establishment of a Jewish state, ties between the
two countries have been close. Diplomatic relations are on
the ambassadorial level; the Embassy of Venezuela is located
in Jerusalem. Mutual visits of foreign ministers and senior
government officials, as well as cooperation in professional
specialization projects and agricultural development
programs are expressions of the good relations between the
two countries. The Instituto Cultural Venezolano-Israeli
[[Venezuelan-Israeli Cultural Institute]] in Caracas is
patronized by an intellectual class friendly to [[racist
[[and racist to the Muslims and Arabs]].
-- J. Beller: Jews in Latin America (1969), 68-80
-- J. Shatzky: Yidishe Yishuvim in Latayn-Amerike (1952),
-- A. Monk and J. Isaacson (eds.): Comunidades Judías de
Latinoamerica (1970), 141-5; 245-7.
[SH.ER.]> (col. 93)