Jewish Communities in Latin American Cities Shrinking

Youth flocking to big cities, countries abroad
An Argentine and Israeli flag stand side by side

An Argentine and Israeli flag stand side by side / AP

BY:

Jewish communities that once flourished in small Latin American cities are shrinking as youth flock to big cities and countries abroad, the Times of Israel reports.

Youth activists and social entrepreneurs recently held a four-day “Lazos” gathering—Spanish for “ties”—in Argentina to discuss the centralization of the Jewish population in Latin America.

Jewish population movements parallel larger trends in Latin America, where people are flocking to the main urban areas of their countries. Young Jews often do not return to their hometowns after studying or working in the big city. Others leave for Israel or destinations abroad.

“There’s almost no youth, they’re all grandparents,” said Moshe Sefchovich, a resident of Guadalajara, a city of more than 1 million in the Mexican state of Jalisco. He describes a mass movement of community members to Mexico City.

While aware of the difficulty of reversing migration trends, Lazos participants were determined to find ways to reinvigorate Jewish life. Participants proposed ventures such as the establishment of a new synagogue in the Argentine city of Corrientes and a network for Jewish travelers journeying to Brazil during the World Cup. Technology was offered up as a means of changing the status quo.

Other small towns such as Moises Ville, known as the “Argentine Jerusalem,” have as few as 250 Jewish inhabitants today after it attracted immigrants from Russia and Central Europe in the late 19th century.

Former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) contractor Alan Gross was sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison in 2011 for helping small Jewish communities attain Internet access.