Revitalization of Jewish Religious Life in Central America Reported
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Revitalization of Jewish Religious Life in Central America Reported

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An enthusiastic “progress report” of revitalization of Jewish religious life throughout Central America and the Caribbean area, as well as in outlying, provincial communities in this country, was issued here today by Rabbi Abraham M. Hirschberg, director of the Central American-Caribbean office of organized Orthodox Jewish communities, which has its headquarters here. The Center represents two separate organizations, established at a conference in Panama City last January, under the names of the Union of Rabbinical Organizations and the Council of Orthodox Congregations. Both groups represent Orthodox Jewish communities in all of Central America and the Caribbean area.

Having just returned from a tour of a number of countries served by both organizations through their common center here, Rabbi Hirschberg reported that new rabbis have been installed in various communities that had no individual spiritual leadership heretofore, expansion of services toward observance of kashruth, an increase in Jewish religious educational activities, especially for the youth, and increasing demands from Jews in many small communities for still further revitalization of their religious life.

Serving all of the Central American-Caribbean communities, he noted, are the new Central Rabbinate installed here, and the Central American Yeshiva, now making “great progress” in this city. The Rabbinate is the first ever established for the entire region, including among its members all Sephardic and Ashkenazic rabbis, as well as a Beth Din for the entire region. The Yeshiva, headed by Rabbi Moshe Raas, a young scholar who came here from Belgium, now has an enrollment of nearly 100 rabbinical students who, ultimately, will spread out to serve the Jewish communities throughout the region.


Another development serving the entire region is centered about a large increase in the number of publications being published or distributed from the Center in both Hebrew and Yiddish. The Center serves also as the principal contact between this region and organized religious Jewry in the United States where, Rabbi Hirschberg said, it is hoped to enlist more rabbis, cantors and schochtim to serve the region.

Rabbi Hirschberg’s report, much of it based on his personal observations, showed the following concrete developments:

In Guatemala, a new rabbi has been installed and, for the first time in the history of the local community, a single spiritual leader guides all three congregations in Guatemala City–the Ashkenazic, Sephardic and German. The seat there is now held by Dr. Meyer Rosenbaum, former Chief Rabbi of Cuba and of Caracas, Venezuela.

Guatemala City has now also been developed as a kashruth center serving with kosher meats a number of other Jewish communities in several nearby countries where there are no facilities for ritual slaughter. Nicaragua and Honduras will be served from this center. From time to time, a ritual slaughterer from Guatemala will visit these and other nearby lands to assure a steady supply of kosher meats.


Applications have been received here from many communities for the filling of vacant rabbinical posts, Dr. Hirschberg said. Among them are petitions for strengthened, individual leadership from Jewish communities at Surinam, Dutch Guiana; Curacao, Quito, Ecuador, Tijuana and other Mexican communities.

Costa Rica was reported by Rabbi Hirschberg to be bringing its own ritual slaughterer from Israel. This schochet is due to arrive soon and will establish a second center for kosher meats in the region. A committee has been formed in Costa Rica for the purpose of enlisting a rabbi and installing him in that country.

In Colombia, a new rabbi has been installed by the Ashkenazic community in the capital city of Bogota. He is Dr. H. Gotesman, former Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi in Puerto Rico. The Sephardic community at Bogota, under Rabbi David Sharabani, aids other Jewish communities throughout its area, Dr. Hirschberg reported.

At Caracas, Venezuela, Rabbi S. Karelitz, formerly of Windsor, Ont., Canada, has now assumed the chief rabbinical post in that country.

The two organizations centered at the headquarters here, under the direction of Rabbi Hirschberg, represent Orthodox communities in Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba, E1 Salvador, Peru, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and the British West Indies.

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