Menu JTA Search

Small Jewish Communities in Central America Reported Progressing

Many small Jewish communities throughout Central America and the Caribbean area have made significant progress in the last 18 months, since the formation of the Rabbinical Union of Central America and the Caribbean Region, and the simultaneous establishment of the Central Conference of Jewish Communities covering the same countries, it was reported here today by Rabbi A.M. Hershberg, president of the two organizations.

The organizations, formed at a conference in Panama in January 1962, established its regional headquarters in Mexico City and is now planning a second all-region conference to be held at Bogota, Colombia next winter. Despite the progress in the last eighteen months, however, Rabbi Hershberg declared there is still a shortage of rabbis and other Jewish ecclesiastical personnel. He appealed to young rabbis in the United States and other countries to take posts in the region to help revive and strengthen the Jewish communities.

In Guatemala, which he visited recently, Rabbi Hershberg reported, the three separate communities-sephardim, German Jews and Polish Jews–have united to bring a rabbi into their area. The newly arrived spiritual leader is Rabbi Hirsch Zelikovitch, formerly of Costa Rica. The Guatemalan community has also appointed a ritual slaughterer (schochet). The latter will visit occasionally the communities in El Salvador and Honduras. Additionally, a “kashruth bank,” a depository for kosher meats has been established in Guatemala City to serve the communities in the very small Jewish settlements in nearby countries.

In Colombia, Rabbi H. Gotesman, who formerly served a congregation in Puerto Rico, has arrived to take over the spiritual leadership of the Ashkenazic community of Bogota. In Venezuela, the Jewish congregation now has the services of Rabbi S. Karelitz, formerly of Windsor, Canada.

Progress has also been made in the smaller Jewish communities in the Mexican interior, the report showed. However, applications for rabbis, said Rabbi Hershberg, have come in from Surinam, Dutch Guiana, the Dutch West Indies, Curacao, Aruba, Quito, Ecuador, and Tijuana, Mexico.

The report noted that there is great interest among the Jews in the entire region in “The Voice of Jerusalem,” a periodical published at the central headquarters here. The periodical is issued in Spanish and Yiddish here, and is translated into Hebrew in Israel. Satisfaction was expressed in the report also with the progress made by the Rabbinical Court established here for the entire region, as well as by the new Central American Yeshivah.

NEXT STORY