Jews in Chile and Brazil Affected by Adverse Economic Conditions

Adverse economic conditions in South America are beginning to affect members of the Jewish community there, particularly in Chile and Brazil, according to reports presented to the Board of Directors of the World Council of Synagogues, the international arm of Conservative Judaism.

Discussing the situation in Chile, Rabbi Angel Kreiman, the Grand Rabbi of Chile’s 30,000-member Jewish community, said that the economic situation in the country “has never been so bad before. The country suffers from a 30 percent unemployment rate which finds some families in our synagogues without jobs and in need of food, clothing and other living assistance.

Kreiman, who has been in Chile for the past 15 years, said that the sisterhoods of the three Conservative congregations were working closely with these families to assure that they were provided with every need. He said there were at least 60 families in Chile on the poverty level requiring assistance.

EMERGENCE OF NEO-NAZISM IN CHILE

The rabbi also reported the emergence of neo-Nazism in the country. He said that there were incidents of swastikas daubed on billboards and that members of rightwing extremist groups wear armbands with swastil. He said the Jewish community maintained excellent relations with government officials. However, these officials do little to discourage these Nazi displays.

Kreiman said that there are frequent pro-Palestinian demonstrations, which are adding to the tensions. Since there are 300,000 Arabs in Chile, the government is “careful” in dealing with the demonstrations and “does little to discourage them,” he said. He expressed belief that the death earlier this month of Nazi Walter Rauff would do little to reduce neo-Nazi activities in Chile.

A serious situation in Brazil was also reported by Rabbi Marcelo Rittner of the Congregation Israelita Paulista in Sao Paulo. He said the nation’s estimated 20 percent unemployment rate has caused a number of Jews to lose their jobs, particularly in well-paid professions such as engineering. He emphasized, however, that conditions had not yet reached the poverty level in Sao Paulo or Rio de Janiero.

Rittner stated that many Brazilians, including Jews, were working for less than a minimum wage merely to subsist. He indicated that members of his congregation had set up a job bank to assist those in need of employment, although no family as yet had reached the poverty proportions of Chilean Jews.

Both Rittner and Kreiman emphasized that direct help from North American Jewish communities would be needed, particularly for scholarship funds to send young people to Jewish summer camps and to involve them in other educational programs. “Assistance from North American Jewry would be most important,” Rittner said. “Above all, our people would not feel alone at a time of great need.”

WORLD JEWRY URGED TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE

Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, president of the World Council of Synagogues, called upon members of the international Jewish community to provide financial assistance to “ease the burden of our brethren, especially to make certain that the Jewish education of children is not interrupted.”

He indicated that the World Council was studying reports from various countries in South America and was considering sending a fact-finding delegation to determine the exact needs. Regarding the situation in Chile, Waxman said the World Council would report the incidents described by Kreiman to the United States, Canadian and other governments, and “work vigorously to make certain that this situation is dealt with by the government of Chile.”

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