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New Study Finds Jewish Youth in Venezuela Apathetic to Community

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Jews throughout Latin America are deeply disturbed by a recent study which showed that while the great majority of Venezuelan Jewish college youths have attended Jewish primary and secondary schools, they display apathy and indifference to Jewish concerns and play virtually no part in Jewish community activities in this country.

Manuel Tenenbaum, executive director of the Latin American branch of the World Jewish Congress, said the study was made by a research team, headed by Bernardo Kliksberg, a prominent sociologist and economist. It focussed on Jewish youths who graduated from Jewish secondary schools in Caracas between 1977 – 1981 and are presently between 20-24 years of age.

The study noted that the vast majority of Caracas Jewish youth attends the Jewish community’s all-day secondary schools and that 93 percent of them go on to college. The pursuit of higher education by nine of every 10 young Venezuelan Jews is one of the highest rates in the world.

According to Kliksberg’s study, most of them choose technological careers; only a few go into the humanities. But almost all are characterized by a pronounced alienation from organized Jewish community life. About 75 percent of Jewish college youth in Venezuela, in fact, do not participate in communal activities and the majority of them give “lack of interest” as their reason.

Against those findings, Kliksberg noted that the general situation of the Venezuelan Jewish community is one of the most favorable in Latin America. It is one of the few Jewish communities with more immigrants than emigrants. “It is a young community, with a healthy demographic pyramid. In addition, historical circumstances have strongly favored the development of the community. Venezuela is one of the few countries in the region with a stable regime and until recently enjoyed an intense process of economic development and social mobility. The Jewish community, Kliksberg reported, “was able to make full use of these favorable conditions. It wisely accorded top priority to Jewish education.”

Tenenbaum observed, in a report to the WJC Executive on the study, that “When one considers this is the attitude on the part of young college people with 12 years of primary and secondary Jewish education, in a community with a solid network of institutions and close ties with Israel, then the implications for other Jewish communites on the continent are most disquieting.”

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