Costa Rica names Jewish housing minister

A member of Costa Rica’s small Reform Jewish community was named to the president’s Cabinet.

Clara Zomer, 68, was appointed housing minister Aug. 15 by President Oscar Arias. She becomes the first Reform Jew to join the Cabinet since Arias’ term began in 2006.

Zomer, 68, has been serving in the unicameral Legislative Assembly since May 2006. She succeeds Fernando Zumbado, a close Arias ally who resigned earlier this month amid reports that money intended to build housing for the poor was diverted to pay consultant fees for Arias cronies.

A former head of the Urbanization Institute and a former university professor, Zomer is a member of the B’nei Israel Congregation, which was founded in the 1980s.

Several members of the larger Orthodox Israelite-Zionist Center have served in the Cabinet. Two of its members – Luis Fishman and Rebecca Grynspan – have served as vice president. The center claims more than 2,500 of Costa Rica’s estimated 4,000 Jews as members.

As minister, Zomer will be charged with government efforts to reduce slums and is expected to coordinate designs of a zoning plan for the area surrounding the capital, San Jose.

Arias upset many Costa Rican Jews when he moved the country’s embassy in Israel out of Jerusalem shortly after taking office.

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