As many Mexican Jews will tell you, despite the community’s relatively small numbers — with some 40,000-50,000 souls, Mexican Jews make up .04 percent of the country’s population — they are nonetheless believed to number many more. That’s predominantly a function of the community’s relative affluence and outsized influence on the wider culture.
When I told Fernando, the owner of the B&B where I’m staying, there were only 40,000 Jews in Mexico, his jaw dropped. "No," he said, "I don’t believe it." And then Tuesday night, while sipping a Negra Modelo at a bar near here, I picked up a stray copy of the society magazine Caras to find a cover photograph of Tamara Lau and Mark Alazraki at their recent nuptials. As best I can tell, Alazraki is the son of Carlos Alazraki Grossmann, one of the country’s premier publicists, and the magazine ran a 20-page spread of wedding photos in which yarmulkes and opulent wealth were visible in equal abundance. I think the last time I saw anything comparable back home was when Tori Spelling married.
That wedding was an intermarriage, like roughly half of American weddings involving Jews. But Mexican Jews boast an in-marriage rate that would make American Jewish leaders weep with envy. Even the sons of famous publicists marry within the tribe.
This point was driven home in my meeting last night with Oskar Gorodzinsky, the president of Committee Central, the umbrella group of the six Mexican Jewish communities. Our meeting took place in the Committee offices in Lomas de Chapultepec, in an unmarked building surrounded by a high wall and guarded by a pleasant security man. The entire area is like that — a luxurious fortress marked by razor-topped walls, security cameras, and a small army of public and private security guards. This is how Mexican Jews live — behind impenetrable barriers. The best glimpse most Mexicans have of their lifestyle is, apparently, played out in the pages of glossy magazines.
I’ll have more on my meeting with Oskar in the coming days, as well as a story about how the walls that have hemmed in this typically "closed" community are beginning to be breached. For now though, here’s a short video I shot on Monday during the broadcast of the only Jewish radio program in the country, El Aleph, which provides another — and less glittery — window onto Mexican Jewish life.