Jews of Colombia host their 1st Limmud learning festival


(JTA) — The Jewish community of Colombia hosted its first Limmud Jewish learning festival.

Limmud Bogota in the Colombia capital drew over 200 participants on Sunday. Jews from Medellin, Cali and Barranquilla attended as well. The event also included programming for children and high-schoolers.

Presenters included Adriana Cooper, a columnist for El Colombiano, Medellin’s daily newspaper; Sheikh Ahmad Tayel, whose Sunni community is comprised of Syrians and Palestinians from Bogota’s first mosque; Hassan Nassar, a top TV and radio personality; former senator and political reformer John Sudarsky; Salomon Kalmanovitz, former director of Colombia’s Central Bank; Jose Simhon, a famed magician in Colombia; and Rabbanit Rachel Askenazi of Barranquilla.

“It was wonderful to have Jews from every part of the community and from every community in the country under one roof,” said Limmud Bogota Chair Jack Goldstein, a hotel manager. “We had Sephardic, Hasidic, Ashkenazi, liberal, atheist, feminist and LGBT Jews learning and sharing together.”

Nassar, a Palestinian who heads FM Noticias, Colombia’s premier radio network, said: “Intercultural exchange is fundamental for understanding our world and resolving our differences. Limmud Bogota has been a great opportunity to talk with the community.”

There are about 3,500 Jews in Colombia, down from 7,500 in the mid-1990s, when a deep economic crisis led to a mass exodus to places such as Costa Rica, Miami and Panama. Most Jews – about 2,500 – live in Bogota, which is home to several Jewish institutions and organizations.

There are over 80 Limmud organizations in 43 countries. The volunteer-based Jewish learning festival debuted in England more than 25 years ago and has spread to dozens of cities around the world. Latin America Limmud communities include Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.

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