Shalom Life | November 30, 2014

Shalom, Venezuela: A Jewish Culture Guide

The first Jewish family settled in the town of Core in 1820, which has a Jewish cemetery with tombstones dating back to 1832.

By: Sara Torvik

Published: November 18th, 2014 in Culture » Society » News

Shalom, Venezuela: A Jewish Culture Guide

And we’re off, to anywhere and everywhere, as we say ‘Shalom’ every week to different global travel destination. World cities, provincial towns, and even the most unassuming of suburbs are infused with Jewish history and culture, some of which is waiting to be discovered.

For the pious follower, the curious traveler, or the intrepid adventurer, we’ll unearth the best of what to do and where to go. Be it an emerging subculture, a historical landmark, or simply a triumph of art in any form, Jewish experiences are found around the world; and likely as well in your backyard.

It may be in the destination, the journey, or the company, but there is much to uncover and celebrate near and far, so hurry up and get going.

Shalom, Venezuela

In the South American country of Venezuela, Jewish history begins in the 17th century, when records suggest that groups of marranos (Spanish and Portuguese descendants of baptized Jews suspected of secret adherence to Judaism) lived in the cities of Caracas and Maracaibo. The Jewish community, however, did not become established in Venezuela until the middle of the 19th century. During the early stages of the 19th century, Venezuela and Columbia were battling their Spanish colonizers in wars of independence. A Venezuelan military and political leader by the name of Simon Bolivar, who is considered to be Venezuela's liberator, found refuge and material support for his army in the homes of Jews from Curaçao. Jews such as Mordejai Ricardo and brothers Ricardo and Abraham Meza offered hospitality to Bolivar as he fought against the Spanish, thus establishing a kinship between Jews and the newly independent Venezuelan republic.

The first Jewish family settled in the town of Core in 1820, which has a Jewish cemetery with tombstones dating back to 1832. Other Jewish communities began springing up in Caracas and Puerto Cabello in the 1840s. By the end of the 19th century I is estimated that 247 Jews lived in the country as citizens. Bu it wasn’t until the 20th century, with the arrival of North African and Eastern European Jews, that the Jewish community in Venezuela would begin to fully develop.

By the time the 1940s rolled around, nearly 600 German Jews had entered the country, with several hundred more becoming citizens after World War II. The community continued to grow and by 1950, they had expanded to around 6,000 people, even with challenges in places such as immigration restrictions. The fall of dictator Perez Jimenez in 1958 saw more than 1,000 Jews immigrate to Venezuela from a wide variety of countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Salonica, Turkey, and even from Israel. An unknown number of Jews also immigrated from other Latin American countries, which raised the size of the community to more than 15,000 Jews by the 1970s.

Find out more about Venezuela's Jewish culture and history on the next page!

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