Jewish Tours

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Virtual Jewish History Tour


By Jacqueline Shields

Modern Paraguay

Today, the Jewish community has approximately 1,000 members, most of whom live in the capital, Asuncion. The intermarriage rate is rising, but most of the intermarried couples provide their children with a Jewish education. The community, however, is declining through immigration to Argentina and Brazil. Cccasionally immigrants come from those countries to Paraguay, especially due to marriage. A trickle of Jews — 50 people since 1948 — have immigrated to Israel.

The community supports a Jewish school named, "Escuela Integral Estado de Israel," at which Hebrew and Jewish studies are taught in addition to the Paraguayan curriculum. The Estado de Israel school is attended by 71 percnet of the Jewish children. About 50 Jewish students are enrolled at the university, in addition to others who study abroad.

Most Paraguayan Jews work in commerce or industry, but the Jewish community is heavily outnumbered by the richer and more influential Arab colony, whose members engage actively in Paraguayan politics and have intermarried with the country's most influential families. There are also some 40,000 Germans or people of German descent, many of whom openly supported the Nazis before and during World War II. A number of prominent Nazis, among them Josef Mengele of Auschwitz, found temporary shelter in Paraguay. In June 2000, neo-Nazis distributed pamphlets at the American University in Asunción. The pamphlets invited all those with complaints against Jews to come to a meeting. Also in 2000, a teacher was dismissed from the same university following a complaint against him of telling anti-Semitic jokes. Despite these incidents, the Jewish community lives, for the most part, undisturbed.

The Jewish community established the Consejo Representativo Israelita del Paraguay, which represents the Jewish community to the public and authorities. Among its achievements is its successful lobbying effort to prevent the closing of the Israel Embassy in Asuncion. Additionally, community leaders exerted pressure on the government after the Buenos Aires DAIA bombing, leading to the extradition from Paraguay of seven Arabs suspected of complicity in the attack.

Asuncion has three synagogues, Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Chabad, which distributes kosher food and provides a mikvah to the community. The city also has a Jewish museum with a Holocaust memorial. Socially and for the youth, there is a Jewish sports club, a B'nai B'rith club, a Centro Israelita Juvenil, a Wizo chapter, and a Ha-No'ar ha-Ziyyoni movement.


Sources: Beker, Avi, ed. Jewish Communities of the World. Company; Minnesota, 1998.

"Paraguay." Encyclopedia Judaica

The Stephen Roth Institute of the Tel Aviv University


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