The small but active Jewish community of Bolivia has around 400 members, most of whom live in La Paz. There are also smaller communities in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra. The Bolivian affiliate of the World Jewish Congress is in La Paz.
Círculo Israelita De La Paz
Telephone: (591-2) 278-5083/6512
President: Ricardo Udler
The Jewish presence in Bolivia dates back to the period of Spanish conquest and colonization that started in the early the 16th century, when it became one of the primary destinations for Spanish Jews who had formally converted to Christianity, and became known as Marranos.
With the mining boom of the sixteenth century, a number of Marranos settled in Potosí. They soon achieved economic success in mining and commerce and were persecuted by the newly imported Inquisition; as well as by local authorities in Potosi and neighboring La Paz, who accused them of converting locals to Judaism. As a result, most families of Jewish origin moved to Santa Cruz, at the time a remote and isolated settlement, where the Inquisition was less active.
In 1905, a small number of Russian Jews settled in Bolivia, followed by a group of Argentinian Jews. In 1917, it was estimated that there were only between 20 and 25 practicing Jews living in the country, and in 1933, at the outset of Nazi rule in Germany, there were 30 Jewish families in Bolivia.
While there was only a handful of practicing Jews in Bolivia in the 1930s, the rise of Nazism in Germany led to significant growth in the Bolivian Jewish community, which was bolstered by an influx of 12,000 German Jewish immigrants. Moritz (Mauricio) Hochschild, one of the principal Bolivian mining industrialists, is credited with enabling some 9,000 German Jews to find refuge in Bolivia. However, most of these newcomers did not stay in Bolivia, with many moving on to Argentina, Chile, the United States, and Uruguay. Bolivia primarily served as a transit route rather than a final destination.
The European Jewish refugees who stayed in Bolivia settled in La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro, Santa Cruz, Sucre (Chuquisaca), Tarija and Potosí. They were augmented by another, post-war, wave of Polish immigrants. By the late 1940s there were around 5,000 Jews living in Bolivia. The vast majority of them have since emigrated.
Bolivia has one of the smallest Jewish communities in Latin America, and it continues to decline due to the high rate of emigration of Bolivian Jews. In the 1990s, the community was believed to have about 700 members, while Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola estimated the Jewish population of Bolivia as of 1999 at 500, with the majority living in La Paz.
Each community, La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, has its cemetery, its headquarters and its synagogue.
La Paz being a Orthodox community, Cochabamba conservative and Santa Cruz reformist.
There is no Jewish school in Bolivia although communities in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz run “Sunday schools” for local children.
In 2014 a Jewish museum, located one hour away from La Paz, was opened in Bolivia with the help of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany.
In January 2009, the Morales government broke ties with Israel, declaring it a "terrorist and genocidal state” and canceled its visa exemption agreement with Jerusalem.
Honorary Consulate of Israel in La Paz, Bolivia
Chief of Mission: Roberto Nelkenbaum, Honorary consul
Edificio Multicine, Mezzanine
Av. Arce 2631
La Paz, Bolivia
Telephone: (+591) 2 211 6761 / 2 212 4417
Fax: (+591) 2 211 6761
Honorary Consulate of Israel in Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Chief of Mission: Francisco Hubsh Neumann, Honorary consul
Avenida Banzer 171
Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Telephone: (+591) 3 342-4777 / 3 357-9725
Fax: (+591) 7-739-7050