Established during the latter part of the 19th century, the Jewish community of Paraguay is small, comprising only some 1,000 people. Largely traditional, though not Orthodox, Paraguayan Jewry is highly Zionist and concentrated in Asunción, the capital. It is represented by the Consejo Representativo Israelita de Paraguay (CRIP), the Paraguayan affiliate of the World Jewish Congress.
Jews began arriving in Paraguay from France, Switzerland and Italy toward the end of the 19th century, followed by a further wave of immigration in the early decades of the 20th. Part of that migration was comprised of Ukrainian, Russian and Polish Jews who had previously immigrated to Argentina. Between 1904 and 1905, several families from Argentina settled in Limpio. According to public records, they were received by a band playing music upon their arrival at the port of Asunción. Then, around 1908, the Sephardic immigrants began arriving from what was then Ottoman Palestine. This trend intensified during the First World War with the arrival of a second wave of Palestinian, Egyptian and Turkish Jews.
Another wave of immigrants from Ukraine and Poland began arriving in the 1920s, assisted by relatives already living in Paraguay. A number of the newcomers settled in Villarica, Artigas and Borja, though the majority made their way to Asunción.
Integration, both between Jews of differing origins and between Jews and the non-Jewish majority, was initially difficult. The poorest Jewish classes were located in the center of the capital in an area that was called "Palestinian Quarter." In Villarica, the country’s second city, there was a small but active Jewish community that developed diverse cultural and religious activities. By 1932, there were 120 Jewish families in Asunción.
1933 saw the beginning of a new wave of immigration comprised of German Jews fleeing the Nazi regime. Some only passed through Paraguay while others remained to engage in commercial or agricultural activities. Between 1933 and 1939, between 15,000 and 20,000 Jews from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia took advantage of Paraguay's relatively liberal immigration laws to escape from Nazi-occupied Europe. Most of the Jews who arrived in Paraguay after World War II were survivors of the concentration camps.
Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola estimated the Paraguayan Jewish community to number between 1,000 and 1,600 as of 2002. The majority of them are concentrated in Asunción, the capital.
Predominantly religiously traditional and Zionist, the official community is comprised of five institutions, all located in the capital, Asunción: the Hebrew Union: the seat of social, sports, cultural and religious activities; the State of Israel School; Hevra Kadisha and the cemetery; WIZO; Hanoar Hatzioní, which sponsors sports activities; and the Beit Chabad. There is also a Conservative temple. Kosher meat is available as Kosher meat is produced domestically for export to Israel, but given the small size of the community, other Kosher products are difficult, though not impossible, to obtain.
Most Paraguayan Jews are Conservative, and even those who attend Chabad are not necessarily Orthodox.
It is a very active community and the full range of Jewish cultural and religious activities are available for its members.
The community maintains a day school which provides primary and secondary education for most Jewish children, but is also open to non-Jewish enrollment.
Social and sports activities are provided by Hanoar Hatzioni.
Hashavua (the week), an online weekly, covers cultural, sports and religious developments within the community.
The Jewish Museum of Paraguay in Asunción contains objects of historical, documentary and artistic value.
Israel and Paraguay have maintained full diplomatic relations since 1949. The Israeli embassy in Asunción was closed in 2002 due to budget cuts and reopened in July 2015. In 2005, the Paraguayan Embassy in Israel was closed, again due to budget restrictions, but was reopened in 2013.
In November 2005, Vice President Luis Castiglioni of Paraguay paid an official visit to Israel. In July 2016, President Horacio Cartes made an official visit to Israel, the first by a Paraguayan President. Among other things, he signed a memorandum of understanding guaranteeing cooperation in the field of technological development.
World Trade Center Asunción
Avda. Aviadores del Chaco 2050
Torre 4 - Piso 19
Telephone: (+595-21) 659-6500
Fax: (+595-21) 659-6555