Community in Chile - World Jewish Congress
Chile

Chile has one of the biggest Jewish communities in South America, after Argentina and Brazil; with roughly 16,000 Jews, it accounts for about 0.11% of Chile's population. Dating back to 1535, the Chilean Jewish community now consists of more than 50 institutions. The greatest concentration is in Santiago, with smaller populations located in other provinces with varied levels of organization. Chile also has the largest Palestinian community outside of the Middle East. The population is believed to be over 300,000, with its own institutions and political representation.

The Jewish community in Chile is represented by the  Jewish Community of Chile (Comunidad Judía de Chile) – the Chilean affiliate of the World Jewish Congress.

WJC Affiliate
Jewish Community of Chile (Comunidad Judía de Chile)

CEO:
 Dafne Englander

Telephone:
562 211 6399
Fax:
562 212 4705
Email:
contacto@cjch.cl.
Website:
www.cjch.cl

Social Media:
Facebook: Comunidad Judia Chile Oficial
Instagram:
@comunidadjudiachile
X: @comjudiachile
YouTube: Comunidad Judía de Chile

President: Ariela Agosin
History

The first Jews arrived in Chile along with the Spanish conquistadors (conquerors). The Jews were Jewish converts to Catholicism from the time of the Inquisition; most of this immigration occurred in the early years of the conquest, escaping religious persecution in Spain since the court of the Inquisition was not yet established in America.

The first European Jews, particularly of French and German descent, settled in Valparaiso. Among them was Manuel de Lima and Sola, a chemist working in Chile who, in 1851, became a founding partner of the Fire Department of Valparaíso. From then on, the Jewish presence spread through Santiago, Valdivia, Osorno, Puerto Montt, Temuco, La Unión, and even the Atacama Desert, where they were attracted by the mining business and trade.

From the end of the 19th century until the 1930s, there was an immigration of Sephardic Jews from the dismembered Ottoman Empire, which created the Jewish community as a collectivity. During those years, Jews who fled the antisemitic policies of Tsarist Russia also began to arrive and settle in both Santiago and the south of the country. The historical record establishes that in Rosh Hashanah of ​​1906, the first minyan (prayer quorum) took place in Santiago. Subsequently, in 1909, 87 people assembled to sign the founding act, in Spanish, of the first Jewish center of Chile, under the name "Sociedad Unión Israelita de Chile." A decade later, after the Balfour Declaration, Zionist activity expanded in Chile, and several Jewish organizations flourished, which later constituted the Congress of Jews of Chile in 1919, in which representatives of 13 cities met as part of a movement to centralize the Jewish community.

The Years of the Holocaust

A new group fled the persecution imposed by the Nazi Party in Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. During the second term of President Arturo Alessandri, which was from 1932 to 1938, the arrival of Jewish refugees who escaped from Europe was restricted. It wasn't until the next president, Pedro Aguirre Cerda, came into power that the restriction was lifted, and a large number of Jewish immigrants arrived.

In 1941, a new prohibition of entry for the Jewish population in Chile was decreed, which was maintained until 1945, when, at the end of World War II, another group, now reduced, came from survivors of concentration camps liberated by Italian troops.

Demography

According to the census of 1907, there were 14 Jewish families in Temuco, while in 1920 there were 300 families. In 1916, the Jewish families created various social organizations, such as the Israelite Macedonian Center of Temuco. In those years, Temuco was one of the main destinations of emigration for the Jews of Monastir.

In addition to the Sephardim, 900 Ashkenazi Jews of Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian descent were counted in Temuco. It was also the first Chilean city to have a synagogue and an Israeli club. For these reasons, Temuco is cited as one of the main cities in Chile that received Jewish immigrants.

The www.WorldJewishPopulation.com census of 2016 (Della Pergola) estimates the Jewish population of Chile at 18,300. It amounts to approximately 0.1% of the Chilean population and makes it, along with Uruguay, the second-largest Jewish community after Argentina and Brazil.

The majority of Jews are concentrated in the nation's capital, Santiago. Smaller communities also exist throughout the country.

Community Life

The country's Jewish organizations are affiliated with the Jewish Community of Chile (CJCh) institution, which is the umbrella organization of Chilean Judaism and its arm of political representation. In 2016, the CJCh celebrated 110 years of work.

There are several Jewish organizations in Chile, such as the Zionist Federation, B'nai B'rith, WIZO, recreational sites such as the Israeli Stadium, a golf club, two nursing homes, ORT, and, as a special feature, a fire department called the “Israeli Water Bomb" that is managed by Jewish volunteers.

There are several synagogues in Santiago, as well as in cities like Viña del Mar. Approximately five percent of the Jewish community of Santiago is Orthodox, where most of the Jews of Chile congregate.

Jewish life in the country is developed with normality and security, being respected by the authorities and state agencies. The community organizes the annual Tefila de Chile, which the president and ministers attend, and it is a tradition to ignite the Janukia (Hanukia) in the Casa de la Moneda, the seat of the national government. 

Religious and Cultural Life

With the passing of the years from those most attached to religion and customs, many of the Jews in Chile today are deeply rooted in national life and are somewhat secularized. The presence of national authorities in religious services, such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, is a tradition that is repeated every year.

There are several families with non-Jewish members, and the knowledge of specific languages ​​of immigrant families, such as German, Yiddish, or Ladino, is lost in the new generations, replaced by English and, to a lesser extent, Hebrew.

The Conservative movement in Chile, which is growing in influence through the leadership of teachers formed by the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary of Buenos Aires, has made great efforts to regroup Chilean Jews and recreate community life, recovering tradition and religious precepts to give them vitality in the heart of contemporary society.

However, there is also an Orthodox movement that is growing both in presence and numbers in the city of Santiago.

Kosher Food
Jewish Education

There is a central commission of education called the Vaad Hajinuj that is in charge of a Hebrew school in Santiago, where there is also an Orthodox school. Viña del Mar also has a Jewish establishment. At the university level, there is a Center for Jewish Studies.

Youth

The tradition of the Zionist youth movements in Chile is longstanding and intense. The most well-known organizations are Maccabi Hatzair, as part of World Maccabi; Tzeirei Ami, the tnuá (youth movement) of the Hebrew Institute, the main Jewish school in the country; and the Hashomer Hatzairas, which is the oldest in the region.

Jewish Media

The community publishes three weekly newspapers: the Ashkenazi La Palabra Israelita, the Zionist Mundo Judio, and the Sephardi El Vocero.

Information for Visitors

The community also has a Sephardi museum and a B'nai B'rith documentation center.

Relations with Israel

Chile recognized Israel as an independent state in 1949. Thereafter, bilateral relations have strengthened significantly, remaining at the ambassadorial level permanently. Israel recognized Chile’s military government after the 1973 coup d’état and then recognized their democratic government in 1990. The countries have a rich political, cultural, commercial, and cooperative relationship.

In early 2010, Sebastián Piñera became the first president of Chile to officially visit Israel. However, the Palestinian political party holds an anti-Israeli stance in judging Middle Eastern affairs. In 2011, Chile offered recognition for the state of Palestine along with seven other Latin American nations, attributable to its large number of Palestinian residents.

In July 2014, Chile recalled its ambassador back to Israel due to the violence in Gaza; it also froze its free trade agreement with Israel, which was later reinstated.

President Sebastián Piñera visited Israel in June 2019.

Israeli Embassy:
San Sebastián 2812, 5th floor
Las Condes, Santiago
Telephone: 56 2 27500500
Fax: 56 2 2750055

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