Community in Chile - World Jewish Congress

Chile is home to one of the largest Jewish communities in South America after Argentina and Brazil. With about 16,000 Jews, it amounts to approximately 0.11% of the Chilean population. Chile is also home to the largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East. They are estimated at about 300,000 who have their own institutions and political representation.

The Jewish Community of Chile has been present in the country since 1535. Today, more than 50 institutions make up the Jewish community of Chile. The largest concentration is in Santiago, with small communities existing in other provinces with varying degrees of organization.

The Jews in Chile feel welcomed by the country, a Chile that has given them opportunities, and where they could develop as a community with freedom of worship. The presence of the maximum national authorities in emblematic religious services such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah is is a tradition that is repeated every year. Also the community organizes annually service of Tefila for Chile, which is attended by the President and Ministers, and it is a tradition also the igniting of the Janukia in the Casa de la Moneda, seat of the national Government.

WJC Affiliate
Comunidad Judía de Chile (CJCH)

Telephone: 562 211 6399
Fax: 562 212 4705

CEO: Marcelo Isaacson

President: Gerardo Gorodischer

The first Jews arrived in Chile along with the Spanish conquistadors. They 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 settled in Valparaiso, especially Germans and French. Among them was Manuel de Lima and Sola, who became one of the founding partners of the Fire Department of Valparaíso in 1851. From then on, the Jewish presence spread through Santiago, Valdivia, Osorno, Puerto Montt, Temuco, La Unión, and even the Atacamadesert, where they were attracted by the business of mines and trade.

From the end of the nineteenth century until the 1930s, there was an important immigration of Sephardic Jews from the dismembered Ottoman Empire, which originated the Jewish community as a collectivity. During those years, Jews who fled of the anti-Semitic policies of Tsarist Russiaalso began to arrive and settled in Santiago and the south of the country.

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

In addition to the Sephardim, 900 Jews of Polish, Russian and Ukrainian rule 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.

A new group fled the persecution imposed by the Nazis in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, however during the second term of Arturo Alessandri, between 1932 and 1938, the arrival of Jewish refugees who escaped from Europe was restricted. This restriction arose when Pedro Aguirre Cerda arrived to the presidency, which favored the arrival of a large number of Jews.

In 1941, a new prohibition of entry of 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.

The historical record establishes that in Rosh HaShaná of ​​1906 the first miniam took place in Santiago. Subsequently, in 1909, eighty-seven persons 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 last census conducted in 2012 yields the figure of 16,284 Jews –15 year old and older. The WorldJewishPopulation,2016(DellaPergola) estimates the Jewish population of Chile in 18,300. It amounts to approximately 0.1% of the Chilean population, and makes it –together 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: 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”totally managed by Jewish volunteers.

There are several synagogues in Santiago but also in other cities like Viña del Mar.

Approximately 5% of the Jewish community of Santiago, where most of the Jews of Chile congregate, are orthodox. They also have their temples, schools and shops that sell kosher food.

Jewish life in the country is full; is developed with normality and security, being respected by the authorities and the State agencies.

Religious and Cultural Life

With the passing of the years, from those immigrants most attached to religion and custom, today, many of the Jews in Chile, are deeply rooted in national life and somehow laicized. There are a number of families with non-Jewish members and the knowledge of specific languages ​​of immigrant families such as German, Yiddish or Ladino are 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.

There is also an orthodox movement that is growing in presence and numbers in the city of Santiago.

Jewish Education

There is a central commission of education (VaadHajinuj) 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.

And, at the university level, there is a Center for Jewish Studies.


The tradition of the Zionist youth movements in Chile is longstanding and very intense. They stand out MaccabiHatzair, as part of World Maccabi; Tzeirei Ami, the tnuá of the Hebrew Institute, the main Jewish school in the country and the Hashomer Hatzairas the oldest.

jewish media

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

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, the bilateral relations have strengthened significantly, remaining at 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 amount of Palestinian residents.

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

President reelected Sebastián Piñera visited Israel in June 2019.

Israeli Embassy
San Sebastián 2812, 5 floor
Las Condes, Santiago
Telephone: 56 2 27500500
Fax: 56 2 27500555


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