Community in Colombia - World Jewish Congress

According to a recent census, around 2,100 Jews live in Colombia, most of whom are concentrated in the capital, Bogota. Smaller communities exist in Cali, Barranquilla, and Medellin. Jews have lived in modern-day Colombia since the Spanish period, but it wasn't until the end of the 18th century that Judaism was practiced openly. It is a primarily secular community but there is little intermarriage.

The community is represented by the Confederación de Comunidades Judías de Colombia (CCJC) - The Colombian affiliate of the World Jewish Congress.

WJC Affiliate
Confederación de Comunidades Judías de Colombia (CCJC)

General Director and CEO:
Prof. Marcos Peckel, Member of the WJC Executive

(57 1) 274 9069

Social Media:
Confederación de Comunidades Judías de Colombia
X: @ccjcolombia
YouTube: Confederation of Jewish Communities of Colombia

President: Jean Claude Bessudo

The first Jews arrived in Colombia during the Spanish colonization period between the 16th and 17th centuries. Primarily “New Christians,” the Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism practiced Judaism in secret until they sought a new life free of religious persecution. Most, if not all of the Jews who arrived during this period, assimilated into Colombian society, although there are descendants of these Jews who continued to practice certain Jewish traditions which have morphed into family rituals.

During the 18th century, Spanish and Portuguese Jews began to arrive from Jamaica and Curaçao, where they flourished under English and Dutch rule. By the end of the century, these Jews began practicing their Judaism openly, even though it was still technically illegal. After Colombia gained its independence in 1810, Judaism was recognized as a legal religion.

By 1929, there were less than 200 Jews in Bogotá, when a group of Polish and Romanian Jews founded the Israelite Center of Bogotá. The small size of the community did not deter them, however, and the following year they established a burial society, a school, and other communal institutions. By the beginning of the 1940s, German-Jewish immigrants to Colombia founded their communal organization, the Israelite Montefiore Association, and in 1950, Jews mostly from Syria but also from Egypt, Turkey, and Greece, founded the Sephardic Hebrew Community of Bogotá.

During the early 1990s, the Jewish population of Colombia stood at between 6,000 and 6,500. Over the next decade, a deteriorating economy and personal safety, and a wave of kidnappings across the country, led to a significant Jewish exodus. Most of those who left settled in the United States (particularly Miami), Costa Rica, and Israel. However, improvements in domestic security and an improved economic situation have helped to stabilize the community and the situation has improved to the extent that many Jews from Venezuela are now seeking refuge in Colombia.


Between 4,500 and 5,500 Jews live in Colombia, according to a recent census survey conducted by the CCJC and the JOINT. Three-quarters of the population resides in the capital, Bogotá. There are also smaller communities in Cali, Barranquilla, and Medellin.

Community Life

The umbrella organization of the community is the Confederación de Comunidades Judías de Colombia (CCJC). The organization is in charge of the political representation of the community to the Colombian government, interfaith religious organizations, security, diplomatic corps, media, ambassadorship to the State of Israel, and international Jewish organizations.

The Jewish community runs community centers and youth Zionist organizations such as Hanoar Hatzioni, and branches of organizations such as WIZO and KKL. There are 10 synagogues, four of which are located in Bogotá.

The community has a strong tzedakah (charity) tradition, and Jews who are in need have an address to ask for whatever help is needed. Also, projects for the benefit of society at large are carried out by different Jewish organizations.

Religious and Cultural Life

Most of the communities are nominally Orthodox, although the great majority of Colombian Jews are not religiously observant. Intermarriage is low, estimatably less than 5%. The community performs Orthodox conversions through rabbinic tribunals recognized by the Israel Rabanut; Masorti (Conservative) conversions are also performed.

Jewish Education

Bogotá, Barranquilla, and Medellin each have Jewish day schools, and Cali has an after school. In Bogota, there is also a kolel (Talmudic school).

jewish media

There are a handful of Jewish publications, both in print and online.

Information for Visitors

The Museum of Alfredo de la Espriella, in the city of Barranquilla, has a photo gallery focused on Jewish themes. Any visitor wishing to get in touch with anything Jewish can contact the CCJC at

Relations with Israel

Colombia abstained from the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine in 1947 and did not recognize the new state of Israel when it was declared the following year. However, in recent decades, Colombia has become the strongest ally of Israel in Latin America.  Colombia has been a member of the Multinational Force & Observers (MFO) in the Sinai peninsula since the signing of the Egypt-Israel peace agreement in 1982.

President Santos went to Israel on a state visit in 2013; that same year, the two countries signed the Free Trade Agreement. In September 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Colombia, marking the very first visit of a sitting Israeli prime minister to the region.

Israeli Embassy
Av. Calle 26 No. 57-83 Piso 7
Telephone: 57 1 3277500
Fax: 57 1 327755

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