The history of Jews in Ecuador dates back to the colonial period, with the first Sephardic Jews probably arriving in what is now Southern Ecuador escaping the inquisition in the Viceroyalty of Lima between the late 16th and early 17th centuries. This presence of Sephardic Jews remained hidden for years in Ecuador and Judaism was only practiced secretly at home.
In the centuries that followed, Jewish immigration was virtually non-existent in Ecuador. Some Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants did arrive in Ecuador in the late 1920s, but it was not until the rise of the Nazis that substantial numbers of permanent Jewish settlers arrived in the country. Among them were professionals, intellectuals and artists, some of whom were professors and writers. The majority settled in Quito.
Many of the Jewish immigrants who arrived before and during World War II were admitted entry into Ecuador on the understanding that they would work in agricultural endeavors, but by the end of the war, many had branched out to other professions. Ecuadorian Jews brought technology, science and arts to Ecuador and were generally quite successful economically. Although a law was passed in the late 30´s that required foreigners to show that they were engaged in the stipulated occupation approved in their entry visas, no Jewish immigrants were actually ever expelled from Ecuador for not complying with this law.
After the Second World War many Ecuadorian Jews emigrated to the United States, Europe and Israel causing a decline of the larger collective of Jews in Ecuador. There was a wave of immigration from Argentina and Chile in the 1970s, but emigration still continued over the years. Today, the Ecuadorian Jewish community is quite small, but relatively homogenous and well-organized as a community.