The first Jews in Honduras arrived during the colonial period, having been expelled from Spain during the Inquisition. Many of these arrivals were “Marranos,” or Crypto-Jews. Over time, they completely assimilated and identified fully as Christians. A descendant of these settlers of Jewish origin, Juan Nepomuceno Fernandéz Lindo served as President of El Salvador from 1841 to 1842, and later as President of Honduras from 1847 to 1852. At the end of the 19th century, a small number of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews arrived in Honduras. They were mainly immigrants from Eastern Europe (Russia, Poland, Germany, Romania and Hungary) and Greece, Turkey and North Africa.
In the early 20th century, after World War I, Jewish immigrants from countries in central Europe began to arrive in Honduras. This was largely a result of the Honduran government publicly encouraging Jewish educators and professionals from Europe to immigrate to Honduras. Most of the families that arrived during this time later formed the two distinctive Honduran Jewish communities in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.
After World War II, there were less than 140 Jews throughout the country. In 1948, the community was bolstered by the arrival of nearly 60 Jews. Some of these new Jewish immigrants were pioneers in the development of the Honduran tourism industry. Overall, the new immigrants tried to maintain, within their means, a Jewish lifestyle. Although they came from religious homes, they were not successful in their attempt to pass on the traditions of Judaism to the second generation. There were very few young Jews in Honduras and mixed marriages and assimilation became an accepted lifestyle. In some (albeit very limited) cases, the non-Jewish spouse decided to become Jewish, and were converted by rabbis who came to Honduras for that purpose. The following decades saw the Honduran Jewish population slowly decline as intermarriage and emigration became commonplace.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, a large group of Israelis came to Honduras to work in engineering, agriculture and security. They brought with them both their families and a Jewish lifestyle and helped reinforce Jewish religious life in Honduras. In that same period, a group of Hondurans, who had spent some time in Israel and returned with a better understanding of the country and the Jewish heritage, created the Honduras Israel Cultural Institute, further strengthening the practice of Jewish culture and traditions.
In 1997 the Jewish community in Tegucigalpa finally got its first synagogue, but it was sadly destroyed the following year by Hurricane Mitch. However, thanks to international aid, the temple was rebuilt and consecrated in 2002. Such developments are indicative of the gradual growth of the Jewish community in Honduras; a trend of the last few decades. Today, Honduran Jews live generally peacefully and are included in Honduran political, social, and cultural life. Ricardo Maduro served as President from 2002 to 2006.