Community in Mexico - World Jewish Congress

Mexico is home to 40,000 Jews, making it the 14th-largest in the world (2020). Characterized by its strong traditionalist communities, ranging from Orthodox to Conservative, and its variety of institutions, Mexican Jewry is comprised of Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Levantine Jews, and is considered one of the most active Jewish communities in the world.

The Mexican Jewish community is represented by the Comité Central de la Comunidad Judía de México (CCCJM) – the Mexican affiliate of the World Jewish Congress. There is a long-standing cooperation between the CCCJM and the Tribuna Israelita, which also participates actively in meetings of the WJC Plenary Assembly and Governing Board.

WJC Affiliate
Comité Central de la Comunidad Judía de México (CCCJM)

Executive Director:
Renee Dayan-Shabot
Marcos Shabot
Mauricio Lulka

+52 55 5520-9393

Social Media:
Facebook: Tribuna Israelita
Instagram: @tribunaisraelita
X: @Tribuna_ISR
YouTube: Tribuna Israelita

President: Elias Achar

Jews first arrived in 1519 in Mexico as Conversos, and in 1521 they accompanied Hernan Cortes in the conquering of the Aztecs. After the establishment of a formal colony, “La Nueva España,” many Conversos emigrated to the “new world” in the following decades and were able to establish peaceful existences for themselves. Among these crypto-Jewish arrivals were those who continued to practice Judaism in secret and sought to escape the intensity of the Inquisition’s persecution in Spain. Others integrated into broader society and became prominent members of the elite, or even, in some cases, clergy officials.

However, the Spanish crown began enforcing its severe inquisition policies in Mexico in 1571, opening an inquisition office in Mexico City. A large number of Crypto-Jews were persecuted and convicted of being “impure” throughout the colonial period, and the colonial administration’s official policy was to prohibit practicing Jews from settling in Mexico. There was an influx of Jewish immigration from Portugal in the late 16th century, but many of these Converso arrivals were ultimately prosecuted by Inquisition officials in the New World. Despite this, Conversos were active participants in colonial society and were engaged in various occupations, including craftsmanship.

These draconian policies continued into the 17th century, and as a result, the number of Conversos arriving in Mexico was drastically reduced. Moreover, wealthy Conversos established in the colony were increasingly persecuted by the Inquisition, as the confiscation of their assets added to the wealth of officials in charge of “cleansing” the new world. Over the century, hundreds of people were prosecuted and convicted by the Inquisition in Mexico. Some were made to reconcile with the church, while others were either deported or executed. In due course, such extreme persecutory actions towards Conversos diminished, but by then, the immigration of Crypto-Jews to Mexico had all but disappeared. There was a large level of assimilation among those who remained in the colony, and the practice of Jewish customs and traditions was lost to many over time.

Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821 and recognized Catholicism as the official religion. Despite the abolition of the Inquisition in the country, very few Jews lived in Mexico. When Maximilian of Austria arrived as Emperor of Mexico in 1864, some European Jews from Austria, Belgium, and France came with his court and openly practiced Judaism. After Maximilian’s death and the end of the Mexican empire, almost all of these Jews returned to Europe. 

In the middle of the 19th century, President Benito Juárez began implementing policies to modernize Mexico, establishing a more secular and tolerant society. The 1857 Constitution paved the way for religious freedom in Mexico. As a result, there were large increases in Jewish immigration to Mexico, beginning in 1881 with the arrival of Russian Jews who came to the country after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II.

The 20th century saw the arrival of an influx of Jews from the Ottoman Empire who sought to escape the political instability incurred by the deterioration of Ottoman influence and power. Sephardic Jews from all over the empire—present-day Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and the Balkans—arrived in Mexico and were able to integrate themselves into Mexican society relatively easily.

Following the revolution that began in 1910, liberal policies that legally affirmed religious freedom in Mexico and formally recognized the Jewish community were implemented. As Mexico returned to political stability in the 1920s, more Jews from Europe arrived in the country. Many of these arrivals hoped to use Mexico as a stopover to the United States but ended up staying in the country following the adoption of strict immigration quotas in the United States in 1921 and later in 1924. That same year, Plutarco Elias Calles, the newly elected president of Mexico, issued an invitation to the Jewish people to come to Mexico as law-abiding citizens, stimulating an immigration wave that lasted until 1930. During this period, Jewish cultural life began to take off in Mexico with the establishment of Jewish communal and Zionist organizations.

By the mid-1920s, Jewish life in Mexico was diversely integrated along ethnic lines. Many of the Jewish immigrant groups stuck with those who came from the same region, spoke the same language, or practiced similar Jewish religious customs. Such distinctions became institutionalized as the different Jewish communities in Mexico established different Jewish religious and cultural groups. The 1930s saw antisemitic and xenophobic movements permeate Mexican society.

Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, the Mexican Jewish community lived in relative stability. The economic boom that followed World War II lasted for nearly 30 years and continued to allow Mexican Jews to prosper greatly. However, the 1980s and 1990s saw the country experience economic difficulties, which affected the country. Further and more legally formal guarantees of religious equality and freedoms were introduced in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Today, Mexican Jews are guaranteed and enjoy complete religious freedom. Mexico has experienced almost no antisemitism in recent years, and Mexican Jews are active in all aspects of Mexican society, including high offices of the state. From 2000 to 2003, Jorge Castañeda Gutman served as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and Victor Lichtinger served as the Secretary of Environment Protection from 2000 to 2003. Julio Frenk served as the Secretary of Health from 2000 to 2006, and Victor Lijtinger served under President Vicente Fox. Yeidckol Polevnsky Gurwitz served as a Senator for the State of Mexico from 2006 to 2012. In July 2018, Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo became the first Jew and woman to be elected mayor of Mexico City.

The Years of the Holocaust

In the years preceding World War II, antisemitism rose in Mexico in conjunction with the dismal economic conditions wrought by the Great Depression. A rise in xenophobia during the late 1930s saw Mexico implement a Population Law in 1936 that established different immigration quotas that severely restricted immigration from nations with large Jewish populations, such as Poland and Russia, among others. These Jews, along with German and Austrian Jews who were fleeing Nazism, found it difficult to enter the country, and only around 1,850 Jews were allowed into Mexico throughout the war.

During World War II, Mexico exported foods and basic goods to the United States, and the country’s internal market strengthened. The Mexican economy experienced a general rise in industries created, and among those who benefited were several Jewish entrepreneurs who established manufacturing factories during the 1940s. After the war, the Jewish community began participating in various industries throughout the country and, in general, experienced economic prosperity.


Mexico was home to 40,000 Jews in 2020, making it the 14th-largest in the world. The majority of Mexican Jews live in Mexico City, the capital. Jewish communities can also be found in cities such as Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tijuana, Cancun, and San Miguel de Allende.

Community Life

Jewish life in Mexico is largely divided based on Jewish ethnicity, Ashkenazi and Sephardic, with each group having its own established Jewish institutions. The Comité Central de la Comunidad Judía de México (CCCJM) acts as the umbrella organization for the various Jewish groups in Mexico, working to advocate on behalf of Mexican Jewry in governmental, political, religious, academic, and media affairs as well as the fight against antisemitism.

Each community provides various services to its members, including religious, social, cultural, and educational, as well as welfare assistance, conciliation, and arbitration services. Additionally, many branches of international Zionist youth and social organizations are active in Mexico's capital city. 

Religious and Cultural Life

The Mexican Jewish community is particularly active, with an estimated 95% of members affiliated with an institution involved in Jewish religious life. Most Mexican Jews identify as Orthodox or Conservative. There are several synagogues in Mexico, with about 25 alone in Mexico City.

There are many Mexican Jewish organizations of varying religious affiliations, each run by a different ethnic group. The Orthodox-oriented organizations include the Sociedad de Beneficencia Alianza Monte Sinai, founded by Jews from Damascus and Lebanon; the Comunidad Ashkenazi, founded by Jews from Central and Eastern Europe; the Comunidad Maguen David, founded by Jews from Aleppo, Syria; and the Comunidad Sefaradi, founded by Jews from Turkey, Greece, and the Balkans.

Conservative organizations include the Centro Deportivo Israelita, which gathers members of all the communities; the Beth Israel Community Center, founded by English-speaking Jews; and the Comunidad Bet El, founded by native Jews born in Mexico.

Kosher Food

Kosher food is widely available in Mexico both in restaurants and supermarkets.

Jewish Education

There are 14 Jewish day schools in Mexico, most belonging to one of the communities. It is estimated that around 95% of Jewish children in Mexico attend Jewish day schools. There are all kind of schools, from very religious, to Zionist, to secular. All of them teach Hebrew and English. There is one school with a Montessori system and the Jewish schools are considered among the best in the country. The schools are coordinated by the Vaad Hajinuj, which also supports the Hebraic University, where Jewish teachers are trained. All the schools provide scholarships for families that cannot afford to pay tuition.

There are number of Mexican universities and secondary institutions that have Jewish-related studies. Many Jewish students who attend the country's universities belong to the Mexican Federation of Jewish Youth, or FEMEJJ.


There are several Jewish youth groups and programs active through the various Jewish communities in Mexico.

jewish media

A large variety of newspapers and magazines reflect the ideological trends of the different communities, including Imagen David, Identidad Monte Sinai, NotiKehile, En Curto, Periódico CDI, Enfoque Bet El, Kesher, and Caleidoscopio, among others.

Information for Visitors

The first Sepharadic and Ashkenazi synagogues in downtown Mexico City are still standing; the first is active and provides religious services, and the other is a museum.

Relations with Israel

Israel and Mexico have maintained full diplomatic relations since 1952. In 2000, a free trade agreement was signed between the two countries, and in recent years, there has been increased security cooperation. Three Israeli presidents have visited Mexico: Efraim Katzir, Moshe Katzav, and Shimon Peres.  In 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit Mexico and Latin America, and later that year, the Israeli Defense Forces and ISRAID sent humanitarian supplies to the earthquake-stricken region of Oaxaca and Chiapas after an 8.1 earthquake hit the area.

Embassy of Israel in Mexico:
Sierra Madre #215
Lomas de Chapultepec
Miguel Hidalgo, CP 11000
CDMX, Mexico

Telephone: +52 55 5201 1500
Fax: +52 55 5201 1555

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