Community in Uruguay - World Jewish Congress

Uruguay is home to the third largest Jewish community in South America after Argentina and Brazil. Records show that as of 2020, there were about 16,500 Jews residing in Uruguay. The Jewish community is integrated to the civil society of the country, exercising its Jewish identity and adding positively in the economic and social development of the Republic. The Central Israeli Committee of Uruguay (C.C.I.U) is the representative entity of the Jewish community of the country.

WJC Affiliate
Comité Central Israelita del Uruguay

Executive Director:
Gabriela Fridmanas

Canelones 1084, 3º


Social Media:
 Comite Central Israelita del Uruguay
X: @CCIUruguay

President: Gerardo Stuczynski

The history of the Jewish community in Uruguay parallels that of the country, which has been a geographical intermediary between Brazil and Argentina. Uruguay did not have an active inquisition and there are some traces of converts that lived in 16th century. The present Jewish community has its origins in the year 1880. In 1909 there were one hundred and fifty Jews living in Montevideo.

Before 1916 there were enough Ashkenazim Jews to form a chevra kadisha and in 1917 to open the first synagogue. In 1918 there were some 1,700 Jews in Uruguay, 75% of whom were Sepharadim (from the Balkans, Syria, Cyprus, Morocco, Egypt, Greece, Turkey and France) and the rest of Eastern Europe all of Russia, Poland and Lithuania).

In Paysandú there were already dispersed Jews before 1916 and in that same year a large group of families arrived from Brazil and founded "THE COLONY April 19".

The Israelite Society of Paysandú was formally created in 1929 with people who continued arriving from Montevideo and Argentina. Between the years 1925 and 1928 as well as in 1933 many Jews went to Argentina. At the beginning of World War II, Uruguay imposed limitations on immigration. However, in 1939 some two thousand two hundred Jews, coming mostly from Germany, managed to enter. The same thing happened in 1940 with the three hundred and seventy-three Jews who arrived. After the war, Jews from Hungary and the Middle East also sought refuge in Uruguay.

The degree of religiosity was an especially distinguishing feature since among these immigrants there were strict Orthodox, believers who maintained only the most important traditions, freethinkers and agnostics. Despite these divergences they built a deep sense of solidarity. Little by little synagogues, schools, libraries, newspapers in Yiddish, Ladino and Castilian, and a Jewish cemetery were built.

These immigrants came in the vast majority of modest homes and when they arrived in Uruguay they worked in the most diverse activities: in the refrigeration industry, in the tram company, in the street vending, in the commerce and in small workshops of confection and carpentry. Likewise, those who settled in the interior of the country formed some agricultural cooperatives. Uruguay was a country that had opened its doors to immigrants from all backgrounds and where the Church was separated from the state.

The economic possibilities offered by the country helped to a social ascent. With a clear sense of identity the Jews gradually integrated themselves into society. Their children were beginning to be born in this new Latin American country in which they had decided to take root.

Since 1940, the Comité Central Israelita del Uruguay has played an important role in these difficult years and, to this day, is the representative body of Uruguayan Jews and Jewish Zionist institutions.

The Committee also actively contributed to the task that made possible the establishment of the State of Israel.

The Jewish community of Uruguay is made up of about ten thousand families and is organized in four communities: Israelite Community of Uruguay (founded in 1916, Jews from Eastern Europe), Israelite Sephardic Community (Founded in 1932, Ladino language) , New Israeli Congregation of Montevideo (Founded in 1940, German language) and Hungarian Israeli Community (Founded in 1932, Hungarian language).

It is a community with many activities in their organizations. In addition to the Committee there are other Jewish organizations like the kehila, the conservative movement, Zionist organization, the Zionist Youth Federation that groups 7 tnuot (Zionist youth movements) and sports institutions.

Throughout history levels of anti-Semitism were very low. Notwithstanding, a wave of anti-Semitism in Uruguay was fired in mid-2014, which was reflected in the expressions of some members of government and the murder of a merchant and leader of the Jewish community in the city of Paysandú.


The World Jewish Population, 2016 (DellaPergola) estimated that in the country there are about 15,000 Jews. 30% are secular Jews (jiloni) and another 20% have little contact with their Judaism. Although there is no official data, it is estimated that it was in the 1960s when there were more Jews in Uruguay, about 50,000.


Some 75% of the country's Jews are of Eastern European origin, of which 14% come from Western Europe and 11% are Sepharadim.

The vast majority of Jews in Uruguay live in Montevideo, but there are also organized communities in Paysandú and Maldonado.


There were three large migratory waves of Jews: one during the 1970s, at the beginning of the dictatorship; another, during the economic crisis of 1982, and the last in the wake of the financial crisis of 2002.

Community Life

All Jewish-Zionist organizations in the country are represented by the Comité Central Israelita del Uruguay, founded in 1940 to cover the need for a coordinating and centralizing agency.


There are almost sixty institutions that vary with respect to their objectives: religious, educational, social, cultural, charitable, youth movements, feminine institutions, associations of friends of Israeli universities, representations of Israeli political parties, etc.

Religious and Cultural life

The various synagogues that exist in Uruguay offer orthodox or conservative services that cover various religious needs.


Kosher food, locally produced and imported, is readily available. There are some kosher restaurants, mainly in Jewish institutions. There is a Memorial to the Holocaust of the Jewish People, declared as "Historical and Cultural Patrimony of Uruguay".


There is a Memorial Museum of the Holocaust, hosted at the headquarters of the Israelite Community of Uruguay. Around the city you can find a monument to Golda Mei, Albert Einstein and Raoul Wallenberg.

The community also has its own cemetery.

Jewish Education

In Uruguay, there are comprehensive schools with curricula in Spanish and Hebrew, ranging from initial to pre-university education. These are: Escuela Integral, Instituto Ariel and Instituto Yavne. In addition, the Chabad Center runs Rambam School.


ORT is also present in Uruguay. It has state recognition to provide certain titles assimilated to those of the Public University.

The Jewish community sponsors permanent seminars on Talmud and Judaism in the School of Law of the University of the Republic, ORT University and other private universities (Catholic University and University of Montevideo).


In Uruguay there are seven Jewish Youth Movements that bring together young Zionists, with activities that seek the educational, social and ideological development of its members. Through non-formal education, Jewish Zionist values ​​are transmitted to boys and girls from 4 to 18 years old. The central institution that nucleates these Movements is the Zionist Youth Federation.

Jewish Media

The community publishes a magazine "En Comunidad". Also, various institutions publish informative magazines, itonim, or have radio and television spaces for dissemination.

Information for visitors

There are several places of Jewish interest that can be visited in Uruguay. In Montevideo the Holocaust Memorial, Golda Meir Square, Community Center, Holocaust Museum, Modern Synagogue, Jewish Quarter and Ancient Synagogue.


In the Maldonado area (where the famous beach city of Punta del Este is located) you can visit three synagogues, the Community Center of Punta del Este  and the houses where the first families who arrived in Maldonado settled.

Relations with Israel

Uruguay maintains full diplomatic relations with Israel.


When Vazquez was re-elected in 2014 and took office in 2015, positive relations with Israel resumed. Vazquez and Netanyahu are known to get along well. In recent United Nations meetings, under Vazquez, Uruguay has voted more pro-Israel and defended them in international summits.


Uruguay joined Israel and the United States in voting against a UN NGO Committee decision earlier this month to grant observer status to a British-based NGO – the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) – that Israel says is linked to Hamas. These were the only three countries to vote against it becoming an accredited NGO of the UN.


Uruguay also protected Israel from Palestine’s efforts to remove them from FIFA.

During a friendly phone call, Netanyahu invited Vazquez to visit Israel and discussed furthering trade and technology agreements. It is expected that Vazquez will visit Israel in the near future.

Israeli Embassy

President Luis Lacalle Pou (Elected 2020) visited Israel a year before being elected President, when he was a Senator.

Dr Luis Bonavita 1266, 11300 Montevideo, Uruguay

Telephone: +598 2628 8733

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