Emerging Communities In Latin America
In contrast to the majority of Jewish communities globally which either have deep historic roots or are the results of migration, there are a number of communities world wide where the majority of the membership (60% -100% in the first generation) are newcomers to Judaism or returning after generations of disconnection. Though these communities face their own distinct challenges with regards to tradition, religious infrastructure, and leadership, with support these communities can and do thrive. Such communities exist in Africa, Europe, Central and South America.
The following communities are some of emerging communities that exist in Central and South America with whom Be’chol Lashon maintain connections.
Chavurah Shirat Hayyam (Santa Marta, Colombia)
By the sandy beaches of the Colombian Caribbean, this community of locals has been active since 2007. Lead and pioneered by Be'chol Lashon´s own Rabbi Juan Mejía, they recently have finished the conversion of 35 of their members and have moved to a permanent location where they will gladly receive you for Shabbat, holidays, or to show you around their beautiful city. They follow a Sephardic liturgy and are an egalitarian congregation.
Egalitarian Chavurah "Shtibel de Guayaquil" (Guayaquil, Ecuador)
At the gateway to the Galapagos, this very small group of families meet in a beautiful and heimish sanctuary for Shabbat services. Working with Rabbi Juan Mejía, this community is in the process of converting to Judaism and establishing their own voice and space. Please give them a call on your way to see the tortoises. The community follows the Ashkenazi liturgy common to American Conservative synagogues and, as their name indicates, they are egalitarian.
Bet Jadash (Guayaquil, Ecuador)
Almost a hundred people strong, this robust Reform congregation is the latest addition to the World Union for Progressive Judaism´s family in Latin America. Led from Florida by Rabbi Terry Bookman, Bet Jadash has gathered many different groups in the city and coalesced them under one roof: from traditional Jews to people who have returned to Judaism seeking to reconnect with their Sephardic ancestors. When you visit them, make sure to check out their siddur (created by Bechol Lashon) which mixes contemporary American Reform liturgy while honoring important milestones of Sephardic liturgy.
Adat Israel CA (Guatemala City, Guatemala)
Active for almost a decade, this Reform congregation is one of the pioneers among the emergent communities in Latin America. Led by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein of Toronto, this community recently joined the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Please join them for Shabbat services with heart in the heart of Central America.
Shalom San Miguel (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico)
This bilingual community of American expatriates and local Mexican Jews by choice is one of the most exciting emergent communities in the continent. Meeting weekly at a hotel in one of the most beautiful colonial downtown areas of the Americas, this community joins together for adult education (in English) and for services on Shabbat. Services are conducted in three languages according to their own siddurim. Please join this egalitarian and diverse congregation on your next visit to the Mexican highlands.
Bet Etz Jaim (Huánuco, Perú)
Formed by descendants of Ashkenazi traders that flooded to the region during the rubber boom of the early twentieth century who decided to rescue their roots, this community also recently joined the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Their spiritual leader is Rabbi Peter Tarlow of College Station, TX. This enterprising community high in the Andes is not only developing their ritual infrastructure but also reaching out to the community with tzedek programs that include free health services in Huanuco´s poorest areas. When in Perú, make sure to visit them.
Chavurah "Bet Simjá" (Maracay, Venezuela)
True to their chavurah spirit, this group of local families meets in different houses to celebrate Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Working with Rabbi Juan Mejía, they are slowly rebuilding Jewish life in an area that served as a gateway to Jews to the South American continent during the XIXth century. When in Venezuela, be sure to share their joy. This community is egalitarian.