Diego Melamed tells of the marked growth of Latin America's Jewish communities. Nearly wherever one looks, Jewish life is growing in Latin America, which is now home to an estimated 500,000 Jews. The growth comes as the region continues to transform economically as part of a social evolution following the end of military dictatorships that ruled many countries into the 1980s.
In Panama, the Jewish community has grown by 70 percent in the past 10 years. The 8,000-member community in that period has seen a rise from three to 10 b’nai mitzvah a week.
In Argentina, the number of children in Jewish preschool programs has soared by nearly 1,000 -- from 3,952 in 2005 to 4,914 in 2012.
When the Sao Paulo Hebraica Sports Club and Community Center in Brazil opened the Aleph School earlier this month, it welcomed 450 students and had 120 more on the waiting list for next year.
Argentina, with 285,000 Jews, is home to the region’s largest Jewish community. The growth in preschool children there has been matched by a rise in Jewish high school and college students. In Buenos Aires alone the number has risen from 15,593 to 19,162 in the past seven years.
The growth also has brought the need for more Jewish teachers. In 2006, a new training center to prepare Jewish teachers was opened in Buenos Aires. It’s had 35 graduates. However the demand for Jewish educators across Latin America is very great, with a scarcity of teachers in every main city in the region.
Read the entire article in JTA.