In Mexico City, Insular Community Begins to Reach Out

October 5, 2009

Source: JTA


Some 40,000 Jews are estimated to reside in Mexico City, most of them European and Syrian immigrants, and they have constructed an impressive network comprising more than a dozen schools, nearly twice as many synagogues and a huge gleaming sports center. In recent years, Mexican Jews have made a noticeable effort to reach beyond the walls and develop closer ties with their non-Jewish countrymen.


The well organized Jewish community of Mexico City and its numerous institutions provide a "protected" environment for its members and their families. Upwards of 90 percent of Mexican Jews attend Jewish schools and marry within the faith.


However, a number of Jewish projects have been opening up ties with their non-Jewish countrymen. The Mexico International Jewish Film Festival, now in its seventh year, attracts a mostly non-Jewish audience and has been expanded beyond Mexico City to Guadalajara, Monterrey and Cancun. A 4-year-old radio show on Jewish topics, "El Aleph," also has a predominantly non-Jewish following. Tribuna Israelita, the community's public relations and anti-defamation arm, has been organizing programs at various private universities to increase public understanding of Israel and Judaism. Recently two young activists have opened up a Moishe House outside of the Jewish suburbs of Mexico City.


But alongside these developments, which community leaders say are both positive and unavoidable, come quietly expressed concerns about an erosion in Jewish values that may threaten Mexican Jewry's enviable affiliation and intermarriage rates.

Updated: Oct. 19, 2009