History of the Jews in Nicaragua
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Jewish Nicaraguans or Nicaraguan Jews (Spanish: Judío Nicaragüense) are Nicaraguans of Jewish ancestry who were born in or have immigrated to Nicaragua. They are part of the ethnic Jewish diaspora.
Jewish Nicaraguan
Judío Nicaragüense
Total population
~50 families[1]
Regions with significant populations
Managua, San Juan del Sur
Spanish and Hebrew
The first Jewish immigrants were said to have arrived in Nicaragua from France in the 1920s but they actually arrived much earlier, possibly in the early 19th century. One of the first families were the Oppenheimers who did, in fact, come from France. Nestor Oppenheimer was married to Camila (Camille) Winston Lazard. They registered the birth of son, named Rene Salomon Oppenheimer. He was born in Managua, Nicaragua on July 22, 1911. One of the few registered Jewish births. Nestor and his brother Filiberto (Paul) lived in Granada, and Rivas, Nicaragua. Nestor's son Rene Oppenheimer subsequently moved to France from Nicaragua where he was arrested by the Nazis and held at Drancy internment camp in France. Other families included Dreyfus, Levy, Raskosky, and Salomon. Another notable family who appear to be of Sephardi Jew descent is the Rios-Montiel family of Juigalpa. Other immigrants came from Eastern Europe after 1929.[2] The Jews in Nicaragua were a relatively small community with the majority living in Managua. Jews made significant contributions to Nicaragua's economic development while dedicating themselves to farming, manufacturing, and retail sales.[3] The Salomon and Dreyfus families both operated well known department stores in Managua during the first half of the 20th century.
Somoza Period
It has been estimated that the number of Jews in Nicaragua reached a peak of 250 in 1972.[2] However, that same year a devastating earthquake hit Managua and destroyed 90% of the city,[4] prompting many Jews to emigrate. In 1975 there were 200 Jews in Nicaragua.[5] The Congregacion Israelita de Nicaragua was the central Jewish organization until 1979. The community maintained a synagogue and social center in Managua, as well as a B'nai B'rith lodge and a Women's International Zionist Organization (WIZO) chapter. During street warfare between Somozistas and Sandinistas, a Molotov cocktail struck the door of the synagogue but caused little damage.[6]
Sandinista Period
After 1979, thousands of Nicaraguans who had prospered under and been connected to the Somoza regime left the country, concerned that they might be prosecuted for complicity in the Somoza dictatorship. The Sandinistas passed a law empowering the government to seize the property of those who left the country. By the time of Somoza's fall, the Jewish population had already declined to around 50 individuals and many more departed at this time. The U.S. embassy in Managua reported these were individuals who had been personally associated with Somoza.[7] The synagogue in Managua was abandoned and was subsequently seized by the government, who claimed that it had never been registered as a place of worship but was the private property of a Sandinista ally who left the country, and converted it into a school.[8] Additional properties of Jewish emigrants were seized in accordance with the relevant law.[9]
Beginning in 1983, the Reagan administration in the U.S. made a concerted effort, supported by the Anti-Defamation League, to increase domestic support for their Nicaragua policy by persuading American Jews that the Sandinista government was anti-Semitic.[10][11] According to Contra leader Edgar Chamorro, CIA officers told him of this plan in a 1983 meeting, justifying it with the anti-Semitic argument that Jews controlled the media and winning them over would be key to a public relations success.[10] Investigations by New Jewish Agenda, Moment, the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, the Milwaukee Jewish Council, the American Jewish Committee, the World Jewish Congress and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs all found that there was no evidence to support the U.S. charge of government anti-Semitism.[9][11][12] Anthony Quainton, U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua, also reported no evidence of government anti-Semitism after an investigation by embassy staff.[10][13][14][15][16][11] While many Nicaraguan Jews who had left the country supported Reagan's charge of anti-Semitism, Jews who remained in Nicaragua denied their accuracy.[17][8][18]
Summarizing the debate in a 1986 article in the Jewish Quarterly, Ignacio Klich wrote that "Since 1983 the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) has been at the forefront of a tiny but vociferous minority of conservative and right-wing groups, including the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and the National Jewish Coalition, who affirm, on the evidence of a handful of Miami-based Nicaraguan Jewish exiles, that the Sandinistas are thinly veiled Jew-haters. On the other hand, there is an impressive array of Jewish organizations, groups, and personalities--including the American Jewish Committee, the World Jewish Congress and Israel's Mapam--who have found no conclusive evidence to sustain the charge of antisemitism. In addition, there are human rights, church and other non-Jewish organizations and individuals--some of whom are clearly antagonistic to Nicaragua's Sandinista rulers--who have also investigated the subject and subsequently shown the allegations to be unfounded."[12]
A number of prominent Sandinistas were of Jewish descent.[13] This group included Carlos Tunnerman, minister of education and later ambassador to the U.S.; minister of culture Ernesto Cardenal; Herty Lewites, minister of tourism in the 1980s and later mayor of Managua; and his brother Israel Lewites, a Sandinista leader.[13] The Lewites brothers were sons of a Jewish immigrant from Poland and a Nicaraguan mother who raised them in Catholicism.[19]
1990 to the present
After Daniel Ortega lost the 1990 presidential election, some Jewish emigrants returned to Nicaragua.[20] The current Jewish population is estimated at around 50 people. After 1979 the Jewish community had no rabbi or bris. The Jewish community had its first bris in over 25 years when twins Jacob and Jonathan Gould, sons of Dr. Keith and Kathy Gould, had their bris performed by Rabbi Trager who flew in from Philadelphia in December 2004. After that, there was another bris for the Najman family and then some Bar Mitzvahs.[21] There is a synagogue in the city of San Juan del Sur.
On December 16, 2007, Nicaraguan Jews welcomed a new Torah after 28 years. On the following day, the Torah was used for the first time in a minyan at a Bar Mitzvah of a local Nicaraguan Jew.[22]
Notable persons
See also
  1. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report 2005". U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 2012-12-14. Retrieved 2007-08-30.
  2. ^ a b "World Jewish Communities - Latin America - Nicaragua". World Jewish Congress. Retrieved 2007-08-30.
  3. ^ "Persecution and restrictions of religion in Nicaragua - transcript". US Department of State Bulletin. 1984. p. 2. Retrieved 2007-08-30.
  4. ^ "Deadly history of earthquakes: 23 December 1972". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-08-19.
  5. ^ "Jewish Community of Nicaragua". Beit Hatfutsot Open Databases Project, The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot.
  6. ^ Hunter. Israeli Foreign Policy. p. 174.
  7. ^ Parry, Robert; Kornbluh, Peter (4 September 1988). "Reagan's Pro-Contra Propaganda Machine". Washington Post. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  8. ^ a b Cody, Edward (29 August 1983). "Managua's Jews Reject Anti-Semitism Charge". Washington Post. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  9. ^ a b Hunter. Israeli Foreign Policy. p. 171.
  10. ^ a b c Hunter. Israeli Foreign Policy. p. 170.
  11. ^ a b c Escudė, Carlos (August 2013). "On the Wrong Side of History -- Israel, Latin America and the United States under a Peripheral-Realist Perspective, 1949-2012," in Judaica Latinoamericana VII. Hebrew University Magnes Press, Ltd.
  12. ^ a b Klich, Ignacio (1986). "Jewish Support for the Contras?". Jewish Quarterly. 33 (2). Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  13. ^ a b c Muravchik, Joshua; Alberts, Susan; Korenstein, Antony (1 September 1986). "Sandinista Anti-Semitism and its Apologists". Commentary. 82 (3). Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  14. ^ Wingerter, Eric; Delacour, Justin (31 May 2016). "Playing the 'Anti-Semitism' Card Against Venezuela". NACLA Report on the Americas. 42 (5). doi​:​10.1080/10714839.2009.11725471​. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  15. ^ Kruckewitt. The Death of Ben Linder. p. 84.
  16. ^ Kornbluh, Peter (1987). Nicaragua, the Price of Intervention: Reagan's Wars Against the Sandinistas. Institute for Policy Studies. p. 174. ISBN 9780897580403. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  17. ^ Berger, Joseph (20 April 1986). "Among Jews of Nicaragua, Much Debate". New York Times. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  18. ^ Hunter. Israeli Foreign Policy. pp. 171–172.
  19. ^ Kinzer, Stephen (2006-07-04). "Herty Lewites, 66, Ex-Sandinista, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-30.
  20. ^ "2001 International Religious Freedom Report". U.S. State Department. Retrieved 2007-08-30.
  21. ^ Gould, Keith. "The Jews of Nicaragua: Three brises mark a growing and vibrant community". Jewish Independent. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-08-30.
  22. ^ Harris, Brian. "Nicaraguan Jews celebrate first Torah in 28 years". JewishReview. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
  23. ^​https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-981-13-2898-5_117
Last edited on 2 April 2021, at 00:02
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