Travel

Passover in Peru

Alibi’s Ilene Style reports from her volunteer mission in South America

It took a week of calls (and a lot of help from my program director), but I finally have been approved to attend a Passover seder tonight at the conservative synagogue in Lima. There are only two synagogues in the whole city (population 8 million): one orthodox and one conservative. The Jewish population here has declined to less than 3,000 from a high of 5,200 in 1970.

According to the rabbi of the largest synagogue in Lima, anti-Semitic attacks and the number of neo-Nazi groups are increasing and threatening the Jews here. Rabbi Guillermo Bronstein, chief rabbi of Asociacion Judia 1870, has been observing the rise of anti-Semitism in Peru and attributes the increase to two main causes. Many Jews in the community are viewed as having close ties with the government and having too much influence over government decisions. Another cause is the rise in neo-Nazi groups throughout the country, who Bronstein describes as “a tiny minority but very noisy.”

The community is closely watching the activities of these groups. Because the conservative synagogue I will be visiting has been bombed twice, the security level is very high, which is why I had to be approved and why I will have to show my passport when I go. I am hoping someone there might speak a little English. If not, Hebrew will be our common language tonight.