chapter  11
13 Pages

Costa Rican Jewry: An Economic and Political Outline

WithLowell Gudmundson

The first Jews to settle in Costa Rica arrived late in the nineteenth century. Enrique Yankelewitz founded a department store that was perhaps the single major source of cloth and garments on consignment to the ambulatory Jewish merchants within the later Polish emigrant group. The Polish Jews who arrived in Costa Rica during the 1930s were drawn from a traditional shtet background, nonorthodox in religion and politically largely inactive. In 1939 only 14 Jewish immigrants were admitted and only 2 followed in 1940, a restrictive policy that caused the protest and intervention of Parisian and North American Jewish organizations, to no avail. The principal recommendation of the investigative commission was as sweeping as it was unworkable: Jews should only be given residency upon promising not to work in commerce but only in agriculture or industries not yet developed locally. Since the 1950s Costa Rican Jewry has not only escaped direct political attack, it has also witnessed major internal change.