chapter  17
15 Pages

The Evolution of the Latin American—Jewish Communities: Retrospect and Prospect

WithJudith Laikin Elkin

This chapter explores trends in the life of the Latin American Jewish communities and draws on some inferences for the future. The principal change that strikes the informed observer in reviewing the history of the Jewish presence in Latin America is in the manner in which Jews insert themselves into their host societies. A great deal has changed since the patterns of Jewish adaptation to Latin America were established. It is among the Reform and Conservative rabbinate that Latin American Jews are beginning to find their leaders, confirming for these societies the novel impression that Jews are a religious group, not solely a “racial” one, as they have been traditionally regarded. Ethnic differences among Jews were preserved in Latin America far longer than in the United States because Jewish immigrants to the southern hemisphere were presented with so few opportunities for assimilation to national norms. Ethnic subdivisions remain more or less intact in societies with a restricted definition of nationality.