Peru´s ´Jews of the Jungle´ Receive
February 14, 2006
The emerging Jewish community of
Tarapoto, located in the heart of the Peruvian jungle
region, now has its first rabbi thanks to the Shavei
several hundred people, the Tarapoto community consists of descendants
of Moroccan Jews who migrated to the area in the late 19th century.
Settling in towns in Peru's Amazon basin such as Iquitos in the
1880s, many became involved in local trade and commerce. From there
they spread out to other parts of the country's northern interior,
such as Tarapoto.
"Assimilation and intermarriage took a heavy toll
on the Moroccan Jews who chose to remain in the area," noted Shavei
Israel Chairman Michael Freund. "Now,
however, their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren
have begun to return to their Jewish roots."
Known as the City of Palms, Tarapoto is located adjacent
to the Andes Mountains, over 600 kilometers north of Lima, Peru's
capital. Many of the town's Jewish descendants still bear distinctly
Jewish names, such as Ben-Zaken, Ben-Shimon and Cohen.
The community is well-organized, and its members
include doctors, lawyers, architects and academics who work at
the local university. They gather for regular Sabbath and holiday
Last year, while on a visit to Peru, Freund met with
the leaders and members of the Tarapoto community, who asked him
to consider sending them a rabbi who could teach them more about
their Jewish heritage.
Freund took up the challenge, and a Spanish-speaking rabbi arrived
in Tarapoto last week, where he will begin conducting classes, services
and other educational and outreach activities.
is remarkable that even in the remotest corners of the Peruvian
jungle, the pintele Yid (Yiddish for the spark of Jewishness)
inside every Jew continues to live on," Freund said. "No matter
how far a Jewish soul may have wandered, the fact is that it will
eventually find its way back home to its Land and its people."
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