22 February 2011
Jews of Uruguay
A recent email I received from a reader in Mexico detailed the history of some wonderful families from his own history. Included in those histories were a few mentions to some of his people who came from Montevideo, Uruguay.
The Jewish history of Uruguay goes back as early as the 16Th century The community at that time was not large, however there were a few who had arrived and avoided the Inquisition. The first real record of a Jewish community began with a settlement in the 1770's.
The modern Jewish community of Uruguay today probably dates back to the 1880's. However by 1909, the Jewish population of Montevideo, the largest community in the country was only about 150. The first synagogue in that community did not open until 1917.
The time of the greatest number of immigrants into Uruguay was the 1920's and 1930's. Many of these immigrants were people who stopped on their way to Argentina and Brazil and then never left. Later, after the establishment of the State of Israel another wave of immigration took place. This group of Jews, almost 20,000 in number came from places such as Algeria and Egypt.
Today, the Jewish population of Uruguay is around 25,000 people almost 90% of which live in Montevideo. At the turn of the 20Th Century, the population was almost 3/4 of Sephardic origins, but today it is close to 3/4 Ashkenazic.