Let’s begin with a history lesson: how many of you were aware that Jewish families resided in Venezuela? Yeah, me either. Dating back to the 17th century (although their presence was at its peak in the 20th century when a grand majority of Sephardic Jews emigrated from nations like that of Morocco and the Ottoman Empire), Jewish people began infiltrating Venezuela. By the middle of the 20th century, Ashkenazi Jews arrived from countries like Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Romania. These peoples fled from their homes because their nations were undergoing issues regarding security, the economy, and political systems. Similarly, these peoples will eventually flee again as Venezuela is no longer safe and suitable place to live in.
Aventura, Florida has become a hotspot for incoming Venezuelan Jews, but what are the reasons as to why this is happening? For starters, Aventura has a hearty Jewish population, filled with a myriad of synagogues and Jewish schools. This certainly proves to be a welcoming place for those seeking to escape the atrocities occurring at home. As noted in an April 2014 United Nations report on homicide around the globe, Venezuela is the only South American country with a continual increase in homicide rates since 1995. In other words, this has proved to be one of the leading motives for why many have decided to relocate — violence has undoubtedly spread throughout the nation.
Additionally, Jews in Venezuela are strong advocates for the nation of Israel, although the deceased President Hugo Chavez maintained close relations with the nation of Iran. Both governments then expressed their support for the Palestinian cause. In 2009, Chavez even ousted the Israeli ambassador after the Israeli military offensive left over 1,000 Palestinians dead in the Gaza Strip. Tensions further rose when Jewish groups began to complain about anti-Semitic stances in the media, particularly in sites like “Aporrea”, which was founded in response to 2002 right-wing coup and deems Israel as a “terrorist occupier.”
Formerly in the mid 1990’s, the Jewish population was around 25,000, but it has currently been reduced to about 9,000 citizens. In 2004, approximately 2,000 Venezuelan Jews were residing in the Miami-Dade county area, and it is no surprise that by now, the number of inhabitants of the like have exploded. According to the Federation of Jewish Institutions of Venezuela (CAIV), there has been such a surge in the past twelve years, because Venezuela’s Jewish community has decreased by 60 percent.
While Aventura seems to be the place with the highest concentration of Venezuelan Jews, numbers are beginning to rise in neighboring regions. With the cost of homes skyrocketing in Aventura, Venezuelan Jews are settling in nearby areas and are becoming the majority in those nearby synagogues as well.
Clarissa Garcia is a Staff Writer for Latino Giant. She is a college freshman currently Undecided at American University, but leaning to the Education field, looking into Secondary Education.
Source: NBC News