On the Peruvian coastal plain, not far from the Andean foothills where one of the Seven Wonders of the World (Machu Picchu) is nestled, lies the sprawling Incan metropolis of Lima. With the total metropolitan population of 10 million people, today’s 3000 Jews of Lima may seem decidedly in the minority. Despite this, the diverse ethnic Jewish community in Lima has had varied fortunes throughout history.
Lima’s Jewish ancestry originates in the emigration of Sephardic Jews and conversos (Jews converted to Christianity by force during the Spanish Inquisition who still practised Jewish traditions in secret) around the 16th Century. The Museum of the Inquisition in Lima is a notable detour in this regard. It was here where Jews were summarily put on trial, tortured or held prisoner during the horrors of the times. In times before and after the Second World War, large waves of immigration of Ashkenazi Jews, predominately from Central and Eastern Europe further inflected on the ethnic Jewish landscape of Lima – notably in the political class of the country.
A more unconventional part of modern Peruvian Jewish history, is the real-life account of a charismatic Catholic who in studying the teachings of Judaism in the 1960’s came to convert hundreds of Catholic ethnic Peruvians with no known Jewish origins to the ways of the Torah. A visit to Peru from an Israeli Beit Din officially converted them as Jewish. Subsequently hundreds of Peruvians made aliyah to Israel. Today’s Jewish community in Lima is small but defiant. Most conspicuous is the prestigiously active Jewish School Leon Pinelo, offering a Jewish education, run by the Israelite Union of Peru - and the restful sanctuary of Bikur Jolim, a Jewish senior citizens’ residence.
Experience all things Incan with a Jewish twist by taking a tour with Milk and Honey in Lima. Our guides will immerse you in the rich cultural heritage of the Jewish community in the Peruvian capital and provide you important historical perspective on the city as a whole.