Montevideo has a soft spot for all things Jewish! On the convergence of Río de la Plata with the Atlantic Ocean, Montevideo is the southernmost capital in the Americas. Though modest, today’s Jewish community in Uruguay numbers around 20,000 people. The vast majority choose to call Montevideo home.
Montevideo’s Jewish heritage is a religious panoply of various ethnic waves of immigration. As early as the 16th Century, Jews had made their way to the lands of Uruguay during Spanish and Portuguese colonization of South America. For fear of harm or death, many Jews were coerced to convert to Christianity under the Spanish inquisition. These conversos continued however to practise Judaism in secret.
Modern history saw German and Italian Jews emigrate from their homelands to Uruguay during 1920 and 1930 whereas Hungarian and Russian Jews, mainly of Ashkenazi persuasion, arrived during the 50’s.
Uruguay has solid political ties with Israel and was one of the first countries in the world to recognize Israel's independence in 1948. This camaraderie can be seen in a host of monuments around town. In reference to Israel’s former prime minister, Golda Meir Square lies in proximity to Montevideo’s central Constitution Square. Brought on by the Argentine political crisis and economic depression at the turn of the millennium that affected the region, Uruguay had the some of the highest rates of cititzens making aliyah to Israel.
Today, the remaining population is quite active despite its size. Thanks in large part to the Yavne Institute with its distinct educational and community focus, the Jewish heritage and present of Uruguay is studied and celebrated. Around 20 synagogues are active in the Uruguayan capital.
Enjoy the distinct cultural heritage of the Jewish community in Montevideo with Milk and Honey Tours! Our guides will go out of their way to bring you close to historical and contemporary links that have marked Jewish history in the region.