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July 26, 1974 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1974-07-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Colombian Jewry Sees
1 Progress Where Spanish
Inquisition Once Thrived

several weeks ago, the front
pages of Bogota's dailies
carried a photo of three Co-
1 o m b i a n chiefs-of-state —
President Misael Paitrana
Borrero, President-elect Al-
fonso Lopez Michelsen (due
to take office in August), and
ex-President Carlos Llersa
Restrepo—at the inauguration
of the Menorah Technical
High School, a building
totally financed and equip-
ped through the effori.„ of
Colombia's Bnai Brith Wom-
en in one of the city's lower-
class neighborhoods.
President Pastrana called
the donation "an act of gen-
erous solidarity" and refer-
red to the 10,000 member
Jewish community as "a
splendid -group" worthy of
"ever greater admiration and
Pastr an a's words would
have turned an inquisitor's
stomach; and indeed, the
Colombian city of Cartagena
de Indias had been one of the
principal seats of the Spanish
Inquisition in America dur-
ing the Colonial period.
History books speak of a
crypto-Jewish presence in the
vice-royalty of New Granada,
as the area was then called.
Some further argue that
the Colombian state of An-
tioquia (Antioch) had a large
proportion of crypto-Jews as
evidenced not only by its
name, but also by the sup-
posedly Judaic traits and
practices of the inhabitants
—good business sense, a pen-
chant for hard work, light-
ing candles in the cellar on
Friday night—which are still
cited by Colombians as char-
acteristics of the present-day
One is on firmer historical
ground in saying that the
first Jew,s to openly settle in
Colombia were Caribbean
Sephardim who came from
JamaiCa, Curacao, and other
islands at the turn of the 19th
Century when New Granada
became independent of Span-
ish rule and the anti-Jewish
legislation was abolished.
One such immigrant was
George Henry Isaacs, a resi-
dent of Kingston, who arriv-
ed on Colombian soil in
search of fortune and married
the daughter of a Spanish
ship captain after converting
to Catholicism.
Their -son, Jorge (1837-
95,) became a leading writer
whose romantic novel, Maria,
put , Colombia on the literary
map of the Spanish-speaking
world. The heroine, Maria
(nee Esther), was modeled
on the author's orphaned
cousin, also a Jewish native
of Jamaica. Her star-crossed
lover, supposedly Isaacs him-
self, was significantly named
While Isaacs was penning
his love story, Curacaoan
Jews were settling in - the
costal towns of Santa Marta,
Rio Ilacha, Cartagena and
Barranquilla. Visitors to Bar-
ranquilla land at the Cortis-
soz Airport, named after a
Yew from Curacao.
The Bank of Barranquilla


56—Friday, July 26, 1974

and the city's municipal
water works were also start-
ed by Jews.
The founders of the mod-
ern Colombian Jewish yishuv
were Sephardim, but these
were from North Africa and
Turkey and came about the
time of World War I.
They were followed by
their Polish and Bessaarabian
brethren who in 1929 found-
ed the Centro Israelita de
Bogota, the country's first
Jewish institution. Hitler's
persecutions brought other
Eastern European and Ger-
man Jews to Colombia.
Starting out as itinerant
salesmen offering dry goods
from door to door,these Jew-
ish immigrants—writes pro-
minent Colombian journalist
Alberto Lleras in an article,
"A Humble Jewish Revolu-
tion"—"didn't know that they
were making a small econo-
mic revolution, but they
According to Lleras, until
the advent of the Jews only
the upper classes could afford
the expensive imported items
sold in Colombia.
With skill and dedication
the immigrants worked their
way up to ownership and
management of textile and
footwear plants. Their chil-
dren went on to college and
are today- professionals —
lawyers, doctors, engineers.
The are likely to live in
one of Colombia's four ma-
jor cities: Bogota, with half
the Jewish population, Cali,
with 3,000 Jews, and Bar-
ranquilla and Medellin with
about 1,000 each. Every one
of the communities has a
Jewish day school, at least
one synagogue and often
more, and—with the excep-
tion of Medellin — a Jewish
country club.
. Bogota is also the seat of
the Bnai Brith Hillel House
which provides accommoda-
tions for -students away from
home along with usual Hillel
activities. Its director, Rab-
bi Gunther Friedlander, was
trained in Germany and lived
in Chile for many years.
There are five other rabbis
serving the various Colombo-
Jewish institutions, all edu-
cated abroad, either in
Europe, North Africa or Tur-
key and Argentina.

Elderly to Be
Serviced in
JVS Program

(Continued from Page 1)
being, it was decided to ex-
tend the program to serve
additional aged clients.
The new program also will
coordinate other professional
services in cooperation with
United Community Services
and Jewish Welfare Federa-
tion agencies to enable the
clients to benefit from a full
range of social, medical and
recreational services in ',the
JVS-CW is a member
agency of the Jewish Welfare
Federation and United Coin-
munity Services, and is a
beneficiary of the United



sponsored by



The Temper of the Time

What could be more expressive of Israel's mood at this junc-
ture than the following poem—"OH, GOD OF COMPASSION"
by Yehuda Amichai, truly a representative poet of this gen-

Yehuda Amichai, born in Germany, came to Israel in 1936
and -lives now in Jerusalem.

The Poem and its translation is reprinted with permission
from OROT, Journal of Hebrew Literature, published by the
Department of Edutation and Culture in the Diaspora, World
Zionist Organization.

m513 5X


0 God of Compassion

0 God of Compassion—

If God weren't so full of compassion

the world could have some of it too.

I who gathered flowers at the foot of the mountain,

who gazed steadfastly at all the valleys,

who brought fallen bodies down from the hills,

can swear that the world is devoid of compassion.

I who was salt-king on the seashore,

who stood irresolutely at my window,

who counted .the footsteps of angels,

whose heart lifted heavy-weights of pain

in those fearful contests,

I who'employ but a fractional part

of the words in the dictionary,

71 1?- '71,7;

I who solve riddles whether I like it or not,

know that if God weren't so full of compassion

the world could have some of it too.

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No "LOVE STORY" but...

An Announcement of Tel Aviv University

Faculty of the Humanities — Faculty of the Arts

on Guest Lectures by


•711t:1 r.,

Prof. Erich Segal of Yale University
(author of "Love Story")

71.S ri`SX.r)


: 1 2K- 11:1

in Fasslicht Hall, Mexico House.
University City at Ramat Gan,

P 4'714 /D1nD tIV
:1, 17 ,r,wcn ron 1:1"!St r"Sti,


.AthIetics and Greek Mentality t.:.


20.00 nr:a 29.4.74 '.1V
The Business of Roman Comedy
; -,n
rItr1.'2 ;1•r.r,pnri

• ■■•■•■•■,

I la* 1111

Sunday, April' 28 at 2'.00 P.M.


28.4:74 i17.7N1



(with accompanying film)

Monday, April 29 at 8:00 P.M.


The lectures will be given in English.
The Public is Invited.

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