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April 13, 1984 - Image 40

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-04-13

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

40 Friday, April 13 1984




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Panamanian Jewry anniversary


Panama City — The
Sociedad Israelita de Be-
neficencia Shevet Ahim is
celebrating its 50th year.
The society was established
under Panamanian law.
Sept. 17, 1933. However,
some of the founding fathers
of this congregation came to
Panama at the turn of the
century and soon became
part of the local scene by
participating in national
events such as the War of
Independence which re-
sulted in the establishment
of the republic.
According to the national
archives, Sephardic immig-
rants from Tetuan
(Morocco), Bulgaria, and
Jerusalem, Hebron and Be-
irut, came to Panama from
1902 to 1916. Around 1920,
Jewish families from Istan-
bul, Cairo, Aleppo, Damas-
cus and other Middle East-
ern cities also arrived in
Panama. They arrived in-
termittently — one brother
brought another, a relative
or in-laws or a nephew —
and they tried to adapt and
in so doing, took the first
steps toward forming a way
of community life.
The first people to arrive
did not encounter a lan-
guage problem because they
spoke a type of Spanish
commonly known as
Ladino. Moroccan immig-
rants were considered
Spanish citizens. It was the
larger immigration from
Aleppo, however, whose
characteristics, spiritual
values and Orthodox
Sephardic orientation were
the principal influence in
the formation of the congre-
gation and made a marked
and lasting imprint on the

Around 1920 there was a
nucleus of about 500 people
who resided mainly in the
city of Colon, a major com-
mercial center. Later,
Panama City became the
leading economic center
and many Jewish families
moved to that city, the capi-
tal of the country. This in-
creased the nucleus of
Jewish families already
there since 1920 who had
begun the first Sociedad Is-
raelita de Beneficencia
Shevet Ahim. Its purpose
was to promote religious
and philanthropic activi-
The Sephardic immig-
rants brought the customs
and traditions of the places
where their ancestors had
lived for many generations.
Because of the diversity of

Selly Dayan de Mizrachi is a
member of the Sociedad
Israelita de Beneficencia
Shevet Ahim, which is
celebrating its 50th
anniversary, and works as a
volunteer for several
community organizations,
including the B'nai B'rith of
Panama and WIZO of
Panama. A native of
Panama, she has written
and published a number of
articles in Spanish and

their origins they formed a
mosaic of opinions when
they met each other in
Panama. The Sociedad be-
gan, little by little, to inte-
grate these immigrants,
forming a young commu-
nity, dynamic and vigorous
and imbued with a fervent
desire to maintain Jewish
religion and traditions.
The religious unity is
largely due to the spiritual
leadership of Rabbi Sion
Levy, who has served the
community for the last 32
years with great dedication
and firmness of ethical and
religious principles. Levy
came to Panama at the age
of 24, after having
graduated from a prestigi-
ous academy in Jerusalem.
He is now a rabbinical
authority and respected
both in Israel and in the
Panamanian community in
Most of the Sephardic
immigrants became mer-
chants or started small in-
dustries. Some of the old
timers of the community re-
call having arrived in
Panama with only the
clothes they were wearing.
Many who started as
peddlers or small
businessmen have, through
hard work, ingenuity and
dedication, become execu-
tives of large enterprises,
export firms and industrial
During their years of eco-
nomic striving, they made
every effort and whatever
sacrifices were called for to
give their children the best
education possible in the
newly forming republic. As
a result, the present con-
gregation has a significant
number of professionals in
all fields and many of the
grandchildren of those first
immigrants are now stu-
dents in Panamanian uni-
versities, United States and
Israeli institutions and
other universities in other
The new generation, with
better educational oppor-
tunities and a more or-
ganized community, tend to
lean more toward liberal
professions. There is a grow-
ing number of doctors,
lawyers, engineers, univer-
sity professors,
-sychologists, artists, public
administrators and mer-
The Jewish community of
Panama consists of some
6,500 people. The largest
segment are members of the
Sociedad. From the
Socedad's original 40
families, it has increased to
about 700 families. Their
synagogue, the third to be
constructed in the country,
was recently enlarged to
accommodate the growing
number of its members
wishing to attend religious
From the beginning, it
was the intention of the
founders of Sociedad to help
any Jew passing through
Panama or desiring to take
up residence here and who
was in need of community
support. All Jews are re-
ceived with open arms and
are aided in finding work

and lodging.
The members of the
Sociedad form the great
majority of the membership
of Jewish community
organizations in Panama,
such as WIZO, B'nai B'rith,
Albert Einstein Institute,
Hebrew Academy of
Panama, Maccabi Youth
Movement, and the Las
Mananitas Country Club.
Members of the congrega-
tion have also become lead-
ers in international organ-
izations, such as the Feder-
ation of Central American
and Panamanian Jewish
Communities, Sephardic
Federation of Latin
America, HIAS and the
World Zionist Organiza-
The members of the
Sociedad continue to work
toward becoming outstand-
ing individuals and com-
munity leaders. As Pana-
manian citizens they
participate in all civic, so-
cial, political and profes-
sional activities. In its
spiritual aspect, the con-
gregation is proof of the
religious freedom which
prevails in the republic,
where its members enjoy
the respect and considera-
tion of their fellow citizens
who are mostly Catholic.

Copyright 1984, JTA, Inc.

Terrorists held
previously to
Jerusalem attack

Tel Aviv (JTA) — Two of
the surviving terrorists cap-
tured after last week's
guns-and-grenades shoot-
out in downtown Jerusalem
had been detained and
questioned — and released
— by Jerusalem police only
a day before the terrorist as-
sault that wounded 48 per-
sons, the police confirmed.
The police gave no further
details. But two uncon-
firmed versions of the inci-
dent are making the rounds.
According to one, the men
were questioned after a
clerk at a car rental agency
became suspicious when the
pair, posing as Lebanese
businessmen, made de-
tailed inquiries about the
city streets. He called the
The second story has it
that police detained the
men on the basis of informa-
tion from an informer who
recently came from Leba-
non. In any event, the police
questioned them, checked
their papers and let them

Farming plan

Jericho (ZINS) — Arab
farms in Judea, Samaria
and Gaza will soon be in-
cluded in Israel's master
plan for farming, according
to Agriculture Minister
Pessach Gruper.
He said that Israeli farms
are producing 25 percent too
much for the local market,
and hoped that planned
production will overcome
the problem. He said Jewish
farms will be asked to give
up some of their quotas to
Arab farms.

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