Dade attracts Hispanic Jews
DANIEL SHOER ROTH
El Nuevo Herald
They get married in temples such as Aventura Turnberry or Beth
Torah of North
Miami Beach, but they use two rabbis in the ceremonies: one who officiates in
English and the other in Spanish.
At the reception they offer herring, salmon, bagels and cream
cheese; but they
dance to merengue, cumbia and salsa. The wedding gift lists are at
Bloomingdales or Macy's, although they request Latin American art as gifts.
In Miami-Dade, marriages of this kind have become common. Latin
Jews have found a Jerusalem in this county where they can feel at home in a
synthesis of their cultures.
Fleeing from the economic, political and personal safety problems
homelands, Jews from various Latin American countries are coming here more
and more in search of a better quality of life.
``They came because in Miami they found a favorable environment
could maintain their Jewish identity and function within a Hispanic context,'' said
Henry Green, professor of Jewish studies at the University of Miami. ``Hispanic
Jews have organized themselves within the local institutions with their own
brotherhood and have played an important role in the community life of the city.''
According to the Greater Jewish Federation of Miami, between 5,000
Jewish families of Hispanic heritage live in Miami-Dade. Experts estimate that
close to 3,000 of the families are Cuban and the rest originate from other Latin
American countries. About 74,500 Jewish families live in the county.
During this past summer, close to 100 Jewish Colombian families
from guerrilla threats after Benjamin Cudari, a 32-year-old young Jewish
businessman, was kidnapped and killed. Like most Colombians, the majority of
them came to the United States with tourist visas, according to sources close to
the recent arrivals.
The spokesman of the Jewish high school Hillel, in Miami Beach,
Jewish students of Latin American origin attend classes, confirmed that in the
last few months, ``particularly during the summer months, there was a significant
increase in the number of applications from South American families, especially
from Colombia and Venezuela.''
Worried families from Argentina have arrived because they fear
They especially fault the incapacity of the government to resolve the attacks
against the Israeli Mutual Association of Argentina (AMIA) and the Israeli
Embassy, and point to the continuous desecration of Jewish cemeteries, said
Jacob Solomon, executive vice president of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.
The same way the European Jews escaped the persecution and world
settling in Latin America because they had family and acquaintances there, now
the Latin American Jews are coming to Miami in a process known in sociology as
``the immigration chain.''
``The Latin American Jewish infrastructure in Miami gives the
Latin American Jew
the opportunity to use social organisms very similar to the ones in their own
countries,'' explained Sabi Behar, a Peruvian Jew and president of the board at
the real estate firm, American Land Housing Group. ``The most difficult thing
about immigration is the change, and the less you have to change the easier the
That is why at the Jewish Community Center of North Miami Beach
there exists a
brotherhood called Hebraica that organizes social activities, sports and cultural
events for children, youth and Hispanic families. Non-Latin Americans also
Another prominent local group integrated largely by Hispanic Jews
in the Miami
chapter is the World Organization of Zionist Women, which does philanthropic
``Here you can meet other families that have similar ideas to
yours, and your
children manage to maintain a Jewish environment,'' said Patrice Beckerman,
director of Hebraica. ``For the new Hispanic families, it enables them to integrate
easily because those that are here arrived under similar conditions.''
Miami has always been a magnet for Jews. Although numerous North
Jewish families have moved to Broward, the immigration to Miami of Jewish
families from other countries hasn't ceased, Solomon said.
Bernardo Benes, one of the founders of the Hebrew Cuban Circle
explained that the Cubans arrived in a similar and united way, having known each
other from an early age, while other Latin Americans originated from various
countries and have arrived at different times.
The first massive wave of Latin American Jews arrived in Miami
between 1968 and 1974. The Argentines landed principally between 1975 and
1980, but they returned to their country when its economic situation got better,
said Alex Alberstein, a Peruvian Jew who presides over the Organization of Israel
Bonds in Florida.
Colombian Jews are the ones who have most recently immigrated
consecutively in 1980, 1990 and 1999.
A substantial number of Central Americans also arrived between
1985 and 1990.
And in the last few years, the number of Chilean and Venezuelan Jews
immigrating has increased. There are also Mexican Jews, although a larger
number of Mexican Jews have chosen to move to San Diego.
In Dade, the largest communities of Latin American Jews are in
Highland Lakes and Surfside. Those who have arrived most recently primarily
work in import and export of goods, banking and financing. In other professions it
is much more difficult to immigrate because of visa problems and lack of
equivalent credentials, said Daniel Schwartz, manager of Hemisphere Bank.
Young Jewish professionals and single people also have found Miami
``I came for the academic and professional opportunities, and
I ended up falling in
love with a Peruvian Jew who lives here,'' said Jannete Kaplun-Braun, a
26-year-old Chilean Jew who works as a journalist for the Discovery Channel in
Latin America. ``The Hispanic Jewish community in Miami has similar values and
traditions to mine, and I feel at home. Plus, you always meet people you know in
the Aventura Mall.''