What leaving Venezuela means to Jews

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Medion   DIGITAL CAMERAIn February 1939, two ships approached the shores of Venezuela after a long, desperate voyage. The Konisgtein and the Caribia’s captains had already asked for asylum in many other ports, now they pleaded with the authorities to allow the entry of its 251 passengers.

But it was 1939, and the ship’s human cargo was considered radioactive. Why? Because most of the passengers were jews, newly expelled from Nazi Germany.

For Hitler, the fact that no country would accept them – not even the U.S. – was proof that everyone, and not only Nazis, hated the Jews.

Eleazar Lopez Contreras was president at the time, and after consulting with other institutions, he authorized the Jews’ entry.

That’s how many of my friend’s grandparents arrived to what they saw a “land of opportunities.” Joining Jews that were already here and arrived later escaping their countries for other reasons, they established the Jewish Community that I grew up in.

Venezuela also received my own family with open arms. It received my maternal grandparents who escaped Aleppo, Syria when the country gained independence from France. Clashes between Arabs and Jews escalated with the idea of the state of Israel coming under international consideration after WWII. After the partition of Israel was approved in 1947, more than 200 homes, shops and synagogues were destroyed, and the 2500-year-old Jewish community was devastated. My grandparents arrived in Venezuela back then, in search for a stable future.

My dad’s parents came from Cuba fleeing Batista’s dictatorial rule, also in search of opportunities. With a degree in Law and Accounting, my grandpa was able to have a prominent professional  life.

None of them could have foreseen what came next. The country was completely transformed from a refuge into a hostile, threatening place. And so we, the young, are leaving in search of exactly what our ancestors came looking for: a better future.

According to this piece on NBC, the Jewish community in Venezuela has shrunk from 25 thousand in 1990 to 9 thousand in 2011.  Families are increasingly taking root in the Miami suburbs, they report.

I’ve seen this in my own family, and I can say with certainty that what they are looking for is a community that resembles the one they lived in here. “There’s no Jewish community like the one we had in Venezuela” say displaced Jews with regret- and I include myself here, remembering how they grew up in a cohesive, supportive community.

Although most of the Jews who have left the country have done so for the same reasons that non-Jews have: crime being at the top of the list.

But the fact that the community’s place in Venezuelan society was – is – under threat became a source of concern for leaders of Jewish institutions who have struggled with integration and mutual contribution  since the community was established.  Signs of anti-Semitism in the government became evident in 2009, when Chavez condemned the state of Israel, expelled the Israeli ambassador  and conducted meetings with Iran’s Ahjmadinejad. Our Holocaust survivors saw in the news how our president shook hands with a leader who denied what they and their loved ones had gone through.

I graduated from Hebraica, Caracas’ Jewish school, in 2011, along with 120 other students. Of those, at least half have already left the country, and most of the other half is planning on leaving. Only 69 students are graduating this year. Each younger cohort has fewer students, a sign that entire families are leaving along with their kids, and that our community becomes smaller every day.

Leaving the country that opened its arms to our roots is perplexing. Some of us remember the way we grew up, and wish to come back some day to have our future kids grow up the same way. Others still don’t even consider the possibility of coming back because members of their families or themselves have been through terrible situations that they want to protect their future families from- kidnappings, something many friends have experienced.

The same country that received our ancestors is practically pushing us away. This will always add a touch of irony to our homesickness.

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117 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for your piece. It is a heart-wrenching read. Most of us would think Venezuela was, at one point, on a positive trajectory. Sure, there were bumps along the road but we all felt we could deal with them.

    We were so wrong.

    • I don’t think we were that wrong, but things do change and the damage that a sole person can do to a country is incredible. History is full of these “accidents” of nature.

      • We were wrong thinking things were good for some fundamental, unalterable reason. Everything from prosperity to safety to democracy and lack of hate, we used to think it was just what some platonic, unchanging Venezuela.

    • Dear Humberto, I am so sorry. I am the grandchild of that President Lopez. He and also the first Lady at that time, took this matter very personal. Specially the first Lady, who happen to be also my Aunt. It is so ironic, that most of the descendants of Lopez Contreras (me and many other) had to flee the Country. Our elders are in total disbelief. Regards from Canada. I saw this crisis coming when I knew Hugo Chavez was a candidate. I will always be proud of what the Grandpa did, since the outcome is that all of you are alive. Hope a safe place that you can call home is found in the future.

  2. As you said in your post, is not only the Jews. Venezuelans born and breed (if such a thing exists) have been expelled from their home country in the latest 15 years. Although no formal “get rid of them” program have been established, those who dare dreaming in progress financially and socially by their own means were targeted by the leaders of the new country (formerly known as Venezuela) and encouraged to leave the country through intimidation, destroy of their job sources and plain robbery of the businesses that the middle classes used to have in there. What is left is a no-country lead by a generation of desclasados (sorry, don’t know the term in English) the ones that always were the worst and the last in their professions and studies, for whom their only objective is to destroy what they see as what is left of Venezuela. They hate that country where work and effort will allow you to cross the bridges of social mobility.
    They are interested in having people occupied queuing outside supermarkets to see what they would be able to eat that day, trapped at home before 8 pm because otherwise you can get killed.
    I thought that time would heal my resentment, but day by day it is actually worsening…. No matter how well professionally and personally I’m doing abroad, day by day, sadly my loathing to them increases to lengths I never thought it would be possible.
    Is not even homesickness, is not having a home to come back what affects me the most.

    • It is the new generations that are being pushed away from the country, the best and the brightest. My wife has a picture of her group of friends from the Unimet, not one of them remains in Venezuela, they are dispersed between Peru, Spain, Canada, USA. A new Diaspora.

      • It is quite frustrating, not a single one of my friends/acquaintances remain in Venezuela. They all left the country for the UK, the US, Germany, Colombia, Switzerland. And I’m not certainly bright, just a regular middle-class guy who want to live in peace and has family in a normal country where the government is irrelevant in most people lives. I left with 5 years ago.
        I have conference calls scheduled every other week with friends in different countries/continents…. It is ridiculous to be honest. Probably worth having a serious study about the Venezuelan diaspora, although nowadays “serious” and “study” can hardly be in a phrase related to Venezuela.

      • Similarly, out of a picture of my wife’s swim team from 2007, less than half pictured remain in Venezuela. Most of the rest are trying to get out.

  3. Rachelle. Esta vez me sacaste las lágrimas. Nacido y criado en San Bernardino, el gran barrio judío de caracas, crecí en medio de las siete sinagogas y el Moral y Luces… Y aquella tienda de dulces de la Avenida Los Próceres, de la cual ya olvide el nombre, pero no los sabores.
    Ni contar aquellas fiestas de 15 en la Unión….

    La esperanza de un país amable y el verlos caminar por San Bernardino los Sábados rumbo a sus sinagogas, esa esperanza no la quiero perder

  4. Rachelle,

    The seeds of antisemitism were always there, even if kept at bay.My husband is Jewish and I remember our maids asking us 20 or 30 years ago, why so many people hated the Jews( and this was before the ” blooming” of the current situation). I think that in a general sense Venezuelans have always been a tolerant people, but the blame -the- jew escapism seems to be a part of the Western psyche, and lurks beneath the surface waiting for a chance to present itself, especially in Europe, but also in the Americas to a lesser extent.

    I believe this is due in part for a desire that unconscious people have to blame others,just like little children do, and it’s usually the strong who bare the brunt of accusations, and scapegoating.

    Until people start upgrading their consciousness we will continue seeing this kind of scapegoating unfortunately.Just like 2 yr olds, when they fall,they often blame the parents, even if the parent is 50 feet away.Parents have to remain strong and forgive but not fall prey.

    It was thanks to the Jewish Community ( in part) of Venezuela that we were alerted a head of time about the coming dangers of staying on in Venezuela….that and some Military contacts who said that what was to come was so bad that a normal person who wanted a normal life should get out.We heeded the advice early on.

    Good luck, and be the change you want to see.Help Unite your Community.

        • Sorry for the obtuse comment. Jews have been discriminated against down the centuries for their success based on hard work, intelligence etc. studies now show that average IQ amongst Jews is in the highest percentile. Therefore, IQ envy.
          No Jewish blood in me that I know of, but I stand with Israel.

          • Timbo, Well I agree in part, though I am not a fan of Standardized tests.One thing that is undeniable is the tendency of Jews to work hard and be successful.A lot of it is grit though, and a strong sense of responsibility.

          • And there’s the really odd thing to me: it’s not Jewish people, by and large, who bring up the IQ thing, it’s others.

            Is “Jew envy” the flip side of the “Jew escapism” coin, the other being “Jew blame?”

    • “blame-the-jew escapism seems to be a part of the Western psyche”

      It seems to be a human trait to always need to have some group upon which to deposit the blame for whatever misfortunes that may happen, a scapegoat (“cabeza de turco”). It is easier that way than having to deal with reality. Those that are “different” become the ideal target.

      The christian religions seem to inject a dosage of prejudice against the Jews. It stems from an ancient need of the christian religion in its first days to differentiate itself from its origins.

  5. The Jewish community in Venezuela was never too big but it was very vibrant specially in Caracas. It saddens me to think how it has dwindle. I had many Jewish friends during my university days all of whom I remember very fondly, including several from Morocco. Most of them have already emigrated.

  6. The plight of Jews is centuries old! We keep thinking it was in the past and it’s finall over. That’s our culture! We see history as a path to something better. We cling to that optimism. Certainly, it’s a bumpy road, and Christians share that road, too. In every episode, the evil empires eventually fall, and we build on the ashes. Change is part of life, and letting go of the past is hard. It has its lessons, however. I don’t mean to lecture.

  7. The exodus of the Jewish community in venezuela only echoes that of the broader middle class, professional community. The exodus had already begun in the 90s, but the trickle became a flood after 2002. At first it was simply young people leaving to study abroad who never came back, and in the last 10 years has been followed by whole families, especially the newly married and with young kids, who have packed up their bags and left never to come back. As someone previously said, it is sad to be homesick for a place that no longer exists. It’s now simply nostalgia, if anything.

    As the article from nbc points out, Aventura and North Miami have now become their new home, and they are all the better for it. It’s like a Jewish Doral.

    As the years have passed since this whole destructive chavista experiment began, these people will never return, just like the majority of the new Venezuelan diaspora. Venezuela is all the worst off for it.

    • I have suffered from nostalgia for years,but then the other day a friend of mine who is still in Caracas said: You are going to have to get over that nostalgia for Venezuela because the Venezuela you knew, no longer exists” . Her words impacted me greatly.There was something so adamant and final about her words, that suddenly I realized in a deeper way for the first time that ” Venezuela is now another country entirely”. I think there are still people in Venezuela who are like myself ; People who are living there but still seeing something else.

      • Your friend is right. Anyone who has returned to Caracas after a few years absence and pre-chavista memories, and who does not see the SEVERE chaos and TROUBLING anger, as signs of a calamitous future, should have their senses checked.

        Such was my case in 2001, after my previous visit to family in 1995. Nostalgia, long a part of me, went out the door. Caracas was far removed from the city that I loved and later often returned to. Like Gabriela Montero (and I make no allusions to having her talent), I vowed during my last visit in 2001 that I would only return when there was a change in government. And no, Maduro does not represent that change.

    • We will not have to come back, because we never really left. From my part I wake up checking news from my hometown in Venezuela, reading about economic policy from Venezuela, checking this dark blog called CaracasChronicles and thinking (and hoping) when will the right time be to spend more time in my home country… We are not in 1939, when people migrated in boats that took weeks… the world has become a smaller place…

      • We will not have to come back, because we never really left.
        A fine and touching Faulknarian turn of phrase. It reminds me of Wu a character in one of Larry McMurtry’s novels, speaking to Danny another character, “You will always be leaving Texas”

  8. The Venezuelan side of my family has Jewish roots from the Austro-Hungarian empire so this community goes way back …and to some pretty remote places.

    I was particularly disturbed by the anti-semitic currents running through the Maduro campaign.

    • I am not surprised at all. It’s usual with them. But it was curious to see how they became silent when they realised Maduro himself has Jewish roots from his paternal side (not seen as “proof” for a Jewish orthodox, but nonetheless). After that emerged, they started to talk less about Capriles’ Jewish background.

      • The Jewish Maduros in Venezuela are from Curacao originally .Remember the Maduro and Curiel’s Bank in Curacao. .They just opened up a Museum next to Rooi Catooje Plantation.It’s called the Mongui Maduro Museum.There everyone can go and look up the origins of the Jews in Curacao among other things.

  9. This is a great loss for Venezuela , There are some people which historical circumstance has allowed to develop an ethos of hard work and intelligent initiative that helps them contribute a great deal to the countries they settle in . The jews are one of them . Venezuela became home to many spanish speaking sephardim long before the nazis unwittingly gave us the precious gift of their jewish outcasts , we became richer for it !! Some of them converted and their blood is intermingled to those of many prominent creole families. HCL has jewish ascendants , regretfully that also seems the case for Maduro .

    In Morocco there was a vibrant jewish population of some 250 thousand people when Israel became independent , the Sultan and most moroccans saw them as a national asset , but a few radicals started demonstrating against them and that led to a massive emigration to israel . The sultan tried every thing he could to assure them of his protection , he realized how important they were to morrocco but the fear of the radicals sent them packing , now only a few elderly pockets of sephardim remain .

    Perhaps for the jews this is an old experience , but in a way the regime has made persecution of middle class venezuelans a steady feature of its political behaviour converting all of the children of the middle class into erzast jews , The regime has even stated that we dont deserve to be treated as human beings nor to the privilege of considering ourselves true venezuelans . We now are brothers of the jews in historical experience , we are become as jews in the way the regime arbitrarily persecutes and excludes us from our coutrys life and future. !!

  10. Rachelle,Sometimes things go both ways :

    “A veces no se distinguir si es el cansancio interno acumulado por la incertidumbe y la crisis continua alrededor ó si acaso es que de verdad el país ya no puede más consigo mismo y la gente tampoco. Cansancio mutuo. Del país y de sus habitantes. Uno del otro. Todos con todos. Ya sin rabia sino cansancio puro, agotamiento en automatico. Sin garantías de recuperar el entusiasmo a plazo visible y si se logra, por cuanto tiempo.
    Pareciera que la solución fuera irse, lejos, muy lejos, para respirar, visitar farmacias y supermercados provistos de todo y con abundancia. Necesidades y carencias básicas de la crónica de una guerra triste y prolongada, fría, húmeda y empalagosa.
    Retomar fuerzas y esperanzas es una proeza. Las sonrisas son una cortesía cuando salen de los labios, pero sin los ojos ni el semblante que permanecen sombríos como fondo. Pareciera una naturaleza muerta ó agonizante, decolorada.
    Es el Trastorno Afectivo Migratorio severo sin haber emigrado geograficamente.
    Como encontrar la receta para el alivio sin los ingredientes como la esperanza, la resiliencia, la aceptación y una buena taza de dignidad para aderezar el conjunto? Hibernamos hasta la esclavitud mas sumisa y nos dejamos morir o matar de a poquito cada día? Hasta dejar de respirar de una vez por todas y ya? No más? Así de simple o de complicado, según cada temperamento?
    Nos medicamos con alcoholes y rumores, medicinas prescritas o proscritas, pasatiempos que no hacen sino matar el espacio-tiempo porque crear calidad de vida parece estar destinado a los que se van aunque sea por algun tiempo, fuera del país donde se decretó la felicidad suprema, en otro horario, con otro discurso y color.
    Pero queda para todos algo, democráticamente, como la escasez, el miedo, los lutos y la inseguridad, la nostalgia por un país que una vez existió y también emigró hasta de nombre.
    Cansancio de País. De día y de noche. De derrota. Necesidad de dejarlo como está y punto.
    Voy a rezar. Quizás allí me encuentre con cierta serenidad y al final, una sonrisa de agradecimiento.”

    Dr.Harry Czechowicz
    Médico-Psiquiatra

  11. i am not jewish but stand with is real and admire the Jewish community. My opinion is that many people are jealous of the success the jewish people have had in business. Which brings me to the second opinion, the reason they have been successful has been because they are still God’s chosen people. even though they have suffered greatly there has been the hand of God covering them in their lives. I know many won’t agree with this, but it is my opinion. They have always been a special people to God and that is why they won’t lose their land in isreal

  12. Chavez’ anti-semitism dates back to his Presidential campaign in 1998 and his closeness to Argentinean fascist Norberto Ceresole. I can find references to him as Early as Jan 3d 2006, but I am sure there are earlier ones. (I changed software)

    http://devilsexcrement.com/2006/01/03/revisiting-norberto-ceresole-in-the-context-of-chavez-comments/

    At the time Chavez made remarks that were a carbon copy of Ceresole’s writing. Later Chavez spoke against the Jews more for its alliance with Iran.

    I dont recall, but in 2003? There was a raid on Hebraica, which was the first direct “attack” by the Chavez revolution on lthe local jewish population.

    Una verdadera verguenza todo.

  13. I don’t believe that either Chavez or his entourage are or ever were antisemitic. For them jews simply did not exist, they could not have had any contact with hard working, honest and mostly professional people, like venezuelan jews. Chavez and friends may have made some comments that sounded antisemitic, but I believe these were due to their simpathy towards anything anti american.

  14. Good article Rach!

    A way to measure the civility of a nation is by how it treats its citizens of minority religions, especially Jews, because historically Jews have been the scapegoats. The influence of the Roman Empire’s “scapegoatism” runs deep still today in the western world. Venezuela was a haven for Jews. Now it’s a haven for mendicants, thugs, vagabonds and even backward all-bad-is-someone-else’s-fault religions.

    • What? Sorry, Pedro, but Caracas is what it is because of a thousand tribes and ethnicities and beliefs. This obsession with trying to identify a “chosen” People is just creepy.
      Also: the proportion of people of German or British extraction who have left Venezuela might be just as big.
      It’s always a tragedy people have to leave their country because it is crumbling down, because of violence, etc.

      • Kep you are missing the message , The jewish people are emblematic because of the very cruel historical persecutions they have suffered throughout the ages and how they ve been forced to migrate again and again . Thats not the case for people of british or german extraction . Thats what makes their Venezuelan emigration experience special and noteworthy.

        You are right that any people suffering persecution and practical expulsion from their homeland are basically in the same boat , what I find sad is that the same evil prejudices that caused the jews to lose their homes are now causing many Venezuelans to have to emigrate and lose their homeland . We are become persecuted and oppressed pariahs in our own land !! We are become like the jews of yore victims of an oppresive regimes unjust persecution. !!

  15. I’ve been back and fore to Venezuela over the last twenty years, lived in Caracas too and loved every second. And yes, the country has changed a lot, even the barrios have grown in size !
    I rarely go back now and that’s my choice.
    I’m from the UK and ask myself if the same or something of equivelant magnitude was to happen here would I pack my bags and look for safer shores ? All I can say is that I would probably stay. But I do believe that if anyone was to leave I suspect generally they would be from recent immigration groups. That’s understandable but doesn’t make them martyrs.

    When the going gets tough the tough get going and others become victims.

  16. Actually, I don’t think there was anti-semitism in the Venezuela I grew up. The jewish community was so tightly integrated that one knew someone to be a jew just when he/she got married in the Synagogue, instead of a church. I learned of anti-semitism when I moved to North America and I realized, with amazement, that it was still an issue.

    Venezuela was (still is?) the perfect melting pot, so even the word “community” did not exist in our common way of speaking. We all happened to be venezuelans with parents, grandparents or great grandparents that came from somewhere. It is only recently, in particular during Chávez years that all of a suddent, there are “communities”.

    • Ethnic hatred isnt in our make up , referring to someone as a portu , or a gallego, or a turco or a gringo or a negro in the common vernacular has no automatic peyorative connotation , its just an innocent nickname you use, at most. to make light hearted fun of a person .or even as term of endearment .no worse or better than calling someone slim or fat .

      i too learned on moving to the US as a child that to refer to someones ethnicity was a kind of insult not some good natured leg pulling . My parents noticed that when speaking spanish they mentioned the word negro some people would give them a funny look , so they avoided the term and refered to people of colour as ‘caraotas’ , they couldnt fanthom how the term could offend anyone !!

      .

      • Many Jews from Curacao converted to Christinity in order to do better in their businesses, so that tells a different story….when we are not part of a minority sometimes we do notwitness all that goes on.i have also witnessed considerable predjudice against the blacks there though they were not that vocal in expressing indignation.

        • Not much noted is that when Queen isabella of Spain ordered in 1492 the expulsion of jews from Spain ,(if they didnt convert to christianity ) it is estimated that about one third of them did convert or at least made the pretense of converting to Christianity . There were so many cripto jews of influence after the expulsion that the Church became obssesive about discovering these fake christians and punishing them for their ‘sacrilegious’ deceptive behaviour .

          These cripto jews were called Marranos and many of them became so prominent because of their talents in King fernandos court that a backlash of envious resentment developed against them in Spanish society . So much so that it wasnt long before people were only allowed certain royal benefits or privileges if they could prove to be ‘old christians’ with no drop of jewishj blood in their veins .

          Only two christian kindgdoms gave these fleeing spanish jews refuge , Portugal which rescinded their protection to them a few years later and the Netherlands which accepted their presence with no qualms or restrictions . both were mercantile nations so they appreciated the jews for their by then ingrained commercial talents .

          The difference however between the Netherlands and Portugal however was that the Netherlands had converted to protestantism and protestants felt a biblicar affinity for the jewish people of the old testament with which they liked identifying .while Portugal remain steadfastedly catholic..

          The inquisition did persecute jews who faked conversion to christianity because they saw their fake conversion as sacrilegous , not so jews who kept to their faith who simply were not allowed to live in spain but otherwise were not molested for their beliefs.

          • “who kept to their faith who simply were not allowed to live in spain but otherwise were not molested for their beliefs.”
            So Spain did not molest them for their beliefs as long as they were in the Ottoman Empire or so.

          • Ridiculous isnt it , Jews living in Spain would be expelled while fake converts would be burned at the stake !!, small difference. !!

          • Bill Bass,

            Not long after the expulsion of Jews from Spain they received the same treatment from Portugal.In 1536 the Portuguese inquisition was established that started weeding out the Marranos who then also escaped to the Netherlands.Years later, a Sephardic Jewish community, descendants of the these same people which had been established in a Dutch Colony which is now Brazil, had to flee once again when the Portuguese reconquered this area.

            The Portuguese and Spanish Kingdoms were totally intolerant to any Jews, both open and hidden.

          • While going to a company course in Houston I met a Spaniard who wore the Star of David. He told me that his family had practiced Judaism in secret for over 400 years until it became legal in Spain to openly practice the Jewish faith. [I prefer “converso” to “Marranos” or “crypto Jews.”] While the Inquisition can be faulted for persecuting people for their faith, it was correct in suspecting that some of the conversos were practicing the Jewish faith in the privacy of their homes.

            Many conversos ended up in the farther reaches of the Spanish Empire, such as northern Mexico, as far from the reach of the Spanish crown where a Spanish speaker could go. A number of people who can trace their ancestry to northern New Mexico when it was part of the Spanish Empire have discovered that they have Jewish ancestry. This discovery came about either through genetic testing or by discovering that certain family practices were related to the Jewish faith, such as not eating pork- or by both. A neighbor of mine who is of Tejano ancestry- Spaniards/Mexicans who settled in Texas in the 18th century- found out that he also had converso ancestry. In this case the ancestor was traced to Monterrey, in northern Mexico. [Is it coincidence that in Mexico, people from Monterrey are known for being careful spenders and also for their entrepreneurial spirit?]

            In a cursory reading of A History of the Inquisition of Spain; vol. 1 I found out that a lot of the pressure to “get tough on the Jews” in Spain came from Rome. The Christian kingdoms of Spain in the 13th and 14th centuries had a fair number of people of the Jewish faith, who were fairly well integrated into the societies of the Christian kingdoms. By contrast, England and France had expelled the Jews. Rome didn’t like the Spanish Christian kingdoms’ fairly tolerant treatment of people of the Jewish faith, and told the Christian kingdoms of Spain to get their treatment of people of the Jewish faith more in line with then-current Western European practices.

          • Boludo Tejano,

            What you say about the Outer Reaches of the Spanish Empire is correct , however in Spain itself conversos that have stayed there for 400 years are minimal.The Spanish royalty didn’t just reluctantly go along with the eviction of Jews and the inquisition, they were strong believers in the Catholic faith and wanted to have a Jew free society, or for that matter free from any non Catholic believers.They were the ones that appointed Torquemada as the Head Inquisitor and the ferocity of this figure was astonishing.Pleas to have him replaced fell on deaf ears.

          • You are most likely correct that the Spaniard I met whose family had secretly practiced Judaism for 400 years was an outlier- most conversos were not as steadfast.

            The Spanish royalty didn’t just reluctantly go along with the eviction of Jews and the inquisition, they were strong believers in the Catholic faith and wanted to have a Jew free society,

            Look at the times I cited: 13th and 14th centuries. Ferdinand & Isabella expelled the Jews in 1492, at the end of the 15th century. A lot can happen in 200 years.What Ferdinand & Isabella believed is not what Jaime I or Alfonso VI believed towards the Jews: that is my point. I am certainly not suggesting that Ferdinand & Isabella were tolerant of Jews. I suggest you read Chapter 3, The Jews and the Conversos of A History of the Inquisition of Spain Vol I. Some quotes:

            Spain remained so long isolated from the movements which agitated the rest of Christendom that the abhorrence for the Jew, taught by the Church and reduced to practice in so many ways by the people, was late in development……..
            .In 1251 the Fuero Juzgo was formally abrogated in Aragon by Jaime I, who forbade it to be cited in the courts—a measure which infers that it had practically become obsolete…….

            It was in vain that the council of Rome, in 1078, renewed the old prohibitions to confide to them functions which would place them in command over Christians and equally in vain that, in 1081, Gregory VII addressed to Alfonso VI a vehement remonstrance on the subject, assuring him that to do so was to oppress the Church of God and exalt the synagogue of Satan, and that in seeking to please the enemies of Christ he was contemning Christ himself.

            The treasuries of the kingdoms were virtually in their hands, and it was their skill in organizing the supplies that rendered practicable the enterprises of such monarchs as Alfonso VI and VII, Fernando III and Jaime I.[256] To treat them as the Goths had done, or as the Church prescribed, had become a manifest impossibility

            Repeat after me: Los Reyes Catolicos [F&I] no son Alfonso VI. Read it. It’s a Project Gutenberg freebie.

  17. Rachel, I forgot above to thank you for the post and for the piece of history. I am so proud that Venezuela was the only country to accept that magnificent ship. It is good to know about history.

  18. I must have lived in a different country. You all are talking like a jew cannot walk on the street because it gets branded, removed to a ghetto to await transportation for Auswitch.
    Give me a fucking break!
    Jews are leaving just like everybody else is.
    Is security, economy and an innate desire to getting as far back from what it used a good place to make a living but becoming rapidly a shit hole.
    Making it look like the government is forcing Jews specifically out is just out wrong.
    Being Venezuelan was so good for these people that some of my jewish friends ate chicharron, partied on the Sabbath and brought food from their houses to our palestinian friend in Ramadan!!

    The only us against them I witnessed in Venezuela was that of the rich and the have not.

    • I think you missed something in translation. The way I read the piece, they are leaving for the same reasons anyone else is, but they have also been singled out as a religion by the government.

      You have not seen Chavez go after Catholics (but he had accused some Bishops of being coupsters), nor Muslims, nor Evangelicals, but he did accuse Jews, several times, of being against him.

      And as someone commented above, he probably criticized Israel since Israel is a staunch ally (mostly) of the US.

      As the son of a Palestinian I like it when other governments support our right to exist as a nation, but getting support from the likes of Chavez/Maduro and other tin pot dictators is not what we prefer to see.

      One thing I have seen time and again is that Jews and Arabs seem to get along better outside of Israel and Palestine. Some of my fathers best customers and business relationships were with Jews in Venezuela.

      I always got the impression that despite the cruel reality of the way the Holy Land’s fate twisted people the closer they lived to it, far away from it Jews and Arabs understand each other better than they understand the rest.

      Of course, I am generalizing. There’s plenty of Loco on both sides all over the globe, and yet it takes going to the Holy Land to see how each side gets really extremist.

      • I do not think I lost anything.
        The overall mood of the comments is over the top.
        Chavez went against everyone who accused him or something. He did not care what they were.
        Single out as a religion is far fetched.
        Not liking Isarel policies does not make one anti-semitic. There are plenty of jews who oppose Israel policies.

        • You seem to be lacking in nuance in this comment.Think again.Of course not agreeing with all of Israel’s policies does not mean anti Antisemitism.Nobody says that.Why do you repeat it?

          But it CAN mean it…’.does’ and’ can’ are 2 different words.

          And it is pretty obvious when we see the fervor of some , which case it is.

    • Jack, I disagree with you. It is true that jews leave the country for the same reasons as everybody else, but it is also true that Chávez had some anti-semitic remarks (remember “los que mataron a Cristo”?) and there were some attacks to the Synagogue, which had never happened before in Venezuela. Historically, dictators show their true nature by attacking jews. This has happened in all cultures, in all societies and in all times. Jews have been the favorite scapegoats of wanna be dictators. Anti-semitic remarks are kind of the first step. Chávez was not the exception.

      So, if I had been a jew living in Venezuela these last 15 years, I would have been afraid not just because of the general insecurity, but also by the fact that the anti-semitic discourse was quietly activated by Chávez.

      Here are some links:

      http://devilsexcrement.com/2006/01/03/revisiting-norberto-ceresole-in-the-context-of-chavez-comments/

      http://devilsexcrement.com/2009/02/04/attack-on-caracas-synagogue-the-result-of-government-sponsored-hate-campaign/

  19. the jews have been persecuted throughout the world because they are money lenders and according to the talmud consider themselves to be a better class of people than the goyim.

    In Israel you cannot talk about other religions (religous intolerance) non jews cannot date jews (racism).

    • Don’t be naive. Every religion has its fair share of contradictions and awfulness, particularly in scripture. This does not mean you get to single out one faith and condemn it because of prejudices you have developed against it.

  20. I agree with those who argue that anti-antisemitism is not a real issue here, in spite of some of Chavez’s rhetoric. The issue is the thugs who are in power, and the fact that they are creating conditions that are making Venezuelans of all stripes flee the country to look for a better life. This is a Venezuelan diaspora, not a Jewish one.

  21. I was born and raised in a Catholic, very Catholic, family. I attended Catholic schools (La Salle, de la Colina and San Cristobal) alternately because my family used to move from one city to the other every two or three years. I gradually discovered that some of my classmates and friends at school were somehow “different” to me. They had some not very usual surnames, such as White, Zinger, Bentolila, Cohen, Levi, etc…. (I do not know if that is their right spelling, as it is usual in boys’ schools, you call other students by their last name and never write their names) Those classmates did everything we did, no difference, except for religion relates classes. They attended Holy History classes, but not those of “Catechism” We, those who attended both classes, did not know why they were excepted from those classes and remained having fun, playing in the schoolyard, while we had to be in class. We never asked why, either. Gradually, as I recall, I discovered that it was because they were “Jews”, as the apostles, and prophets in Holy History were. We grew living the normal life of children and adolescents playing, studying, and having fun, everybody, together. There was no groups, no difference, except for the Catechism class. As we became adolescents, we began to experiment some strange issues. Usually we could not count on them for any group activity on Friday afternoon or evening as attending a party, a sport event or going to the movies… Somehow, the very usual teenage romances, with their sisters were somewhat scarce and difficult, I did not know why. As I never intended it, I did not know it firsthand. We used to visit each other homes to play or study. We even stayed for the night sometimes.

    Our parents had the usual light friendship between parents of children or young people studying together. My father, who was a practicing Catholic, once told me that one of my friends was Jewish. He did in a very natural way, as he could have said he was maracucho o llanero. I never heard anything negative about any Jew, or about being Jewish. It was so natural to me that some friends and classmates were Jews that I was never interested in finding out what was it like to be Jewish, and that was the difference between Jews and me. After all, by the religious teachings of our Colegio La Salle we knew our lord Jesucristo was Jewish … some of my friends at school were Jewish, and I did not feel them different from me… then… it seemed there was no difference … Later on I went to study at Liceo Simon Bolivar in San Cristobal and met some Cohens and Bentolilas, and the story was exactly the same.

    When I was ending middle school in the mid-60s, I began to watch some movies about World War II and began to read some books such as Treblinka, Exodus, and QB VII. Only then I started to realize the terrible plight of Jews in Europe, and in some other parts of the world: I learned the implications of being a Jew in the twentieth century… The terrible and inhumane injustices they had been suffering. I began to see with much more sympathy my Jewish friends. Today I lost track of most of them. I am sorry for that. I would like to see them again.

    By the way, one of my sons had a love relation with a beautiful girl who was part of non- religion practicing Jewish family. She was welcomed for our family. I saw that detail of her Jewish ancestors and culture as a nice detail.

    I tell this story to show that it is not true that, at least in Venezuela, there is a widespread anti-Jewish sentiment. For many Venezuelans a Jew is a human being that can be as worthy of appreciation, amity, or rejection as any other human being, depending on their particular behavior.

    • Of course for many Venezuelans Jews are just human beings, but that does not preclude a group that does not feel that way.I can say the same about anywhere.

      The point is not that Venezuela has always been extremely antisemitic, the point is the seeds were there, and now they are blooming openly among important segments.

        • Not the point Kepler…we are not talking about the US…We are talking about Venezuela where rampant antisemitism is causing people to flee…i don’t see that happening in the US..The day that it does I am sure it will be discussed.

          • There is a little difference between a country in complete economic collapse and general -GENERAL – insecurity as Venezuela and the USA. And that is the actual reason.
            You don’t see in Venezuela the amount of neo-Nazi groups and people throwing around real racialist paroles as in the USA. It’s true that if someone like Obama had said he would cut ties with Israel as Chávez did would forget his political future but at the same time he would probably be applauded by a very large US minority. In Venezuela the proportion of people who even know what “Jew” is or who have even for a second thought anything about them is much much smaller, even if they might have a job at the ministry of Information of the regime now.

  22. As a kid my parents gave me the choice of deciding who I wanted as ‘confirmation’ godfather , They had their own candidate ( a close friend and colleague of my father) but I had taken a shine on another of my parents friend , a friendly , kindly person who always took time to talk and joke with us children when visiting our parents . I told my parents whom I had chosen and it was a bit awkward for a time because the gentlement I had chosen as my ‘padrino’ was jewish and they didnt know whether the Church would allow that ( The confirmation padrino is entrusted with the task of raising his godson as a good catholic) . However they checked with the parish priest and he said that was no problem, if the Padrino was a decent man who could be trusted to do his job it was OK with the Church . My chosen godfather was delighted that I had chosen him as my padrino and for many years into adulthood I enjoyed the friendship of this good man !! My parents considered him a dear friend and were surprised but pleased at my selection .

    The above personal anecdote goes to show how for average Venezuelans a persons jewish origin was something absolutely natural that merited no special attention !!

    • And I was born in the US of Quaker parents and married a Jew…doesn’t prove anything…there are still some in the US who are antisemitic.You cannot deny that Jews are fleeing Venezuela, whatever your perception is.

      • And Germans and Portuguese and Italians and Spaniards and Venezuelans of Venezuelan great-grandparents are fleeing Venezuela, whatever your perception, Firepigette.

          • You are confusing anti-zionism with anti-semitism.
            Being against Israel policies or actions does not make one anti jewish.

          • No confusion…i said Jews and Israel and i do understand the possible diffence but the question is does the regime make that distinction. ?

  23. For the whole of my (not so short ) life Ive worked and lived in close contact with people of many origins , including many of jewish origin and Ive never witnessed the slightest sign of antisemitism in how they were looked at or treated by regular Venezuelans. There might be bit of leg pulling (‘dont be a cheapskate tell your uncle to give us a good discount at his shop’) but no animosity nor malice.in how they were viewed.

    Chavez is not a good example because he was always ranting against everything that moved , specially anyone that might be judged friendly to the US or its values , not strange therefore that as a show of anti americanism he would condem israel as a friend of the US , specially if he wanted to win points with his iranian and sirian friends . I knew of people of jewish origins inside the Chavez armed forces whose career and jobs were totally unaffected by their jewish ascentry . Also jewish businessmen who have done and continue doing good business with the govt (whatever their covert political sympathies) .!!

    There may be a bit of proto anti semitic rethoric coming from some regime people wanting to show off their sympathy for middle east enemies of israel whom Chavez courted as allies. but among common Venezuelans I doubt very much that there is any antisemitic sentiment of any sort .The local turco is just as popular as the local Portu or Gallego .

    Kep is right in saying that the Chavez regime is indiscriminate in its hounding of all middle class, opposition venezuelans regardless of whether they have spanish, italian , portuguese , english or creole origins unless you happen to be a boliburgues !!. . .

    .

    • Bill Bass,

      Indeed all of the Middle Class in Venezuela has been somewhat attacked and the situation has been created to make it unattractive for the productive Middle Class to thrive .However you can repeat all you want that it is ” indiscriminate” but the point is that inside of the Venezuelan Jewish Community to which my husband belongs, the perception exists that they are being singled out in a way that make them want to immigrate beyond purely economical considerations.

      There were warnings that Chavismo was developing in a way that could potentially lead to aggression specifically against Jews.You might consider these fears to be unfounded but many times in the past Jews have discarded these worries only to lament in hindsight.

      One of the prime characteristics of this regime has always been racism.Remember the attacks on the Hebrew School and the foul language Chavez spouted against gringos?? Why were so many Venezuelans voting for that? Where was this tolerant country then?

    • Agreed. In fact many Jews condemn Israeli policies, and they are not “self-hating Jews” as some like to call them.

      • Of course there can be a difference,but there is not always a difference.very often the criticism and rejection of Israel is an acceptable way of expressing underlying antisemitic feelings….political correctness takes care of that.With a majority of Venezuelans voting for an antisemitic president, do you really think they separate the 2?You can be against some Israeli policies and not be anti Semitic but the vehemence of anti Israel sentiments is often an indicator of deeper lying.issues

      • Half Empty ,”It’s like condemning the Soviet Union without being anti-Russian.”

        Of course and many people do this , just as some do not.I sometimes criticize Israel’s decisions and I am not anti Semitic so I perfectly well understand this view, but there are people who for some not so strange reason do not want to see differences here.

        I have met many people who scream about the US night and day and who insist they are not anti American,but yet continually harp and rant about all things American.However when you are obsessed with criticizing another country, and you realize the people are the ones voting in and deciding on what politicians are elected,and it is the people whose religious beliefs or culture make up that country and the fervor never stops, the fallacy in the argument gets to be pretty clear after awhile.

        It’s a matter of seeing the difference in the quality of a specific criticism

  24. I grew up in San Bernardino and went to the Moral y Luces also in San Bernardino. The Jewish community in Caracas had an outstanding educational system. But two comments: 1. I don’t however see that Jews are particularly singled out. There had always been anti-Semitism in Venezuela. The country is as hostile or welcoming to Jews as to any other ethnicity or religion. 2. Some of us, after years in the “diaspora” (I have not been back in Vzla for over 10 years), have come to realize that there is a high cost to emigrating. It is not all black and white.

  25. I left in January. Currently having a hard time in Ireland… I’m one of the students that those bastards decided to leave abroad. I have nothing but 40 euros. However, all my friends and relatives keep telling not to go back. The country that I left just 6 months ago is completely different according to them. I know it’s hard but be grateful that you left on time. I almost did it…. many of my friends won’t get the chance.

  26. Life is carefully rationed.
    We get to live it but once.
    Our kids deserve life’s fulfillments.

    We, the older folks, need closure.
    Yet that is not to be.

    Older folks, living elsewhere,
    still maintain residences in vzla,
    faithfully paying condominiums and taxes,
    knowing full well, that going back is not an option.
    Vaya con Dios, mi vida.

    Re: Leaving the country that opened its arms to our roots is perplexing. Some of us remember the way we grew up, and wish to come back some day to have our future kids grow up the same way.

  27. En estos blogs, hay poco pajarillo, si fuera pescador, estaría cansado! tun tun no soy atun! pero me estoy exigiendo! que no puedo!

  28. Eleazar Lopez Contreras was a rational human being. Hugo Chavez was not rational and this guy Nicolas Maduro is even crazier than Chavez was. It doesn’t matter where you are at. If the environment you’re living it changes hands from a rational ruler to an irrational ruler, you’ll be in for a most rude awakening.

  29. I’m close to a few Jewish families in Bogota, and many of them left during the 90’s-early 2000’s due to insecurity. It was tough for many of them because no matter how bad things were in Colombia it was “el país que les salvó la vida”.

  30. Boludo Tejano,

    I was referring specifically to the expulsion of Jews from Spain.Before that there obviously there was a flourishing Jewish Community both in the Christian and Muslim parts of Spain .That is precisely what made it such a tragedy.

    Similarly in Germany there was also a flourishing Jewish community until the Nazi took over.

  31. Oh man. Who is this Rachel Kreger clown? She’s even more of a crybaby dumbass than Toro and Nagel, and that’s saying a lot.

    Miss Kreger, please listen up: really and truly, no one cares if your feelings are hurt because Maduro says, truthfully, that Israel is a rogue state (which it is), an apartheid state (which it is), and that it has no right to exist (which it doesn’t). If that hurts your feelings, then go back to the playpen and let the adults discuss politics.

    Maduro or Death!

    • I read the comment twice and can’t make my mind up whether Hector is a satirist who is intent on jerking everyone’s chain or if he really believes the garbage he wrote.

      A rogue state? Founded in 1948 and admitted to the UN in 1949.

      An apartheid state? I recommend that Hector actually go to Israel and count the mosques which he will find and then go to the M.E. Arab states to count the churches and synagogues, which he won’t.

      No right to exist? The only democracy in that g-d forsaken part of the world.

      I think it was you who escaped from the playpen.

      • The problem with Venezuela is she has an infestation of cockroaches right now. What do you do when the cockroaches are running amock? That’s exactly what needs to be done with folks like Timbo, Kreager, Toro, and Negel.

        Maduro or Death!

  32. One option: If it don’t fit … don’t force it!!!!! Nothing wrong w/ making change, if you feel it is for the greater good!!!

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