Uruguayan Jews
Judíos de Uruguay
יהדות אורוגוואי
Total population
12,000 (census)[1]-20,000 (estimate)
Regions with significant populations
Uruguayan Spanish, Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino

The history of the Jews in Uruguay (Spanish: judeouruguayos) dates back to the colonial empire. The most important influx of Jewish population occurred during the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, mainly during the World War II.

With an estimated 16,600 Jews, according to the American Jewish Year Book 2019, Uruguay is home to the fifth-largest Jewish community in Latin America, and the second-largest as a proportion of the total population after Argentina.[2] The country's community is mainly composed of Ashkenazim.[3]


The arrival of Jews to the Banda Oriental goes back to the 16th century, when conversos began settling there. The Spanish Inquisition was not a significant force in the territory, and the first recorded Jewish settlement there was in the 1770s. When the Inquisition ended in 1813, it paved the way for Jews being more accepted in Uruguay throughout the 19th century.

Significant Jewish immigration began in the late 19th century, when Jews from neighboring Brazil and Argentina emigrated to Uruguay.[4] Most of them were Sephardim, followed by Ashkenazim, Mizrahim, and Italkim. The largest Jewish population was in Montevideo, which had 150 Jews in 1909 and the first recorded minyan happened in 1912.[5] The Villa Muñoz neighbourhood received a large amount of the Jewish immigration that came to Uruguay, which led it to become the Jewish quarter of the capital.[6] Jewish schools and the first synagogue were established there in 1917 by a small Ashkenazi community.[7]

In 1915, 30 Jewish families from Belarus and Bessarabia settled in the rural area of the Paysandú Department and established an agricultural settlement, Colonia 19 de Abril.[8] The majority of Jewish immigration to Uruguay took place in the 1920s and 1930s. A large percentage of Jewish immigrants during this period were German Jews and Italian Jews.[9]

In 1940, with the union of the Israelite Community, the Hungarian Israelite Community and the Sephardic Israelite Community and the Nueva Congregación Israelita, the Central Israelite Committee of Uruguay (CCIU) was formed, as a central and representative organization of the entire community.[10]

Uruguayan Jews initially made a living in small retail trade and peddling, with some becoming craftsmen and artisans.[11] In time, they moved up the economic scale, and many became the owners of large stores or medium-sized businesses. Following World War II, Jews increased their representation in the professional world and became primarily middle-class, particularly as many Uruguayan Jews were by then second or third-generation Uruguayans. Their economic advancement was aided by the creation of Jewish loan and assistance funds, which evolved into Jewish banks.[12]

During the establishment of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which involved the mass exodus of Jews from Arab and Muslim countries, primarily to Israel, more than 18,000 Jews immigrated to Uruguay, including a number of Russian Jews and Hungarian Jews.[13]

Uruguay, which had supported the creation of a Jewish homeland during the 1920 San Remo conference, was one of the first nations to recognize Israel, and the first Latin American country to do so.[14] It was the first Latin American country and fourth country overall in which Israel established a diplomatic mission. It was also one of the few nations to support Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and oppose internationalization of the city.[15] Its diplomatic mission in Jerusalem was upgraded to the status of an embassy in 1958, but subsequently moved to Tel Aviv after Israel formally annexed East Jerusalem.[16]

In 1952 the American Jewish Year Book estimated that Uruguay had about 40,000 Jews. However, in 1960 it was estimated at 50,000, the time in history when there were more Jews in the country.[17] The community experienced a serious decline in the 1970s and 1980s as a result of emigration.[18] By the mid-1990s, there were no Jews in the upper echelons or military, and little Jewish representation in the legislature.

Currently, 20,000-25,000 Jews live in Uruguay, with 95% residing in Montevideo.[19] Throughout the country, there are prominent organized communities in Punta del Este and Paysandú.[20] As of 2003, there were 20 synagogues, but only six of them held weekly Shabbat services, and one functioned every day.[citation needed]

In 2017, a Holocaust memorial in Montevideo was vandalized with antisemitic graffiti, with phrases such as "The Holocaust of the Jewish people is the biggest lie in history" and “Gas chambers were a fraud.”[21][22][23] This act of vandalism followed a renovation of the memorial which attempted to clean up the monument from previous acts of antisemitic vandalization.[24]

Notable Uruguayan Jews

Main page: Category:Uruguayan Jews


See also


  1. ^ Congreso Judío Latinoamericano. "Comunidades judías: Uruguay" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 3 January 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  2. ^ American Jewish Book 2019
  3. ^ "Uruguay". The Jewish Agency. 30 November 2006. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  4. ^ "Nuestra historia". CCIU (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 3 June 2023. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  5. ^ leo (13 August 2023). "Historia de los judíos en Uruguay". Aurora (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 16 August 2023. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  6. ^ "La historia del barrio Villa Muñoz, un rincón europeo". El Espectador 810 (in Spanish). Retrieved 27 October 2023.
  7. ^ "Así lo veo yo". Montevideo Portal. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  8. ^ Vidart, Daniel; Pi Hugarte, Renzo. El legado de los inmigrantes II [Our land, the legacy of immigrants II] (PDF). Editorial "Nuestra Tierra". p. 52.
  9. ^ "Italian Jews in Uruguay" (in Spanish). Brecha. 14 March 2014.
  10. ^ "Información Institucional". CCIU (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 30 March 2023. Retrieved 4 November 2023.
  11. ^ "Uruguay Virtual Jewish History Tour". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  12. ^ Arregui, Miguel. "La fulgurante vida de Reus y del Banco Nacional antes de estrellarse". El Observador. Archived from the original on 10 October 2023. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  13. ^ "Shaná Tová: miles de uruguayos celebran el Año Nuevo judío | Noticias Uruguay y el Mundo actualizadas - Diario EL PAIS Uruguay". web.archive.org. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  14. ^ "Actividad por Aniversario de 75 años de relacionamiento entre Uruguay e Israel". Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 4 September 2023. Retrieved 4 September 2023.
  15. ^ Gold, Natalia. "Verónica Alonso propone trasladar embajada de Uruguay en Israel a Jerusalén". El Observador. Archived from the original on 16 August 2022. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  16. ^ ToI Staff. "Uruguay to open diplomatic office in Jerusalem, foreign minister announces". www.timesofisrael.com. Archived from the original on 4 September 2023. Retrieved 4 September 2023.
  17. ^ Congress, World Jewish. "World Jewish Congress, Community in Uruguay". World Jewish Congress. Archived from the original on 2 March 2024. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  18. ^ "Uruguay's Dwindling Jewish Community Falls Victim to Its Zionist Spirit". Haaretz. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  19. ^ Telias, David. "100 años de presencia institucional judía en Uruguay II" (PDF). Departamento de Estudios Judaicos. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 September 2023. Retrieved 4 September 2023.
  20. ^ "La población judía de Punta del Este se duplicó durante la pandemia del COVID-19". infobae (in European Spanish). 25 May 2022. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  21. ^ "Uruguayan Holocaust memorial vandalized with antisemitic slurs". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 24 June 2024.
  22. ^ "Uruguayan Holocaust memorial vandalized with anti-Semitic slurs". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 24 June 2024.
  23. ^ "Holocaust Memorial Vandalized In Uruguay". The Forward. Retrieved 24 June 2024.
  24. ^ "Renovated Uruguay Holocaust Memorial Monument Rededicated". Haaretz. Retrieved 24 June 2024.
  25. ^ Bio of Zoma Baitler Archived 4 August 2020 at the Wayback Machine (in Spanish)