History of the Jews in Chile

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The location of Chile in South America. (Chile is highlighted in dark green. Chilean Antarctic Territory - claim, in light green)
Chilean Jews
Judíos de Chile
יהודים בצ'ילה
אידן אין טשילע (Yiddish)
Total population
18,500 (census)[1]-150.000 (descendants) [2][3]
Regions with significant populations
Santiago, Valparaíso
Chilean Spanish, Hebrew, Yiddish
Related ethnic groups
Argentine Jews

The history of the Jews in Chile dates back to the arrival of Europeans to the country.[4] Over time, Chile has received several contingents of Jewish immigrants. Currently, the Jewish community in Chile comes mainly from the migrations occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries, mostly of Ashkenazi background.

Chile is home to the third-largest Jewish community in South America. Chile have an estimated 150,000 Jews.[2][3]

Migration history[edit]

Spanish colonization and settlement[edit]

The first Jews arrived in Chile with the Spanish conquistadors. These were Jewish converts to Catholicism because, at the time of the Inquisition, they had to hide their Jewish origin. Most of this immigration occurred in the early years of the conquest, fleeing religious persecution in Spain, since in the Americas is not yet the court of the Inquisition installed.[4] Diego García de Cáceres, faithful friend and executor of the founder of Santiago, Pedro de Valdivia, was one of them.

In colonial times, the most prominent Jewish character in Chile was the surgeon Francisco Maldonado da Silva, one of the first directors of the San Juan de Dios Hospital[citation needed]. Maldonado da Silva was an Argentine Jew born in San Miguel de Tucumán into a Sephardic family from Portugal. He was accused to the Tribunal of the Inquisition by her sisters, devout Christians, from attempting to convert them to Judaism. Maldonado declared openly Jew, earning him the conviction to be burned alive in 1639. During this period, entire crypto-people families, those who "converted" to Catholicism but privately remained Jews, arrived.

Jewish immigration in the 19th century[edit]

From 1840, decades after the abolition of the Inquisition in Chile, began the Jewish immigration to the country. The first Jews who arrived in Valparaíso were from Europe, especially from Germany and France. One of them, Manuel de Lima y Sola, was a man who became one of the founding members of the Fire Department of Valparaíso in 1851 and one of the founders of the Chilean freemasonry to create the first Masonic lodge, the "Unión Fraternal" two years later.

Jewish emigration in the 20th century[edit]

In the turbulent Pinochet era in the 1970s and 80s, many Jews left Chile. While in 1961, the Jewish population was about 30,000,[5] by 1997 the population had dwindled to 15,000.[6]

The 2012 Chilean census showed 16,294 Jews living in the country, marking an 8.8% increase from the decade before.[6]

Community institutions[edit]

Orthodox Judaism reaches approximately ten percent of Chile's Jewish community.[7]

The Chabad movement was first established in Chile in 1981 and has since constructed synagogues, schools and recreational centers.[8]

Notable Chilean Jews[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Congreso Judío Latinoamericano. "Comunidades judías: Chile" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 21 December 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Comunidad judía de Chile". Revista Estocolmo Noticias. 23 December 2010. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Los judíos residentes en Chile". Agencia EFE. 23 December 2010. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  4. ^ a b Memoria Chilena - La comunidad judía en Chile
  5. ^ "American Jewish Yearbook 1961" (PDF). AJC Archives. AJC. p. 383. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  6. ^ a b "The Jewish Community of Santiago". The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot.
  7. ^ Caro, Isaac. "Orthodoxies, dissidence and new identities in Argentine and Chilean Judaism." Cuadernos Judaicos 25 (2008).
  8. ^ Waldman, Gilda. "The literary construction of Jewish identity in Chile: a cartography of recent memories." In Identities in an Era of Globalization and Multiculturalism, pp. 231-252. Brill, 2008.

External links[edit]