By Stephanie Persin
The Jewish population in Nicaragua, at its peak, consisted of 250 persons. The population originated from Jews who migrated from Eastern Europe to Nicaragua after 1929. The majority of the Jewish population lived, and still live, in Managua, which is the capital of Nicaragua.
In the aftereffects of a devastating earthquake in 1972, and the rise of the Sandinista government, most of the 250 Nicaraguan Jews fled for the United States or other countries in Latin America. Israel had supported the previous government, Somoza, until they were overthrown in 1979. The Sandinista regime resented the Israeli government and publicly declared their support for the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The new Nicaraguan government punished the few Jews that remained in the country for Israel's support of the past dictatorship.
After 1979, only about ten Jews could be accounted for in Nicaragua. A B'nai Brith Center, and the Women's International Zionist Organization remained intact during the exile. The Congregacion Israelita de Nicaragua was taken over by the Sandinista government where it was made into a secular school. The Jewish population remained slim for twenty-five years, and the few Jewish families who lived in Nicaragua were constantly persecuted by the Sandinista government.
Jewish Graves in Managua
In 1990, the Sandinista government was overthrown. Jewish citizens began to move from their larger Jewish communities back to their homes in Nicaragua. As of 2004, the Jewish population had reached approximately fifty members. While this may seem an insignificant number of Jews, the community is large enough that it is finally able to reestablish itself.
Although the Jewish community in Managua has its own synagogue and cemetery, it has no Torah and no rabbi. Leaders of the community are, however, attempting to teach the other Nicaraguan Jews all that they can. Jews celebrate Shabbat together in their homes, and on Rosh HaShanah they travel to the synagogues of neighboring countries. After almost three decades of exile, the Nicaraguan Jewish community is very slowly beginning to rebuild itself.
Sources: Nicaragua Carazo
Encyclopaedia Judaica - CD ROM Edition Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Ltd.
The World Jewish Congress
Photograph: Courtesy of HaChayim HaYehudim Jewish Photo Library
Map: The CIA World Factbook