The Jewish Community of Montevideo

A conversation with Rabbi Max and Rabbanit Efrat Godet, the Chief Rabbi and Rebbetzin of Montevideo

Tell us five things that characterize the Jewish Community of Montevideo

Uruguay itself is extremely secular, a fact that has greatly influenced the development of the community, which is characterized as very Zionist and traditional, not so religious.

Thanks to a large number of families that make aliyah every year, the community has shrunk a lot. Today about twelve thousand Jews live throughout Uruguay. There are more Uruguayan Jews in Israel than in Uruguay.

Despite our differences, the community is quite united. Different levels of observance and tradition and the different political perspectives are not factors that generate conflict or separation.

Share a community program or activity that you consider beneficial for other communities

During the year, we carry out several inter-community activities, which strengthen the sense of belonging to the community as a whole. On Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) we do a single memorial program in which young people from all youth movements and all institutions participate. On Yom Ha’atzmaut we all celebrate together with a single mega event. For the last two years, we have also had a great inter-community Purim party. On those days we set aside our differences. There is no Orthodox, secular or conservative. We are simply Jews.

Tell us about the Jewish community of Montevideo

The community has all the services that Uruguayan Jews may need, in addition to a number of various active institutions. In Montevideo, there are seven active synagogues, six orthodox and one conservative. There are two Jewish schools, one more religious, the other more traditional, and a majority of the Uruguayan Jewish children and youth study there. Both schools have Kosher food.

Virtually all the tnuot (youth movements) have branches in Uruguay, as well as the large international Jewish institutions, such as KKL, Keren Hayesod, Wizo, Bnei Brith and many others.

Ours is a fairly well-organized community. A Central Committee represents and unites all the different community institutions, and a Zionist Youth Federation centralizes and interacts with all the Tnuot. Finally, the Chief Rabbinate is responsible for basic religious services and structure.

OTS Amiel Bakehila Partner Profile:

Ianir Kilinski – Musician

As a multi-instrumentalist musician, I travel the world collecting unique experiences and instruments, participating in educational shows and events in Israel and around the world.

I participate in OTS Amiel BaKehila delegations to nurture and help strengthen the special connection that exists between all Jews and our history. In my recitals, I perform concerts that utilize music to traverse the history and the people of Israel; from our leaving Egypt, to our arrival in Israel, we travel through the Diaspora and its music and finally culminates in the return to our Land.

Beautiful things happen to me on every trip. I remember especially my last trip, the first OTS Amiel BaKehila delegation to Palma de Mallorca, Spain. A woman there told us that the place where she feels her neshamah – her soul – belongs, is Tekoa, a beautiful village near Jerusalem. Amazingly, the delegation leader, Rabbi Gulman, lives there. When she heard this, the woman cried tears of joy. This experience reminded me what a great privilege it is to be living in Eretz Israel. There are many people who want and dream every day of coming home, and it is something that I sometimes take for granted. This experience made me appreciate my aliyah and my land even more.

What happens during our delegations is very meaningful. I am truly amazed at the connection people have with their Judaism, even though the reality of the Diaspora is not easy. These people maintain so much sweetness.

My message to our communities is that just as music has accompanied us throughout our history, so too we must continue to accompany each other, feeling united, strengthened and mutually supportive. From my travels I have learned the importance of being together, supporting and listening to one another.

The Jewish Community of Seine-sur-Mer

Conversation with Rav David Moha

Tell us about the Jewish community of Seine-sur-Mer

It all started in a village near the city of Oran in Algeria. At the end of the war in Algeria in 1962, France withdrew and the Jews had to flee the country to Marseille. Later, for work reasons, we moved to Seine-sur-Mer, near Toulon. My father worked in the French navy, whose main base is in the port of Toulon. Along with his work, he provided kosher food to Jewish sailors. Every Shabbat he went on foot to Toulon, seven kilometers from the Seine-sur-Mer. To form the Jewish community, he simply took the phone book, listing all the Jewish names. The first gathering was held during the Mimouna at the end of the festival of Pessach in 1977. For a few years, we gathered at Yom Kippur, then during Shabbats. At the beginning, there were 150 families who have grown to 350 today.

We took the initiative in the region to organize big parties with speakers from Israel, among others – the commander of the Exodus and IDF generals. At that time we mobilized 5,000,000 francs for the Jewish state, a considerable sum for our community.

Five special features of the Jewish community of Seine-sur-Mer

  • Ahavat Israel – love for all Jews
  • Hospitality
  • We do not speak lashon hara, no gossip. Rather than talking about people, we prefer to deal with other topics.
  • We have always had very special relations with the mayor. “My house is your house,” he told me. This is true with one exception, when the Communist Party took power and hoisted the Palestinian flag on the prefecture.
  • Close links with Israel; Our community is twinned with Mazkeret Batya and the city of Seine-sur-Mer is twinned with Ashkelon

Tell us about one of the keys to the success of your community that you would like to share with other communities around the world.

It’s very simple: first of all, every person who comes to us, to me he/she is more important than me. Secondly, we all try to work for Israel and each of us is like a flag of the Jewish State.

OTS Amiel Bakehila Partner Profile: Rabbi Shraga Nathan Dahan

Rabbi Shraga Nathan Dahan

Rabbi Shraga Nathan Dahan served as the Technology Consultant for the Genesis Project, which sent an Israeli spacecraft to the moon earlier this year. He participated in a recent delegation to Switzerland where he spoke to the Jewish communities of Geneva, Annemasse and Lucerne about technology, Jewish law, and innovation in Israel.

Rabbi Shraga Natan Dahan, a resident of Beit Shemesh, is affiliated with the Rabbinate and holds Masters degrees from a number of academic institutions in Israel and the world in management and technology (Lev Institute, Technion and Polytechnic New York). He is a certified mediator and serves as teaching instructor and halachic consultant in fertility, medicine security and technology.

What did you bring to the communities that you visited as part of the OTS Amiel BaKehila delegation?

My role was to share with them halachic and technological challenges of the Genesis (Bereshit) project – the first Israeli spacecraft to reach the moon, on which I served as the technology consultant. I helped the project find solutions to the dilemmas and challenges which arose between the scientific and technological world and the need to maintain Jewish life without compromise in any field of practice.

How did you take from your trip?

During an intense week, we got to meet the various communities, youth, children, seniors and community leaders. We began our visit at a meeting with the educational administrators, where we learned about the many challenges that they confront. Later in Geneva, we met with Mrs. Nurit Brown, the energetic head of the Geneva Shalva organization who arranged everything for our delegation led by Mr. Bernard Zanzori and Ms. Elisheva Lisha. I found our encounters with the various communities fascinating and empowering.

Please write about an interesting experience or story from the delegation

Sabbath in the French Jewish community of Annemasse was an uplifting experience. We met with the rabbi and his family and had Shabbat dinner with them and other academics. We had meaningful conversations about Torah, science and what was in between – it inspired us for the rest of the week.

One highlight was our participation in the ‘Geneva Action” week, as part of a ‘Women’s Day’ organized by Shalva to strengthen Jewish women. It was a prestigious and distinguished seminar for women which hosted many diverse lecturers from  Switzerland and around the world, including members of the OTS Amiel BaKehila delegation. Mr. Bernard Zanzori, who specializes in parental education, opened round tables on education, and Ms. Elisheva Lisha – an expert in education and therapy, joined with innovative methods and conducted “laughter yoga” workshops for women and children. In addition to activities with children, I spoke about the connection between aesthetics, Judaism and what is in between. The lecture sparked a fascinating discussion and was another layer in connecting with community members.

What did you learn from the experience?

OTS Amiel BaKehila is a fascinating and empowering project that brings people together and is a vital and refreshing breath of fresh air for communities that are often preoccupied with everyday life. We are thankful for the community’s appreciation for volunteers and dedication, wherever we come from.

Do you have a message that you would like to convey to the community?

Blessed is Israel who deals with grace and builds a better and more correct world.