Three Questions about the Jewish Community of…Cancun, Mexico

With Karen Duek and Brenda Sametz, Women’s Committee of the Community

Tell us about the Jewish community of Cancun:

In the ’90s, several families from Mexico City arrived in Cancun looking for a better quality of life. It was very important to us that we continue to live a Jewish life. At the beginning we met in private houses to celebrate Shabbat, each one brought food until the Marcos Family set up a place in a commercial plaza, to gather to pray, have classes during Shabbat and celebrate the Chagim. During that time, we hired chazanim from outside to support us.

The number of families has always remained around 50, as some families leave when their children grow up, but new ones arrive.

In 2000, thanks to donations from community members, we inaugurated the house that today serves as a synagogue. As of that date, the community has been in constant growth and development and has become a recognized Jewish community by the Central Committee of Mexico. Later, an alliance was achieved with OTS’s Straus-Amiel Emissary Training Program, who have supported us by sending Rabbis to Cancun, including Rabbi Eli Bari, who has been with us for a year and a half.

What are five things that characterize the Jewish community of Cancun?

Unity. Each member of the community becomes part of a large family, with whom you celebrate their achievements with the same joy. The participation of each member, from the largest to the smallest is equally embraced.

Commitment. All members want the community to grow, to be strengthened day by day and that there is always a community and a synagogue in Cancun where our Judaism is preserved and continued. We hope that this commitment to assist and maintain our community will never stop.

Respect. Being a Community that integrates people from many different places, traditions and customs – sometimes Ashkenazi other times Sepharadi – we try to make the prayers, activities and classes to everyone’s liking.

Empathy. There is a lot of diversity among our members: from complete families, single men or women, young and old couples. You always want everyone to feel valued.

Job. Being a small community and in the province, the work done by both Board of Directors, Administrative Committee and Activities Committee is greater, we must ensure that people attend, get donors, look for outside activities, and always keep Judaism alive and present in Cancun. It is not an easy task, there are times that while we have activities, getting people to attend is complicated when we are so few. We have many programs; activities for children talks for ladies, we are part of WIZO, Bikur Cholim, we receive visits from Keren Hayesod, OTS Amiel BaKehila and others. We are always looking out for the best for the Community.

Please share a community program or activity that you consider beneficial for other communities:

Shabbat is an ideal day for everyone to get together. Here at the beginning of the year, we make a calendar for each family to donate a Shabbat dinner and a Seuda. It creates a special connection between the community members and families who do not attend regularly feel honoured and special to be hosts.

Thank you for your interest in the growth of our Community. You are always welcome.

Karen Douek & Brenda Sametz