Sunday, June 21, 2009

Conversion dilemma in Latin America


[...] It all began seven years ago when Vargas, now 51, became part of a movement in Bogota of religious seekers.

“As I did, most of the people involved came from Christian roots,” he said. “And we found in Judaism an answer to our inquiries.”

But Vargas’ conversion hit a key snag: Jews.

First, Orthodox Jews in Colombia refused to accept Vargas and 200 or so others as would-be Jews, vehemently disavowing association with them and refusing them access to the community’s mikvahs for conversion.

The group, which calls itself Maim Haim -- Hebrew for “living waters” -- turned to religious authorities in Israel for training and, they hoped, eventual conversion, but it was stymied when Colombia’s Orthodox Jewish leadership contacted rabbinic authorities in Israel and warned them against accepting the would-be converts.

Main Haim eventually found a rabbi in Israel willing to teach its members, and in 2007 the rabbi and two colleagues convened a Jewish religious court, or bet din, and converted 104 of them, including Vargas.

Still, many Jewish institutions in Colombia refuse to accept them as members. [...]


  1. Well, it can only improve our national cuisine.

  2. Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Columbia, Rabbi Shlomo Meir Elharar at 57-1-2562629 or email him at There is also a US number direct to Bogota (305) 402-1429.

    I am sure that Rabbi Elharar will be happy to answer any questions.

    Rabbi Elharar's posek is the Chief Sephardic Rabbi, Rabbi Shelomo Amar. Rabbi Elharar has also been very close to Rabbi Ovadya Yosef for most of his life.

  3. Recipients and PublicityJune 23, 2009 at 9:24 AM

    Peruvians coming out of the woodwork (re)claim Judaism.

    Seems many groups with the faintest connection want to (re)join the Jews, except for the millions of born Jews in the West who want to join the gentiles by assimilation, intermarriage and apostasy.

    As reported in The New York Times:

    Iquitos Journal: Adopting Forebears’ Faith and Leaving Peru for Israel (Published: June 21, 2009).


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.