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January 2, 2017 1:35 pm

Caracas Rabbi: Some Venezuelan Jews Moving to Israel to Escape Country’s Dire Economic Crisis

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Venezuelan shoppers wait in line to buy government-subsidized goods. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Venezuelan shoppers wait in line to buy government-subsidized goods. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Jewish community in Venezuela is suffering from the country’s ongoing economic crisis and many have packed their bags and moved elsewhere, including to Israel, a Caracas rabbi told the Hebrew news site nrg on Monday.

“The situation is not simple, both economically and politically,” Rabbi Eitan Weisman was quoted as saying. “People have no food and no work…There are many more needy people [in the Jewish community] now and less income, so it’s tough to subsist. A large number of people have left for other places — Miami, Panama and Mexico. Some have made aliyah…”

“The [Jewish] community is aging,” he went on to say. “There are more funerals than weddings and circumcisions. At the [Jewish] school, 30 kids started first grade this year. At one time, there were more than 100 kids every year.”

In August, members of the Venezuelan Jewish community told The Algemeiner they were relying on the black market and Israeli relatives for food and medicine.

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A Washington Post article published on Sunday said around 6,000 to 9,000 Jews remain in Venezuela — the general population of which totals around 30 million people.

According to Weisman, just 15 years ago there were 20,000 Jews living in Venezuela.

Citing Israeli government data, the Washington Post reported that 111 Venezuelan Jews moved to Israel in 2015 — more than double the level from three years earlier.

The final 2016 number, the report said, was not yet known. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) told the Washington Post it had helped 90 Venezuelan Jews immigrate to Israel over the past year.

“We work outside of the Jewish community and under the radar, gathering information by word-of-mouth about Jews who are interested in moving to Israel,” an unnamed IFCJ official was quoted as saying.

While in the past, the official said, Venezuelan Jews preferred to move to the US or Panama, the devaluation of their assets has made those locations too expensive for them and “Israel is really the only option for them” now.

29-year-old Reisy Abramof — a recent Venezuelan Jewish immigrant to Israel — told the Washington Post, “I feel hopeful in Israel; it’s a country filled with social innovation and opportunities.”

Two years ago, as reported by The Algemeiner, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reminded Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s regime that it was “responsible for the safety and well-being of Venezuela’s Jewish community” after antisemitic graffiti was sprayed on the wall of a Caracas synagogue.

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