Ecuador’s Jewish history stretches back to its settlement by the Spanish, when Conversos, or forced converts to Catholicism, fled the Inquisition in Spain. However, most Jews were unable to maintain their identity under this pressure and in the early 1900s, only 4 families (14 Jews) were living in Ecuador. The rise of Nazism in Europe and the imposition of immigration quotas in the U.S. resulted in increased Jewish immigration to Ecuador. By 1950, there were about 4,000 Jews living in Ecuador. They were predominantly German-speaking, although the younger generation of Ecuadoran Jews now speaks Spanish. The Jewish community is primarily located in Ecuador’s capital city of Quito, although some Jews live in Guayaquil.
Today, the Jewish community in Ecuador still survives because, unlike in other countries, there has been little intermarriage, although assimilation is now on the rise. Jews in Ecuador are mostly part of the middle class, which is otherwise nonexistent. There is one main group in Ecuador controlling religious and cultural affairs, the Asociacion de Beneficencia Israelita. The Zionist Federation, B’nai B’rith, Wizo, and Maccabi are also present in the country. The Jewish community also published a bilingual Spanish-German newspaper, Informaciones. There is also a Jewish school, the Colegio Experimental Alberto Einstein, that provides classes from kindergarten through 12th grade. In addition to teaching Hebrew and other Jewish subjects, the school also observes all Jewish holidays. The Jewish community has its own community building, an old-age home, and a synagogue. In all respects, it is a small but thriving community. More information on efforts being made within the community is available here: http://www.luxner.com/cgi-bin/view_article.cgi?articleID=680
Chabad also has a presence in Ecuador and has been there to help travelers and Jewish residents since 2004. Chabad supplies many services in Ecuador, including the publication of an educational pamphlet, teaching Torah classes, providing religious services, hosting travelers (mostly Israeli), providing kashrut supervision, and much more. Chabad supplies a list of kosher foods available in Ecuador on its website at http://www.jabad.org.ec/texto1.php?id_menu=35. It also sells kosher challah every Friday.
Ecuador is a country famous for its location on the equator, from which it derives its name. The two most famous places to visit in Ecuador are the Amazon Rainforest in the east and the Galapagos Islands to the west. However, Ecuador also features some famous mountains and volcanoes for climbing, as well as the “Mitad del Mundo” equatorial tourist site near Quito. Other towns in Ecuador, such as Guayaquil, are famous for their sale of native handicrafts.
During my visit to Ecuador, I visited Quito, where you must be very careful and wary because the high poverty rate breeds crime directed at tourists. I also went to “Mitad del Mundo,” which is unfortunately not located exactly on the equator. Nearby is a small museum that is actually located on the equator. I did not have time to visit it, but I have heard it is very good. I spent most of my time in Ecuador in the Amazon Rainforest to the east. There are a couple of rainforest reserves there (which is a good thing because oil companies are very active in these areas) and many tour operators offer services there. Learn more about my kosher experience in the Amazon Rainforest here: http://travelingrabbi.com/2011/05/04/keeping-kosher-in-the-amazon-rainforest/
Country Calling Code: +593
Asociacion Israelita de Quito
Avenida 18 de Septiembre 954, Quito
Tel: 593 2 502 734
Fax: 593 2 502 733
Comunidad Judia del Ecuador
Calle Roberto Andrade, OE3 590 y Jaime, Roldos Urbanizacion Einstein (Carcelen)
Tel: (2) 2483 800/927
Fax: (2) 2486 755
Beit Jabad del Ecuador – Casa Jabad del Ecuador – Chabad of Ecuador
El Universo # E8-133 y Av Los Shyris
Quito – Ecuador
Tel: 593.260.26770 / USA 1770.884.6113
Rabino Tomer Rotem, email@example.com
Embassy of Israel
Av. Eloy Alfaro 969, Casilla 2463
Tel: (2) 547 322; (2) 548 431