Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Venezuelan Sephardim are ready to move again

The Sephardi Jews of Venezuela are ready to uproot their familes for the second time in one generation, but it's crime, rather than antisemitism, propelling them to leave, JTA News reports:

CARACAS, Venezuela (JTA) -- Esther Benchimol de Roffe arrived in Venezuela as a young bride, leaving northern Morocco more than 50 years ago to meet her groom in a prosperous foreign land.

The young couple fit in easily in a country where, as Spanish-speaking Sephardim, they already were familiar with the language and the Jewish community was established. Her husband built a successful business, and Benchimol raised a family and earned international renown singing the ancient Sephardic hymns she had learned as a child in Alcazarquivir.

“It was a rich country, there were a lot of opportunities,” reminisces Benchimol, now 74. “We had many friends and there was a real sense of brotherhood. There was never any racism against us.”

Her tone changes, however, when she considers the futures of her grandchildren and whether she would advise them to stay in Venezuela.

“I wouldn’t stay here,” Benchimol said. “I’m speaking as a grandmother.”

It’s not anti-Semitism that causes her to fear daily for the safety of her grandchildren but “la inseguridad” -- insecurity. It's the general term Venezuelans use now to describe an unrelenting crime wave that cuts across the country's economically and ideologically polarized society. The issue consistently tops surveys here as Venezuelans’ biggest concern.

Venezuelan Jews say that as citizens of a state in which many have lost faith in the police and judicial system, they fear random violence far more than anti-Semitic attacks. They consistently cite crime as their main source of anxiety.

Read article in full

No comments: