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SEPHARDIC COMMUNITIES

editors Florinda F. Goldberg, yossi (Jorge) Goldstien, Efraim Zadoff
SEPHARDIC COMMUNITIES IN LATIN AMERICA – PAST AND PRESENT Margalit Bejarano This article is a preliminary report on a study that attempts to reconstruct the present map of the Sephardic diaspora in Latin America and to examine the links between ethnic identity and religiosity. It forms part of a research project on Sephardic communities in Latin America whose objectives are to collect written and oral documentation on Jews from the Middle East and North Africa in Latin America, to foment research and university teaching, and to prepare the infrastructure for comparative studies. 1 The purpose of this article is to analyze the ethnic composition and main characteristics of present- day Sephardic organizations from a historic and comparative perspective. The first part will discuss some theoretical premises and the historical background; the second will present the results of a questionnaire – that had only a partial response – distributed among the Sephardic institutions throughout Latin America. Organization and Identity The Jewish organizations in Latin America, like those of other minority groups, were created on a voluntary basis in response to the needs of the immigrants. The different spheres of activity represented in the infrastructure of Jewish institutional life reflect the needs of the founders of each organization. Since Jews had to provide their own religious 1 Proyecto de Estudios Sefardíes en América Latina, Division of Latin America, Spain and Portugal, The Abraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I would like to thank Prof. Haim Avni, Head of the Division, for his support and Mr. Sebastian Klor for his assistance in compilation of data.

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