El Salvador


El Salvador’s many developing Jewish communities have reached out to Kulanu recently and in the past. San Salvador, El Salvador’s capital and largest city, is home to Comunidad Beit Israel. They hired Rabbi Elisha Salas who worked in Portugal for twenty-five years, supported by the Israeli organization Shavei Yisrael, as well as by the local community. This community has about two hundred members, and about one hundred members still want and need formal conversion. They are observant Haredi Jews. Genie Milgrom, our coordinator for El Salvador and newest board member, is in touch with the Beit Israel community. She says, “Rav Salas tells me that the community is under tremendous hardship because they are keeping all the laws and sleeping in the synagogue on mattresses on the Shabbat and the holidays. Some are in their seventies and eighties and it kills him to see this kind of sacrifice. They are a very committed and pious group.”

The Batalia Shalom-Armenia community in Armenia, El Salvador has been helped by Kulanu in the past. Genie reports, “Rav Salas has been hired to take care of them as well. It is a forty-minute drive from Beit Israel. The community members are humble, kind, and sincere. There are about one hundred to two hundred of them and they need conversions. Rabbi Salas is just beginning to work with them; in only three weeks he has been to see them three times and has given classes. Many quit their jobs so as not to work Saturdays, so poverty increases with observance. When I asked what they need, he said that Kulanu had already supplied all the siddurim and other Judaica items and that they have a Sefer Torah. He feels at first look that the ideal would be to try to open an inexpensive bakery in San Salvador. That would give jobs to at least eight to ten families.”

One and a half hours west of San Salvador, in Cara Sucia, is another small Jewish community. Maurilio Mejia is the community’s spokesperson, and we believe that there are twenty-three to twenty-five people, all un-converted as yet. We need to get more information but we know that they identify as Jews.

In San Marcos, El Salvador, there is a community of twenty to twenty-five people led by Mario Lara. While they see themselves as Jews, they are not engaged in Jewish learning at this time. There is also the Shema Israel community in La Libertad. Genie reports, “I spoke to Jorge, leader of the community, for over an hour today trying to understand. He was with the group of Beit Israel but separated. The community has about forty to fifty people. They identify as Jews, but none have converted. I asked him to talk to Rabbi Salas to get classes going. There is another
community led by Jorge Isaias that has sent us lovely pictures of their community. They have the Kulanu contact information if they need our help.”

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