Lubovitch Rabbi Mendel Zuber, known to Kulanu readers for his work preparing about 300 Inca Indians in Peru for conversion and Aliyah, has joined the ranks of Kulanu’s distinguished rabbinic advisors.
Zuber, who lives in Monsey, New York, traveled to the quarterly Kulanu meeting in Northern Virginia in October. One of the purposes of his trip was to alert both Kulanu supporters and officials at the Israeli Embassy about the spiritual needs of those Incans remaining in Peru practicing Judaism under adverse circumstances.
When he reached Trujillo, Peru (a 17-hour ride from Lima), in 1988, he found that a former Catholic named Villaneuva had formed a Jewish community of 500, located in three towns. Although the people were observant, the synagogue in Lima shunned them and did not assist them with formal conversion. With Zuber’s help, 300 of the community studied, were converted by an Israeli beth din, and moved to Israel. Zuber reports proudly that, after five years, only three or four families reconsidered and moved back to South America.
Now, he says, many of the 250 Incans practicing Judaism in Peru (some who remained behind and others who have joined the Jewish community) are eager for formal conversion and relocation to Israel. Zuber is anxious to find a rabbi or teacher (a married couple would be ideal) to go to Peru to lead services and educate the community further.
In addition, he says, the Incans are in desperate need of a Torah scroll, Spanish-Hebrew prayer books, tephillin (which can be repaired if necessary), and talleisim. And the Incan women would greatly appreciate Jewish jewelry, such as necklaces with a Star of David.
The community is so poor that a mother sold her jewelry so her son could have a suit for his bar mitzvah. Some women only own one dress; for Shabbat they turn it inside-out so it will appear different. A man’s typical wage for day work is $1.50 a day.
Kulanu has undertaken to assist this community and urges contributions of religious articles or cash.
Kulanu president Jack Zeller also accompanied Zuber to the Israeli Embassy in Washington to meet with Barukh Binah, director of public and interreligious affairs, and his associate, Jodi Joseph. They spoke of the success of the Incan community in Israel, most of whom have settled in Elon Moreh, and requested consideration regarding conversion and immigration of the individuals in Peru. The request will be forwarded to Jerusalem for consideration.
For further information, or if you would like to help, contact the Kulanu office or call or write Rabbi Zuber at (914-425-6213) 32 Blauvelt Road, Monsey, NY 10952.