A Gallery of Former Jews
Latin American societies, which embrace individual Jews with open arms, are freighted with hostility toward the Jewish people. While flesh-and-blood Jews are welcomed into Christian bosoms with enthusiasm, Judaism in the abstract is anathema, an outdated creed discredited by the message of Christ. The enigma of Jewish life in Latin America is that Christians accept into their marital beds persons whom they would not admit to their clubs.
Within a generation of arrival in Latin America, intermarriage was making heavy inroads into the numbers of Jews. Rabbis being less tolerant than priests when it comes to conversion, intermarriage became a one-way street down which Jews and their children disappeared; only sustained immigration kept an identifiable Jewish presence going at all. Everywhere that immigration ceased, Jewish population size dropped, as individual Jews chose to cease being Jewish—by merging into the warm sea of family relationships, by passing themselves off as something else, by acceding to the Latin ethos and distancing themselves from the Jewish community. Today, Jews with a strong sense of identity cluster in highly visible institutions that thrum with Jewish activity, leaving tourists with the impression of a thriving communal life; meanwhile, thousands of other Jews slip out the back, hop on the bus, get themselves free.
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