08 May 2007

Nicaragua: 'Who's a Jew' splits community

Nicaragua's 50 Jews - with two Orthodox families - have the same problems as larger communities, reports this JTA story.

At an April 30 assembly to elect a new board of directors, relations between the 50 Jews in the country deteriorated after two people whom some consider non-Jews were elected to the board.

The assembly decided to allow anyone who "feels Jewish in their heart" to be a member of the community, even if they don't have maternal links to Judaism and haven't converted.

The move outraged some in the community, such as outgoing president Rafael Lipshitz, and left them weighing whether to form a splinter community.

In spite of the disagreements, the community is beginning to revitalize for the first time since the country's synagogue burned in 1978. When the Sandinistas took over in 1979, the entire community went into exile, only returning in 1990 after the Sandinistas were voted out.

The group, ranging from Orthodox to secular, organizes seders and Shabbat dinners, even though members are split among three main towns. They also maintain the Jewish section of the cemetery in the capital, Managua.

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