Jewish settlement in Paraguay has a short history. The first Jews arrived in Paraguay only at the end of the 1800s and were highly susceptible to assimilation. It was only a couple of decades later that Sephardis began to immigrate from Turkey, Greece, and Palestine. They founded the first synagogue. Eastern European Jews began to arrive in the 1920s and 1930s and were later followed by about 15,000 Jews fleeing Nazi Europe. Paraguay’s role as accepting of Jewish refugees has continued into more recent times, as it has welcomed Jewish refugees from Argentina.
Paraguay has three synagogues, a Jewish school called “Escuela Integral Estado de Israel,” and even a Jewish museum in the capital of Asunción. Unfortunately, of these three synagogues, only Chabad is orthodox; as a result, there is a high rate of assimilation and intermarriage in the Jewish population in Paraguay.
When Rebbetzin Rachel visited in 2007, the population was vibrant and the Chabad was extremely popular and successful. Although there are estimates that there are only about 1,000 Jews left in Paraguay, the vast majority of these are highly involved in the community. Even the majority of intermarried couples send their children to Jewish schools. The Chabad events she attended were always packed.
You will have a hard time finding kosher food in Paraguay, so you may do better to bring something with you from nearby Brazil or Argentina, presuming you visit them first. The Chabad House there was very open and provided Rebbetzin Rachel with everything she needed; nevertheless, in 2007 there were only three families in the entire country who kept kosher. Most Jews who become religious leave for Argentina or Brazil. You may find kosher Argentinian products available for sale in Paraguayan supermarkets, but they will not have a hecksher (check http://www.kosher.org.ar/ for a full list of kosher products from Argentina).
There is a mikveh in Asunción, run by Chabad Lubavitch.
The community in Paraguay is small but fantastic. The people are warm and welcoming and there are Jewish events held by Chabad throughout the week. We would definitely recommend a visit to this warm and wonderful community!
Chabad Lubavitch Center
Paraguari 771, Asuncion
Telephone: (21) 228 669
Fax: (21) 440 598
Consejo Representativo Israelita de
General Diaz 657, PO Box 756
Telephone: (21) 441 744
Fax: (21) 448 289
General Diaz, 657