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The first Jews to reach Panama were merchants, including Spanish and Portuguese Jews who first settled in the Caribbean Islands. Because of the unhealthy climate and poor living conditions, most of them fled the isthmus. The small permanent community which remained grew only when the U.S. began building the Panama Canal in 1904. In 1998, there were about 5,000 Jews in a total population of almost 3 million. They engage in trade and industries. The majority lives in Panama City, but there is a small community in Colon, the Pacific terminus of the Canal. Both communities maintain synagogues and are affiliated with the World Jewish Congress, The Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish National Fund, and Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO). (See also Delvalle, Arturo.)

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