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Located on the Atlantic coast, between Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay is the smallest of the South American republics. Its Jewish community, however, is the third largest and one of the most highly organized in Latin America. In 2006, it numbered about 23,000 in a total population of 3.3 million. The majority live in Montevideo, where they are engaged in the manufacture and sale of furs, furniture, clothing, and oil.

The Jewish community achieved its high degree of organization during World War II. At that time Germany was interested in gaining control of Uruguay, and Nazi agents began to spread effective antisemitic propaganda in the country. Jews were forced to unite in order to combat this menace. Uruguay’s break with Germany in 1943 put a stop to the antisemitic agitation, and the peaceful conditions of this most democratic of South American republics were restored. Uruguayan Jewry did not relax, however, and its energies were channeled to work within the community. One of the results of its efforts was an extensive educational system, which included eleven schools in Montevideo and three in the provinces. More than 1,000 Jewish children attended those institutions. Zionist activity, too, was vigorous. Montevideo’s Jewish press was widely read. Two Yiddish dailies, as well as periodicals of Jewish interest, in Spanish and German, have been published. Two of these, in Spanish, were for younger readers. Many organizations maintained libraries and arranged cultural activities. A Jewish daily radio program and a weekly program devoted to Jewish scholars, writers, and artists were broadcast. All sectors were represented in the Central Jewish Community of Uruguay. The Central Committee has been the government-recognized spokesperson for Uruguayan Jewry.

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