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How to Customize Your Kosher Tour in South America

South America is one of the world’s most exciting tourist destinations. The massive continent is best known for its amazing diversity of wildlife and natural wonders, and has a rich and fascinating history. South America also has its own Jewish communities with a history going back to the 16th century. There are some surprising cultural treasures, as well as a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Kosher South America tours are increasingly popular with American Jews who want to visit interesting and unusual places, without compromising on a kosher diet and Shabbat observance. This blog post will give you an insight into some of South America’s most important Jewish sites, and provide some useful tips on how to organize both kosher tours, and kosher tours for seniors. 

A Quick Guide to Kosher South America

It’s not easy to do justice to South America in a short post. The continent is almost as big as North America and runs from the Caribbean Sea in the North, all the way down to the icy Antarctic Ocean in the South. There are a dozen sovereign states, a dozen languages (although Spanish, Portuguese and English are the big 3) and a whole host of cultures, climates and natural environments. 

The biggest Jewish communities are in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Chile. Most are of Ashkenazi European origin, but some are descended from Sephardic Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition or left the Ottoman Empire in search of a better life in the New World. The South American Jewish communities have their own unique cultures that draw on both their European roots and the vibrant South American environment that they settled in. 

Argentina – Buenos Aires and Santa Fe

Buenos Aires as a destination for a jewish tour in South America

Buenos Aires (Spanish for Fair Winds or Good Airs) is a famous South American city that welcomes millions of tourists annually. Buenos Aires has a large and thriving Jewish community of 250,000 people and is a popular destination for kosher South America tours. Any tourist who craves an American-style burger and fries can visit the kosher McDonald’s restaurant in the Abasto shopping center.

The old garment district of Once and Abasto was at the heart of the historical Jewish community of Buenos Aires, as was the Villa Crespo neighborhood (also known as Villa Kreplaj) that was home to secular Russian Jews who fled communism in the 1920s. Buenos Aires has a number of beautiful synagogues that attract Jewish tourists all year round:

  • Grand Temple of Paso
  • Yesod Hadath
  • Sinagoga de la Congregación Israelita (Libertad)

Buenos Aires also has a noteworthy Liniers Jewish cemetery. The famous Recoleta Cemetery (located in the same neighborhood as the Libertad synagogue) contains the graves of Benjamín Breitman, and the important Uribe y Lecea family. The city also has its own Holocaust museum and an Anne Frank museum. 

Argentina’s Jewish Cowboys

The Jewish Gauchos of Argentina

In the late 19th century, Jewish immigrants from Russia began to settle in the fertile Agricultural Pampas region. They overcame considerable local prejudice to embrace a robust outdoor agricultural life. They were humorously associated with Argentina’s gaucho cowboys, becoming known as Jewish gauchos (gauchos judíos). Kosher South America tours can be tailored to include an excursion to Moises Ville in Santa Fe or other areas settled by Jewish agriculturalists. The Algarrobos Cemetery and Moctezuma synagogue served the once-thriving Jewish gaucho community. 

Brazil – 500 Years of Jewish History

Recife a place known to be the home of many Jews in Brazil

Brazil’s vast natural wealth was a magnet for early European colonists. One of the first Portuguese settlers was Gaspar da Gama, a Jew. Sephardic Jews from the Netherlands established South America’s first synagogue in the town of Recife. The Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue is now a museum that welcomes Jewish visitors from the US. The original mikveh and bema, as well as a Torah are on display. If you travel to Recife in November, you can join the annual Jewish cultural festival that is based around the synagogue. 

The modern Jewish community in Brazil is large (around 120,000) and well-established. Most Brazilian Jews live in Sao Paulo and Rio, with a smaller community in Porto Alegre. Brazil is generally a tolerant and hospitable country and is a great place to visit. Brazilian Jews have a reputation as outgoing and friendly people with a passion for life. Sau Paolo is rated as a Global-Alpha city and the Jewish community contributes to its prosperity and cultural life.

When you visit Rio, the impressive Great Temple of Rio will be at the top of your itinerary. Architecture fans will immediately spot the similarities between Rio’s finest synagogue and the old world splendor of the Jewish architecture of Florence and Trieste. Rio also has a fascinating Jewish museum with a unique collection of Hanukkah lamps and a treasure trove of Brazilian Jewish history. 

Kosher South America tours are noted for providing travelers with an exciting gastronomical experience. Brazil can’t match Argentina’s superb kosher steaks, but the CIB Israeli Brazilian Club is famous in Rio for its kosher Brazilian food. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a good meal and a cold drink after a day spent exploring Rio’s Jewish neighborhoods. If you love dance, talk to your tour provider about arranging a tour to include Rio’s Hava Netze Bemachol dance festival.

Uruguay and Chile 

Montevideo a place known for its Jewish community

Uruguay and Chile are less well known than Brazil and Argentina. This is a shame because they are beautiful tourist destinations with a small but rich Jewish heritage.  Uruguay was first settled by Jews in the late 1700s and the modern community is around 16,000 strong. There are still many Jewish owned stores and small businesses and Montevideo offers a great gastronomical experience. The Hogar de Padres is home to many of the community’s seniors and also offers kosher food.

Montevideo is a jewel on South America’s Atlantic coast, with some lovely colonial architecture. As you explore the city, your guide will point out many buildings of special Jewish interest. There are also almost a dozen synagogues, the CANELONES cemetery and a statue of Albert Einstein. The city also has its own Holocaust memorial and a square named after former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. 

The Chilean Jewish community has a history in the country that goes back more than two hundred years. These days, Chilean Jews are largely assimilated into wider society, and around half emigrated during the Pinochet years. There are still around 16,000 Jews in Chile and the community has experienced a minor revival. Santiago has some good kosher food, including bagels, falafel sushi and a superb Kosher grill house. Your tour guide can put together a kosher food tour that also includes kosher Chilean wine tastings and vineyard tours. 

The Circulo Israelita Synagogue in Santiago is noted for its beautiful stained glass windows and colonial South American architecture. There are also Sephardic and Reform temples that are delighted to welcome visitors from the US, either for services or as tourists. Santiago is one of South America’s best kept secrets, with the Andes mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. The Jewish community is small, but vibrant and the Chilean people as a whole are welcoming.

How to Arrange Kosher South American Tours

Plan your next kosher tour to south America with Gil travel

Travelers who visit South America once, almost always want to return. It would take a lifetime to see all the sites, but a great way to start is with a customized kosher tour, either for a group, or a private tour for a small group or a family. An experienced Jewish travel agency that is used to arranging kosher South America tours will work closely with you to create your dream tour with a flexible itinerary. 

There are several advantages to arranging a tour with a Jewish travel agency.

  • You will receive high quality kosher food, including trips to Jewish restaurants.
  • Your schedule will allow you to observe Shabbat and any Jewish holidays. 
  • Most South American tourist destinations are perfectly safe, but your tour company will ensure that you have full professional security. 
  •  As well as having an expert knowledge of all the normal tourist sites, your guides will also have a deep knowledge of local Jewish sites and Jewish history. 

Create a Flexible Custom Itinerary

Your tour will be carefully planned to match the interests of your group, as well as your appetite for physical activity. Not everybody wants to hike in the Andes or trek through the rainforests of the Amazon Basin. One exciting option (that most people aren’t aware of) is a luxury Amazon River cruise. A sedate cruise along the world’s most spectacular river, with plenty of trips ashore,  is a wonderful way to experience the natural beauty of the rainforests.

The North American winter coincides with the South American summer. South America can provide the perfect winter break, particularly if you take a short flight to Venezuela or Colombia. The weather in South America can vary enormously between the tropical and antarctic zones. Your tour company will help you to find destinations that exactly meet your preferences. You’ll also get helpful advice on how to adapt to different climates and whether you’ll need anti-malarial prophylaxis.

Kosher South America tours and kosher tours for seniors are a real adventure and an opportunity to explore some of the world’s most exciting, fascinating – and often unspoiled – regions. Whether you want to see the Jewish synagogues of Buenos Aires and then eat huge Argentinian steaks (kosher of course), or venture into the tropical heart of the Amazon Basin, you can create a luxury private tour that exactly meets your needs!


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