The original Jewish settlers of Peru came from Spain in the sixteenth century to escape the Inquisition. The roots of the modern-day Jewish community date back to the arrival of Ashkenazi Jews from Western and Central Europe, including England and Germany, in the mid-nineteenth century. Before World War I and the inter-war periods, many more Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe and the Ottoman Empire of Sephardim came to Peru. In 1970, the Jewish community reached its peak, with a population of nearly 5,200. However, it has slowly declined since then and there are approximately 3000 Jews living in Peru today.
There are two Orthodox communities in Lima today: the Ashkenazic community and the Sephardic community. The Union Israelita del Peru has 600 members and on Friday night, some
150 people show up to services and on Shabbat morning, around seventy people attend.
In other parts of the country there is little Jewish presence and few places of Jewish heritage. There is a very small Jewish community in Cusco, although the Chabad house hosts a Pesach Seder for hundreds of Israelis each year. Iquitos used to have a big community which was established by immigrants from Morocco during the rubber boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Although the Jewish community in Peru might be relatively small compared to other South American countries, Lima still has several important Jewish sites. These places are best explored with a Jewish Heritage expert who will guide guests to the most important sights the capital city has to offer.
One visit for example would be to the Museum of Inquisition, which has a dark history as many Jews were put on trial, tortured and held prisoner within this building during the Spanish
Inquisition. Another stop would be at the House of Pilate (Casa de Pilatos), which was built in 1590 and is one of the oldest houses in Lima. It is a magnificent example of a Colonial house
retaining many characteristic features of the early Colonial era, most notably its monumental staircase that is rarely found in architecture of Lima. The house was also used by Jews as a
secretive hiding place from the Inquisition in Colonial times, with the downstairs cellar supposedly being used for Friday Worship.
For guests who are interested in a more personal and in-depth experience, we can also arrange visits to a Jewish Senior Citizens residence or the Jewish School of Lima, which is the only Jewish school in the city attended by over 400 students ranging from kindergarten to high school age.
Peru offers something for everyone and tour options can range from our informative Jewish Heritage tours in Lima to expert-led culinary experiences, cultural visits of Cusco and guided visits to Machu Picchu, considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.
JEWISH HERITAGE TOURS
The Jewish Heritage of Lima Tour (Full Day)
This tour is conducted by our Jewish Heritage Expert and includes visits of the main, most interesting sights related to Jewish history in the capital city. The tour is full day and starts 9am until around 5pm. Lunch during the tour can either take place at our experts house (who can cater for special dietary requirements) or at a local Jewish Deli or Cevicheria.
The Jewish Heritage of Lima Tour (Half Day)
We understand that some of our guests are often limited in time so we can also offer the option of just a half day tour where our expert can try to fit in as many of the sights as possible – or adapt the program depending on the interest of your clients. If there is time, lunch can still be arranged at our experts home either after or prior to the tour or alternatively guests can just stop for morning or afternoon tea and Jewish pastries at the house during the tour.
Not all of our tours have necessarily a focus on Judaism in Lima but are related to it. Please see some examples as below.
Callao (Half Day)
Callao is the chief sea port of Peru and although widely considered to be something of a coastal suburb of Lima (due to its proximity to the capital city), Callao has always been an independent constitutional province. Callao has struggled with street crime and poverty for years but this however has been slowly changing with the help of a private investor, a visionary who took on the challenge of transforming Callao and who founded the urban art project and community organization ‘Monumental Callao’. The cultural movement known as FUGAZ, has set up in the port city last year as well and is working together with Monumental Callao on exhibitions, transforming spaces into shops for local designers or restaurants and gives artists a platform to exhibit their work, something they would otherwise not be able to afford.
The investor of the entire project is from Israel and we are currently working with his organization ‘Monumental Callao’ on a new tour option which if everything goes according to plan will be led by our Jewish expert and a Jewish artist.
Besides this of course quite special tour we are working on, we already have an art expert-led tour of the project and street art in Callao as well as offer Graffiti classes which are great fun for younger couples or families.
Lima Running Tours
We offer a ‘sightjogging’/running tour in Lima which also includes a run along the Malecon in Miraflores and passes through the Yitzhak Rabin Park. The park was inaugurated in 1998 as homage to the Israeli leader and 1994 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and guests would run through the park or can stop at the monument of Yitzhak Rabin to take a picture.
Unfortunately, there is only one Jewish Deli here in Lima so we are unable to do a full ‘Jewish culinary tour’ but our culinary expert would be very happy to assist with special dietary requirements your clients might have and for groups, we can of course organize special caterings.