Jews fare no better than others amid Uruguays pervasive poverty

montevideo, uruguay | Marina, 36, is the granddaughter of concentration camp survivors who died when she was very young. Her parents worked in the textile industry but never saved much money because they had seven children to raise. Today, Marina hawks CDs on the streets of Montevideo and takes care of other people’s dogs, but she is barely able to make ends meet.

Ester, a 63-year-old widow, was used to the good life. In the 1950s, her father owned eight butcher shops and was among the Jewish elite of Montevideo.

But these days times are tough, and the pension Ester receives from the Uruguayan government is not enough to live on. Nor is the help she gets from her two children, one of whom lives in Israel.

Ester and Marina, who asked that their last names be withheld, are but two examples of Jewish poor in Uruguay — a small, peaceful country that once had the most equitable distribution of income in South America.

Not long ago, more than 40,000 Jews lived in this nation of 3.3 million people. But almost half of them have emigrated within the last five years. Most have gone to Israel.

Of the 23,000 Jews who remain in Uruguay, 95 percent reside in the capital, Montevideo. The other 5 percent are scattered in smaller cities such as Paysandu, Salto and Punta del Este.

“The economy is very bad, one of the worst crises in the last 100 years,” said motorcycle factory owner Leonardo Rozenblum, 62. “It’s not true that we live better than other Uruguayans. The Jews have the same economic problems as anyone else.”


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