It is difficult to find a pure descendant of the Peruvian Jewish community, and I can safely say that not more than 3,000 of them still remain in the Peruvian capital city of Lima. The Inquisition which gained momentum in the colonial days saw many Jews from Europe arrive into South America including Peru. Later, the rubber boom in the late 19th century also attracted Jews who settled in Lima as agents for the trade. I soon realized the community had made its mark in history. During their difficult journey and settlement, many famous Peruvian Jews came into the limelight which made the world sit up and take notice.
Efraín Goldenberg Schreiber: A famous politician who rose to become Peru’s Prime Minister. He was the son of a Russian Jewish immigrant and studied humanities and law in Lima. In his school, he was the only Jew. It probably made him very resilient, and he grew up to study humanities and law. His political career was very bright, as he first became Peru’s Prime Minister in 1994 and later the Finance Minister in 1999. Taking up his family business, he was appointed to the board of the Lima Jewish Community Association.
Isaac Mekler: Another Peruvian politician, he became the leader of the Association of Jews in Peru. A member of the Congress, he has been serving as a national politician representing the Constitutional Province of Callao since 2006 till date.
David Waisman Rjavinsthi: An active politician, he has been a congressman for three years in his career. Born to Romanian parents, he came to Peru and started a small clothes business and later sold machinery for making them. He was a Jewish convert and is very vocal about his viewpoints, especially about the economic status in the country. At present, he is seriously considering contesting the Vice President’s post in 2011.
María Francisca Ana de Castro: Renowned for her beauty, she came to Peru as a Spanish immigrant in the late 17th century. She is the most famous victim of the Inquisition and was burned at the stake just for being a practicing Jew. It left a bitter taste, and people began questioning irregularities that existed in the system.
Barton Zwiebach: A leading expert in string field theory and armed with a doctorate in physics, he was responsible for writing the book “A First Course in String Theory” for undergraduate students. He has taught Physics in the United States in several universities including Berkeley, California, and MIT.
Baruch Ivcher: An Israeli-born business tycoon, he became famous when his television station Frecuencia Latina exposed government corruption. He studied law in Jerusalem and attained Peruvian nationality to expand his business. The exposure that took place pulled him down a bit, and I suppose he would have been in more trouble had the Human Rights Commission not interfered.
Raul Geller: A soccer player of repute, Geller is well known because he was also a qualified orthopedist, probably the only one I guess. He had the honor of representing the Peruvian National team and practiced his skills in Israel with Betar Jerusalem scoring 41 goals in the year the club was promoted to the First Division.