The Jewish presence in Mexico dates back to the Spanish Conquest, even though it was only until the final years of the XIX century and beginning of the XX when a mass immigration of Jews from Syria, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe, fleeing from persecution and poverty, gives way to the initial stages of a modern Jewish Mexican community.
Gradually the immigrants were confronted with the need to organize themselves in order to provide religious and educational services so as to keep their traditions alive in the new environment and to be able to transmit their millenary legacy to future generations. Therefore, they formed nuclei according to their countries of origin, a modality which persists up to the present day. Simultaneously, each nucleus or sector has maintained an autonomous existence regarding its internal affairs while working together in the solution of shared issues and problems.
On November 9, 1938 and due to the dramatic conditions surrounding European Jewry, the Jewish Central Committee of Mexico (JCCM) emerged. At the beginning it functioned as a local association intent on helping Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Europe. Later it sought to satisfy the requirements of cohesion and political representation of the community sectors. Its birth has guaranteed that within diversity coexist unity and a rational community existence. It has become a clear response to the imperatives posed by modern Jewish existence of building bridges and opening channels of communication with the institutions of contemporary Mexico.
Nowadays the JCCM acts as a representative body of the Jewish Mexican Community. Its main objective is to promote cordial and open relations with the Mexican government and with other Jewish communities around the world. At the same time it fosters the active participation of members of this community in order to help attain national goals and supports the Mexican government's initiatives during critical episodes.
The JCCM maintains close links with international organizations like the World Jewish Congress to which it belongs through its Latin American branch and participates in international Jewish forums through its Foreign Relations Commission.
Its analysis and opinion agency is Tribuna Israelita which was founded in 1944. Through its sophisticated lay and professional structures it promotes an ongoing dialogue with opinion leaders in this country and the implementation of joint ventures with diverse national organizations. It generates a series of publications on the religious, ethical and philosophical facets of Judaism, on the Jewish presence in Mexico, and on racism. Concurrently it seeks to sensitize public opinion as to the evident risks of anti-Semitism and takes an active part in debates on national issues.
Also within its institutional framework, the Mexican Council of Jewish Women, seeks to represent the feminine sector of this community vis a vis national women's organizations dedicated to helping those in need, especially in the spheres of education and health.
In its structure the Jewish Central Committee is formed by 10 community sectors to which the majority of the Judeo-Mexican population is affiliated:
1.Beth Israel Community Center.
English speaking institution which practices Conservative Judaism.
2.Jewish Sport Center.
Sports, cultural, and social institution which integrates members from all the other sectors.
3.Monterrey's Community Center.
Representative institution of Monterrey's Jewish Community.
4.North Baja California's Community Center.
Representative institution of Tijuana's Jewish Community.
Formed by descendants of Eastern Europe immigrants.
6.Bet El Community.
Institution which practices Conservative Judaism.
7.Guadalajara's Community Center.
Representative institution of Guadalajara's Jewish Community.
8.Maguen David Community.
Formed by descendants of immigrants from Aleppo, Syria.
9.Alianza Monte Sinai.
Formed by descendants of immigrants from Damascus, Syria.
Formed by descendants of immigrants from the Balkans.
The Jewish community of Mexico is made up of approximately 40,000 people. Most of them live in the capital city and its suburbs in the state of Mexico while the rest in the cities of Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Tijuana.
Within the organizational community structure its Jewish educational network is outstanding. More than a dozen schools and yeshivot, combine in their curricula the official programs and Judaic studies and are attended by up to 85% of Mexican Jewish children. There is also a Hebraic University that trains professionals in Jewish education. On its part the Program of Jewish Studies of the Iberoamericana University offers, with the support of academic centers in Israel, a degree in Judaic studies. Due to the variety of Jewish education options, the level of disintegration of the Jewish family is still very low.
It is worth mentioning the dynamic participation of the Jewish feminine sector in national and community projects. There is a wide range of organizations devoted to social, cultural, and philanthropic work which are coordinated by a Federation.
The Jewish Mexican youth participates in Scout and Zionist movements or in those linked to the community sectors. Most of those who attend universities belong to the Mexican Federation of Jewish Students (FEMUJ).
There is a wide gamut of organizations focused on fostering relations between Israel and the community. The Mexican Associations of Friends of the different Israeli universities maintain close contacts with official and private academic institutions in the country and have participated in national priority projects through the exchange of researches and know how.
ORT has also contributed significantly in the area of education by implementing technical systems in official high schools.
The Retorno (Return) group conducts a preventive program with the Jewish Mexican youth to create awareness on the pernicious effects of alcohol and drugs.
Kadima, on its part, works to sensitize Mexican Jews on the adverse conditions facing the disabled and attempts at involving the latter in community affairs.
A variety of periodicals -magazines and newspapers- reflect the different political, cultural and ideological trends in the community.
The Jewish community has kept a high and outstanding profile in modern Mexico. Its institutions combine the Jewish traditional way of life as well as a constant tendency to reach out towards the future enabling it to accurately identify the challenges of the century to come. The Jewish Central Committee of Mexico, as its representative body, is intent on solidifying the close links that exist between Mexican Jewry and other national sectors in order to preserve democracy, tolerance, and pluralism in this country.