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Venezuela Jews unveil new main Sephardic synagogue

JTA

March 18, 2013 | 9:31 am

The Torah ark at the newly built Tiferet Israel Este synagogue in Caracas, Venezuela, March 17, 2013. (Asociacion Israelita de Venezuela)

The Torah ark at the newly built Tiferet Israel Este synagogue in Caracas, Venezuela, March 17, 2013. (Asociacion Israelita de Venezuela)

The Jewish community of Caracas officially dedicated the Venezuelan city's new main Sephardic synagogue, Tiferet Israel Este.

Hundreds gathered Sunday at the multimillion-dollar synagogue in the Las Palos Grandes neighborhood for the ceremony led by Isaac Cohen, the chief rabbi of the local Sephardic community.

"As Kohelet said, there is a time for everything,” Cohen told JTA last week. “[The new synagogue] shows that people seek religion in their lives, and we have freedom of religion here.”

Tiferet Israel Este offers an alternative to Tiferet Israel, the old main Sephardic synagogue located in a now dangerous part of town where few Jews remain. In 2009, armed vandals attacked Tiferet Israel, desecrating Torah scrolls and scrawling anti-Semitic graffiti on the walls.

The unveiling of the synagogue was postponed by a week due to the death of Hugo Chavez, the country's longtime president.

About 9,000 Jews live in Venezuela, down from 25,000 in the mid-1990s.

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