Monday, February 2, 2009

Venezuela: Jewish Cemeteries of Caracas

This is one of a series of posts about Venezuela's Jewish cemeteries.

Venezuela is located at the northern end of South America, covers some 912,050 and has about 30 million inhabitants. The capital, Caracas, is located in the central-north and is the country's biggest and busiest city. It is also the center of the Jewish community.

The Jewish community of Caracas numbers about 10,000 members, has more than 20 synagogues, a Jewish day school, a Jewish community center and three main cemeteries ("Guarenas," "Cementerio General del Sur" and "Cementerio Del Este").

Each cemetery has different sections under the administration of the three main synagogues (see below):

The Ashkenazi synagogues are UIC and Rabinato; AIV is Sephardi.

The Cementerio General del Sur is the oldest and largest. It contains four Jewish sections: UIC manages two, Aiv one and Rabinato one.

One of UIC's sections is the oldest cemetery in Caracas, containing about 30 tombstones dating from 1930.

The other UIC section opened in 1937, with the burial of Rebeca Hoires on December 5, 1937.

Currently there are 2,365 graves and although there is room for a few more, it is being replaced by the Guarenas cemetery "Gan Menucha," which opened with Adam Slimak's burial on April 17, 1997. Currently, there are about 300 graves, with room for up to 3,000.

The AIV section contains some 180 graves from 1953-1971. It is no longer used and has been replaced by the Cementerio del Este with about 500 graves.

The Rabinato section is still in use. The first burial was Abraham Lederman on October 18, 1972. Currently, there are 755 graves with room for up to 1,500.

Jewish burials in Venezuela are usually scheduled from morning until about 3pm, and the tombstone is usually unveiled 11 months after the burial. From the time of the burial to the unveiling, the deceased's family does not generally visit the cemetery.

Tombstones are inscribed in Spanish with Hebrew used to write the deceased's names and dates. The family may also choose to include a few lines about the person and/or a Psalm.

The majority of tombstones have, at the rear, a very small "house" to light a candle in memory of their relative's soul. It is a Jewish custom to leave a small stone or pebble on the tombstone after visiting a grave.

For more information, click on the following links:
Unión Israelita de Caracas
Asociación Israelita de Venezuela
Cementerio Del Este (Aerial view)
Cementerio Del Sur (Aerial view)


  1. Yeah. Get back out there with your camera. Need to see those little houses where the lit candles are placed.

  2. I am asking Daniel to describe in more detail this aspect as I haven't seen this cemetery. In some cemeteries that I have seen, there is a small glass-walled case or a niche in the stone with a glass door. A candle may be lit inside and the door closed so that the candle will not blow out.