Half of Venezuela’s Jewish community fled under Hugo Chávez, who died this week. Will the other half follow?
By then Vainrub knew, he told me, that returning to Venezuela was no longer an option. His sister had had a third child in Aventura, the neighborhood in Miami where many Venezuelan immigrants had landed. His new wife felt unsafe in Caracas. His grandfather had died, and his grandmother was stubbornly staying but opposed to everything Chávez represented and had done to her offspring. Now, a year after moving to San José and starting a new job, Vainrub is one of 2,500 Jews—some Latin American transplants, some Lubavitchers, some descendants of Ashkenazi and Sefardic refugees—who live in Costa Rica. He’s expecting a baby boy, and for the first time in years, his extended family will be together for the bris in San José. “I went from seeing everyone once or twice a week—all of my first cousins, uncles, and aunts, religiously, at least once a week—to not seeing them at all,” he said.
He appreciates how his parents nudged him north. “I thought that I was coming back,” he said. “By the time I left, I’m not sure if they thought so, too. A lot of people think about their plan B, and have a plan B for leaving in case of emergency. But most don’t have to use them.” He told me about his parents having four cars robbed, one of them twice: stolen and returned and stolen again.
“So, are your parents still in Caracas?” I asked him.
“No,” he said. “They left this year. My father opened a new medical practice—in Aventura.”
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