Despite the fact that Lima is known for being a melting pot of different cultures, it might still come as a surprise to many that there is a strong Jewish heritage. Just short of 3,000 Jews live in Peru, most of which are in the capital Lima. I learned this when I was lucky enough to have an insider view of Jewish sites in Lima, accompanied by Ruth, a close friend of Aracari who facilitates insiders experiences in Peru as part of Aracari’s Jewish Heritage tour Lima.
Jewish Heritage Tour Lima
Specialist Guiding in Lima
A highly distinguished individual, Ruth is a senior member of the Jewish community in Lima. Fluent in English, Spanish, French and Yiddish, she offers exclusive access visits in Lima that focus on the history and lives of Jewish-Peruvians in the colonial era along with the history of the Inquisition. She has spent many years studying the history of Jews in Peru and has compiled bibliographies of the most-important works written on a variety of subjects.
Exclusive Access visits
In addition, her family is well-connected within the Jewish community. This means that Aracari guests on a tour with Ruth will have privileged access to community leaders and Rabbis, as well as institutions such as Bnei Brit and the Hebraic Club. This is just one of Aracari’s unique insider experiences in Peru, that can be included as part of any luxury travel Peru itinerary. Learn more about Aracari’s specialists guides in Peru.
The Jewish School of Lima
With Ruth we visited a number of sites of interest and importance to the community, beginning with the Jewish School of Lima “Leon Pinelo”. This is the only Jewish school in the city where some 400 students from the community attend, ranging from kindergarten to high school age. After being greeted by the director, we were able to tour different areas of the school, including the synagogue and the Hebrew reading room. Visiting the school was a great insight into the maintenance of Jewish sites in Lima today.
A taste of everyday Judaism in Lima
After our visit to the school we popped by an excellent Kosher Deli that offers a range of different produce that can’t be found elsewhere in the city, such as kosher meats, cheeses, olives, cereals and crackers as well as condiments, chocolates and other snacks. Here, you can stop for a snack or a light lunch during the tour, although there is also the option of having a specially prepared lunch in the comfort of Ruth’s own home, which can either be Peruvian or Jewish.
Following our stop at the Deli we visited one of three synagogues in the city where we had the chance to see how Judaism is practiced day-to-day in Lima. We finally rounded off the tour by visiting a Jewish Senior Citizens residence, “Bikur Jolim” a beautiful complex with gardens and facilities for elder members of the community. Here we had the privilege of meeting Ruth’s mother, to talk with her for a while and view photos of Ruth’s family.
The darker side of Jewish heritage in Lima
At a later date, my colleagues James and Lauren visited the city centre with Ruth to visit and learn about other important such as the Museum of the Inquisition, which has a dark history. Many Jews were put on trial, tortured and held prisoner within this building during the Spanish Inquisition, and there are gruesome reenactments of torture processes using mannequins at the museum.
The House of Pilate Colonial House
After this important stop, they went to the House of Pilate where they had the opportunity to explore this rarely visited building. Built in 1590, The House of Pilate is one of the oldest houses in Lima. It is a magnificent example of a colonial house retaining many features characteristic of the early colonial era, most notably its monumental staircase which is rarely found in Limeño architecture. The building played an important role in the history of Judaism in Peru. It was used by Jews as a secret hiding place from the Inquisition in colonial times, supposedly the downstairs cellar was used for Friday Worship. Ruth has discovered from her readings that on one Friday evening worshipping Jews were tracked down by the Inquisition. They were then burned alive in Auto de Fe following trial.
Ruth explained to me that her Jewish heritage tour lima exposes two aspects of Jewish history and culture in the city and in Peru. Firstly, through the Museum of the Inquisition and the House of Pilate, people can gain insight into the more troubled parts of the history of Jews in Peru, namely the brutal persecutions that Jewish people faced here in Peru like elsewhere in the world.
The other aspect of the tour showcases and celebrates the modern day institutions that are fostering a positive future for Jews in the country, manifested by the school visit and the different synagogues where Judaism is actively practised by the community.
A visit to Ruth’s Private Home
At the end of the day, after the Bikur Jolim, Ruth kindly invited us to her home to see her impressive collection of books, photos and other materials that she has compiled about Jewish heritage in Lima and elsewhere in Peru. While enjoying Turkish coffee and a delicious assortment of traditional Jewish cakes and biscuits, Ruth shared her fascinating family history with us and spoke in-depth about her areas of expertise. Ruth’s hospitality was the perfect way to end the tour and left us feeling all the more knowledgeable about an oft-overlooked component of the diverse cultural landscape of Lima. Ruth exemplifies expert guiding in Peru.
Book a Jewish Heritage Tour Lima
For those interested in Jewish heritage in Lima, Aracari offer this tour with Ruth and our other Jewish Heritage Specialist Jack as part of a private, tailormade trip to Peru.