Introduction / History
There was a time when Spain was home to a thriving Jewish community. Jewish people were contributing to Spain's culture and economy. Some called it a Golden Age for the Jewish community. Most of these Jews spoke Ladino. This is a dialect of Castilian Spanish, with Hebrew and Turkish elements. Then came the Alhambra Decree in 1492, which gave Spain's Jewish population the choice of conversion to Roman Catholicism, expulsion or death. A small number remained in Spain and "converted" to the Catholic religion. Most of them left the country, often settling in Mexico or South American countries like Panama. More Jewish families arrived in Panama in the early 20th century when the Panama Canal was opened.
What Are Their Lives Like?
There is a high population of Jewish people in Panama because of the lack of anti-Semitism and because of the strong economy. Spanish speaking Jews are involved in all kinds of businesses in Panama, from finance, textiles, construction, and international trade. Some own kosher meat markets that are noted for their good quality goods, and non-Jews buy from them.
What Are Their Beliefs?
In recent decades, Jews immigrating into Panama has increased. Most of these new immigrants are from Israel, but there are also some whose ancestors were the Spanish speaking Jews that left Spain hundreds of years ago. The Jewish people in Panama are usually Orthodox, so they are trying hard not to assimilate.
For religious Jews, God is the Supreme Being, the Creator of the universe, and the ultimate judge of human affairs. Beyond this, the religious beliefs of the Jewish communities vary greatly. Orthodox Jews generally follow the traditional religious beliefs and practices found in the Jewish literature that interprets Scripture regarding ethical, religious, civil, and criminal matters. Most of the Jews in Panama are Orthodox.
What Are Their Needs?
Reform Jews do not believe that the Jewish Law is divinely revealed. They are not restricted to kosher foods. They neither wear the skullcap (yarmulke) when praying nor use Hebrew in prayer. All religious Jews believe in the coming of a Messianic Age, but only the Orthodox Jews look for a personal Messiah.
Many Jewish people today retain cultural Judaism, but they have rejected the spiritual elements taught in the Old Testament. They might participate in cultural events and even religious ceremonies, but they are either secular or New Age in their spiritual lives.
Jewish people have a wonderful understanding of their connection with the Abrahamic Covenant. However, they also have a history of rejecting Jesus Christ as Messiah, the one who has fulfilled that covenant. They tend to view Christianity as the religion of their oppressors rather than the fulfillment of what God promised all of humanity through Abraham centuries ago. This is especially true for those in the Spanish speaking world.
Pray for the Lord to give the Jewish people in Panama hearts that will want to please him. May they look to the Lord for guidance and truth, and not be satisfied with cultural traditions.
Pray for Jewish people in Panama to begin a movement to Jesus Christ, finding ways to exalt him while honoring their culture.
Pray for the Lord to raise up loving, patient ambassadors to go to the Spanish speaking Jews.
Scripture Prayers for the Jewish, Spanish-speaking in Panama.