HDNet World Report: Is the Government of Venezuela Trying to Drive Out Jews?
This Tuesday, "HDNet World Report," the network's award-winning weekly news program, will present an investigation into claims that the government of Venezuela, in particular, President Hugo Chavez, is mounting a campaign to drive Jews out of the country. The episode premieres TOMORROW, Tuesday, May 4 at 9:00 p.m. ET.
While Catholicism is the dominant religion in Venezuela, Jews have called this country home since the 1800s. The Jewish community in this country has deep and wide-spread roots and many Jews want future generations to stay in this South American country. But, in the last few years, violence against Jews in Venezuela has increased greatly.
In January of 2009, fifteen armed men stormed the Tiferet Synagogue in Caracas. They entered the sanctuary and ransacked it, took the Torah scrolls from their sacred place and threw them on the floor - anti-Semitic messages littered the walls. A week later, eleven men were arrested, and the government claimed that this was a simple burglary at the hands of delinquents but nothing of value was stolen.
"'Death to the Jews,' it said that in the synagogue. That was the message," Rabbi Pynchas Brener tells World Report correspondent Jennifer London. "Those were common thieves? Whom are you trying to convince? One has to be an idiot to believe that."
Two weeks later, a grenade was thrown into the synagogue Beit Shmuel and no arrests were made.
Brener believes that the violence against the Jewish community is part of a pattern perpetrated by the government.
But, Venezuelan officials strongly disagree.
After a six month pursuit, London was finally able to sit down with Roy Daza with the Foreign Relations Committee of Venezuela's National Assembly.
"I know my country well," Daza tells London. "And now, where have I seen an anti-Semitic group or movement? That doesn't exist in Venezuela. In Venezuela it is truly even absurd that we talk about this."
But, President Chavez' growing relationship with Iran's President (and Holocaust denier) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the fact that President Chavez recently cut ties with Israel causes increasing concern among Jews in Venezuela. In fact, many are leaving the country.
"If I do fifty weddings a year, maybe three of the couples will remain in Venezuela," Rabbi Brener tells London. "Ninety-five percent will not live in Venezuela."
"HDNet World Report" premieres on HDNet, Tuesday, May 4 at 9:00 p.m. ET.