Having recently returned from a vacation in Panama, I cannot help but make a number of observations about the Jewish community there which can serve as a barometer of Jewish life in other cities such as ours. A community of 15,000 Jews in Panama City sustains five day schools and yeshivot, six Orthodox synagogues and a Reform congregation, 35 kosher restaurants, two mikvot and a kosher supermarket larger than Loblaws with no shortage of kosher food.
While this may sound like a Shangri-La type of community, the reality of armed guards demanding IDs at the entrance of major synagogues in the city is a bit jarring. Nevertheless, the warmth of the Jewish population there, notwithstanding the warmth of the temperature, is noteworthy. [Read more…]