22 May Fernando Flores Castaneda, helping the Guatemalan Jewish community
The worldwide Shavei Israel team includes community leaders and volunteers that help us organize our work in the most effective way and improve the quality of Jewish life in different communities. Meet Fernando Flores Castaneda from Guatemala, current President of the Shaar Hashamaim Jewish Zionist Center in Guatemala City.
Fernando, 44, holder of academic degrees in business administration, economics and theology, combines his job in the largest optical retail company in Latin America with managing Jewish projects in his city. In 2005 together with family and friends he made the decision that Judaism would be their way of life.
‘The road has not been easy but we have persevered,’ he recalls. Since then he got married and had two sons, Yosef and Benjamen.
The Shaar Hashamaim community, created as a result of a local initiative, united those willing to keep Jewish traditions without belonging to larger groups or communities represented in Guatemala. Today it consists of some 15 families and offers its members a wide range of classes and activities, such as Jewish studies, community events and outdoor meetings, prayers and holidays. The community center provides locals with a kosher food, Jewish books and basic religious service. Construction of a mikveh takes an important place in the center’s future plans.
Fernando, as other members of the community, appreciates the support they get from Shavei Israel and sees this cooperation is an opportunity to reconnect with his Jewish heritage.
Fernando declared, ‘It is a hope that my community, my children, my wife and I will continue to get stronger in our Judaism, the Jewish people and the State of Israel’.