“We built our community together from scratch” – A personal story

“We built our community together from scratch” – A personal story

Fifteen Jewish families in Guatemala City with nowhere else to go came together to build the Shaar Hashamaim Bnei Anousim (Converso) community. Among the community leaders, without whom Shaar Hashamaim may not have come to be, is Juan Alfredo Gutierrez, and his wife, Liza Salguero de Gutierrez-Casados.

Juan is a Civil Engineer and Industrial Mechanic, who’s holding an MBA in Nonverbal Communication Analysis. He is currently CEO and founder of Bara Ingenieria, a construction and real estate development company. Juan graciously put forth his expertise to be the engineer in charge of the building project, the construction of the apartments and the mikva.

Liza is has an academic degree in Marketing and an MBA with a specialization in finances. She is currently a Key Account Manager at Huawei Communications, being in charge of the marketing of telecommunications equipment for the TIGO telephone company. When she’s not working and busy with her other responsibilities, she supports the community by coordinating the meals and parties for the community.

Juan and Liza emphasize the enormous role that Shaar Hashamaim and its activities have played in their lives and in forming their Jewish identity.

“I feel very fortunate for the opportunity that G-d has given me in being able to contribute to building a community,” Juan readily states. “We have significantly grown in this period that we have been gathering together as a community. We have learned to integrate prayer and songs. We already have access to kosher meat, wine and groceries. I already know how to prepare Shabbat food on Thursday and Friday morning and the requirements of Halacha (Jewish law) regarding the separation of dairy and meat. We’ve moved forward in leading a day-to-day Jewish life (with our prayers, kosher food and daily studying), in keeping the Sabbath (with my wife we started to join other families this very Rosh Hashanah). Everything is an experience that fills us with great joy week by week, and I hope that the community will continue to grow and that this experience of continuous learning can be enriched every day.”

Liza shares the joy of her husband and on the eve of the second anniversary of its existence, proudly lists some of the numerous achievements of the community: “Sharing in community, as a family, what I am and what I believe, together with others who think and feel the same is a dream come true,” Liza said. “With the help of G-d, we have built our community together from scratch”.

Speaking about future plans, she specified that they will continue studying and learning together to achieve their next goal: formal conversion for any member of the community who requires it. This will enable them to finally be recognized as a Jewish community by all.

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Esther Surikova
Esther Surikova
esther@shavei.org