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Danny Torres, New President of Comunidad Hebrew en San Miguel de Allende

C and D 1

By Carole Stone

The Comunidad Hebrew en San Miguel de Allende (CHESMA), a nonprofit interdenominational Jewish community organization whose members get together for cultural events, movies, lectures, dinners, and religious services, recently got a new president, Danny Torres. Torres agreed to sit down with me and explain a bit about what CHESMA is all about.

Carole Stone: Danny, you’re the new president of CHESMA. How does that feel?

Danny Torres: It’s very exciting. I’m happy to be a part of CHESMA, to give back to it.

CS: Who can join CHESMA?

DT: Anyone, Jewish or not, who has an interest in Jewish culture and Jewish learning. In fact, all are welcome to attend our religious services, no matter what their religion.

CS: Why would someone join CHESMA?

DT: Our existence is to provide for the social, intellectual, cultural, and religious needs of the Jewish community of San Miguel de Allende and promote Jewish culture to those who are interested. We also have an amazing library that includes books in Spanish, English, and Hebrew on all aspects of Judaism.

CS: What about your membership?

DT: Our membership is very diverse. Some are religious, some secular, some are Mexican and others are North American. Some are professional. We have old and young, men, women, and some children.

CS: What about your religious services?

DT: CHESMA is an umbrella organization. There are many activities falling under our umbrella. We hold many different types of diverse religious services and would love to hold more. Some of our services are traditional Conservative services, since we affiliate with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), but we also host Reform and Renewal services. In addition, we offer meditative services.

Our services are mostly in Hebrew, because we have several languages represented in our community, and Hebrew seems to unify us. Our minhag, our custom, is solidly Conservative. Our services are egalitarian; we encourage women to perform such roles as leading services and reading from Torah that have traditionally been reserved for men until recently. Even our prayer books are gender-neutral—at least in English. It would be awkward to do that in either Spanish or Hebrew, of course.

CS: And your interface with the community-at-large?

DT: We donate a portion of our own income to several local charities. We follow the Jewish custom of donating approximately 10 percent of our income to those less fortunate.

CS: Danny, is there any achievement you’d especially like the people of San Miguel to know about CHESMA?

DT: Yes. We now have the first Jewish cemetery in El Bajio, in which non-Jewish spouses of Jewish members are welcome to be buried next to their loved ones. And we have a Chevra Kadisha—a group of our members who are trained to prepare the remains for burial according to Jewish law if the family requests it.

CS: Anything else of importance?

DT: Because we try to meet the needs of a very diverse group of people, we are always open to suggestions, feedback, and offers to lead any types of groups that aren’t in conflict with our core values.

 

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