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Argentina Jewish Community
by Dr. Gerhard Falk
About 300 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina there is a small town whose population today is about 15% Jewish. Nevertheless, the whole town shuts down for Jewish Holy Days, eats “gefillte fish” and maintains a village library filled with Hebrew and Yiddish books. The town has four synagogues, although it does not have a full time rabbi.
Moises Ville was founded in 1889 by Ukrainian Jews who fled from murder and persecution in their homeland. In Argentina these Jews learned riding and herding and literally became “the Jewish Gauchos of the Pampas”. They also farmed the land and introduced new crops like rice and sunflowers to Argentina.
Over the years, most of the Jews who had once lived in “Moses Town” left for Buenos Aires and other cities. The population is therefore almost entirely Roman Catholic. Yet, under the influence of tradition, these Christians continue to maintain the customs of the Jewish founders among whom they lived for so many generations.
Today Argentina has about 250,000 Jews. Almost all have become professionals or business people and have left the Jewish environment of Moises Ville behind. Those who remain are generally old enough to recall how Moises Ville was once entirely Jewish, free of the bigotry and hate they often encounter in Argentina’s big cities. It must be remembered that under the dictator Peron, a large number of Austrian and German Nazi war criminals settled in Argentina. Among them was Adolf Eichmann, organizer of the “final solution of the Jewish problem”, who was abducted from Argentina by Israeli agents. Eichmann was tried in Israel in 1961 and executed for mass murder. However, the Argentine public sided with Eichmann, so that his trial aroused a good deal of anti-Jewish sentiment there.
Between 1976 and 1983 Argentina became a military dictatorship. The government ruled by terror and over 9,000 citizens were kidnapped and tortured or murdered. Of these, 1,000 were Jews, a number totally out of proportion to the Jewish population of the country.
In 1983 Raul Alfonsin was democratically elected President of Argentina and the kidnapping stopped. He was succeeded by Carlos Menem, a man of Syrian descent. Menem was a friend of the Jewish community. He appointed Jews to the government, visited Israel several times, and apprehended those who destroyed a Jewish cemetery. Nevertheless, Arab terrorists bombed the Israeli embassy in 1992, killing 32 people, and in 1994 bombed the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, killing more than 100 and wounding more than 200.
Argentina has a number of Jewish community organizations. In 1939 the “Delegacion de Acociaciones Israelitas Argentoinas” was founded to act as the political arm of the Jews living there. That group represents the Jews to the government and deals with Jewish civil rights.
Buenos Aires has a few Reform synagogues. There are also 21 conservative synagogues and 50 orthodox “shuls” built before the second world war. The Jewish Theological Seminary maintains a branch in Buenos Aires and ordained the first woman rabbi there in 1992.
Today the Jewish community in Argentina is declining, as many younger Jews move to Israel or the United States. Argentina is involved in an “economic disaster”. This affects everyone in Argentina and has forced one third of Argentina’s Jews into poverty so severe that they must be fed at synagogues. Many have lost their homes because they could not pay their bills. Although Jews suffer from the same economic collapse that all Argentineans are experiencing, there are those who blame the Jews for the troubles brought on Argentina by stupid economic policies imposed by government. Consequently there has been a good sized increase of “aliya” by Argentinean Jews to Israel.
Israel is of course glad to have Jews from all over the world come home to the land of our ancestors. Therefore it is in the interest of all Jews that Israel survive the continued onslaught of the European-Arab alliance, which so far has been unable to carry out their destructive intentions because we have a President who defends Israel against the United Nations haters and all others.
John Kerry, the Democrat, has repeatedly spoken of his great admiration for Yasser Arafat, whom he calls a “great statesman”. His mentor, Jimmy Carter, has even suggested that he would have instituted “the final solution” if he had been re-elected President. So if we want the Jews of Argentina or any Jews to find a safe haven from persecution, murder or economic disaster, let us vote to maintain the existence of Israel. Keep that in mind in November.
Am Yisroel Chai,
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