Buenos Aires, Argentina
ARGENTINA, South American Federal Republic, general population (2004) 39,150,000; Jewish population 190,000.
The first Jewish school in Buenos Aires was a talmud torah – a traditional religious complementary school founded in 1891 by the Unión Po'alei Ẓedek. It had three teachers, who taught only religious subjects in Yiddish. In the mid-1890s the CIRA supported a Jewish experimental school with general and Jewish studies but it lasted no more than six months, after which it became a complementary talmud torah. In the first decade of the 20th century three or four new talmudei torah were established. The percentage of Jewish students who attended this complementary school was very low while almost 100% of the children attended public schools.
In 1892, at the start of agricultural settlement, the farmers set up ḥadarim for their sons, continuing to maintain them on a part-time basis even after ICA decided to establish its own school system in 1894. ICA schools followed the government syllabus with the addition of Hebrew and Jewish studies. Those were the only schools existing in the Jewish rural areas since the government did not have the infrastructure to fulfill the obligation established by Law No. 1420 to provide elementary education to all the population. These schools grew and multiplied as the number of settlers increased, with 50 schools attended by 3,538 pupils and a teaching staff of 155 in 1910. In 1911 the ICA and CIRA established a new organization to sustain the existing talmudei torah in the cities and to establish new traditional complementary schools, called Cursos Religiosos, in urban areas in Ashkenazi and Sephardi institutions.
In 1916, as a result of a diminishing budget and the interest of the ICA administrators in demonstrating to the authorities their patriotism and loyalty to the country, ICA handed over these schools, built and sustained by the settlers, to the local and national educational authorities. At the same time new complementary Jewish schools were established by the settlers and by ICA which gradually were supported and administrated by the Va'ad ha-Ḥinnukh ha-Roshi (Head Office of Education), founded on the initiative of ICA by the CIRA in 1917, which coordinated the Jewish education in rural areas until 1957.
All the schools established by the Cursos Religiosos and then by the Va'ad ha-Ḥinnukh ha-Roshi had a curriculum of Jewish studies with a religious orientation that aimed to suppress Jewish national values, teaching in Spanish and translating prayers and selected texts from the Pentateuch from Hebrew to Spanish. The official policy of this organization prohibited the teaching of Yiddish. Nevertheless, many teachers with the support of the settlers introduced national Jewish studies (history, Zionism, Ereẓ Israel) and Yiddish language.
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