Buenos Aires, Argentina
ARGENTINA, South American Federal Republic, general population (2004) 39,150,000; Jewish population 190,000.
Juan Perón's accession to power prompted serious fears among the Jewish population because he had been aided by the Fascist organization Alianza Libertadora Nacionalista and was known to sympathize with the Nazi government in Germany. The establishment of the Registry of Non-Catholic Cults and the reaffirmation of Catholic religious instruction in the public schools introduced by the military, nationalistic, and Catholic government in December 31, 1943, increased these fears. Growing concern was partially dispelled by the introduction of a special clause (Clause 28) in the new constitution on March 16, 1949, forbidding racial discrimination and by Perón's declaration of sympathy for the rights of the Jews and for the State of Israel. Antisemitic attacks continued, however, and Buenos Aires became a center for antisemitic publications and neo-Nazi activity on an international scale. Jewish immigration was stopped entirely, while Argentina welcomed thousands of Nazis and their collaborators escaping from Europe. The protests of the DAIA and the efforts of the pro-Peronist Organización Israelita Argentina – OIA, based on Clause 28, were only partially successful. The overthrow of Perón (September 1955) and the election of a civil president Arturo Frondizi in 1958, was accompanied by an increase in antisemitic activities, especially by such antisemitic and nationalist movements as Tacuara and its various factions, which were further augmented after the capture of Adolf *Eichmann in May 1960 and his execution in June 1962. The senate's condemnation of antisemitism (September 1961) was not backed by any law-enforcement action, and even the outlawing of antisemitic organizations in May 1963 and especially November 1964 failed to wipe out antisemitism. After the revolution of June 1966, in which General Carlos Onganía seized power, antisemitic organizations became adherents of the new regime, and by 1967, despite the placatory declarations by the government, Argentina was a center of antisemitic activity. Of the 313 antisemitic incidents in the world recorded in 1967, 142 occurred in Argentina. Starting in the late 1950s, and particularly between 1963 and 1965, the antisemites were aided by representatives of the *Arab League in Buenos Aires. The penetration of antisemitism into the working classes, and especially the Peronist trade unions, was particularly significant as the Jewish working class had all but disappeared.
The increase in antisemitism heightened DAIA's activity, which reached a peak on June 28, 1962, with a general protest strike by Jewish merchants and businessmen. The annual ceremony commemorating the *Warsaw Ghetto uprising (with 20,000 participants in 1963 and 25,000 participants in 1968) organized by the DAIA gained a special significance and topicality.
In public life, the process of unification continued after 1948 and was greatly influenced by the establishment of the State of Israel. The Chevra Keduscha Aschkenazi became a central kehillah (whose political control was taken over by the Zionist parties after the democratic elections in 1949). The Zionists were organized into the Organización Sionista Argentina, which was the representative of the World Zionist Organization. In 1952 a Va'ad ha-Kehillot, established through the initiative of AMIA, united about 140 communities. Its objective was to provide help in improving religious, cultural, and educational services.
With the establishment of the State of Israel the Sephardi communities, which had had separate Sephardi Zionist frameworks since the 1930s, also deepened their interest in Zionism, and organized their own fundraising campaigns in two different organizations: the Arabic speakers (from the Damascene, Aleppan, and Moroccan communities) conducted their Zionist campaigns, from 1948, under the roof of the Comité Sefaradí Argentino, while the Ladino speakers withdrew from the joint Sephardi committee in 1949 and founded their own organization – DESA – Delegación de Entidades Sefardíes Argentinas. The Sephardim in Argentina, like those in other countries, were reluctant to join the Zionist parties, which embodied the traditions and ideologies of the Ashkenazim, and in 1963 they founded their own political entity – the Movimiento Sionista Sefaradí. After several years of conflict, the World Zionist Organization accepted the request of the Sephardim for separate representation and in 1972 they were able to found FESELA – Federación Sefaradí Latino Americana, which is still active as the umbrella organization of all the Sephardi Federations in Latin America. To coordinate the activities of the Sephardim in Argentina they formed ECSA – Ente Coordinador Sefaradí Argentino.
The Jewish educational system gradually became Israel- and
Hebrew-oriented, and all Jewish organizations, including those that stressed
their Argentinean character, actively identified with the State of Israel. For
the large majority of Argentinean Jews identification with Israel constituted
the basic means of Jewish identity, despite the fact that, from the beginning of
the Perón regime, marked cultural and ethnic heterogeneity decreased and
Argentinean nationalism grew. The clearest expression of this identification is
the achievement of the pioneering youth movements and the trend of immigration
to Israel. Beginning with a few pioneers who moved to Palestine-Ereẓ
Israel in the pre-World War II period and a score more in 1945, aliyah
increased after the establishment of the State of Israel and led to the founding
of eight new kibbutzim (the first of which was Mefalsim in 1949). Smaller groups
joined at least 15 other kibbutzim, while other groups founded and joined
moshavim. A large number of economic enterprises and investment companies in
Israel were also founded by Argentineans.
After the establishment of the State of Israel, estrangement increased between the Zionists and the communists, and in 1952, when the latter gave their unmitigated support to the Soviet government during the *Slansky Trials , the ties between the two groups were severed completely. The communists continued to develop their own institutions and educational system, press, and the IFT theater, while disassociating themselves from the State of Israel. Their negative attitude toward Israel grew stronger during the *Sinai Campaign and was maintained during the Six-Day War. But as a result, a considerable number of communists and their sympathizers seceded from their camp and many of them joined Zionist groups.
Despite the comprehensive character of organized Jewish life and the existence of antisemitism, Jews have been able to integrate. Many distinguished themselves in the arts and sciences and some even attained important positions in political life. During the presidency of Arturo Frondizi, two Jews became governors of provinces, and one, David Blejer, filled the post of minister of labor and social welfare. Since the 1960s assimilation of Argentinean Jewry has increased. The rate of mixed marriages has risen, although there are no exact statistics on this point, and Argentinean Jewish university youth participated more widely in non-Jewish activities (most of them left-wing) than in organized Jewish life. The Confraternidad Judeo-Cristiana, an organization of Catholics, Protestants, and Jews aimed at improving Judeo-Christian relations, was founded in 1958. After the Vatican Council II, the Catholic Church established an Ecumenical Office, which, together with other groups, maintained a religious dialogue with certain Jewish sectors, the benefits of which are limited both in the Jewish and Gentile communities.
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