ARGENTINA, South American Federal Republic, general population (2004) 39,150,000; Jewish population 190,000.
This entry is arranged according to the following outline:
Legal Basis for Jewish Life
EARLY JEWISH LIFE: 1840–1890
MASS MIGRATION: 1890–1918
THE RADICAL PERIOD: 1918–1930
THE SHADOW OF NATIONALISM: 1930–1946
BETWEEN PERÓN AND ONGANÍA: 1946–1968
REPRESSION AND DEMOCRACY: 1968–2005
Relations with Israel
After the temporary union of Spain and Portugal in 1580, Portuguese of Jewish descent began entering colonial Argentina. Thinly populated, the area served as a center of contraband trade in which silver from the Andes Mountains was exchanged for West African slaves, European textiles, and other imports. The area was also far removed from Lima, the seat of viceregal government and, from 1572, seat of the Inquisitional Tribunal (though a Portuguese inquisitor visited Buenos Aires in 1618). Arriving at Buenos Aires, or going by way of São Paulo and Paraguay, the Portuguese immigrants settled mainly in Buenos Aires, *Córdoba, and Tucumán. Throughout the next century, hostile reports (the only ones available) refer to the presence of "Jews," "Portuguese," and "merchants" – used as synonymous terms – and uniformly accuse them of "filling the land" and "monopolizing commerce." A decree of expulsion issued in 1602 also links "Portuguese" and "Judaizers" or *Crypto-Jews.
Actually, the number of people referred to in these accusations and the degree of their practice of Judaism are unknown. They themselves covered their tracks because of the Inquisition and the laws of Spain, which forbade the entry of any but "Old Christians" (see *New Christians). On the other hand, the inquisitors describe the faith of their Jewish victims in superficial stereotypes: the wearing of clean linen and abstention from work on their Sabbath, refusal to eat pork, and the denial of Christian tenets. The victims of the great Lima Auto-da-Fé of Jan. 23, 1639, included a native of Tucumán, the middle-aged surgeon Francisco *Maldonado de Silva, a man of mystic tendencies who had found his way back to the ancestral Jewish faith. Two other major figures of Jewish-Portuguese origin related to Argentina were Christians by persuasion: Francisco de *Vitoria, bishop of Tucumán (d. 1592), who was accused of Judaizing and was recalled to Spain, and the Córdoba-born jurist Antonio de León Pinelo, an important figure in South American literature (d. 1658), who brought an appeal against the fine imposed on resident Portuguese by the governor of Buenos Aires.
Few statistics are available on the activities of this period. Ninety-six Portuguese, among them 34 farmers, 25 artisans, and 14 sailors, have been identified out of a population of some 2,000 resident in Buenos Aires in about 1620; but the assumption that all Portuguese residents were Jewish is open to serious question. Probably fewer Crypto-Jews settled in the whole of Argentina than in the mining center of Potosí in modern Bolivia or in the colonial capital of Lima. Moreover, it is almost certain that their Judaism, such as it was, failed to take root. In the 18th century there are no trustworthy reports of Judaizing in Argentina, nor is it possible to verify reports that some local families were of Crypto-Jewish descent.
The Cabildo Abierto, whose convention in Buenos Aires on May 25, 1810, marked the beginning of Argentinean independence, did not abolish colonial legislation condemning non-Catholics to religious persecution. A circular of Dec. 3, 1810, signed by Mariano Moreno, secretary of the Junta de Mayo, extended an invitation to "British, Portuguese, and others not at war with us," while Bernardino Rivadavia's decree of Dec. 4, 1812, established freedom of immigration to Argentina for all nations, ensuring that their basic human rights were preserved. The Inquisition, however, was officially abolished only on March 24, 1813. On May 7, 1813, the Constitutional Assembly decided that foreigners would not be prevented from observing their religious rites if these were performed by individuals in their own homes. Following an 1825 agreement between the governments of Argentina and Great Britain, the Buenos Aires province extended religious freedom to all Protestants.
All these agreements, like that concerning non-Catholic wedding ceremonies promulgated in 1833, failed to take Jews into account. Only in the Constitution of 1853 did clauses appear which created the legal basis for Jewish life in Argentina. Complete religious freedom for all residents of Argentina, both nationals and foreign residents, was specifically laid down in paragraphs 14 and 20 of the constitution and is hinted at in paragraph 19. However, the legislation determines that the government must support Roman Catholic worship and decrees that the president and his deputy must be Roman Catholics (paragraphs 2, 76).
This constitution was passed as a result of pressure applied by liberal elements in the legislative assembly, who remained dominant in subsequent years. In 1876 they legislated a liberal immigration law, No. 817, which allowed immigration also to non-Catholics. During the 1880s, liberal politicians even created a conflict between the Argentinean government and the Catholic Church. Education Law No. 1420 of 1884 stipulated the secularization of official education, and that religious instruction in schools was to be given only before or after school hours and by clerics ordained by the various religious bodies and only to children of their respective faiths. This law, intended to eradicate church influence in state schools, naturally aroused opposition in conservative circles. In the same year another law, No. 1565, established the Registro Civil, requiring all citizens to register their civil status with the government, depriving the clergy of the sole right to register births, marriages, and deaths. When the Vatican representative intervened in the resulting controversy, Julio A. Roca's government severed relations with the Vatican, and these were resumed only in 1900.
This secular legislation was completed with the Civil Marriage Law of 1888. The liberal legislation naturally secured the legal status of non-Catholics, including Jews, and abolished all possible discrimination based on laws of civil status. Its importance diminished in the course of time, as conservative and nationalist elements ignored the liberal ideology that had promulgated the Argentinean constitution; but the religious freedom determined by the 1853 constitution was not abolished.
The foundations of contemporary Jewish life in Argentina were laid by immigrants from Western Europe. Some arrived in the 1840s, but the earliest recorded evidence of organized Jewish life was the first Jewish wedding, performed in 1860. A minyan that met for the High Holidays in 1862 developed into the Congregación Israelita de la República Argentina (CIRA) in 1868, concerned exclusively with serving the Buenos Aires community in matters such as marriage, burial in the cemetery of the dissidents, and, from 1874, circumcision. A permit to keep an official register of Jewish births, marriages, and deaths was at first denied to the president of the CIRA, Segismundo Auerbach (1877), under the pretext that this function was restricted to the clergy of each faith. Only when Henry Joseph (an intermarried English businessman who had some Jewish knowledge) was elected by the CIRA to serve as its rabbi and confirmed by the chief rabbi of the French Consistory in 1883 was the permit granted to the community.
The first Sephardim settled in Argentina in the early 1880s. They came from the northwestern coast of Morocco, mostly from Tetuán and Tangier, and in 1889 applied for permission to establish a synagogue according to the Hispanic-Portuguese rite. Many of the Moroccan Jews had formerly settled in Brazil, and upon their arrival in Argentina dispersed in the hinterland, forming chains of commercial enterprises, with branches in the main provincial cities.
Pogroms in Russia in 1881 led to the appointment of a government ad honorem immigration agent in Odessa to attract Russian Jewish immigrants. This decision prompted a vehement antisemitic attack in the press, which was boldly rejected by the leaders of the Jewish community. French antisemitism also influenced Julián Martel, who wrote La Bolsa (1891), a novel in which several antisemitic passages are taken almost verbatim from Edouard *Drumont's La France Juive (1886). Originally published by the influential newspaper La Nación, La Bolsa has been reedited and reprinted repeatedly until the present day and still serves widely as an historical source for the period. Although the 1887 census of Buenos Aires revealed only 366 Jews, it is believed that by 1889 between 1,500 and 2,000 Jews were living in the Argentine Republic.
[Victor A. Mirelman]
Large-scale Jewish immigration to Argentina began only in the late 1880s, when echoes of Argentina's prodigious efforts to attract immigration reached Eastern Europe. Arriving singly at first, Jews later came in groups, the largest of which (820 immigrants arriving on the S.S. Weser on Aug. 14, 1889) laid the foundation for agricultural
settlements (see below, Agricultural Settlement). Immigration to urban areas as well as to rural ones increased after the *Jewish Colonization Association (ICA) was established, reaching a peak of over 13,000 persons per year in 1906 and 1912. In the first 15 years 66% of the immigrants settled in agricultural colonies (in 1895, 4,000 of 6,000 Jews; in 1904, 12,000 out of a total population of 18,000). After 1905, urban immigration increased. In 1909 66% of the 55,000 Jews lived in cities and in 1919 80% of 125,000. Most of these immigrants were Ashkenazim, but also many groups of Sephardim came from the Ottoman Empire and North Africa, mainly from Syria, Turkey, Rhodes, and Spanish Morocco. In 1927 it was estimated that there were 20,000 Sephardim in Argentina.
Jewish agricultural settlement in Argentina began in 1888 under the auspices of the *Alliance Israélite Universelle. Of the 136 families who arrived on the ss Weser in 1889, about 40 acquired land from a landowner, Pedro Palacios, and set up the Moisesville colony. The settlers suffered from hunger and disease during the first months of their settlement, due to lack of equipment and financial means. Wilhelm Loewenthal, a Jewish physician and naturalist, was invited by the Argentine government to carry out a mission of inquiry in the latter half of 1889. On his way to Argentina, he was asked by Jewish leaders in Berlin and Paris, who had helped the immigrants on the Weser, to report on the settlers' condition. During his stay in Argentina, Loewenthal attempted to improve relations between Palacios and the settlers. He also set forth to the Alliance Israélite Universelle a long-range program for Jewish agricultural settlement in Argentina for the absorption of about 5,000 persons a year. Though the Alliance rejected his proposal, the idea was forwarded to Baron Maurice de *Hirsch, who decided to adopt the plan as he had completely abandoned his previous plans to improve the lot of Russian Jewry by establishing a network of schools in Russia.
In November 1890, Loewenthal was sent by Baron de Hirsch to Argentina at the head of an exploratory mission, and on April 28, 1891, the Baron appointed him director of his settlement project. Soon afterward, Baron de Hirsch decided that his plan would be the cornerstone of a comprehensive territorial project, which, within a relatively short period, would be a solution to the worsening condition of Russian Jewry. As a result, the first immigrants were sent to Argentina in July 1891. Negotiations were held with private individuals and with the Argentinean government for concessions and the acquisition of up to 3,750,000 hectares of land in Chaco. Negotiations were also held with the Russian government to allow the emigration of Jews and secure a permit to establish emigration agencies. The Russian government agreed to the request on May 20, 1892, assuming that in the ensuing 25 years 3,250,000 Jews would leave Russia. However, this grandiose scheme did not materialize. The Argentinean parliament did not approve the sale of large tracts of land, and Baron de Hirsch was persuaded that the climate and soil in the areas under consideration were unsuitable for Jewish colonization. The settlement of the first immigrants was beset by serious administrative and social difficulties, which Baron de Hirsch was unable to overcome even after Loewenthal was removed from his post and replaced by Colonel Albert E.W. Goldsmid. Baron de Hirsch continued to hope that he would find suitable locations and carry out a large and geographically concentrated project. In 1895 he admitted that his plans were unrealistic and tried to change the main objective of his activities from emigration and agricultural settlement to productive support of needy Jews in Europe and the Americas. On April 21, 1896, he died while in the midst of implementing the revised plan, which continued on a minor scale.
Instead of the mass project and the vast and concentrated territories, at the time of the Baron's death the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA) owned a total of only 302,736 hectares in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Entre Ríos, and Santa Fé with a total of 910 families (6,757 persons). Jewish colonization developed primarily in the 20 years after the Baron's death. The land area rose to 586,473 hectares on the eve of World War I, and from then on until ICA ceased its activity, it rose to only 617,468 hectares. The number of persons settled on the land reached 18,900 during this period, a figure only 1,428 short of the peak figure for 1925 (20,382 persons). Also during this period most of the cooperatives were formed in the colonies, and Alberto *Gerchunoff wrote his classic work, Los Gauchos Judíos.
The first agricultural cooperative in Argentina was established in the Jewish colony of Lucienville in the Entre Riós province. It was founded on Aug. 12, 1900, on the initiative of Leon Nemirovsky, agronomist and administrator of ICA under the name of Primera Sociedad Agrícola Israelita, and still exists under the name Sociedad Agrícola Lucienville. The cooperative's activities began with the purchase of seeds and supplies necessary for harvest, thus freeing its members from exploitation by merchants. Thereafter the following cooperatives were established with ICA's moral and financial support: Fondo Comunal in the Clara and San Antonio colonies (1904); Mutua Agrícola (Agricultural Mutual Fund) in Moisesville (1908); Barón Hirsch in Rivera (1910); and Unión Cooperativa Agrícola in Narcisse Leven (1910). In the course of time, all of these cooperatives developed many programs to protect the material interests of their members, satisfy their cultural and social needs, and represent them in conflicts with ICA. In 1910 a congress of the cooperatives' representatives was held in Buenos Aires. The congress laid the foundations of the Confederación Agrícola Israelita Argentina.
Immigration and Organization
The official attitude of Argentinean authorities toward Jewish immigration was based solely on the pertinent clauses of the national constitution. Thus, the committee responsible for immigration overruled the immigration officer's opposition to the admission of the Jews who had arrived on the Weser. It was argued even then,
Despite the small size of their community, their feeling of transience (expressed by a certain degree of emigration back to Europe), and their poverty, by 1914 Argentinean Jewry had founded many organizations to fulfill religious and material needs and dispel a sense of cultural alienation in a strange land. Ashkenazim and Sephardim acted separately, according to the organizational and ideological experience they had brought with them. The Sephardim established small individual groups, organized on the basis of their geographical origin and designed to fulfill limited religious, welfare, and educational needs. These small institutions were gradually organized within four communal frameworks, each with its own cemetery: the Jews from Morocco founded the Congregación Israelita Latina in 1891; the Jews from Damascus founded their Bene Emet (Hijos de la Verdad) burial society in 1913, and two main synagogues, Agudat Dodim (1919) and Or Tora; the Jews from Aleppo founded their main religious organization, Yesod Hadat, in 1912 and their burial society, Chesed Shel Emet Sefaradit, acquired a cemetery in 1920; the Jews from Turkey, Rhodes, and the Balkan countries founded several small communities that were gradually consolidated around the Asociación Comunidad Israelita Sefaradí (ACIS), which was founded in 1914 by Jews from Smyrna. ACIS became the main communal framework for all the Sephardim of Ladino-speaking origin, when it acquired its cemetery in 1929.
The Ashkenazim, on the other hand, founded a network of religious, social, educational, cultural, and political organizations. The most prominent Ashkenazi religious and assistance organizations were the Burial Society (Chevra Keduscha Aschkenazi) founded in 1894, Bikkur Ḥolim (1896), and Ezrah (1900) – which provided medical aid, orphanages, homes for the aged, etc. The dominant political organizations were the various Zionist groups, founded as early as 1897 in the agricultural colonies and in Buenos Aires, which eventually imparted a strong Zionist orientation to the entire Jewish population of Argentina. Counteracting the Zionist organizations, including the *Po'alei Zion Party formed in 1909, were Bundist, anarchist, and communist groups. The Bund members tried to establish linguistically autonomous (Yiddish) sections within some of the general trade unions. The communists succeeded later in establishing a Jewish section (Yiddish-speaking) in the Communist Party. All organizations had varied cultural programs, which, except among the religious Zionists, emphasized a secular nationalist or cultural orientation toward Judaism. These activities included establishing libraries, schools, encouraging the development of a native literature, and experiments in theatrical production.
The immigrant colonists were accompanied by their shoḥatim and rabbis; the first of them was Rabbi Aaron Goldman of Moisesville. Religious life in the colonies at first followed traditional patterns, as exemplified by the foundation of a short-lived yeshivah in Colonia Belez (1907–08). However, isolation and lack of Jewish education combined with other factors to cause a decline in religious life. In Buenos Aires, where the Congregación Israelita de la República Argentina already existed, additional minyanim were organized: Po'alei Ẓedek, which established the first talmud torah; Maḥazikei Emunah, which brought the first official shoḥet to Buenos Aires in 1892 and built the first mikveh in 1893; and the Congregación Latina of the Jews of Morocco. Until 1897 Jews were buried in the Protestant cemetery; later, tombs had to be leased in a Catholic cemetery. It was only in 1910 that the Jews were able to overcome economic and legal difficulties and acquire their own cemetery. Although the white-slave traders already had a cemetery before 1910, none of the respectable Jews agreed to be buried in it.
The polarization of class and political opinion, the wide social and cultural gap between immigrants from Eastern and Western Europe, and personal ambition prevented the establishment of centralized organizations in Argentina during this period. The first attempt was made in 1909 with the establishment of the Federación Israelita Argentina, but this organization did not last after 1910. In 1915, when news of the fate of the Jews in war-stricken areas of Russia and in Palestine began to arrive, the Central Committee for the Jewish Victims of the War was established as the fundraising organ of the Argentinean Jewish community. In February 1916 the Congress of Argentinean Jewry was convened through the initiative of the Zionists and with the participation of all Jewish organizations, except those of the extreme left wing. The Congress declared the prime postwar demands of the Jewish nation to be equal rights for the Jews of the Diaspora and Jewish independence in Ereẓ Israel, and resolved to ask the Argentinean government to support these demands. When the *Jewish Legion was
Antisemitism was rare throughout this period. Nevertheless, when a Jewish anarchist, Simon Radowitzky, assassinated the chief of police, Ramón Falcón (Nov. 14, 1909), there were some repercussions against the Jewish population as such. Murders of Jewish settlers in the agricultural colonies resembled incidents between gauchos and settlers of other origins.
At the beginning of the 20th century the cultural life of the Jewish community in Argentina was centered around the Jewish political parties, much as it had been in Eastern Europe. Thus, the founders of the first two Jewish libraries in Buenos Aires in 1905 – Biblioteca Rusa, and Ḥerut – had belonged to socialist organizations in czarist Russia. In addition to these libraries, cultural activities were sponsored by the Zionist organization Tiferet Sión, the anarchist group Arbayter Fraynd, and the Avangard. Another aspect of cultural life was the Yiddish theater, whose first performance was given in 1901. From that time onward, and especially after World War I, the Jewish theater became one of the central forces in Argentinean Jewish life. Its repertoire was mainly in Yiddish and the most outstanding actors in the Jewish dramatic world appeared on its stage. Individual actors and companies from Argentina visited Brazil, Uruguay, and other Latin American countries.
In 1898 the first three periodicals published in Yiddish in Argentina were Der Vider-Kol, edited by Mikhal Ha-Cohen Sinai; Der Yidisher Fonograf, edited by Fabian S. Halevi; and Di Yidishe Folkshtime, edited by Abraham Vermont. The first two publications were designed to serve as a forum for educated Jews, whereas Di Yidishe Folkshtime sought to serve the masses of Jewish immigrants and outlasted the former two by continued publication for 16 years. A host of short-lived periodicals also appeared during this period. At its end, in 1914, no less than 40 Jewish periodicals existed in Argentina. A fundamental change took place when the first daily, Di Yidishe Tsaytung, was published. The paper succeeded in overcoming its initial difficulties and presented a centrist middle-class political orientation. In 1918, a second daily newspaper, Di Prese, made its appearance. During the 1920s, Di Prese acquired a leftist orientation, which found its expression even in a change in the spelling of Hebrew words, imitating the communist transliteration. This leftist trend slackened off toward the end of the 1930s, and from the end of World War II and the establishment of the State of Israel, the paper also reinforced its ties with Zionism. Both newspapers were published until the 1970s. Other dailies were published in this period but were comparatively short lived (Der Tog, Morgentsaytung). Mention must also be made of Kolonist Kooperator, the organ of the Jewish colonists which first appeared in 1918 as a Yiddish-Spanish monthly and was published until the 1970s.
In 1913 the first attempt was made at organizing cultural activities in Argentina, and in 1915 the first conference of representatives of 25 libraries and other cultural institutions throughout the country was convened in La Plata without important results.
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.
The Russian Revolution increased the government's fear of similar revolutionary activity in Argentina. Since the Jews were generally identified as "rusos" (Russians), anti-revolutionary fervor developed into overt antisemitism. During the "Red-scare pogrom" known in Argentina as La Semana Trágica, January 7–13, 1919, a pogrom
The intense antagonism toward Jews, and particularly to "Russians," created administrative difficulties in Jewish immigration procedures in the 1920s. "Soprotimis," the organization dealing with immigrants, concluded special agreements with the Immigration Department in November 1921 and August 1924. In 1926, however, Jews were compelled to attempt illegal immigration, and, in at least one case, several of them drowned while crossing the Uruguay River. Concurrently, a strong feeling of nationalism, based on xenophobia and influenced by Mussolini's example in Italy, began to develop in Argentina.
Nevertheless, the 1920s saw a large increase in the Jewish population of Argentina. Around 79,000 immigrants arrived; the economic situation of veteran settlers continued to improve; 15 credit cooperatives were founded; charitable organizations expanded (the Jewish hospital opened its first building in 1921 and its second in 1928); and the Yiddish press, literature, and theater flourished. Simultaneously, the number of Argentinean-born Jews favoring comprehensive cultural integration increased, and they founded the organization Hebraica (see *Sociedad Hebraica Argentina). Political and institutional differences between various organizations, Zionist parties, and between the Zionists and left-wing groups became more pronounced during this decade and prevented attempts to form a central communal institution, the Alianza.
These differences, however, did not interfere with the general and determined fight against white-slave traders, the so-called "Tmeim" (unclean). A country that attracted predominantly male immigrants, Argentina had an unequal balance between the sexes and consequently drew representatives of the Jewish underworld of Eastern Europe beginning in the mid-1880s. The white-slave trade was a blot on the law-abiding Jewish public, and, despite the wealth of the traders, all Argentinean Jewish organizations imposed a comprehensive social ban on them, which was even specified in the statutes of most groups, from the 1890s onward. The matter became a violent public struggle during various periods, as in 1909 and 1913, and particularly in the 1920s. To compensate for their ostracism, the traders organized themselves into an official mutual aid organization known as Ẓvi Migdal, which was responsible for protecting them by bribing the authorities and for supplying religious services such as a separate synagogue and cemetery. From the 1890s onward, the London-based Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women maintained a branch in Buenos Aires known as Ezras Noshim. It systematically dogged the footsteps of the "Tmeim" and provided as much assistance as possible to the victims, given an over-lenient law and the widespread bribing of government officials. The white-slave traders' association in Buenos Aires was not dissolved until 1930, when most of its members were either arrested or fled. The fight against and boycott of the remaining white-slave traders was continued and characterized the Jewish community as the only group in Argentina that eradicated slave trade in its own ranks.
The 15 years between 1919 and 1934 constitute the second stage in the history of colonization, during which the land area, the number of settlers, and the size of the non-agricultural population reached their peak. During this period, however, the deterioration of the settlement project began, with an increasing number leaving the land. Statistics do not show evidence of a drop in population, as new settlers came to replace those who left and the number of non-Jews in the colonies grew.
In 1925, following the critical years of 1911–16 and the subsequent increase in the number of cooperatives, delegates assembled and founded the Cooperativa de Cooperativas, later called Fraternidad Agraria (registered in 1931). Twenty-two cooperatives, including eight engaged in cattle breeding, were attached to the Fraternidad Agraria at the end of the 1960s, and though the Jewish agricultural population decreased and was replaced by non-Jewish colonists, the cooperatives were administered by Jews. All the cooperatives did their purchasing, modernized production methods, and marketed their products through the Fraternidad Agraria. The Jewish colonists had an important role in the Argentinean agricultural development. For example, the cultivation of sunflowers was introduced to Argentina by the Jews of the Mauricio colony. The first grain elevator of Entre Ríos province was built in 1931 by the Cooperativa Fondo Comunal in Domínguez. The cooperatives Granjeros Unidos (in Rivera), El Progreso (in Bernasconi), and La Mutua Agrícola (in Moisesville) were provided at the end of the 1960s with silos equipped with the most modern facilities to assure the greatest efficiency in handling, sorting, and storing grain. In Dominguez a vegetable oils factory named after Ingeniero Miguel Sajaroff was operated by Fondo Comunal together with the Federación Entrerriana de Cooperativas. It converts linen grains collected by the zone cooperatives into oil and by-products.
Eminent among the leaders of the agrarian cooperative movement in Argentina, together with Miguel Sajaroff, unquestionably the precursor and the mentor, are Adolfo Leibovich, Isaac Kaplan, Marcos Wortman, Miguel Kipen, Elias
World War I caused a number of changes in the structure of the Jewish community of Argentina that were further augmented by a later wave of immigration. Many and varied cultural organizations, such as the Argentinean branch of *YIVO (1929), which established a central Jewish library and archives (dedicated mainly to the history of the community), were founded. A specific type of cultural activity was evidenced by the foundation of Landsmanshaftn (organizations of immigrants established according to countries and cities of origin) to aid the newcomers in their initial integration.
The outstanding characteristic of cultural life was that it was a microcosmic continuation of East European culture. Numerous organizations were built mainly around the Yiddish language and culture (such as the society of Jewish writers and journalists named after H.D. Nomberg, the Kultur Kongres, A. Zygielbojm Gezelshaft far Kultur un Hilf, Ringelblum Kultur-Tsenter, and Ratsionalistishe Gezelshaft). Cultural activity was also supported by circles that identified themselves with Bolshevism. On the other hand, activities in Hebrew were very limited. The first attempts to hold activities in Hebrew were made in 1911, when the organization Doverei Sefat-Ever was founded. In 1921 the first Hebrew periodical, Ha-Bimah ha-Ivrit, edited first by J.L. Gorelik and later by Tuvia Olesker, was published in Buenos Aires. Others soon followed, and in 1938 a Hebrew monthly, Darom, was founded by the Histadrut ha-Ivrit and has been published regularly until the 1970s.
Weeklies and monthlies in Spanish made their first appearance as early as 1911. Juventud was the first, followed by El Israelita Argentino (1913) and Vida Nuestra (1919). In 1917 the Spanish-language monthly Israel was established by a Moroccan Jew, Samuel A. Levi, and served mainly Sephardim. Mundo Israelita made its first appearance in 1923, followed by La Luz, a bi-monthly, edited first by David Elnecave and subsequently by his son Nissim and his grandson David, which also addressed itself to Sephardim, and literary periodicals such as Shriftn and Davke, devoted mainly to Jewish philosophy.
The period between the two World Wars marks the decline of religious life in Argentina. New immigration from Eastern Europe, especially from Poland, Lithuania, and Romania, introduced a strong anti-religious tradition, and there was a notable lack of religious authority and leadership. In 1928, Rabbi Shaul Sittehon Dabah of the Aleppan Jewish community, under the influence of Rabbi Aharon Halevi Goldman of Moisesville, and with his approval, published a ban against the performance of conversions to Judaism in the Argentine Republic. This prohibition, which is still maintained by the Orthodox communities in Argentina, was supported at the time by the chief rabbis of Ereẓ Israel, A.I. *Kook and Jacob *Meir, as well as by Rabbi Judah Leib *Zirelson of Kishinev and other authorities.
Although efforts were made to establish secular schools before World War I, these schools only began operating from 1920 onward besides the talmudei torah. They were organized by activists, teachers, and to some extent by political parties such as the General Zionists, left-wing Po'alei Zion, the Bundists, Communists, and Anarchists. One of the accelerators of the establishment of independent and secular schools and the beginning of a modernization process was a teachers' strike declared by the teachers' organization Agudat Hamorim in the middle of 1920. Some of the schools recognized the right of the teachers to vacations and a decent salary. Others, supported by the Va'ad ha-Ḥinnukh ha-Roshi, had rejected the teachers' demands. Those schools continued their activities with traditional and less professional teachers.
The military coup d'état of 1930 introduced a period of political unrest in Argentina in which nationalist and antisemitic organizations played no small part. From 1933 on, nationalistic, xenophobic, and antisemitic activity increased, encouraged by German diplomatic institutions and by the local branch of the German Nazi Party, until it became a central problem for Argentinean Jewry. Also the Catholic Church, which was very close to the Vatican and Cardinal Pacelli (the future Pope *Pius XII), who visited Buenos Aires in 1934, was active in the dissemination of antisemitism. The leadership of the Church kept silent in its publications about the persecution and murder of the Jews in Europe. At the same time the lay Christians adopted an implicit or open antisemitic position in their periodicals and educational catechism material, and in lectures by their religious or lay leaders and teachers. The immigration decree of October 1938 increased discrimination against Jewish immigrants, and even Jewish farmers had great difficulty acquiring entry visas despite the preferential treatment for agricultural immigrants which even the drastic legislation on immigration provided. From 1933 to 1945 between 35,000 and 40,000 Jews entered Argentina by exploiting various loopholes in the law. About a third of them had to use illegal means to immigrate and their legal status was regulated only after a general amnesty was declared for illegal immigrants in 1948. When news of the Holocaust reached Argentina in 1943, Jewish organizations managed to convince the government to accept 1,000 Jewish children, but for various reasons, this rescue operation was never carried out.
The deteriorating security of Argentinean Jewry compelled all factions, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, to unite and form a federate defense organization. In 1933 they established the Committee Against the Persecutions of the Jews in Germany, which after two years of activity became known as *DAIA – Delegación de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas. Initially
Economic and Social Stratification
During the first stage of Jewish settlement in Argentina up to 1914, there were four main sectors in Jewish society: (1) farmers – Jewish Colonization Association (ICA) settlers and permanently hired or seasonal laborers; (2) artisans in all branches – either self-employed, employed, or apprenticed; (3) peddlers selling goods on the installment plan (and therefore called "Cuenteniks"); and (4) shopkeepers dealing in supplying goods to meet daily needs. In addition to these groups were individuals who were among the first industrialists (in textiles, furniture, and in the extraction of tannin from the quebracho tree) and high officials, including managing directors, of large grain-export companies. In 1909 there were 90 Jews in Buenos Aires belonging to the liberal professions. Most of them were in the field of medicine and of the 60 students attending the university, 41 studied medicine or pharmacy.
Economic and professional development enabled many peddlers to become merchants, agricultural laborers to become farmers, and employed artisans to become independent. The occupations vacated by veteran settlers as they rose on the ladder of economic prosperity and social advancement were constantly filled by new waves of immigrants that continued to arrive until the outbreak of World War II. While the numbers of workers did not decrease to a great extent, the number of established merchants increased and a class of professional men developed. In 1934 the ICA director in Buenos Aires, Simon Weill, basing his report on figures submitted to ICA by towns throughout the country, estimated that 1,175 Jews were practicing in various branches of medicine and pharmacy, 190 in engineering and law, and many were writers, artists, and university lecturers.
During the period from 1918 to 1939, trade unions and economic associations were also formed. Carpenters, who organized a general strike in Jewish workshops in 1916, needle workers, bakers, and others maintained their own trade unions for a while, and in 1934 Jewish merchants and employers united under the Cámara Comercial e Industrial Israelita. The "Cuenteniks" formed two cooperatives that became important financial instruments. In urban centers and in some of the Jewish agricultural colonies cooperative credit banks flourished. In July 1940 the Asociación de Industriales de la Madera y del Hierro was established, incorporating the Jewish industrialists in the field of wood and iron furniture products.
With the founding of the Sociedad Hebraica Argentina in 1926, which was preceded by Juventud and other groups before the outbreak of World War I, and Organización Hebrea Maccabi, Jewish cultural life expanded in the Spanish-speaking sphere. The cultural achievements of Hebraica are mainly in the fields of sports, art, and drama (its luxurious theater was dedicated in 1968). Its quarterly Spanish magazine Davar, to which the best Argentinean writers have contributed, has published more than 100 issues.
With the organization and strengthening of AMIA, most of the Jewish community's cultural activities were concentrated under its auspices. AMIA also subsidized the activities of other organizations and publishing houses. A large number of books on Jewish subjects (particularly in Yiddish) were published in Argentina, but only a minority of them were written by local authors. There were also a considerable number of monthlies and weeklies published primarily by various political parties and economic, social, and philanthropic organizations. The Jewish daily press played a decisive role in the consolidation of the community Jewish life. Efforts to establish a Jewish daily newspaper in Spanish had failed for financial reasons and lack of interest among the Jewish population. The Juedische Wochenschau, a German-language weekly with a Zionist orientation, was published from the end of the 1930s by Hardy Swarsensky (publication ceased in 1968 with the death of its editor).
The Jewish educational network had to cope with the implementation of Catholic instruction in the official schools and consequently with the removal of non-Catholic pupils from such classes. Nevertheless, neither the overt public hostility, nor the occasional official prohibition of the use of Yiddish at public meetings arrested the development of the Jewish community. The Chevra Keduscha (which became in the 1940s AMIA) increased its communal activities and in 1935 founded in Buenos Aires the Va'ad ha-Ḥinnukh, a committee that centralized the educational system in Buenos Aires (with several dozen complementary schools), which had hitherto been promoted mainly by various synagogues, by some Zionist parties, and by the Zionist Teachers' Organization. From that time on the Jewish schools became one of the most vital forces enhancing Jewish socialization and community organization in Argentina, and they reflected the various streams of Jewish political views in the community. Until the late 1960s these schools functioned on a complementary basis, while the children were free from studies in the public schools, either in the morning shift or in the afternoon. The existing schools, for Ashkenazim and Sephardim, had many ideological trends: religious, traditional, leftist, secular, Zionist, non-Zionist, and anti-Zionist. The Va'ad ha-Ḥinnukh succeeded in 15 years of activity in bringing most of the schools to a minimal common curricula and in improving the physical conditions of the schools as well as the working conditions of the teachers. In the 1930s and the 1940s Yiddish was almost the only language of instruction for most Ashkenazi schools, even for the Zionist ones. The number of students in Jewish schools in Buenos Aires together with the schools coordinated by the Va'ad
The Zionist movement in Argentina had changed in the 1930s and the 1940s from a conglomerate of organizations with disconnected activities to a stable federation called "Consejo Superior Sionista." The decision of the 19th Zionist Congress (1935) to promote the unification of the Zionist organizations, together with the impact of the Holocaust, brought the two main Zionist parties – General Zionist and Po'alei Zion (the Revisionists demurred) – to the realization that they had to work together under a common umbrella organization, although they kept their own identities within the Zionist framework.
The anti-Zionist left-wing organizations challenged the Zionists since they competed for the leadership of the communal institutions. This threat to their efforts to gain control over the main institutions, especially AMIA and DAIA, dictated the collaboration between the two Zionist parties.
Control of the National Funds – Keren Hayesod and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – was one of the ends that engendered competition between the different sectors in the community. In 1937, when a branch of the Jewish Agency for Ereẓ Israel was established in Argentina, the Zionist parties cooperated to avoid non-Zionist control of the Funds. During the second half of the 1940s circumstances were different and the Zionist parties competed with each other for the control of the National Funds and the appointment of their members as shliḥim (emissaries) of the Funds. The Zionist parties and the leaders of the National Funds tried to adhere to the policy established by the WZO and maintain the autonomy of both Funds. During the War of Independence (1948), however, Argentinean Jewry decided to declare a united campaign on behalf of Israel. The impressive results proved the extent of their identification with the Zionist cause, which went far beyond the politics of fundraising, leadership of organizations, parties, and shliḥim.
Until the middle of the 1940s the World Zionist Organization (WZO) believed that the most important activities of Zionism in Argentina were connected with fundraising. After WWII, when Argentina became relevant to the fight for the establishment of a Jewish state, the WZO changed its attitude and Argentinean Jewry was transformed into a partner in the political efforts to achieve international recognition.
The Zionist parties became dependent on their central organizations in Israel. Nevertheless, they believed that local activities within the framework of the Jewish communal organization were very important in themselves, also as a way to maintain their close ties with Zionism and Israel. The parties, especially the two trends of Po'alei Zion (right and left), made serious efforts to develop local activities. They were very active in formal education and maintained complementary Jewish schools like the Sholem Aleichem and Bialik school networks. All the parties were active in informal education and maintained pioneer youth movements like Ha-No'ar ha-Ẓiyyoni, Dror-Heḥalutz, Betar, Gordonia, Dror-Habonim, and Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir, which provided the first groups of olim with a strong ideological conviction in the second half of the 1940s and after the establishment of Israel.
The two major parties, General Zionists and Po'alei Zion, differed in their attitude to the desirable attitude of the Jews toward Argentina and its society. Both parties agreed that they had to respect the status of the Jews as Argentinean citizens. But while the General Zionists believed that Jews had to limit their organized activities as Jews to internal communal and Zionist matters, and that their activities in the general society was entirely a private matter, Po'alei Zion promoted organized Jewish action also in the general civil arena and politics. Actually, the latter's position failed.
The two parties also competed with each other for the leadership of the community's institutions and debated the organization and structure of DAIA. Po'alei Zion wanted a change in the electoral criteria and promoted the idea of general elections with the participation of all the Jews. The General Zionists supported the existing federative structure in which the board was elected by the representatives of the institutions which adhere to DAIA. While the latter's position prevailed, the discussion continued into the 21st century, even though there were different political trends now involved in DAIA.
Between 1936 and 1944, several hundred families who fled antisemitic persecution in Germany were absorbed into the settlement project. Many of them settled in Entre Ríos, where they founded the colony of Avigdor. In the succeeding period, however, more families left the land, and in 1962 there were fewer settlers than there had been in 1898 (5,907 compared to 6,755 at the earlier date). The families who remained in 1962 were smaller in size than those of 1898 (an average of less than three members as against over five to a family at the earlier date) and belonged to an older age group. On the other hand, the number of non-Jews in the colonies was almost double that of the Jewish colonists (about 10,220). In 1964 the number of Jewish farmers who lived on and cultivated their land in the colonies was estimated at 782 families.
Reasons for the Disintegration of the Agricultural Settlement Enterprise
The disintegration of ICA's farming project in Argentina can be attributed to a series of factors. One factor was the unfavorable location of a large proportion of the colonies on the margins of the "Wet Pampa," influenced mostly by droughts from the south and by almost annual invasions of locusts from the north. One of the colonies, Dora, was even located in an arid region, dependent on irrigation. Another basic factor was the extreme dependence on foreign markets and the inability of the Argentinean farmer to influence marketing conditions. In search of greater income, the settlers kept shifting from grain crops to cattle raising. Jewish agriculture, based on monoculture, was therefore extremely sensitive to the fluctuations of the markets and lacked stability. A third general factor was the extensive cultivation in Argentina, which necessitated large units of land, thus creating a low population density. This type of settlement, in which the farmer lives at the center of his property and far from his neighbors, was rejected by Jewish settlers from the outset because it obstructed the fulfillment of their religious, social, educational, and medical needs. Attempts to establish concentrated villages failed, however, and had to be abandoned. The fourth decisive factor was the attraction of the town as an easy and more secure source of employment, providing opportunities for rapid advancement for those with initiative. The town also provided a social center with well-developed educational, religious, and cultural services. Since the Perón government (1946–55) encouraged urbanization and the Jewish settler came from an urban background (some of his children had already left for the town, either to study or to engage in trade), the attraction of the town became especially strong. The overall increase in land values enabled him to sell his lands at a profit and arrive in the town with a large sum of money. ICA tried to counteract some of these disintegrating factors. For a long period it tried to prevent settlers from leaving the colonies by delaying absolving them of their debts. ICA exerted pressure on the settlers to diversify their farming, helped them to develop dairy herds and chicken farms, and experimented with new crops and modern methods of cultivation. It established an integral school system in the colonies that was financed by charging the settlers. ICA even tried to recruit settlers with previous agricultural experience from southern Russia and later from among agricultural laborers in her own colonies. However, the lack of flexibility in policy and the bureaucratic administrative structure, requiring the obedience and submission of the settlers, caused continual undermining of good relations in the colonies and the diminution of the moral influence of ICA on the settlers. ICA's bitter and prolonged refusal to recognize that the colony Narcisse Levin and part of Barón Hirsch, Montefiore, and Dora, located on the edge of the fertile regions, required larger areas of land, resulted in bitter and prolonged disputes. Moreover, ICA's prolonged opposition to facilitating the settlement of children near their parents' farms made it difficult for the younger generation to settle in the colonies. It was for the same reason, as well as to promote intensified farming of their own plots, that ICA refused to lease its vacant land to the settlers. All these factors led to the strengthening of the second central force in the colonies, the settlers' cooperatives (see below). Established and run with ICA's support, the cooperatives fought disintegration, but also became the settlers' chief weapon in fighting ICA. The steep decline in agricultural settlement brought about a concerted action by the two forces to preserve the existing state of affairs.
Independent Agricultural Settlements
Tensions between the settlers and the administration often resulted in large groups leaving to found independent settlements. In June 1901 about 40 families settled in Villa Alba (now called General San Martín) in the central Pampas after leaving the colonies of Entre Ríos. In 1906 about 20 families that left Moisesville, founded Médanos in the south of Buenos Aires province. In 1923, 80 families that left Narcisse Leven, Barón Hirsch, and Montefiore for the Chaco, as a result of the cotton boom, dispersed among settlements such as Charata and General Pinedo. In 1928, the settlers in Barón Hirsch acquired 8,653 hectares of land in order to settle their children and relatives and named their colony Akiva Ettinger. Other settlers in Entre Ríos and Santa Fé also bought land independently for settlement purposes.
The idealism and initiative of Isaac Losow brought about the settlement of 40 families in 1906 in General Roca in the heart of the uninhabited Río Negro territory. In 1941, despite its isolated location, 28 families were still living in the settlement. During the 1930s, the Asociación Filantrópica, composed of immigrants from Germany, established a farm on the island of Choele Choel in the Río Negro. Until it closed down c. 1941, it accepted about 150 young immigrants for training in fruit growing and afforestation. In 1941 the Fomento Agrario set up a fund to encourage agricultural settlement in the colony of Julio Levin in Buenos Aires province. The colony numbered about 20 families who had small holdings of 4½–7 hectares on which they grew vegetables and raised dairy cattle. However, the colony soon became a vacation center and some Zionist pioneer movements established training farms there.
Agricultural settlement outside the control of ICA, with the exception of Julio Levin, was even more geographically marginal than that of the ICA colonies. This was, of course, dictated by both the limited financial means at the disposal of the settlers and their strong idealism. In 1964 the number of agricultural settlers outside the ICA framework was estimated at 237. Despite the fact that by the 1960s the number of families whose source of income was the land had fallen to under 2,000, the large majority of whom were not living on
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.
Economy and Social Stratification
During World War II, growing industrialization in Argentina further encouraged the Jews to found new industries. The furniture, fur, and particularly the wool and textile industries, including the export of raincoats, woolens, and leather goods, were joined by enterprises in new fields such as plastics, the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, the automobile industry, electrical goods and electronics, and a large part of heavy industry. Jewish companies, often very large ones, existed within the new industries after World War II to supply the local market. Jews also engaged in all aspects of the building industry, played a significant role in the commerce that developed around the new branches of industry, and diversified their positions in the liberal professions.
The economic development of the Jewish population in the post-World War II era is also reflected in the considerable progress made by their financial institutions. Though the largest Jewish bank, the Banco Israelita del Río de la Plata, closed as a result of a financial scandal in 1963, other banks, such as the Banco Comercial de Buenos Aires and the Banco Mercantil Argentino, which served the general community, gained in status and the Cooperativas de Crédito also prospered. These cooperatives, which spread throughout Argentina, expanded especially among the Jewish population and in the late 1960s had many thousands of members – merchants, farmers, middle-class industrialists, and even salaried workers.
A small part of the large profits from the cooperatives' financial activities, which in fact include normal banking operations, was devoted to public and social purposes such as financing Jewish schools, cultural centers, and Jewish political activity, considerably influencing Jewish communal institutions. Thus Argentinean Jewry was greatly alarmed in 1966 when General Onganía's revolutionary government intended to limit or abolish the operations of the credit associations, and Jewish institutions suffered profoundly from the economic decline of the cooperatives after the bankruptcy of many of them at the beginning of the 1970s.
Economic changes naturally altered the social and economic class structure of Argentinean Jewry. There were fewer blue-collar workers, as more Jews entered the free and academic professions. By the early 1960s the socio-economic profile of the Jewish community was very different from that of the period of mass immigration. The relative proportion of blue-collar workers (in industries such as textiles, woodworking, leather goods, metalwork, and auto repair) declined to less than one-third of the total work force; the rest of the Jewish population was employed in commerce, clerical work, and the free professions. The percentage of farmers had already dwindled to almost zero. This process, which continued during the following decades, led to the concentration of the Jews at various levels of the middle class.
The status of Jews in the general population was exemplified by a census taken of the Jewish community in Quilmes, near Buenos Aires, in 1968. There were 1,169 Jews out of a total population of 317,783. In the economically viable portion of the Jewish population, only 26.7% were salaried workers, of whom 3.5% were laborers and the remainder were white-collar workers. The percentage of salaried workers in the general population was 81.2%, of whom at least half were laborers. On the other hand, 70.9% of the economically viable Jewish population were employers and self-employed, while the parallel figure for the general population was only 16.3%.
During this period, poverty was not eradicated among Argentinean Jewry, and AMIA alone spent some 6–7% of its budget in 1965–67 on supporting the poor (apart from the aid extended by other welfare associations). Nevertheless, the Jewish
The period 1939–1968 was one of a limited religious renaissance, supported by a new wave of religious immigrants. New types of talmudei torah and yeshivot, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi, were founded. The most notable among them was the Yeshivah Gevohah that was maintained by AMIA, five graduates of which were ordained in Israel up to 1968. During this period various religious organizations, both political and apolitical, such as Mizrachi, Yavneh, Agudat Israel, and the Sephardi movement Shuvah Israel, were created. The rabbinate of the kehillah was institutionalized and developed during this period. In 1966, Rabbi David Kahana, former chief chaplain of the Israel Air Force, assumed the post of av bet din of the rabbinate of AMIA until the mid-1970s. In the Sephardi sector, the religious renaissance was manifested in the appointment of new spiritual leaders in each of the four communities and in the reinstatement of rabbinical authority, especially among the communities of Syrian origin. Conservative Judaism, represented only by the Congregación Israelita de la República Argentina (CIRA), led by Rabbi Guillermo Schlesinger, expanded during this period, when a few German-speaking Conservative congregations were established. In 1960 Rabbi Marshall Meyer was sent to CIRA from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. He founded Ramah as the youth section of CIRA with its own synagogue. In 1962, following his attempts to become the rabbi of CIRA, a schism ensued, and an important faction of CIRA established the Conservative Bet-El congregation under the leadership of Rabbi Meyer. Earlier that year, the Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano was established, offering a preparatory course for advanced studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. This Conservative model of a congregation with many youth activities, a synagogue, and a talmud torah that in many cases became a day school, was adopted also by some of the Orthodox synagogues.
In 1964 Reform Judaism established its first congregation, Emanuel, in Buenos Aires. In 1968 Argentina had three Reform, seven Conservative, and fifteen Orthodox rabbis, ten of whom were Ashkenazi and five Sephardi; four other rabbis were practicing temporarily in Buenos Aires.
The establishment of the State of Israel had a crucial impact on the character of the Jewish schools. All the schools that previously taught Yiddish started a transition to Hebrew, a process that ended with an overwhelming predominance of Hebrew in all the schools in the mid-1960s. Following the foundation of the Va'ad ha-Kehillot in 1952, the Va'ad ha-Ḥinnukh of the Chevra Kedusha – AMIA, and the Va'ad ha-Ḥinnukh ha-Roshi merged in 1957 to form the Va'ad ha-Ḥinnukh ha-Merkazi (Central Education Committee). All Jewish Ashkenazi schools, except those belonging to the Communists, were affiliated to this committee. Gradually most of the Sephardim and certain other communities (such as those of German origin), joined this Va'ad ha-Ḥinnukh. Until the end of the 1960s most Jewish schools provided supplementary education (20 hours weekly) for pupils attending public schools. This school structure was maintained, not only for economic reasons but also because of a deep concern to maintain close relations with the non-Jewish population. In 1966 the official schools gradually started introducing the long school day, which was a threat to the activities of the Jewish complementary schools. At the end of the 1960s the Jewish schools started to transform themselves into day schools to include the general Argentinean curriculum. In the mid-1970s the entire Jewish education network consisted of day schools; two of them had already existed from the beginning of the 1960s and were recognized as private schools. The budget required for building and maintaining such schools, however, was correspondingly much higher, and when public funds could not be acquired, parents of modest means were not able to afford to send their children to these schools. This problem was partially solved with special funds provided by community institutions and by the Jewish Agency which subsidized those students.
In 1968 the Jewish educational system of Greater Buenos Aires comprised the following: 5,065 children between the ages of two and five in 51 kindergartens; 8,900 pupils in 58 elementary schools (seven grades), eight of which were day schools and the rest supplementary schools; and 1,675 pupils in 13 high schools, four of which were yeshivot. In the rest of Argentina, there were 969 children in 33 kindergartens; 2,787 pupils in 52 elementary schools; and 633 pupils in eight high schools. These figures added up to 20,033 students in Jewish schools throughout Argentina; the students in the 5 to 12 age group comprised about 45% of the total Jewish population of this age. In spite of these relatively high rates of participation, there was considerable dropout from one year to the next, especially between elementary and secondary school. In 1967, in all the schools run by the Va'ad ha-Ḥinnukh in Buenos Aires, only 560 pupils finished elementary school and 126 graduated from secondary school.
In those years the division according to political trends diminished. All the schools, apart from the Communist schools, adopted Hebrew as the main language for Jewish studies (some kept Yiddish) and stressed the study of modern Israel and the development of Jewish national consciousness. The existing Communist schools in Buenos Aires, with several kindergartens, five primary schools, and two secondary schools were excluded from the Va'ad ha-Ḥinnukh in 1952 when all the Communist organizations were expelled from DAIA because of their refusal to condemn the antisemitic and anti-Zionist trials in Czechoslovakia and Russia. In 1953 they established an independent school network under the umbrella of the Jewish Communist central organization Yiddisher Cultur Farband – ICUF (Jewish Cultural Organization) with ten schools and close to 2,000 students all over the country. In the 1960s the number of these schools gradually
From the 1960s most of the teachers in all the schools were Argentineans, trained in local seminaries. A new institution of higher Jewish education, Ha-Midrashah ha-Ivrit, was established in the mid-1950s by the State of Israel, with the cooperation of local individuals. It trained high school teachers, and by the end of the 1960s had close to 200 students.
Informal education activities organized by Zionist youth movements, social-sport organizations like Sociedad Hebraica Argentina, Maccabi and Hacoaj, and other communal institutions like the Conservative movement became more common and their activities attracted hundreds of children and adolescents. From 1962 AMIA and Hebraica, later with the support of the Youth Department of the World Zionist Organization, ran EDITTI, a school for youth leaders on the level of an institution of informal higher learning. Nevertheless the participation of youth in organizations of the Jewish communities was low and it became even lower among youth of university age. All the Jewish youth organizations were united in the Confederación Juvenil Judeo Argentina, which represented Argentinean Jewish youth locally, nationally, and internationally.
The attitude of non-Jewish Argentinean society towards the Argentinean Jews as individuals and the organized Jewish community as such is characterized by a certain ambivalence. Argentine society has never been, and is not today, a single ideological entity, being divided between nationalists with extreme xenophobic views and liberals with a pluralistic attitude toward other nations and peoples. But one idea is common to most of these points of view: the need for cultural and social uniformity to shape Argentina's immigrant society. This idea, which demanded complete integration and assimilation of the immigrants into the established culture was most strongly advocated by the Catholic, nationalistic right wing. This group seized power twice in the last third of the 20th century. The army, in which this ideology is predominant, installed itself in government in June 1966 by a coup d'état, which appointed general Juan Carlos Onganía as president. In the enactment of the Statute of the Revolution, which took precedence over the constitution, the Catholic nature of the State (already affirmed in the constitution of 1853) was further underscored with the Statute declaring that the State stood for a "Christian Western Civilization." As a result, many Jews employed as civil servants in the previous government were dismissed and Jewish professors who resigned in 1966, when university autonomy was abolished, experienced great difficulties in their attempts to be reinstated. The deposition of Onganía by a military junta and the appointment of General Roberto Marcelo Levingston (1970), and his deposition in turn by General Alejandro Agustín Lanusse (1971), did not change the Catholic nature of the government.
Raised in an acute form, in connection with the elections of March 1973 that brought to power the Peronist party and the president Héctor Cámpora, was the question of the relations of the Peronist regime when it was in power (1946–55), and of the Peronists, to the Jews and to the State of Israel. On the one hand, it was emphasized that Perón had often expressed his esteem for the Jewish community in Argentina and had established strong bonds with Israel; on the other hand, it was he who had permitted the mass immigration of Nazis to Argentina after World War II, at the same time restricting the entry of Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Antisemitic activities on the part of members of the Peronist party and the influence of Arab propaganda, which were a constant source of anxiety to the Jewish community in the 1960s, increased under the military regimes and reached their climax when one of the most prominent Peronist leaders, Andrés Framini, together with other Peronists, joined the pro-Arab Committee for a Free Palestine, of which Framini actually became head.
The increase in acts of terrorism and violence since 1966, culminating in the kidnapping and murder in 1970 of General Pedro Eugenio Aramburu, president after Perón's deposition, was accompanied by an increase in antisemitic violence. In addition to the previous extreme right-wing organizations, such as the Guardia Restauradora Nacionalista, pro-Arab leftist organizations supported this violence and all benefited from both the open and clandestine support of the Arab League and the Syrian and Egyptian embassies in Buenos Aires. The Arab community in Argentina, numbering several hundred thousand, supported the anti-Jewish activities, if only to a limited extent. Argentine Jewry was therefore forced to confront three hostile groups, who despite all their differences were united in their hostility to the Jews and to Israel. Bombs were placed in synagogues and Jewish communal buildings.
Widespread antisemitic propaganda also spread in Argentina, attempting to blame the Jews for the economic and social difficulties of the country. A certain innovation in this widely disseminated literature were the sensational revelations of the economist and university lecturer Professor Walter Beveraggi Allende, who accused "International Zionist Jewry" of a plan to impoverish Argentina in order to detach some provinces in the South and the Andes Mountains and establish a Jewish republic there. This accusation, which was included in the new edition of the Protocols of the *Elders of Zion, published in January 1972, had an effect on the public at large and was also evidenced in a more widespread slander campaign.
In September 1973 Héctor Cámpora resigned in favor of Perón who was elected by an enormous majority. During his brief reign of office, Cámpora nominated Jose Ber Gelbard (b. 1917), a Polish-born Jew, as minister of economy, and he retained his post after Perón's election.
In those years support for the exiled Perón had come not only from the right. After almost two decades of direct or indirect
Perón received a delegation from DAIA and the kehillah in Buenos Aires, at which he restated his opposition to antisemitism and proclaimed his neutrality in the Middle East conflict.
Perón died on July 1, 1974, and was succeeded by his wife María Estela (Isabel) Martínez de Perón, who had been vice president, but she could hardly confront the difficulties of a politically divided country and keep together the mass movement that had brought Perón back to power. From the middle of 1974 until his forced resignation in July 1975, the strongman in Argentina was José López Rega, minister of social welfare and advisor to the president. Perón's death was followed by a period of complete insecurity and terror. In November 1974 a state of siege was imposed; leftist guerrilla groups (Montoneros and Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo – ERP) were outlawed, a fact that did not prevent them from spectacular acts of terror; thousands were arrested, and ultra-right paramilitary groups, allegedly supported from within the government and acting under the name Alianza Anticomunista Argentina (AAA), killed hundreds of persons, including prominent politicians, intellectuals, journalists, lawyers, trade-union leaders and students. Naturally, this situation had an impact on the Jewish community; and DAIA, the Latin American Jewish Congress, and also non-Jewish organizations and publications denounced the dangers inherent in the anti-Jewish aspects of the explosive situation.
A substantial change took place on March 24, 1976, when, in a bloodless coup, a military junta seized power, deposing President María Estela (Isabel) Martínez de Perón and appointing General Jorge Rafael Videla in her place. The junta had to confront a very difficult situation, characterized by economic chaos, enormous inflation, social unrest, terror, and violence. The junta, which suspended normal political and trade-union activities, at first had the support of wide middle class and liberal circles. They hoped that this time the military would restore order in the country. But they were very quickly disappointed. The military factions which took control of the country used extreme methods of terror and completely ignored civil rights and the rule of law. Thousands of people were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered and their bodies disappeared. Under this regime, xenophobic and antisemitic discourse became common, and when a Jew was incarcerated or kidnapped, his fate was bound to be far worse than that of a non-Jew. But at the same time the Jewish community as a whole went undisturbed and was able to conduct its social activities without impediment and administer its institutions democratically. Nevertheless antisemitic actions continued together with some violence against Jewish institutions and persons. A list of antisemitic incidents during the years 1975 and 1976 was published in Argentina and in the United States, together with the testimony by an American Jewish leader. The editor of the daily La Opinion, Jacobo *Timerman, was arrested and jailed in April 1977, and even though declared innocent by the Supreme Court, continued to be held and tortured by the army. In November 1977 Timerman was deprived of his civil rights and his property was placed in state custody. He was also accused of connections with David Graiver, a Jewish financier with alleged ties to the left wing Montoneros. Jewish, professional, and human rights organizations, and the diplomats of the State of Israel repeatedly urged the Argentine government to put an end to Timerman's detention, but it was not until September 1979 that he was released to Israel. Timerman stayed there about a year and then moved to the U.S.
There was also a sequence of anti-Jewish attacks, and antisemitic pamphlets, books, and magazines continued to appear. A prominent example of the anti-Jewish literature is the magazine Cabildo, which was temporarily banned under pressure from the U.S. and Israel. The government also closed down antisemitic publishing enterprises such as Milicia, Odal, and Occidente, but the dissemination of anti-Jewish literature was not stopped. The Graiver case and other economic scandals became a theme played up by the anti-Jewish publications.
In 1979, the government published a decree to the effect that all religions, except Roman Catholicism, must register with the State in order to establish "effective control" over non-Catholic religions.
Although traditional right-wing xenophobic groups were still the main source of anti-Jewish activity, on the left, anti-Zionist and anti-Israel agitation deteriorated usually into typical old-fashioned antisemitism. Special connections were established between anti-Israel Arabs and some leftist guerrilla groups which were received in military training camps of the PLO in Lebanon. There were also indications that the Arabs cooperated with other groups to create an anti-Jewish climate.
The Falklands (Malvinas) War against Great Britain (April–May 1982) and the consequences of Argentina's military defeat marked the beginning of the end for the regime installed by the military junta in 1976. During the hostilities in the south of Argentina, rabbis traveled to the war zone to serve as chaplains for the Jewish soldiers. In the following year, sectors of the community publicly supported the protests concerning the victims who had been arrested and disappeared during the repression practiced by the military junta. Nunca Más ("Never Again"), the report prepared by CONADEP (National Commission for the Missing Persons) published in 1985, revealed a special degree of atrocity in the treatment and torture of many Jewish citizens figuring in the dreadful lists: of
The establishment of a democratic regime after the free elections at the end of 1983 represented a relief for most Argentineans, including the Jews, many of whom became active participants in the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR), a party traditionally aligned with the middle classes.
From 1984 a new pluralistic attitude towards the different components of Argentinean society started to be felt, which gradually recognized and legitimized the right of the Jews, as an organized community and as individuals, to be different while part of Argentine society.
Raúl Alfonsín, a progressive and charismatic president, surrounded himself with many figures prominent in other spheres of life: Rabbi Marshall Meyer and Professor Gregorio Klimovsky joined CONADEP (chaired by writer Ernesto Sábato); Bernardo Grinspun became minister of the economy and Mario Brodersohn district secretary; Adolfo Gass obtained a seat in the Senate, Marcelo Stubrin and César Jaroslavsky (the latter, head of the district bank) entered the Chamber of Deputies and Jacobo Fiterman, ex-president of the Argentinean Zionist Organization, became secretary of public works in the Buenos Aires municipality. In the field of education and culture, traditionally a Catholic enclave, Marcos Aguinis became minister of national culture. Manuel Sadosky was minister of science and technology, and Oscar Shuberoff was appointed rector of Buenos Aires University. The Jewish Human Rights Movement was established, and the General San Martín Cultural Center of the City of Buenos Aires, seat of a hitherto unknown pluralism, inaugurated a Jewish Culture Sphere.
It may well have been this Jewish participation in public life that led Monsignor Antonio Plaza, spokesman of the most right-wing sectors of the Argentinean bishopric, to declare in March 1987 that "the government is full of Jews." A fresh antisemitic campaign throughout the initial democratic years of this regime, spoke of the "radical synagogue," a reference to the Jewish community's alleged influence. At the same time antisemitic incidents reappeared, probably as an instrument to discredit the democratic regime.
The trial of the leaders of the military junta, at the initiative of Alfonsín and many Argentineans, petered out as support for the government began to wane and economic problems worsened. The failure of the new economic plan and the return of inflation were accompanied by the opposition of the Peronist central trade union, which organized 14 general strikes during the Alfonsín regime.
The first counterattack by the army's "hardliners," led by the "carapintadas" (Aldo Rico and Mohamed Ali Seineldín, who had fought in the Falklands-Malvinas War), took place in April (Holy Week) 1987 and assumed the character of a military coup, that the civilian president had great difficulty in putting down. Successive concessions to the military disregarded the danger of institutional failure and put an end to trials of soldiers for human rights violations. The renewed insurgency of the "carapintadas" groups in 1988, although failing to obtain their objective, extended their base of support with sectors of the extreme right such as Alejandro Biondini's Nazi group. The precarious situation was further destabilized by the confused events of January 1989, when several score soldiers of the "Todos por la Patria" Movement, a heterogeneous national-Marxist group, influenced by surviving sectors of the guerrilla movement of the previous decade, tried to take by assault a military barracks at La Tablada (a province of Buenos Aires) and were wiped out after many hours of combat.
These episodes indirectly affected the Jewish community, since the "carapintada" sector leader, Colonel Mohamed Ali Seineldín was a fanatic Catholic and an avowed antisemite.
In November 1985 the Nazi war criminal Walter Kutschmann was arrested, but the extradition demand was delayed by legal appeals and Kutschmann died in prison in August 1986 without having been sent to Europe. In March 1986, a group of participants in a public meeting of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) made antisemitic remarks that were later repudiated in a document issued by the Labor Central's governing board. The year 1987 saw continued anti-Jewish attacks, this time on the Sephardi Congregation and the AISA cemetery in Ciudadela. The Jewish community organized a mass demonstration at the central Houssay Square in Buenos Aires (November 1987), with the participation of Argentinean political, trade union, and religious leaders, to demand the speedy ratification of an anti-discrimination law to penalize any expression of antisemitism (this was achieved in the following year).
The social problems continued to increase. In early 1989 President Alfonsín fell victim to an "economic coup" engineered by the financial sectors, which unleashed a hyperinflation that culminated in pillaging of the supermarkets, general disturbances, and the early surrender of power (in July 1989) to the president-elect, Carlos Saúl Menem. The new president, who came from a Syrian Muslim family (although a convert to Catholicism), was very aware of the prejudices regarding his personal history (closely linked with the Argentinean Arab community), and to the prejudices of sectors of his "Justicialist" (Peronist) movement, which in the past had combined a degree of populism with a certain authoritarian tendency. His public acts soon allayed anxieties in these respects: he personally participated in the event organized by the Jewish community at the Congregación Israelita de la República Argentina synagogue to denounce the desecration of the Jewish cemetery of Carpentras in France. Nazi war criminal Joseph Schwamberger, commandant of a concentration camp in Poland (arrested in Córdoba in 1987), was extradited in 1989 to stand trial in Germany. In 1992 Menem announced the decision to "open the Nazi archives" to the investigators, a political measure of great significance (since Eichmann, Mengele, and dozens of other Nazi leaders resided in Argentina or had entered the country in the post-war period, under Perón's benevolent
The centenary of Jewish Settlement in Argentina (1889–1989) was celebrated by various events in the capital and in the rest of the country, with the participation of political authorities. In 1991, various celebrations marked the first centennial of the arrival of Jewish immigrants to Colonia Mauricio (Carlos Casares).
In general politics, Menem executed a dramatic volte-face when he pardoned the soldiers condemned for human rights violations and allied himself with representatives of business and financial sectors in order to commence privatization of state enterprises and introduced stringent economic regulations. Denouncing the failure by members of the Menem government to fulfill commitments, Colonel Seineldín headed a bloody "carapintada" uprising in December 1990 that ended with the defeat of this nationalist and antisemitic sector. While a ministerial reshuffle transferred science and education posts from Jewish to Catholic personalities participating in the new power alliance, no signs of particular discrimination were revealed and important posts went to personalities such as Moisés Ikonicoff (minister of planning), Enrique Kaplan (director of protocol), Néstor Perl (governor of Chubut), and Carlos Corach (presidential adviser). Argentinean citizens of Jewish origin participated together with their compatriots in various administrative and political posts, with some tacit restrictions in the armed forces, diplomacy, and the higher levels of the judiciary.
Jewish cemeteries were once more desecrated in 1992, in the province of Buenos Aires. A bus taking Jewish school-children on a holiday trip came under fire in the province of Córdoba. In certain football clubs, groups of fans set fire to flags bearing swastikas and chanted anti-Jewish slogans. The fluctuations in antisemitism would seem to reflect an inherent tension between xenophobia and prejudice with the cosmopolitanism and culture expressions of Argentina's liberal urban society. Sociological studies carried out in Argentina have shown, for decades, the presence of a strong element of latent anti-Jewish prejudice, the magnitude and intensity of which grow in relation to the deterioration of the economic situation. At the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, Chinese and Korean immigrants, particularly in Buenos Aires, have in some cases replaced the Jews as the traditional scapegoat for Argentinean popular xenophobia. At the end of the 1990s their place was taken by immigrants from Bolivia.
Nevertheless, the new official and also popular pluralistic trend in Argentine society continued. In 1992 a public opinion survey commissioned by the American Jewish Committee and DAIA revealed more pluralistic attitudes among interviewees. For instance, 69% of respondents considered it better that Argentina's inhabitants had diverse origins, customs and religions, while 46% declared that Jews had made a positive contribution. Seven percent supported the notion that the country would be better off without Jews. While corroboration of such results would require the periodic holding of comparable polls, the outcome of this one can be reasonably attributed to changes going back to 1983.
But this pluralistic trend was challenged by two terror attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets. In March 1992, before the above-mentioned public opinion survey was made, a car bomb destroyed the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and 29 persons were killed. In July 1994 a second car bomb destroyed the community building of AMIA and DAIA killing 85 people. On the one hand, there was a spontaneous expression of popular solidarity in a rally of tens of thousands of people in the square in front of the Federal Congress, with the participation of President Menem and some of the leaders of the country. The government of Argentina gave the Jewish community, as a kind of reparation, $11 million for the expansion of Jewish cultural activity, including $1 million for the establishment of a Holocaust museum to be housed in a building provided to the community by the government. At the same time many groups turned a cold shoulder to the Jews and the investigation into the bombings led to no concrete result.
Nevertheless, the pluralistic process which also legitimized organized Argentinean Jewry as an integral part of Argentinean society was becoming stronger. One example of this trend was the approval in 1988, after a long debate in the two Chambers of Congress, of an anti-discrimination law. A draft bill prepared by the criminologist Dr. Bernardo Beiderman was sent by President Alfonsín to Congress and finally approved with some modifications with the support of the two main factions. Since then, Law 23,592 was applied in several circumstances against racial, religious, and other kinds of discrimination. Another important change was made by President Carlos Menem in his first term: the reform of the National Constitution in 1994. Best known for abolishing the ban on two consecutive terms in office for incumbents seeking reelection, and reducing the presidential term to four years, this also enfranchised non-Catholic aspirants to the leadership of state. The requirement of the original constitution that the chief executive and his deputy must be Catholic has now been dropped, with government support for the Catholic Church remaining in place. In spite of this constitutional change, the aforementioned 1992 opinion survey showed that 45% of respondents would not support a Muslim presidential candidate while 41 and 39% held similar views in respect of a Jew and a Protestant. If this is anything to go by, a sizable proportion of the Argentine public was not ready, when this change was made, for a non-Catholic head of state.
As another example of the official attitude towards Jews and pluralism, it could be mentioned that when in 1997 Argentina's National Institute Against Discrimination and Racism (INADI) was established in the Ministry of Justice, the DAIA was made part of its advisory council.
Economy and Social Stratification
The deep economic recession which affected Argentina in the last years of the 1990s produced great political upheavals. Fernando de la Rúa, the leader of the Radical Party, who became president in December 1999, resigned after two years because of economic instability, a big budget deficit, an external debt which he inherited from the former government, and violent popular opposition to his liberal economic policy as unemployment reached nearly a fifth of the workforce. Eduardo Duhalde, the leader of the Peronist party who had lost to de la Rúa in the 1999 elections, became president in January 2002. The radical economic measures instituted by his government brought about a serious deterioration of the situation: production declined by 16% and inflation reached 41%. The cost of basic products increased by 75% and unemployment reached 25%. This situation specially affected people belonging to the middle class: thousands of them lost almost everything they had or were reduced to living on charity. The difficult social and economic situation brought Duhalde to call for early elections. Néstor Kirchner was installed as president in May 2003 after former president Menem withdrew from a second-round runoff. By 2005 his administration had achieved a measure of stability. Kirchner also got international creditors to cancel 75% of Argentina's debt.
The trend toward industrialization of the Argentinean economy started in the 1930s had produced economic dividends until the 1950s that also benefited the Jewish population. Many Jews abandoned blue-collar employment and went into business while a large number entered the universities and acquired liberal professions. This development, which continued in the following decades, produced a concentration of the Jews at the different levels of the middle class.
The liberalization of the economy commenced at the beginning of the 1990s, which opened the local markets to international competition, the big cut in government spending, and the reduction of a national debt of a magnitude unknown until then, had an adverse effect on broad sectors of the populace and especially on the middle-class, to which Argentinean Jews belonged. The economic distress of the Jewish community became that much worse in 1998, when two banks owned by Jews, Mayo and Patricios, where money belonging to Jews and to Jewish institutions had been invested, went bankrupt. After the collapse of 2001 an estimated 30% of the Jews were unemployed and one-fourth lived below the poverty line, some of them subsisting only thanks to Jewish welfare organized by community agencies. Existing institutions like AMIA and the independent Tzedaka organization were the first organizations to assist the needy. They coordinated and channeled economic support from local Jewish sources, providing a wide spectrum of aid including distribution of food and clothing, housing, backing to new businesses, vocational training, etc. Many synagogues and community centers opened emergency kitchens and supported existing ones. These institutions were also supported by non-Argentinean Jewish organizations like the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and other North American organizations. Also the Inter-American Development Bank has supported the AMIA's job placement service.
The Jewish Agency also tried to help Argentinean Jews, classifying them, together with the Jews of France and South Africa, as being in danger. It stepped up its program to encourage aliyah, increasing the benefits already given to all immigrants. In the first four years of the 21st century close to 9,500 Jews immigrated to Israel. The peak was in 2002 with about 6,200 olim, while in 2001 and 2003 the number was about 1,400 each year and in 2004 approximately 400. This drop in olim could be explained by the relative economic stability in Argentina and the economic problems faced by immigrants in Israel together with the security situation and the difficulty of cultural adaptation.
Jews immigrated to other countries as well, and while there are no statistics, their number may be estimated at several thousand. HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), based in New York, helped Argentinean Jews by facilitating their emigration to different countries in addition to the U.S.
The economic crisis also affected the maintenance of Jewish institutions. The drop in the Jewish population and the consequent reduction in the school population, the collapse of the financial institutions that had supported communal activities, the decline of communal institutions because of changes in traditions like the use of Jewish cemeteries, which were one of the most important sources of income of the community, made community life and the maintenance of traditional ways more difficult. Among the most exposed institutions were the Jewish schools. In recent years they underwent major changes, including amalgamation for reasons of efficiency, serious student dropout, and a big reduction of the Jewish teacher's staff, with consequent unemployment. The community organized centralized projects to find answers to the needs of the schools, with the economic assistance of the Jewish Agency, the State of Israel, and the World Jewish Congress.
DAIA, the political representative of the Jewish community vis-à-vis society at large and the government, celebrated the 70th anniversary of its existence in 2005. All those years DAIA maintained its leading position in the community, through difficult periods of political, social, and economic upheaval, by adhering to a self-imposed restriction: no identification with any Argentinean party or political faction. This attitude during the first presidency of Juan Perón (1946–55), who pressured the community institutions to identify with him, endangered to some extent the freedom of action of DAIA when a competitive Peronist Jewish organization (Organización Israelita Argentina – OIA) was established by Jewish Peronists.
DAIA was sharply criticized for its position during the period of the military junta, 1976–83, when the regime acted criminally against the opposition and the civilian population in general. In those difficult years DAIA decided to maintain a low profile and avoid outright defiance of the junta that would
The second umbrella organization founded in 1952, the Va'ad ha-Kehillot (Federation of Argentine Jewish Communities), included all the Jewish institutions in Argentina – Ashkenazi and Sephardi – on a federative basis. Nevertheless, AMIA, which was instrumental in organizing the federation, continued to play a dominant role. While constituents from the provinces sometimes complained that the Buenos Aires administration maintained excessive control, the federation remained the only body dealing with widely different services – spiritual and religious, culture, education, and social welfare – throughout the country. This supremacy of AMIA inspired the organization of a separate Sephardi umbrella organization, ECSA, and after its dismantlement in 1998, a new one was established in October 2002, the Federación Sefaradí de la República Argentina – FESERA – with the participation of 66 Sephardi institutions.
In the second half of the 20th century ideological trends changed. The left-wing non-Zionist movements, such as the Anarchists, the Bundists, and also the Jewish Communists, became irrelevant. With the establishment of the State of Israel, the antisemitic trials in Communist countries, and the Six-Day War (1967), many supporters of the Bund and the Communists crossed the lines and embraced Zionism, most of them in the left-wing factions. The traditional Zionist parties, whose roots were in the communities of origin, were close to the Israeli parties and sometimes became dependent on their political and financial support. The political leadership of the Ashkenazi community – AMIA, which was maintained in the 1940s by leaders of the financial institutions, and the landsmanshaftn together with the leftist anti-Zionist sector – was dominated by a coalition of the Zionist parties after the democratic elections of the beginning of the 1950s. This transition was felt in some way also in the Ladino-speaking Sephardi community and later in the Damascene community.
In the 1970s two new organizations emerged. One was based on sports and recreation organizations, including the four big clubs of Buenos Aires (Hebraica, Maccabi, Hakoach and the Sephardi Club CASA), a number of similar but smaller organizations in the Greater Buenos Aires area, and all the communal organizations in Argentina. These institutions, which grew to include social and family activities and some attempts at informal education, and embraced tens of thousands of Jews, enabled the leaders of the new organization to claim that they were representing most of the Jewish public. This organization was called FACCMA – Federación Argentina de Centros Comunitarios Macabeos – and was affiliated with the World Maccabi Organization based in Tel Aviv.
The second organization was the Conservative movement, which after 30 years of activity had become in the 1990s a well-established movement of more than 20 congregations with synagogues, social activities for youth and adults, and some of them maintaining day schools. These congregations had thousands of members in Buenos Aires and other cities in the country and a spiritual leadership from the graduates of the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano.
These two organizations cooperated to a certain degree and were instrumental in the creation in 1983 of a new group called Brerá – Movimiento de Integración y Renovación Comunitaria. The group was established to give voice to the new goals and views of the part of the community that was not connected to the existing Zionist parties, and to take part in the communal elections. In both the organizations that helped create Brerá, the inclusion of members of the various Jewish ethnic groups was more prominent. In the two AMIA elections in which Brerá ran (May 1984 and May 1987) it came in second to Avoda – the Zionist Labor Party. In the next election (May 1990) Brerá ran in the Lista Unidad Comunitaria, and in the election of May 1993 it did not run at all, claiming that the election procedures were fraudulent. In fact, the ranks of Brerá dwindled when the Conservative movement established its own party – Masorti – abandoning its alliance with Brerá and reaching an understanding with Avoda. In this manner, the latter maintained its hold on the community leadership.
In the middle of the 1990s a new political group, Menorah, began to emerge under the leadership of Rubén *Beraja. Because of his leading position in one of the foremost Jewish financial institutions of the 1980s and 1990s, Beraja enjoyed senior status in the community. Following his election as chairman of the DAIA, to a great extent due to the support of Brerá, Beraja, an active member of the community of Aleppo, became known even outside the boundaries of Argentina and was elected vice president of the World Jewish Congress and chairman of the Latin American Jewish Congress. In late 1998 and 1999, Beraja's standing was undermined by financial difficulties in the Banco Mayo, of which he was director and there were accusations of mismanagement. As a result, Beraja ceased all public activity and Menorah dissolved. Since then, the position of the representatives of the traditional Zionist parties has been reinforced. Nevertheless, in the elections of April 2005 only 3,000 of the approximately 13,000 members with voting rights out of a total of around 40,000 members participated.
The Jewish population of Argentina was estimated at about 187,000 in 2003. At its peak, in the 1960s, the community had numbered approximately 310,000, but had steadily declined since that time. The Jewish population – about 80% Ashkenazi – was mostly urban. Memories of Jewish agricultural settlement and the "Jewish gaucho" retained their places of honor in communal consciousness, reinforcing the idea that Jews were an old and legitimate element in the predominantly Catholic Argentine society, and in the Argentinean
tourist industry, which was eager to exploit the image to get American Jews to come for a visit. But this image is divorced from contemporary reality. At present, the Jewish agricultural settlements and the Jewish communities in rural areas are almost nonexistent. More than 80% of the Jewish population lives in the urban area of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires and its suburbs, and another 10% in cities of more than a million inhabitants (Córdoba, Rosario, Tucumán, and La Plata).
One reason for the constant demographic decline is the low birthrate. As in other urban and middle-class Jewish communities around the world, the low birthrate means an aging Jewish population. The average age, which was estimated at 25–27 in 1930, 31 in 1947, and 35 in 1960, jumped to over 40 in the 1970s and is continuously rising. The second reason is the growing number of Jews that abandon the community and assimilate into the majority society, many through exogamous marriages, which increase steadily. While no exact statistics are available, the intermarriage rate, approximately calculated in the mid-1930s to reach 1–5% and in the 1960s 20–25%, is now estimated at 40% and up. In addition, there is also a negative migratory balance. While in the period from the end of the 19th century until World War II Argentina was a receptive country for Jewish immigration, and in the Holocaust years – in spite of the restrictive legislation and the complete closure of the Argentinean borders to Jewish immigration after 1938 – about 40,000 Jews entered the country in legal and illegal ways. In 1945–50 about 1,500 Holocaust survivors immigrated to Argentina. The 1950s was the last decade with a positive migratory balance with the immigration of Jews from Hungary and Egypt. From the 1960s on, the community was characterized by emigration. The best statistically known destination of emigration was the State of Israel. The rate of aliyah was proportionally among the highest in the western Jewish Diaspora. Since the establishment of Israel close to 59,000 Jews from Argentina made aliyah. Zionism and antisemitism were important reasons for this emigration, but economic difficulties seemed to predominate, especially among the 9,500 Jews who emigrated in the first four years of the 21st century. This factor also motivated considerable immigration to the U.S., Canada, and other countries in Latin America, and, to a lesser extent, Western Europe. While it is almost impossible to measure this migration, it seems reasonable to assume that it affects many thousands of Argentinean Jews.
In the second half of the 20th century and to a remarkable extent since the 1970s, Jews constituted an integral part of Argentine cultural life. Jewish participation was evident in every sphere of culture – teaching and research, literature, journalism, theater, cinema and television, the visual arts, and classical and popular music. The Jewish presence in these fields goes far beyond any discussion about the Jewish character of their cultural activity and should be considered Jewish creativity as such. While this multifaceted cultural creativity does in fact exhibit a profound connection with Jewish roots, there is at the same time rich cultural activity among Jews that entirely lacks Jewish particularity, being woven into the deepest layers of Argentinean culture, like the tango of Buenos Aires.
Jewish institutions have always been a vital outlet for this cultural activity. Literature, theater, music, lectures attracted the Jewish public throughout the 20th century and continue to do so today, despite the economic and social crisis that affected broad sectors of society. The cultural fare of the Jewish institutions is rich and is well received by the Jewish public. In place of the Editorial Israel, a joint cultural venture promoted by CIRA and a well-known Jewish family, which published many Jewish books from the 1940s to the 1960s, the Ashkenazi community AMIA established the Editorial Milá, which since 1986 has published hundreds of books, including literature, essays, testimonies, and research studies. In 2001–4 Milá published dozens of books, most of them in the original Spanish, as well as a number of translations, particularly from Yiddish.
In the provinces the situation is less encouraging, as these regions are to a large extent dependent upon events and activities organized by the Va'ad ha-Kehillot, whose headquarters are in Buenos Aires.
The change in the language used by Jews has been clearly reflected not just in the schools or in cultural and public activity but also in another dimension of cultural life – journalism. Since the 1970s Yiddish and German have almost disappeared from the print media in favor of Spanish. Arabic was common only on a colloquial level and periodicals in Hebrew were always a rare phenomenon. There are weekly or monthly publications like Mundo Israelita and La Luz – founded in the 1920s and 1930s, respectively – Nueva Sión (1948), Comunidades (1980s), and La Voz Judía (1990s). In recent years there were also daily news publications on the Internet like Iton Gadol and Shalom OnLine. In the 1990s Jewish TV cable and radio stations like Aleph and FM Jai were also established, of which only the latter still exists.
The Jewish community of Argentina is still overwhelmingly secular. For many, synagogue attendance on the Sabbath or Jewish holidays was not a religious act but instead a mode of social and national identification with the Jewish people and its culture. Yet even while the large majority of Jews and their leaders lived secular lives, the central institutions of AMIA Ashkenazi community remained officially Orthodox.
One controversial religious issue with potentially profound implications for Argentine Jewry as a whole was conversion. With the high rate of intermarriage, some non-Jewish spouses were willing to convert to Judaism, be formally incorporated into the community, and raise their children as Jews. From 1928 conversions in the country were prohibited by an Orthodox edict, but not every rabbinical authority abided by the ban. Today there are still many Jews in Argentina, including people who are not themselves religiously observant, who maintain that non-Jews converted by local rabbis are not yet Jews and will be recognized as Jews only after conversion by rabbinic courts in Israel, the U.S., or Europe.
The Masorti movement, which identifies with Conservative Judaism and has at present more than 20 affiliated congregations in Argentina, performs its own conversions. The Reform movement, which also performs conversions, has a very limited presence in Argentina and very few followers. Most Jews of Argentina, whose Judaism was a matter of social and ethnic identity and who emphasized active participation in Jewish life and the upbringing of children as members of the Jewish people rather than halakhah, were satisfied with Conservative and Reform conversions.
According to some estimates, about half of all the Jews in Argentina who maintained relatively continuous contact with a synagogue identified with the Masorti movement. In 2004, Masorti rabbis graduating from the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano in Buenos Aires served in Argentina and other communities in Latin America (more than 40), in the U.S. (more than 15), and in Israel (10).
In recent decades, certain groups of young people from various sectors of the Jewish population, in particular those who belong to the community of Aleppan origin and to some extent those of Damascene origin, as well as small groups of Ashkenazim, had "returned" to religious Orthodox observance. They observed Jewish law strictly and studied rabbinical literature in religious academies (yeshivot and kolelim). But this trend has very little impact on the broader community and is limited to a minority.
More significant was the growth of the Chabad-Lubavitch ḥasidic group. Chabad's entry into the Argentine Jewish community began in the late 1960s, and in 2005 the movement had approximately 20 centers in the country, two-thirds of them in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. As a part of its worldwide strategy, also in Argentina Chabad established a public presence by celebrating holidays like Hanukkah, Sukkot, and Lag ba-Omer in public, non-Jewish spaces, and many Jews responded positively to such a demonstration of Jewish pride. Chabad's original appeal in Argentina was to the poorer Jews, a steadily growing group under the economic conditions of 2001–2, who appreciated the economic help this Orthodox movement furnished them. It also attracted a number of wealthy people to help support its activities. It was unclear, however, how many of those who identified with Chabad or received financial aid from it adopted the fully observant Chabad lifestyle, since the movement did not insist on strict conformity to halakhah on the part of those who found their way to them.
The Sephardi sector is characterized by the opposite trends of secularization and growing Orthodoxy. Secularization is more evident among the communities of Moroccans and Ladino speakers, whose ethnic identity has less of an appeal to the younger generation, which feels more at home among the Conservatives and joins the congregations of the Masorti. The two communities of Syrian origin – from Aleppo and Damascus – remain the stronghold of Orthodoxy among the Sephardim. During the last decades they strengthened their educational network, stressing the role of women in transmitting the Jewish tradition in the family. Many of their rabbis were born in Argentina and received their rabbinical education in yeshivot in Israel; they are influenced by the religious leadership of Rabbi Ovadiah *Yosef.
When segments of the public educational system changed their schedule to a longer day in the late 1960s, leaving no time for the morning or afternoon complementary Jewish schools, the community transformed them into day schools offering both a general and a Jewish curriculum. This put pressure on the schools to excel in their general programs so that parents would not remove their children and send them to public or non-Jewish private schools. While tending to relegate the Jewish program to a secondary place, this strategy did succeed in retaining Jewish students. This change brought a solution to the above-mentioned dropout problem in the elementary schools and to some extent also at the secondary level. A survey carried out in 1997 found that nearly half of all Jewish children aged 13–17 and two-thirds of children aged 6–12 attended Jewish day schools. These schools
By 2002, however, the numbers had dropped, showing just 14,700 students in 40 elementary schools and 22 high schools. Although the two surveys conducted five years apart had different methodologies and were therefore not necessarily comparable, it is likely that the difference reflected a real downturn, the natural result of the above-mentioned demographic processes: low birthrate, assimilation, and emigration. On the other hand, the economic situation which affected the middle-class Jewish population should be taken into account as well. The high tuition rates in these private schools were also a deterrent under the grim economic conditions, even though local Jewish institutions, the Jewish Agency, and Israel's Ministry of Education, together with the Joint Distribution Committee and World Jewish Congress, established financial aid programs.
In addition to formal Jewish education, Jewish schools offered an informal social framework with events connected to the Hebrew calendar and Israel-related activities such as dance groups and choirs. For students in the higher grades there was the opportunity for educational trips to Israel.
Another important contribution of the schools to Jewish life is the common framework they offer to thousands of young Jews, creating through them the opportunity to establish a connection with thousands of young families interested in a Jewish framework and being exposed to Jewish values.
Nevertheless socio-economic development since the 1990s imposed a revision of the existing model of Jewish schooling. Recognizing that other educational alternatives were necessary for those not in day schools, the community, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency, established a supplementary program called Lomdim for secondary level (with about 1,200 students in 2004) with classes two or three days (6–9 hours) a week. A second supplementary program, for elementary school children, called Chalomot, with 4–12 hours a week, has approximately 600 children. Chabad developed a similar strategy, offering children attending public school an enriched after-school program in computers, English, and other subjects, together with Jewish studies.
Teacher training suffered dramatically in this period. Such training was given in the 1940s and 1950s by certain secondary schools, in Buenos Aires mainly by the Seminar le-Morim of AMIA, the Machon le-Limudei ha-Yahaduth of CIRA, and the secondary school of the Sholem Aleichem Shul, and in Moisesville by the Seminar Yahaduth. Training was transferred to Ha-Midrashah ha-Ivrit in the mid-1960s. Students received training there as elementary school teachers in the first two years, and could became secondary school teachers after three additional years of study. At the beginning of the 1970s its name was changed to Michlelet Shazar (Shazar College) and received academic sponsorship from Tel Aviv University, which was withdrawn at the end of the 1980s. Many difficulties – academic, budgetary, and administrative, especially after the bombing of the community building in 1994 – led to a decline of its activities in the mid-1990s. In 1996 the Merkaz Rabin was established, which included the Michlelet Shazar and the Seminar Agnon for kindergarten teachers (established in the early 1960s). At the end of the 1990s, however, Shazar was closed, and today there is no teacher training institution in Argentina. The only institutions of higher Jewish studies are Orthodox yeshivot and the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano of Conservative orientation, in which there is also a section for non-rabbinic studies. All those institutions demand from their students one or more years of study at higher yeshivot or Jewish universities in Israel or the U.S. in order for them to receive a rabbinic degree.
Argentina has always had a significant place in Israel's foreign policy as a prominent Latin American country and a country with a very large Jewish community. From 1947, when Argentina abstained from voting for the UN Partition Plan for Palestine, relations were marked by steady progress. Argentina recognized Israel on Feb. 14, 1949, and diplomatic missions were established in Buenos Aires and Tel Aviv in August and September 1949, respectively.
Argentina's position varies on a number of issues affecting Israel. In the annually recurrent UN debates on Palestine refugees, Argentina has for years voted with Israel against attempts to appoint a UN property custodian, on the grounds that it would be an unacceptable interference with national sovereignty. Following the Six-Day War, Argentina was in the forefront of the Latin American nations that opposed Soviet and Arab efforts in the Emergency Session of the UN General Assembly to bring about an unconditional evacuation of the Israel-held territories. On the other hand, she has consistently favored the internationalization of Jerusalem, and after the Six-Day War voted against the municipal reunification of the city.
In 1960 the capture of Adolf Eichmann in Argentina caused a temporary crisis in relations, which returned to normal after some months. Commercial treaties exist between the two countries. In the 1960s the trade balance was overwhelmingly in favor of Argentina (due to meat exports that varied from $10 to 15 million a year). The trade balance remained disproportionate also in the 1970s (Israel's imports rose to $17.1 million while exports only reached $1.3 million). The balance changed radically in the 1980s ($42.7 and 35.4 million, respectively) and in the 1990s ($66.7 and 12.3 million). Since 2000 the total scope of bilateral trade was over $100 million a year, with the exception of 2002, when a deep crisis struck the Argentinean economy. The most remarkable year was 2004 with a total of $191.1 million ($136.3 and $54.8 million). Meat continues to be the principal Argentinean export product together with oil and processed food. The main goods exported by Israel are machinery and chemical products.
In 1957 a cultural exchange agreement was signed. An Israel-Argentina Cultural Institute has been active in Buenos Aires since the 1950s. The Argentina House was established in Jerusalem in 1967 as a result of a private initiative, offering cultural activities to the Israeli public. Technical cooperation between the two countries developed in fields, such as rural planning in semi-arid zones and the uses of water.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations the Argentinean government has recognized the legitimacy of the special relationship between Israel and the Jews of Argentina. As an immigration country that legitimized the special ties of immigrants to their countries of origin, considered their "madre patria" (motherland), Israel was perceived as the madre patria of the Jews, although they had lived in Argentina at least 60 years before the creation of the State of Israel. This recognition was manifested when the government accepted the right of the Israeli ambassador to intervene on behalf of Argentinean Jewry, demanding that expressions of antisemitism should be stopped and prohibited.
After seven years of military rule, Argentina returned to democracy in 1973, with the victory of the Peronist party, which prevailed in free elections. Former President Juan Perón, who had been in exile since 1955, returned to Argentina and after a few months was elected president. During his year in office (he died on July 1974) and in the government headed by his wife, in which the strongman was Minister López Rega, antisemitism became more active in the streets as well as in official discourse. Moreover, López Rega strengthened relations with Arab countries, especially with Libya. He considered the establishment of diplomatic relations with the plo and there were rumors that he was promoting the rupture of diplomatic relations with Israel. In those years of instability Israel protested many times against manifestations of antisemitism and against the anti-Israel policy. After the military coup d'état in March 1976, everyone thought that the generals would establish order in the country, but they abrogated all civil rights and instituted a reign of terror, tolerating no opposition.
Although antisemitism was not an official policy, antisemitic expressions were very frequent, also in the different ranks of the army, the government, and the forces of repression. In these circumstances Israel acted officially against antisemitism and interceded on behalf of incarcerated Jews and those who vanished (kidnapped and killed by the repressors). In the case of the former, the Argentinean government agreed to free from jail more than 55 persons. In the case of those who disappeared, Israel's intervention together with European public opinion and to some extent the U.S., succeeded in getting only one journalist freed – Jacobo *Timerman – under condition that he leave for Israel. Unofficially Israel evacuated from Argentina close to 500 Jews in danger and took them in. These activities on the part of the Israeli embassy, together with the Jewish Agency, were made possible because of the special position of Israel. On the one hand, the generals believed, as a part of their antisemitic perception, that through the Israeli embassy they could influence U.S. policy towards Argentina. On the other hand, Israel and officials of the embassy had had good relations since the beginning of the 1970s with military officers in charge of purchasing military equipment in Israel. Some of these officers occupied high posts in the government, like Minister of the Interior General Albano Harguindeguy, or Admiral Emilio Massera, commander-in-chief of the Navy and member of the first junta headed by General Jorge Videla. Although Israel continued to sell military equipment to the military government, the Israeli diplomats in Buenos Aires decided to avoid the use of these special relations as a means of putting diplomatic pressure on Argentina to change its position in matters of special interests for Israel, such as Argentina's consistent support of the Palestinian and Arab positions in the un and in other international arenas, to improve economic and other bilateral relations that were unfavorable to Israel, and to obtain the release of the "vanished" Jews.
In 2000, by the request of the Knesset, the Israeli government established an Inter-Ministerial Commission with the objective of helping the Jewish families of the "vanished" in their demand of the Argentinean government to receive the bodies and to bring to trial those responsible for human rights violations in the dictatorship. This commission, composed of representatives of the Foreign and Justice Ministries and representatives of the public and of the families, presented its conclusions and recommendations in July 2003. As a result of the commission's report, the president of Israel and the government several times presented official requests supporting the demands of the families. Since then, the request to find and identify the bodies of the "vanished" Jews has been made in many meetings of Israeli and Argentinean officials.
In the first democratic government after the military dictatorship (1983–1989) Foreign Minister Caputo's foreign policy attempted to achieve an alliance both with Third World and developed countries at one and the same time. To these ends special attention was paid to the demands of the Arab bloc, while a cold but correct profile was maintained in relations with Israel. This in no way influenced the ideology of the ruling party (UCR), which was traditionally democratic and opposed to the nationalist right-wing groups. In 1992 then ex-president Alfonsín visited Israel, as did the possible radical candidate in the next presidential election, Fernando de la Rúa.
Relations between Argentina and Israel, despite the initial prejudices, were concretely upgraded after Menem came to power in 1989, together with a change toward a pro-North American policy in the international arena. The association between Argentina, Egypt, and Iraq for the construction of the Condor II missile was frozen and then disbanded. The missile was finally destroyed as a result of U.S. government pressure. Official visits at the highest level have increased: in late 1989 Israeli president Chaim Herzog visited Argentina, where he addressed the National Congress; in 1991 Menem became the first Argentine president to visit Israel. Before and after these visits, parliamentary and ministerial missions were exchanged between both countries for discussion of issues of mutual interest.
During the 1990 Persian Gulf crisis, the Argentinean government opposed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and sent two frigates to join the United Nations force that attacked the aggressor. This active position, consistent with the pro-American policy, was a source of controversy in Argentinean political sectors. In other aspects connected with the Middle East, the Alfonsín and Menem governments resisted PLO efforts to open an office in the country in order to obtain diplomatic recognition. In 1985 leaders of the Jewish community appealed to representatives of all the political streams to condemn un General Assembly Resolution 3378 equating "Zionism" with "racism" in the following years, the resolution was condemned by the Argentinean parliament (1990).
Moreover, the Argentinean chairman of the UN Commission on Human Rights convening in Durban in 2001 was very active in efforts to moderate anti-Israel resolutions.
The government headed by President Néstor Kirchner, elected in the fifth consecutive democratic elections in 2003, maintained good relations between the two countries. Politically, Argentina is against violent solutions to international conflicts and therefore supports the need of negotiations in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Nevertheless the new administration changed its voting policy in the un and is coming closer to that of the other Latin American countries: Argentinean votes against Israel or sometimes abstains.
In March 1992, the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires was destroyed in a terrorist attack that left 20 dead and hundreds of injured, including passers-by and neighbors as well as embassy personnel. Following the July 1994 terrorist bombing of the central community building of AMIA, with 85 people killed and hundreds injured, President Menem called Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to express his condolences. After these events President Menem, his ministers, and representatives across almost the entire political, trade union, and intellectual spectrum participated together with tens of thousands of Argentinean citizens in expressing their solidarity with the Jews, in the first case visiting the ruins of the destroyed embassy and in the second in a mass demonstration a few days afterwards in the Plaza Congreso.
The subsequent investigations saw hard words and tensions between various sectors of the security forces, the law courts connected with the cases, politicians, including President Menem, the Israeli embassy, and the Jewish community. The investigations in both cases did not discover who was responsible for the attacks, despite a public trial of ten local suspects for collaboration with foreign terrorists. This trial began in September 2001 and was concluded at the end of 2004 with no convictions. Israel continued to demand that the government find the local perpetrators as well as take the necessary political steps against Iran.
Ignacio Klich /
Efraim Zadoff (2nd ed.)]
H.C. Lea, Inquisition in the Spanish Dependencies (1908); B. Lewin, El Judio en la época colonial (1939), includes bibliography; idem, Los judios bajo la inquisición en Hispanoamérica (1960); J. Monin, Los Judíos en la America Española, 1492–1810 (1939). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: B. Ansel, "The Beginnings of the Modern Jewish Community in Argentina, 1852–1891" (Ph.D. dissertation: University of Kansas, 1969); H. Avni, Argentina "Ha-Areẓ ha-Ye'uda" – Mifal ha-Hityashvut shel ha-Baron Hirsch be-Argentina (1973); idem, Argentina and the Jews: A History of Jewish Migration (1991); idem, Yahadut Argentina – Ma'amadah ha-Ḥevrati u-Demutah ha-Irgunit (1972); G. Ben Dror, Católicos, Nazis y judíos. La Iglesia Argentina en tiempos del Tercer Reich, 1933–1945 (2003); M. Braylan and A. Jmelnitzky, Informe sobre antisemitismo en la Argentina 2000–2001 et seq. (2002, 2004); DAIA – Centro de Estudios Sociales, B. Gurevich, Proyecto testimonio – revelaciones de los archivos argentinos sobre la política oficial en la era nazi-fascista, vols. I and II (1998); S. Della Pergola, in: American Jewish Yearbook (2002, 2003); R. Feierstein and S. Sadow, Recreando la cultura judeoargentina – 1894–2001: en el umbral del segundo siglo (2002); I. Herschlag, D. Schers et al., The Social Structure of Latin American Jewry – Final Report (1975); J. Laikin Elkin and G.W. Merkxs (eds.), The Jewish Presence in Latin America (1987); J. Laikin Elkin, The Jews of Latin America (1998); V. Mirelman, Jewish Buenos Aires, 1890–1930: In Search of an Identity (1990); I. Rubel, Las Escuelas Judías Argentinas (1985–1995) – Procesos de evolución y de involución (1998); U.O. Schmelz and S. Della Pergola, Ha-Demografiyah shel ha-Yehudim be-Argentina ve-Yeter Medinot America ha-Latinit (1974); L. Senkman (ed.), El Antisemitismo en la Argentina (1989); idem, Argentina, la Segunda Guerra Mundial y los refugiados indeseables, 1933–1945 (1991); L. Senkman and M. Sznajder (eds.), El legado del autoritarismo (1995); L. Slavsky, La espada encendida – Un estudio sobre la muerte y la entidad étnica en el judaísmo (1993); S. Schenkolewski-Kroll, Ha-Tenu'ah ha-Ẓiyyonit ve-ha-Miflagot ha-Ẓiyyoniot be-Argentina, 1935–1948 (1996); Tel Aviv University, S. Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, Anti-Semitism Worldwide (yearbook); E. Zadoff, Historia de la Educación Judía en Buenos Aires 1935–1957 (1994); idem, A Century of Argentinean Jewry: In Search of a New Model of National Identity (2000). WEBSITES: news.daia.org.ar; www.amia.org.ar; www.mfa.gov.il/desaparecidos.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.