28 Feb 2013
Argentina Jewish Life and History in under 300 Words
Although the first Jews arrived in Argentina when they got kicked out of Spain in 1492, the first major immigration was from Eastern Europe in late 1800s escaping poverty and pogroms.
At its peak, the Jewish community in Argentina numbered between 310,000-320,000.
Jewish businessman and philanthropist, Baron Maurice de Hirsch founded the Jewish Colonization Association (agricultural colonies). The JCA founded agricultural colonies in Argentina and assisted Jewish resettlement in them. About 40,000 Jews settled in these colonies at the peak
Within three generations most had moved to Buenos Aires preferring business and academic education, over agriculture.
Anti-Semitism was the norm preceding the Holocaust, yet 30,000 – 50,000 refugees arrived from Hitler’s Europe. That stopped after WWII.
That is when Peron let in about 5,000 Nazi’s including 300 war criminals.
Previous supposition has been replaced by historical fact now that thousands of documents have been declassified around the world.
Escape routes, known as ratlines, were made possible and aided by not just Peron, but also Switzerland and the Vatican. Argentinean passports were handed out in their consulate in Barcelona.
After the war about 50,000 Argentinean Jews moved to Israel.
On the other hand, Argentina was the first Latin America country to recognize Israel and had significant trade with Israel. There were several other actions Peron took to appease and please the Jewish community
Buenos Aires is only the seventh largest city in Latin America but has the most Jews.
Most of their Jewish life centers in two neighborhoods which reminded me of New Yorks lower east side when it was Jewish.
Currently Jewish life is relatively stable (but for the economy) notwithstanding a couple explosions during the 1990s. Out of the country organizations are credited as being the culprits.