The Argentine Jewish community is the largest in Latin America. There are 180,000 Jews in Buenos Aires, 20,000 in Rosario, and smaller communities in Cordoba (9,000) and in Santa Fe (4,000). The towns of La Plata, Bahia Blanca, Mendoza, and Mar del Plata each have a Jewish population of 4,000. Jews also reside in rural areas.
The majority of Argentine Jewry is Ashkenazi, with roots in central and eastern Europe. About 15% are Sephardim, descendants of immigrants from Syria, Turkey, and North Africa. Jews of east European stock are called "Rusos," whereas those with Middle Eastern roots are called "Turcos." Today most Jews are native Spanish speakers, and both Yiddish and Ladino are on the wane.
Argentine Jewry plays a prominent role in industry, commerce, politics, the free professions, and the arts. The democratic regime is seen as a catalyst accelerating the integration, and consequently the assimilation, of Jews in Argentina.
The major political Jewish organization is the Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations (DAIA), which represents all communities and organizations before the authorities and is responsible for safeguarding the rights of its members. The largest organization representing the Ashkenazi majority is the Argentina Jewish Mutual Aid Association (AMIA). The organization deals with the religious and cultural activities of the Ashkenazi community. It is also responsible for social welfare, and the operation of several old-age homes, a Jewish hospital, and a community restaurant for the needy. The Sephardi community has three organizations of its own. The Vaad ha-Kehillot is the umbrella organization of all the communities in the provinces. The Zionist Federation (OSA) and its women's organizations are very active. The headquarters of the Latin American Jewish Congress is situated in Buenos Aires.
The bomb that devastated the Buenos Aires Jewish community center (the seat of DAIA and AMIA) in July 1994 was a physical and emotional blow to Argentine Jewry. The explosion cost 100 lives, Jews and non-Jews, and injured many more. It also destroyed the archives of the 100-year-old community. This attack followed the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992. Much criticism has been directed against the government and the president for not doing enough to apprehend the perpetrators of these terrorist attacks.
In an effort to improve Argentina's public image, tainted as it was by anti-Semitism and the presence of Nazi criminals, and due to pressure by the World Jewish Congress, President Menem ordered the release of files concerning Nazis in Argentina. In 1988 the parliament also passed a law against racism and anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, there are still some 30 small neo-Nazi groups. In general Menem has developed a pro-Israeli, pro-Jewish, and pro-American line and has made a commitment to combating anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
Traditionally the Ashkenazim and Sephardim have their own separate synagogues and religious institutions. The majority of the synagogues are Orthodox, but in practice many are closer to the Conservative movement. Buenos Aires has 50 Orthodox synagogues, five Conservative, and one Reform. In 1962 the Conservative movement established the Argentine branch of the New York-based Jewish Theological Seminary, which prepares students for the rabbinate. Kosher food is readily available. There are many kosher butcher shops and markets, as well as several kosher restaurants.
There are some 70 Jewish educational institutions in Argentina, including elementary and secondary day schools and kindergartens, with some 22,000 Jewish pupils. About 17,000 Jewish children (20%) study in the Jewish educational system of Buenos Aires. Most of the schools have a Zionist bent. The Latin American Jewish Congress publishes the monthly, Oji, and the journal, Cologio. Buenos Aires is home to an independent branch of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, which was first founded in Vilna in the 1920s.
In Buenos Aires, there are also a Jewish museum, three libraries, and four Jewish book-stores. Each community has its own social club: Sociedad Hebraica (Ashkenazi) and Casa Sephardi. Cordoba has an impressive community center. The Maccabi Sport Federation is also very active in Argentina.
Israel and Argentina established diplomatic relations in 1949.
Aliya: Since 1948 45,000 Argentine Jews have emigrated to Israel.
Delegacion de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas (DAIA)
Ayacucho 632, 6 Piso, 1026 Buenos Aires
Tel. 54 1 375 4747/ 375 4730/ 375 4742
Fax 54 1 375 4742
Latin American Jewish Congress
Casilla de Correo 20
1453 Buenos Aires
Tel. +54 - 11 -4961 4534
Fax. +54 - 11 - 4963 7056
Avenida de Mayo 701 10 Piso
1007 Buenos Aires
Tel. 54 1 342 1465, Fax 54 1 342 5307
For up to date information on Kosher restaurants and locations please see the Shamash Kosher Database
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