Jewish Heritage trip to Argentina

Enjoy this opportunity to see Argentina in all its complexity through a uniquely Jewish lens. Among the highlights of this tour  you will visit the vibrant Buenos Aires, also having the opportunity to go an Estancia (ranch), taste Argentinian style BBQ called asado, and enjoy the gaucho skills show and folkloric dancing!

This trip is not only about visiting meaningful sites, but more about learning and diving into the History of the Jewish immigration to Argentina, deeply exploring the tragic episodes that dramatically changed the community and celebrating the active dynamic life of the Argentinean Jewish Community as it is today.

In 1882, the Congregacion Israelita de Buenos Aires held the first minyan. By the early 1900s, there were 100,000 Jewish immigrants in Argentina, mostly from Eastern Europe. The Jewish community in Argentina today is the largest in Latin America. Of a total population of 41.45 million people, about 240,000 are Jewish, the majority of which live in Buenos Aires. There are approximately 75 synagogues, 50 Jewish educational institutions, and 20 kosher restaurants in Buenos Aires.

Argentina is home to the largest Jewish community in Latin America. The so-called Jewish Heritage can be lived in big cities like Buenos Aires, but also in the country’s interior. In the Litoral Region, the charming circuit of the “Jewish Colonies” gives testimony of an unequaled agricultural colonization where you can find Jewish traces, flavors, sounds and traditions.

The biggest wave of Jewish immigration to Argentina took place in the late 1880's. In 1876, the Argentine government authorized the religious practice of the Jewish Rabbinate, thus promoting Jewish immigration. Since then, hundreds of immigrants arrived to our lands escaping from the persecution of the Czarist Russia. The Jewish Colonization Association –created by Baron Maurice Hirsch- made possible the Jewish colonization in Argentina. On the basis of an agricultural project developed for different provinces, mainly in the Litoral, it took place to the settlement of dozens of villages that comprised the so-called “Jewish Colonies” founded by women and men culturally known as the “Jewish Gauchos” (Jewish cowboys).

The Sephardic immigrants, on the other hand, came to Argentina by their own means at early XX century, mostly from the Ottoman Empire. They represent 25% of the Jewish community of Argentina. 

Buenos Aires City has the largest number of Jews and Jewish institutions in the country: it is the sixth city outside Israel in number of inhabitants of such origin. 

Even though there are three traditional Jewish neighborhoods in Buenos Aires such as Once, Flores and Barracas, nowadays Jews are spread all over the city, and the same situation applies to the synagogues, schools, Jewish cultural centers, Kosher restaurants, supermarkets and bakeries. In the city, you may visit the Buenos Aires Jewish Museum, the Synagogue of the Israelite Congregation of the Argentinean Republic –known as Templo Libertad- the Israeli Mutual Association in Argentina (AMIA), the Great Temple of Paso street, the Argentine Hebraic Society, the Holocaust Museum, the House of Anne Frank, the Latin America Rabbinical Seminar, among other institutions.

 In Buenos Aires, you will find the first Kosher McDonald's outside of Israel. 

All year long, there are special activities, artistic festivals, sport competitions and celebrations related to Judaism. Since 2004, the AMIA organizes Art Exhibitions with the purpose of sharing a selection of works of its best artists –not only the great acknowledged masters but also the young talents. There are other annual events like the Jewish Film International Festival, Dalia Festival (Rikudim), the Jewish Book Fair, celebrations for Hanukkah in the main squares in Buenos Aires, Maccabiah Games organized by the Argentine Federation of Maccabiah Community Centers (FACCMA).

Diplomatic relationships between Argentina and Israel

Argentina established diplomatic relationships with Israel in 1950, during the administration of President Juan D. Perón. 

In 1951 Evita Perón and Golda Meir met in Buenos Aires.

In 1960, Adolph Eichmann was captured by the Mossad at 6067 Garibaldi Street in San Fernando, a suburb of  Buenos Aires. The operation to capture Eichmann was timed close to the independence festivities of Argentina, which made it possible for the Mossad to fly Eichmann out to Israel in an El Al plane less than two days later. That was the only time that an El Al aircraft ever landed in Argentina. 

Other Israeli personalities visited Argentina, such as David Ben Gurion and Abba Eban. 

Terrorist attacks
The most shocking events to have affected Jewish life in Argentina took place in the early 1990s when the community was the target of the country’s two largest terrorist attacks of the last century.

On March 17, 1992 a suicide bomber drove a pickup truck loaded with explosives into the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, completely destroying it and other buildings nearby. Overall, 29 people were killed and hundreds were injured. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing and stated that it was in retaliation for the assassination of Hezbollah Secretary General, Sayed Abbas al-Musawi. When evidence emerged in 1998 suggesting that Iran orchestrated the attack, arrest warrants were issued for six Iranian diplomats who promptly left Argentina.

Then, two years later, in July 1994, a truck loaded with explosives drove into the seven-story AMIA building (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association), a focal point of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires. Eighty-five, mostly Jewish people died and around 300 were injured.

Although the government and society at large demonstrated its support for the Jewish community in the aftermath of these events, no one has ever been held responsible for the crimes. 

Jewish community and Human Rights

Rabbi Marshall Meyer was an ordinary man whose extraordinary convictions, faith, and impetuous personality impelled him to become one of the most important human rights activists during Argentina’s Dirty War, also known as El Proceso (1976-1983). 

He arrived in Argentina in 1959 from New York hired by the Israelite Congregation of the Argentinean Republic to organize the Ramah Department. Two years later he quit to found his own Congregation, Bet-El and the Latin America Rabbinical Seminar in 1962. 

Meyer’s activities thrust him into national prominence. In 1984, he was one of two Jews appointed by then-President Raul Alfonsin to a 16-member government investigative body (CONADEP) that looked into the disappearances and provided evidence at the military leaders’ trials. 

Rabbi Meyer called the final report of the CONADEP’s Commission “Never Again” (Nunca Más) after Masada. 

The Nunca Más report is a bestseller in Argentina and has been constantly in print since 1984.

Interfaith relationships in Argentina
The most powerful symbol of nowadays interfaith relationships between the Catholicism and Judaism in Argentina is the friendship between former Cardinal Bergoglio, the current Pope Francis and the Rabbi Abraham Skorka.

One of the first things Argentinian native Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio did after being elected pope on March 13 was to send a message of friendship to Rome's chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni -- and, by extension, the Jewish people.
This includes the world Jewish community, where he has garnered accolades for his positive history with the Argentine Jewish community.

Francis' outreach to Jews also comes as no surprise for those who had followed his career as Cardinal Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, where he celebrated various Jewish holidays with the Argentine Jewish community, including Chanukah, where he lit a candle on the menorah, attended a Buenos Aires synagogue for Slichot, a pre-Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) service, as well as a commemoration of Kristallnacht, the wave of violent Nazi attacks against Jews before World War II.
He also expressed strong solidarity with Argentina's Jewish community following the deadly 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center. In 2010, during a commemoration of the tragedy, Cardinal Bergoglio called the site "a house of solidarity."

Throughout the trip, every visitor will have powerful first-hand encounters with the people who are working every day to ensure the vibrancy of Jewish life and Jewish community in Argentina.

Jewish Heritage trip to Argentina. Trips to warm your soul.

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Posted by Valeria Duek Kosherlat Jewish Heritage tours in Argentina