Argentina Jewish Online Databases
- Jewish Genealogical Society of Argentina
- Jewish Genealogy in Argentina
- Argentina Immigration Records
- Argentina Jewish Burial Records
- Argentina Jewish Links & Resources
The history of the Jews of Argentina goes back to the days of the Spanish Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition, when Jews fleeing persecution settled in what is now Argentina. Many of the Portuguese traders in the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata were Jewish, but an organized Jewish community developed only after Argentina gained independence from Spain in 1810. At that time, Jews from France and other parts of Western Europe began to settle in Argentina.
The current Jewish population is 80% Ashkenazi. Argentina has the largest Jewish population of any country in Latin America. Next Year in Argentina, a 2005 documentary about diaspora Jews, who have either decided to remain in Argentina or move to Israel. Jorge Gurvich and Shlomo Slutzky, Argentine-Israeli filmmakers, travel back to Argentina—exploring questions of identity and the meaning of a homeland as they speak with friends and family who have stayed behind.
Spanish Colonial Period (16th - 19th century)
Some Spanish conversos, or secret Jews, settled in Argentina during the Spanish colonial period (16th–19th century), assimilating into the general population. After Argentina emancipated from the Spanish Empire, the General Assembly of 1813 officially abolished the Inquisition.
A second wave of Jewish immigration began in the mid-19th century during the Great European immigration wave to Argentina, mostly from Western Europe, especially France.
In 1860, the first Jewish wedding was recorded in Buenos Aires. A minyan was organized for High Holiday services a few years later, leading to the establishment of the Congregación Israelita de la República.
In the late 19th century, immigrants fleeing poverty and pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe settled in Argentina, availing themselves of its open-door immigration policy. These Jews became known as rusos, "Russians".
In 1889, 824 Russian Jews arrived in Argentina on the S.S. Weser and became gauchos (Argentine cowboys). They bought land and established a colony named Moiseville. In dire economic straits, they appealed to the French Jewish philanthropist Baron Maurice de Hirsch, who founded the Jewish Colonization Association. In its heyday, the Association owned more than 600,000 hectares of land, populated by over 200,000 Jews. Between 1906 and 1912, some 13,000 Jews immigrated to Argentina every year, mostly from Europe, but also from Morocco and the Ottoman Empire. By 1920, more than 150,000 Jews were living in Argentina.
The number of Jews migrating to Argentina increased in the late 19th century due to the efforts of Baron Maurice de Hirsch. After the death of his son and heir, de Hirsch devoted himself to Jewish philanthropy and alleviating Jewish suffering in Eastern Europe. He came up with a plan to bring Jews to Argentina as autonomous agricultural settlers. This plan meshed with Argentina's campaign to attract immigrants. The 1853 constitution guaranteed religious freedom, and the country had vast, unpopulated land reserves. Under President Domingo F. Sarmiento, a policy of mass immigration was introduced that coincided with the violent pogroms in Russia in 1881. These Jewish agricultural settlements were established in the provinces of Buenos Aires (Colonia Lapin, Rivera), Entre Ríos (Basavilbaso, San Gregorio, Villa Domínguez, Carmel, Ingeniero Sajaroff, Villa Clara, and Villaguay), and Santa Fe (Moisés Ville). In fact, the national census of 1895 indicated that of the 6,085 people who declared to be Jewish, 3,880 (about 64%) lived in Entre Ríos.
Buenos Aires Jewish community
The Buenos Aires Jewish community was established in 1862, and held its first traditional Jewish wedding in 1868. The first synagogue was inaugurated in 1875. The Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe who settled in Argentina became known as "rusos" ("Russians") by the local population. Some settled in the major cities, but many acquired land through the Jewish Colonization Association and established small agricultural colonies ("comunas") in the interior of the country, especially in the provinces of Santa Fe and Entre Ríos.
Jews in Argentina came to play an important role in Argentine society, but antisemitism reared its head from time to time. In January 1919 in Buenos Aires, pogroms fomented by the police as a response to a general strike targeted the Jews and destroyed their property. In the strike's aftermath civilian vigilante gangs (the Argentine Patriotic League) went after agitators ("agitadores"), claiming "scores of victims", including "numerous Russian Jews who were falsely accused of masterminding a Communist conspiracy". "In 1939 half the owners and workers of small manufacturing plants were foreigners, many of them newly arrived Jewish refugees from Central Europe".
Despite antisemitism and increasing xenophobia, Jews became involved in most sectors of Argentine society. Still, they were unable to work in the government or military and so many became farmers, peddlers, artisans and shopkeepers. Cultural and religious organizations flourished and a Yiddish press and theater opened in Buenos Aires, as well as a Jewish hospital and a number of Zionist organizations.
World War II, Holocaust
Argentina kept its doors open to Jewish immigration until 1938. After that, new regulations were imposed by the government and the flow was severely curtailed at the very moment when the Jews sought a safe haven from the Nazis.
Juan Perón's rise to power in 1946 worried many Jews. Though it was Juan Perón who, as Minister of War, eventually signed Argentina's declaration of war against the Axis Powers, as a nationalist he had initially expressed sympathy for the Axis powers. He had also specifically expressed admiration for Benito Mussolini.
Peron introduced Catholic religious instruction in public schools and allowed Argentina to become a haven for fleeing Nazis. One notable fugitive was Adolf Eichmann who lived in Argentina after World War II until 1960, when Israeli agents abducted him from a Buenos Aires suburb. Eichmann faced trial in Jerusalem, on April 1961.
Since then, more than 45,000 Jews have migrated to Israel from Argentina. On the other hand, Perón also expressed sympathy for Jewish rights and established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1949. Perón's government was also the first, in Argentina, to allow Jewish citizens to hold office.
Peron was overthrown in 1955, which was followed by another wave of antisemitism. In the 1950s and 60s, the Tacuara Nationalist Movement, a fascist organization with political ties, began a series of antisemitic campaigns with street fights and vandalism of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries.
Argentina was under military rule between 1976 and 1983. During this period, Jews were increasingly targeted for kidnapping and torture by the ruling junta; about 2,000 known victims of state terrorism were Jews. According to the Jerusalem Post, Israel had a special agreement with the Argentine government to allow Jews arrested for political crimes to immigrate to Israel.
During the 1982 Falklands War, around 250 Jewish soldiers served in the Falkland Islands and strategic points in Patagonia. During their service, they experienced regular Antisemitic attacks from officers. The Argentine government allowed five rabbis to visit them: these were the only chaplains permitted to accompany the Argentine Army during the conflict, and they remain the only non-Catholic chaplains ever permitted to serve.
According to author Hernán Dobry, the only reason the rabbis were permitted to visit Jewish soldiers was because Argentina had been sourcing weapons from Israel, and did not want to risk the relationship "for the sake of five rabbis". During the war, Jewish soldiers enjoyed a close relationship with the rabbis, and opened up to them about the Antisemitic insults.
The return to democracy and the AMIA terrorist attack
In 1983, Raúl Alfonsín was democratically elected as president of Argentina. Alfonsín enjoyed the support of the Jewish population and placed many Jews in high positions. Carlos Saul Menem was elected president in 1989, his Arab origin and support of Perón worried the Jews; however, he did not follow in Perón's footsteps. Menem appointed many Jews to his government, visited Israel a number of times, and offered to help mediate the Israeli-Arab peace process. After a Jewish cemetery was desecrated in Buenos Aires, Menem immediately expressed his outrage to the Jewish community and, within a week, apprehended those responsible.
President Menem also ordered the release of files relating to Argentina's role in serving as a haven for Nazi war criminals. A law against racism and antisemitism was passed in the Argentine parliament in 1988.
Despite Menem's sympathetic policies and a democratic regime, the Jews of Argentina were targets of two major terrorist attacks, both of which remain unsolved: the Israeli Embassy was bombed in March 1992, killing 29 people, and in July 1994 the Jewish community center (AMIA) in Buenos Aires was bombed as well, killing 85 people and wounding over 200. The community's archives were partially destroyed in the bombing and the event left many emotionally scarred.
In 2005, an Argentine prosecutor said the AMIA bombing was carried out by a 21-year-old Lebanese suicide bomber who belonged to Hezbollah. In 2006, Argentine Justice indicted seven high-ranking former Iranian officials and one senior Hezbollah member as suspects of being involved in the planning and execution of the AMIA bombing. In 2007, Interpol ordered a red notice to capture the Iranian fugitives. Since then, the Argentine government has requested that Iran extradite the Iranian citizens accused for the attack in order to be judged by an Argentine or a foreign court,but Iran has refused. During the economic crisis of 1999–2002, approximately 4,400 Argentine Jews made aliyah to Israel. Due to the economic situation several Jewish institutes such as schools, community centres, clubs and congregations merged.
A 2011 poll conducted by the Gino Germani Research Institute of the University of Buenos Aires on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League and Delegacion de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas showed that a majority of Argentines held anti-semitic sentiments or prejudices. Of the 1,510 Argentines quizzed, 82% agreed that Jews are preoccupied with making money, 49% said that they "talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust", 68% said that they have "too much power in the business world", and 22% said that the Jews killed Jesus. The majority of people interviewed also expressed belief that Jews are more loyal to Israel than their country of birth.
Today, approximately 250,000 Jews live in Argentina, down from 310,000 in the early 1960s.Most of Argentina's Jews live in Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Rosario. Argentina's Jewish population is the largest Jewish community in Latin America, the third-largest in the Americas (after that of the United States and Canada), and the seventh-largest in the world. By law, the Jews are allowed two days of vacation on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the first two and last two days of Passover.
In February 2009, Argentina expelled Richard Williamson, a British Roman Catholic Bishop. Williamson who headed a seminary near Buenos Aires was ordered to leave for 'concealing true activity' (he had entered the country as an employee of a non-governmental group, not a priest); the decision cited his Holocaust denial.
The history of the Jews in Latin America began with seven sailors arriving in Christopher Columbus's crew. Since then, the Jewish population of Latin America has risen to more than 500,000 — most of whom live in Argentina, with large communities also present in Brazil and Mexico. The following is a list of some prominent Argentine Jews:
FAMOUS JEWISH ARGENTINIANS
- László József Bíró, inventor of the ballpoint pen. Married Elsa Schick. His brother Georg collaborated with him on ink formulation for his ballpoint pen.
- César Milstein, immunologist, Nobel prize
- José Bleger, descendant of the Blejer/Bleger/Blecher families who were brought to Argentina to be agriculturalists, by Baron Hirsch, was an eminent Argentine psychologist.
- Héctor Babenco, film director (Argentinian-born)
- Daniel Burman filmmaker
- Tato Bores, humorist
- Adrián Suar, actor, entretainment businessmen
- Giora Feidman, klezmer musician
- Daniel Barenboim, conductor and pianist
- Osvaldo Golijov, classical composer
- Mario Davidovsky, composer
- Max Glücksmann, pioneer of the Argentinian music and film industries
- Alejandro Lerner, composer and singer
- Oscar Strasnoy, composer and conductor
- Lilo Schifrin, composer, pianist and conductor, best known for film and TV scores, such as the Theme from Mission Impossible. He has received four Grammy Awards and six Oscar nominations.
- Daniel Filmus, Senator
- José Alperovich, governor of the Tucumán Province
- Tania Bíder revolutionary fighter
- César Jaroslavsky, former national congressman
- Beatriz Rojkés de Alperovich, Provisional President of the Senate
- Mario Blejer, an internationally renown Argentine economist, who held senior positions in the IMF and World Bank, and was the President of the Central Bank of Argentina
- David Blejer first Argentine Jew to serve in the cabinet, becoming Minister of Labor and Social Welfare in Argentina during the presidency of Arturo Frondizi in February 1959
Writers / Artists
- Isidoro Blaisten, writer
- Alberto Gerchunoff, writer
- Bernardo Verbitsky, novelist
- Marcelo Birmajer, writer
- Marcos Aguinis, journalist/writer
- Ana María Shua, writer
- Horacio Verbitsky, journalis
- Sergio Chejfec, writer
- Raquel Partnoy, painter
- Alejandro Romay, businessman working with theater and TV
- Daniel Brailovsky, former football (soccer) player, midfielder (Argentina, Uruguay, & Israel national teams)
- Gastón Etlis, tennis player
- Naón Isidro, association footballer
- Martín Jaite, tennis, highest world ranking # 10
- Martín Schusterman, rugby player.
- Giselle Kañevsky, field hockey, Olympic bronze
- Daniela Krukower, Israel/Argentina, judo world champion (under 63 kg)
- Lucas Matías Licht, football (soccer) left defender/left winger (Racing Club de Avellaneda)
- José Pekerman, former Argentina national football and Colombia national football team coach.
- Walter Samuel, football (soccer) defender (FC Internazionale and national team)
- Juan Pablo Sorín, former Argentina national football team defender
- Nicolás Tauber, Argentina/Israel, soccer goalkeeper (Chacarita Juniors)
Jewish Colonies in Argentina
Buenos Aires Province:
- Carlos Casares
- Colonia Lapin
- Mauricio Hirsch
- Delfin Huergo
Entre Ríos Province:
- General Campos
- La Clarita
- Pueblo Arrua
- San Salvador
- Villa Dominguez
Santa Fe Province:
- Las Plameras
- Luis Palacios
La Pampa Province:
- General Acha
Santiago del Estero Province:
- Colonia Dora
- Generations of Moises Ville, a genealogical site with information from about 250 Jewish families from Moises Ville, Las Palmeras, Monigotes, Palacios and Virginia, all of whom arrived in Argentina between 1889-1905, and a database of about 23,000 people.
- List of Resident Names, Basavilbaso, Argentina, online spreadsheet of families who emigrated to Argentina in the early twentieth century to Basovilbaso - Lucienville, Argentina, A Baron Hirsch Settlement in the Province of Entre Rios.
- Resources for the Basovilbaso - Lucienville, Argentina settlement
- Jewish Virtual Library article on Jews in Argentina