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ARGENTINA
(From Jewish Agency)

The Argentinian Jewish community today numbers almost 187,000 persons. The first Jewish community in Argentina was founded by crypto-Jews (Marranos) from Spain and Portugal who fled the Inquisition in the 16th century, but these early Jewish immigrants assimilated into the surrounding Catholic society.

In the 19th century, Jews came to Argentina, first from Europe and later from North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. The first to arrive were businessmen and company representatives from Europe; this was followed by a small wave of immigration from Morroco and from other countries, including the Russian Empire. In 1862, these immigrants founded the first Jewish community in Buenos Aires; however, as with the crypto-Jews, most of the immigrants from this period assimilated into the local Christian population.

The actual history of the Jewish community therefore only really begins with the large wave of immigration from Tsarist Russia in the 1880s. The massive emigration resulting from the pogroms and persecution of Jews in Romania arrived not only on the shores of North America, but also on the continent of South America. From 1881 to 1950, approximately 225,000 Jews came to Argentina, which is an average of 7,000 per year. Until the 1930s, immigration came from Eastern Europe; during the 1930s, some tens of thousands of Jews came from Germany; during the 1940s and 1950s, Jewish immigrants arrived from several countries in the Middle East, including Syria. At its peak, the Jewish community in Argentina numbered between 310,000-320,000 souls.

The figure behind mass Jewish migration to Argentina was Jewish businessman and philanthropist, Baron Maurice de Hirsch , who founded the Jewish Colonization Association (agricultural colonies), thereby offering an alternative to projects offered by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, who supported immigration to Eretz Yisrael and the creation of agricultural colonies there. The JCA founded agricultural colonies in Argentina and assisted Jewish resettlement in them: about 40,000 Jews settled in these colonies at the peak of this operation, but they did not last more than a few decades and dwindled to a small remnant, as the second and third generations made their way to major urban centers, in a preference for business and academic education, over agriculture.

Today, approximately 90% of Argentinan Jews live in Buenos Aires, and the remainder are dispersed in small communities in the "Interior", like Rosario, Cordoba, and Santa Fe, with a very small population left in some of the JCA villages.

The community comprises approximately 85% Ashkenazi Jews and 15% Sephardi Jews. The East European immigrants brought with them both Yiddish culture and an interest in political activity, primarily socialist-oriented, together with a deep sense of identification with Zionism. By contrast, immigrants from Syria and the surrounding countries came with a deep-rooted Jewish tradition, their strong opposition to intermarriage and conversion of non-Jews, as well as their distance, and even alienation from Zionism

LINKS

The Jewish Virtual Library