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A South American woman demonstrates against her government.
South American Jews: Between
Acceptance And Assimilation
RABBI RICHARD C. HERTZ
he song Don't Cry For Me,
Argentina is not heard in
Buenos Aires these days.
But Eva Peron is very much
alive, even from her tomb in
the Recoleta Cemetery. The army gen-
erals, who took over after Juan Peron,
ruthlessly stamped out any human
rights in Argentina. They have now
been succeeded by a more stable gov-
ernment headed by a civilian president,
Still, every Thursday afternoon in
front of the Pink Palace (Argentina's
equivalent to the White House), mothers
gather- to weep for their disappeared
loved ones. Anti-Semitic activity of the
years following World War II, when the
Nazi hierarchy was welcomed by Peron,
have subsided, relatively speaking,
though no one forgets the Jewish intel-
lectuals and students who were kidnap-
ped and disappeared.
The Pope's recent visit to Argentina
preceded our visit by only a few days.
Posters of his presence were displayed
everywhere. Argentina is a Roman
Catholic country, with Spanish their
language and strong memories of
Spanish colonization. Between 1890 and
1940, four million migrated there,
Dr. Hertz, rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth El,
recently returned from a visit to South
mostly Italians and Spaniards who re-
sumed their former livelihoods as ag-
What of the Jews? Baron de
Hirsch's Jewish Colonization Association
was a plan to answer the czar's pogroms.
It brought thousands of Jews trans-
planted from the shtetls of the Pale of
Settlement to the pampas of Argentina.
Between the 1890s and 1930s, many
struggled to become gauchos and assimi-
late into Argentine society. Though they
never achieved the success of Palestine's
kibbutzim, their socialist-secularism
found expressions in identifying with
the land. They became small farmers,
cattle herders and yes, Jewish gauchos.
Both before and after World War I
but especially in the Hitler years of the
1930s, Jews came to Argentina from
Germany and Poland. They avoided the
land and turned to Buenos Aires. The
city grew from 120,000 Jews in 1936 to
nearly 300,000 today. Perhaps ten per-
cent, frustrated by post World War II
Argentinian fascism, emigrated to Is-
rael. Still, most Jews today seem to be
strongly pro-Argentinian. All they want
is a stable government that will respect
differences. Despite many warnings that
Argentina may become another Nazi
Germany, the large Jewish community
stubbornly insists that a decent Dias-
pora Jewish life in Argentina is possible.
They can be both Argentinian and
Jewish and still survive with a positive
identity. As one said, "Argentina is not
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Continued on Page 18