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June 24, 1988 - Image 83

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-06-24

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Judith Laikin Elkin: Latin America is a pre-Enlightenment society. Many
people see Jews as deicides.

nations that grew out of the
18th Century Enlighten-
ment, inspired by the liberal
ideals of John Locke and
other social philosophers.
Latin America, by contrast,
was conquered and settled
much earlier by a Spain that
never was part of the ra-
tionalist tradition. This dif-
ference had broad
"In Hispanic countries, be-
ing Catholic is at the root of
being, for example, a Mexican
or Argentine," says
National identity is
religious identity. This has
had, and continues to have,
significant consequences in
Spanish-Catholic countries. "
Since people have absorbed
the medieval Chritian notion
that Jews are responsible for
the death of Jesus, Jews are
in many ways marginalized
by Latin socities. Many peo-
ple see Jews as deicides."
In fact, she explains, the on-
ly pogrom in the Western
Hemisphere occurred in
Argentina in 1919 where
what began as an industrial
labor dispute soon evolved in-
to something much worse.
"Right-wing goons invaded
the Jewish neighborhoods.
They killed, looted and burn-
ed and the police did nothing
to stop it." The pogrom is
remembered as "the Tragic
Jewish marginality has af-
fected Jewish community life
as well, drawing communities
inward. Laikin Elkin and
other historians point out
that, generally, the Jewish
communities in South
America are much more con-

servative — religiously and in
other ways — and more
isolated from one another and
even from their own past.
"I think as a general rule,
when Jewish communities
have felt beleaguered they've
closed in on themselves,"
Laikin Elkin explains.
Unlike the United States,
where Jews are recognized
participants in the cultural
vitality of the country, in
Latin America, Jewish con-
tributions may be absent or
ignored. "The requirements
for being accepted as fellow
citizens are such that
specifically Jewish talent
isn't encouraged:'
The long history of Jewish
involvement in the U.S. labor
movement, in the civil rights
movement, in contemporary
social issues, does not really
have a counterpart in Latin
America. "What I find really
depressing is the fear express-
ed by so many Latin
American Jews of engaging
in activities that may draw
attention to themselves," says
Laikin Elkin.
Many memers of the Latin
American Jewish Studies
Association are involved with
contemporary, as well as
historical issues. "I've been
very much in touch with
Jewish Mothers of the Plaza
de Mayo," Laikin Elkin says,
referring to the women who
for years have rallied every
Thursday morning in front of
the presidential palace in
Buenos Aires to demand an
accounting for the disap-
pearance of their sons and
daughters. Of the 9,000 con-
firmed disappeared (some
estimate their numbers to be


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