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Jewish
Buenos Aires,
1890-1930



Victor A. Mirelman
Jewish
Buenos Aires,
1890-1930
In Search of an Identity
Wayne State University Press
Detroit 1990


Copyright © 1990 by Wayne State University Press, Detroit, Michigan 48202.
All material in this work, except as identified below, is licensed under a Creative
Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of
this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/.
All material not licensed under a Creative Commons license is all rights reserved.
Permission must be obtained from the copyright owner to use this material.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Mirelman, Victor A.
Jewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930: in search of an identity / Victor A. Mirelman.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 978-0-8143-4457-6 (paperback); 978-0-8143-4456-9 (ebook)
1. Jems—Argentina—Buenos Aires—History. 2. Buenos Aires (Argentina)—Ethnic
relations. 1. Title.
F3001.9.J5M58 1990
982 Ml—*20
89-16739
CIP
Humanities
MELLON
FOUNDATION
The publication of this volume in a freely accessible digital format has been made
possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the
Mellon Foundation through their Humanities Open Book Program.
Wayne State University Press thanks Martha K. Wolff for her generous permission to
reprint material in this book.
Exhaustive efforts were made to obtain permission for use of material in this text.
Any missed permissions resulted from a lack of information about the material,
copyright holder, or both. If you are a copyright holder of such material, please
contact WSUP at wsupressrights@wayne.edu.
http:/ / wsupress.wayne.edu/


To my parents, Leon and Suzanne Mirelman



7
Contents
Acknowledgments 11
Introduction 13
The )ewish Immigration Flow to
Argentina 19
Argentina's Immigration Policy 19
Argentina As a New Home for lews 25
The Wave from Eastern Europe 27
The First Sephardim from Morocco 34
Sephardim from the Ottoman Empire 36
Patterns of Settlement in Buenos Aires 38
The lews in the Economy 39
lew and Gentile in Argentina 46
Anti-iewish Sentiments before 1905 48
Rise of Nationalism and Its Effects upon the
lews 53
La Semana Tragica 61
lews and the Socialists 67
Aftermath of La Semana Tragica 71
The Late 1920s 73
Religious Institutions and
Observances 76
First Priority: The Cemetery 78
Religious Observances 82
The Rabbis 86
Decreasing Influence of the Synagogue 99


8
Contents
Mixed Marriages
102
National and Political Challenges 110
The Beginnings of the Zionist Parties 110
The Jewish Legion 120
Zionists during La Semana Tragica 123
Zionism among Sephardim 125
Political and Practical Work of Zionists 131
The Leftist Parties 139
Concern for Jewish Education
The Religious Schools 149
Secular lewish Schools 156
147
Jewish Cultural Expressions in an
Acculturating Community 161
Rabbinic Culture 162
Hebrew Culture 163
Yiddish Culture 165
The Yiddish Theater 171
The First Native Generation—lewish Culture in
Spanish 174
• Spirit of Solidarity: The Fight against
Poverty and Evil 184
Relief Work for lews in the Old World 184
Protection of Immigrants and Mutual
Help 187
The Jewish Community Fights
White Slavery
197
198
200
202
Buenos Aires Attains a Reputation
The lews in International Traffic
lewish Traffickers in Buenos Aires


9
Contents
Fighting the White Slave Trade 206
Conclusion 218
A Kehilla in the Making:
Centralization and Rivalries
11 • Conclusion: The lewish Panorama in 1930
Abbreviations Til
Notes 239
Bibliography 283
Index 293
221
232



Acknowledgments
This book was envisioned quite some time ago
when researching the sources dealing with the early period of lewish life in
Argentina. First presented as a doctoral dissertation at Columbia University, it
is now thoroughly revised. Additional research was conducted to fully develop
some chapters and to add new dimensions to the work.
I am grateful to all the lewish institutions in Buenos Aires mentioned
throughout the work for opening their archives to me. Due to the extent of
their contents, the archives of the Chevra Keduscha Aschkenasi—today the
lewish Community of Buenos Aires—and the Congregacion Israelita, proved
to be invaluable. The various Sephardic synagogues and communities pro
vided entrance to their records and to insightful information as well. Many
libraries in Buenos Aires, (erusalem, and New York extended deeply appre
ciated courtesies to me. Among them the 1WO Archives, Biblioteca Nacional,
Biblioteca del Congreso, and Biblioteca del Honorable Concejo Deliberante in
Buenos Aires, the National and University Library, Central Zionist Archives,
and archives of the Sephardic Community in Jerusalem; and the New York Pub
lic Library and YIVO archives in New York. Among the scholars who provided
useful insights at different stages of the work, I wish to acknowledge Gerson D.
Cohen, Zvi Ankori, Ismar Schorsch, Hebert Klein, Haim Avni, and Judith Elkin.
For the location of pictures, I am indebted to the Archivos de la Nacion, 1WO
Institute, Congregacion Israelita, and Martha Wolff. In addition I wish to thank
1 ewish Social Studies for allowing the bulk of chapter 9 to be reprinted in this
book, my friend lohn Less for designing the map, Michael Lane who edited the
book for Wayne State University Press, and Anne M. G. Adamus, its managing
editor.


12
Acknowledgments
This book owes much to my supportive family. My wife, Rose-Miriam,
encouraged me to bring this work to press, and together with our daughters,
Yael and lessica, provided the necessary home atmosphere for it to be com
pleted Finally, to my parents, Leon and Suzanne Mirelman, who settled as
immigrants and flourished in the community described, I dedicate this book
in love and gratitude.


13
Introduction
In 1890 the only lewish institution a newly ar
rived lew could find in Buenos Aires was Congregacion Israelita de la Repub-
lica Argentina (C1RA). It was founded by a group of lews desirous of holding
High Holy Day services in 1862. CIRA was formally organized in 1868, and after
1875 it had its permanent synagogue in Calle Artes (today Carlos Pellegrini),
number 351. In 1897 it inaugurated its temple in Libertad Street, facing Plaza
Lavalle, a central location in the city of Buenos Aires. At the beginning of the
1890s most members of CIRA were lews born in Western and Central Europe—
France, Germany, England, and Italy. Some Moroccan and East European lews
had arrived in Buenos Aires during the 1880s and joined CIRA. However, their
numbers remained small. In fact, the whole lewish population in the country
was estimated at 1,500 souls in 1888. 1
Though assimilated, the lews grouped around CIRA maintained some
type of lewish identity. Services were held during the Holy Days, and attempted
on Sabbaths, though most of the time without the formal quorum of ten
males A society to help the poor and ill was organized at CIRA during the early
1870s. A philanthropic committee was formed in 1881 with the purpose of
raising funds for their persecuted coreligionists in Russia. Funeral services ac
cording to lewish rites were held, and the dead were buried at the British Cem
etery (Cementerio de los Disidentes). Dietary and Sabbath laws were far from
being observed by most members of CIRA Still, an Italian lewish doctor,
Aquiles Modena, circumcised the newly born males. Henry Joseph, an English
businessman who had arrived in Buenos Aires during the late 1850s, officiated
as rabbi after receiving a special certificate from the chief rabbi of the French
Consistoire, Lazare lsidor, in 1882. loseph, whose wife converted to Judaism


14
Introduction
when he was appointed rabbi but whose children were not raised in the lewish
faith, was the most active personality in the small lewish community of Bue
nos Aires before 1890. He led religious services, officiated at weddings and
other specifically religious rituals, and was always prompt to defend the inter
ests of the lewish immigrants. 2
A turning point in Argentine lewry was effected when the Weser anchored
in the port of Buenos Aires in August 1889, bringing 824 lewish souls from
Eastern Europe. This group constituted one of the main antecedents for the
creation of the lewish Colonization Association (ICA) by Baron Maurice de
Hirsch in 1891. 3 From 1890 until 1930 the arrival of lews from Eastern Europe
in Argentina was quite a common event. To the few North African lewish fami
lies who had settled in Buenos Aires during the 1880s many more were added
during the following four decades. Still, by the end of the century a new source
of lewish immigrants emerged in the form of the Ottoman Empire. Thus,
Arabic-speaking lews from Syria—mainly Damascus and Aleppo—and
Ladino-speaking lews from Izmir, Constantinople, Salonika, and Rhodes ar
rived during the first three decades of the twentieth century. Buenos Aires, a
cosmopolitan city during this period, accordingly, became cosmopolitan also
in a lewish sense.
Eighteen ninety and 1930 are important turning points for the lewish
community in Argentina. Eighteen ninety marks the beginning, and 1930 the
end, of immigration en masse to the country. During 1891 the Moroccan lews
founded their first institution, Congregacion Israelita Latina, while the Russian
lews founded their first society, Poale Zedek (Sociedad Obrera Israelita). How
ever, the influence of pre-1890 lewish history in Buenos Aires was felt there
until World War I. CIRA, especially Henry loseph, its rabbi, and Luis H. Brie, its
president, played a major role at some of the main institutions such as the
Chevra Keduscha Aschkenasi (founded 1894) and Ezrah (founded 1900). This
was due mainly to the fact that the West European lews were the veterans—
even if only by a generation or less—in Buenos Aires. They had a better eco
nomic situation and a more fluent command of Spanish, which was of impor
tance when dealing with the local authorities. They thus had more free time to
dedicate to institutional life, which many promptly did. On the other hand, by
the end of the century—and more during the early 1900s—some Russian lews
had already secured for themselves worthy and stable economic situations,
which enabled them to participate in leading positions in institutional life.
Some of them entered CIRA and started occupying leading positions on its
board. 4
By 1930 the rule of the Radical party, representing by and large the inter
ests of the middle sectors, was brought to an end by a rightist coup. Moreover,
the crisis on Wall Street affected Argentina's economic stability. Furthermore,
1930 marks the end of the period of absorption of lews in the country—with
the exception of German lews who arrived in the 1930s—when they founded
most of their religious, cultural, social, educational, and philanthropic institu-


15
Introduction
tions, and the beginning of the most tragic period for world lewry, with Hitler's
gradual rise to power.
In this essay we shall describe the changing facade of the lewish com
munity in Buenos Aires during its crystallization period, up to 1930. After de
scribing the immigration and settlement process, we shall illustrate the rela
tions between lews and gentiles during the period. We shall then look into the
institutions the lews created in Argentina and the interplay among these insti
tutions—and among their constituents—which is what, in short, makes up
lewish life. An important element that developed in this period is the first
generation of Argentine-born Jews. A study of their reactions to the Judaism
brought by their parents from the Old World and of the roots they had devel
oped in their country of birth will give us an understanding of the degree of
assimilation, acculturation, and Argentinization of the lews in Argentina. Fi
nally, we shall describe the ways the various groups of immigrant lews and
their sons expressed their Judaism in Argentina.
Populationwise, Buenos Aires has always been the most important Jew
ish center in Argentina. In 1934 fully 131,000 Jews lived in the capital, while
12,500 lived in Rosario, and 5,300 in Cordoba. In the |CA agricultural colonies
there were 30,659 lews, counting both the urban and the rural population. 5
This essay will deal with the community of Buenos Aires. Only when it seems
pertinent do we include some aspects of lewish life in Rosario or in the ICA
colonies. On the other hand, a development like agricultural settlements
sponsored by ICA deserves a special and separate study. 6
The lewish population in Buenos Aires was cosmopolitan in itself, lews
had arrived from Poland, Russia, Roumania, Syria, Turkey, and Morocco. Their
Jewishness and feelings for fellow lews was what they had in common. But
their lewish identity was reflected in different ways, depending on their previ
ous traditions. Ashkenazim comprised fully four-fifths of the total lewish pop
ulation. They founded tens of religious, Zionist, welfare, cultural, and educa
tional institutions. The backbone of this sector was the Chevra Keduscha
Aschkenasi, founded in 1894 as a burial society, which as years went by became
the most powerful institution due to its large membership and economic pros
perity. On the other hand, all four major Sephardic groups—Damascene, Alep
pine, Turkish (Ladino-speaking), and Moroccan—underwent similar processes
of consolidation. Each of these sectors gradually centralized most of its soci
eties into one organization with a main synagogue, a burial society, a cemetery,
and a religious school, as well as welfare institutions to provide for their ill
and poor. Thus each group had the necessary institutions to constitute an
independent community, and indeed contact between one Sephardic group
with another was unusual. 7 In the chapters on religious life, Zionism, lewish
culture, education, and welfare we deal with each of these sectors separately.
Within the Ashkenazic group CIRA is an atypical institution. Because of its
unique character and its centrality in lewish life during the period under anal
ysis, we give it added attention.
Several visible controversial issues arose among lews in Buenos Aires


16
Introduction
during the four decades of our concern. First, Sephardim and Ashkenazim, in
spite of the attempts to join forces, went after separate goals and concerns.
Even within each of these two main lewish groups the spirit of localism deter
mined by their communities of origin made for attachments to parochial inter
ests. Second, religious Jews were dismayed at the growing apathy in lewish
traditional practices and the predominance of secularists in many of the insti
tutions founded. Third, the political life, especially among Ashkenazim, was
variegated and colorful, with abundant ideological argumentations. Zionists
of various ideological persuasions lived side by side with non-Zionists and
even with anti-Zionists; while at the same time a significant number of lews,
especially those militant in the workers' movement, were attracted to social
ism, the Bund, and communism Fourth, the established lews active in reli
gious, educational, and philanthropic societies were repeatedly challenged by
other lews imbued with extremist doctrines, especially the communist.
A variety of issues, most of them imported from the trans-Atlantic com
munities of origin, prompted these deeply felt divisions. Language was an
early issue. Some Russian lews advocated speaking Russian as a sign of en
lightenment, while the vast majority of East European lews preferred commu
nicating in Yiddish. Later on Yiddish became a key factor in class education
among leftist lews, while small groups of Zionists propounded the use of He
brew as a major link to the ideals of resettling Palestine. The clash between
communists and the rest of the lews was reflected in the school systems they
founded, in the challenge to traditional philanthropy with fund-raising to pro
mote self-help, and in the struggle between the Zionists and those advocating
a lewish territory in Soviet Russia Furthermore, there were lews who pro
moted specifically lewish culture and contended with the self-styled universal-
ists or assimilationists. Finally, the crucial fight against white slavery is de
scribed in some detail
This work is based on primary sources heretofore never utilized The
Yiddisher Wisnshaflecher Institut (IWO) branch in Buenos Aires (founded in
1928) has preserved in its archives precious documents on the history of the
lews in Argentina, which otherwise would have disappeared. Two of the most
veteran lewish organizations in the country, the Congregacion Israelita and the
Chevra Keduscha Ashkenasi, have also preserved some documents of value,
besides their own minutebooks At the Central Zionist Archives in lerusalem
there is a wealth of documentation that reflects mainly on Zionist activities in
Argentina. The Sephardic Community Committee (Vaad Ha'Eda HaSepharadit)
Archives in lerusalem were helpful as well It is unfortunate, however, that
many lewish institutions in Argentina have not kept good archives of their
activities during the first decades of the present century This in itself is an
historic fact of importance and throws some light on the attitude of the offi
cials of these institutions vis-a-vis their own work in them Still, most institu
tions have preserved their minutebooks. In the bibliography and notes the
minutebooks of institutions consulted are listed. They have provided a per
spective of lewish life from the point of view of each of the individual institu
tions. Some of the annual reports of these institutions were also utilized,


17
Introduction
though unfortunately some did not preserve a complete collection of these
reports. Another source of information has been the printed periodical word.
The European lewish press, especially of the 1890s and 1900s, was of value.
The regular Argentine press also provided insights into the lewish community
in the country. However, the local lewish press, in Yiddish, Spanish, and He
brew, has proved to be of the greatest value. The several dailies, weeklies, and
monthly journals with a wide range of ideologies permitted a comparison of
social issues and of the views of the lewish community of those years from
different perspectives.
The bibliography provides a list of major articles and books quoted or
referred to in this essay. Most of the articles describing Jewish life in Argentina
appeared in the volumes in Yiddish published by the Ashkenazic community
in Buenos Aires, 8 in special volumes published in honor of important anniver
saries,^ or in various issues of the Argentiner IWO Shriftn. 10 Though most of these
articles are not the fruit of extensive research, they are important testimonies
of individuals who participated to some extent in the events they describe.
Their value, by and large, is that of memoirs more than that of elaborate pieces
of research.



19
*
The Jewish
Immigration flow
to Argentina
Argentina's Immigration Policy
Upon the unification of the Province of Buenos
Aires with the Confederated Provinces in 1860, the leaders of the Argentine
Republic were confronted with the responsibility of delineating new policies
in order to build a progressive nation. The major idea proposed was to popu
late the vast extensions of land in the territory still not altogether conquered
from the Indians. Adopting the motto of luan Bautista Alberdi, who defined
the duties of the heads of the country saying that "to govern is to populate"
("Gobernar es poblar”), Argentina adopted an open door policy for all immi
grants. The 1853 Constitution explicitly forbade any limitations on immigrants
arriving with the purpose of working the soil and developing industries, sci
ences, and the arts. Moreover, in 1876 the law of immigration, commonly
known as Ley Avellaneda, regulated the process of absorption of immigrants
in the country. The Hotel de Inmigrantes at the port of Buenos Aires was to
provide shelter and meals to the newly arrived during their first days in the
country; the immigrants were also to be provided with railroad tickets to their
final destination in the interior of the country. With the conquest of large tracts
of land from the Indians in 1880, the government and the "paternalistic oligar
chy" in control of it saw fit to stimulate European immigration in order to
render their newly acquired vast extentions of fertile land more profitable. 1
The land-owning elite, with agricultural and stock-raising interests, re-


20
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
quired a large and growing labor supply and quite often preferred the immi
grant worker to the native-born Argentinian. The liberal immigration policy
was in consonance with their expectations that economic prosperity and
growth could be accelerated by the constant flow of cheap labor. Industrialists,
favoring the flow of immigrants, repeatedly demanded that the government
subsidize the passage of skilled workers for their factories. The urban entrepre
neurs desired immigration as well, especially of unskilled workers, in order to
form a larger pool of potential strikebreakers. All these groups, though numer
ically small, had immense power in Argentina. The upper class assumed that
the European immigrants would conform to a servile labor sector which would
enhance their prosperity but would not challenge their prevailing political and
economic power.
The open door policy in Argentina had the backing of the positivist so
cial philosophy of the generation of 1880. The tendency to study social prob
lems objectively and scientifically, stressing the practical values in life and
emphasizing the importance of economic forces, flourished in Argentina at the
time of the arrival of large numbers of European immigrants. Doctrines of eco
nomic liberalism, also appearing at this time, proposed that new social con
ditions allowing class mobility would make the nation prosper and progress.
These new conditions would be promoted by an international labor force. 2
The half-century period 1880-1930 was one of constant massive flow of
immigrants from beyond the Atlantic to Argentina. The net immigration fig
ures show that over three million immigrants settled permanently during
those five decades, constituting a growing influx interrupted only by the eco
nomic crisis of 1890 and the First World War
lewish immigration in large numbers began in 1889, when the Weser an
chored in the port of Buenos Aires. Over eight hundred lews disembarked on
that winter day in Argentina. From then to 1930 the arrival of immigrant lews
was a common event. According to Simon Weill's calculations the number of
lews in the country reached 10,000 in 1895, soared to 100,000 at the eve of
World War 1, and by the end of the 1920s had surpassed the 200,000 mark. The
estimates of U. O. Schmelz and Sergio Della Pergola are slightly lower than
those of Weill for the early decades. For 1930, however, they find the number
of lews living in Argentina to be considerably lower than Weill's calculation,
since they estimate a larger exodus of lews from Argentina (see Table 1).
The lewish population was concentrated in the lewish Colonization As
sociation (ICA) colonies and principally in the capital city of Buenos Aires. The
pace of growth of the capital, receiving an ever-soaring share of immigrants,
was also reflected in the number of its lewish inhabitants. In September 1904
a municipal census counted 6,065 lews, or .64 percent of the total population
of 950,891 Five years later, during October 1909, another census reported
16,589 lews, or 1.35 percent of the total 1,231,698. In this latter year Rabbi
Samuel Halphon collected some data on the lewish population of most places
in the country. His figure for Buenos Aires, somewhat between 30,000 and
40,000, is in discrepancy with the municipal census of the same year. The real
number of lews, most probably, was nearer to 25,000, allowing for the fact that


21
lewish Immigration Flow to Argentina
Table 1
Net Total Immigration and Net lewish Immigration into Argentina
Year
Net Total
Immigration*
Net lewish
Immigration 6
Total )ewish b
Population*
1888
138,790
50
1.572
1889
220,260
1,000


1890
30.375
200


1891
-29.835
2.850


1892
29,441
476


1893
35,624
743


1894
39,272
2,890


1895
44.169
1,763


1896
89.284
374


1897
47,686
607


1898
41,654
1.230


1899
48,842
562


1900
50.485
1.966
17,795
17,000
1901
45,700
1,885


1902
16,653
826


1903
37,895
334


1904
94,481
3,359


1905
138,850
7,516


1906
198,397
13.880


1907
1 19,861
4,301


1908
176.080
5,444


1909
140,640
8.865


1910
21 1,246
6,680
76,385
75,000
1911
109,478
6,378

1912
213,204
13,416

1913
143,288
10,860


1914
-59,396
3.693


1915
-64,488
606


1916
-50,145
326

1917
-30,977
269

1918
-8,407
126


1919
12.170
280

1920
39,781
2,071
130,901
129,000
1921
65,753
3,908


1922
103.393
6.484

1923
160,799
13.701

1924
1 14.053
7,799


1925
75,277
6.920

1926
90,462
7,534

1927
111.878
5,584

1928
86,182
6.812


1929
89.221
5.986

1930
73,417
7,805
229.605
199.000
a Republica Argentina, Direccion General de Estadistica de la Nacion, various
years. The figures include traffic to and from overseas and Monte
video. Up to 1909 only second- and third-class passengers are in
cluded. From 1910 onwards also first-class passengers are in
cluded
b Simon Weill, Poblacion israelita en la Republica Argentina (Buenos Aires,
1936), 28f
C U. O. Schmelz and Sergio Della Pergola, "The Demography of Latin
American lewry," AJYB 85( 1985): 65f.


22
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
many lews preferred not to disclose their religious preference to the municipal
census authorities. 3
During the quinquennium 1910-14 large waves of immigrants arrived in
Argentina, among them 41,000 lews, most of whom remained in the capital,
thus doubling its lewish population to around 50,000. 4 During the war only a
few hundred lews arrived in Argentina, while the numbers of all emigrants
exceeded that of immigrants by 213,413. Once the war was over, immigration
was resumed with great impetus. During the eleven years 1920-30, 74,607 lews
entered Argentina and decided to remain there.
Weill was able to arrive at his figures of net lewish immigration after he
estimated the number of Jewish emigrants. These constituted in some periods
a considerable proportion. Many lews, not happy with their situation in Argen
tina, decided to return to Europe or proceed to other countries in the New
World. During the 1890s, when most lewish immigrants in Argentina went to
the ICA colonies, several families left the agricultural settlements for Russia,
the United States, or various urban centers in Argentina. 5 But the United
States undoubtedly attracted most lewish emigrants from Argentina. During
the first decade of the century many left to try their luck there. In 1907 as many
as 1,894 lews left Argentina to go to the United States. 6 During 1908, 1,083 left
Argentina, and 784 did so in 1909. 7 During the period 1920-24 about 5,000 of
the lews who entered left the country. 8 Thus, we could argue that Weill’s figures
may not have taken into consideration all lewish emigrants. However, we
should also bear in mind that not all those who entered declared their reli
gion. Many lewish freethinkers or atheists or those who felt awkward or fearful
about declaring their religion were not counted as lewish immigrants and were
thus not included in the annual reports of the Immigration Department. More
over, when obstacles were placed in front of many immigrants, some lews—as
well as nationals of most European countries—entered illegally through Bra
zil and Uruguay, crossing the fluvial frontiers from the cities of Salto, Concor
dia, or Colonia. Nevertheless, we only know about unsuccessful cases of illegal
entry into Argentina, making it quite difficult to estimate the numbers of those
who succeeded in their attempts. 9
According to the municipal census of 1936 in Buenos Aires, there were
in that year 120,195 lews, constituting 5 percent of the 2,415,142 inhabitants of
the Federal District. However, there is every reason to believe that among
those who reported "no religion” or "religion undeclared" there were lews, too.
Ira Rosenswaike estimated their proportion to be between 8 to 12 percent of
the lews counted in the census, thus bringing the number of lews in the capital
to 130,000 or 135,000.'° The lews in the capital constituted therefore more than
half of all lews in the country. Up to World War 1, the proportion of rural inhab
itants was higher among lews than among other large groups of immigrants
such as Spanish, Italians, and French." However the preference of lews for
urban settlements, especially the urban center in Buenos Aires, became evi
dent during the 1920s. It was also reflected in the 7,858 sons of immigrants
born in the provinces who had already settled in Buenos Aires by 1936 and


23
Iewish Immigration Flow to Argentina
who represented 16.8 percent of all Argentine-born lews in Buenos Aires
There is, unfortunately, no way of establishing the number of foreign-born lews
who moved to Buenos Aires after having lived some time in the interior.
After World War I lewish emigration from Europe resumed. The liberal
laws in Argentina persuaded the lewish emigration societies in the Old World
to consider this country as a convenient place of settlement for many dis
placed and persecuted lews in Eastern Europe. The leaders of Argentine lewry,
notably those in direct contact with the Alliance Israelite Universelle (All!) and
the )CA, who were, by and large, also active at the Congregacion Israelita
(CIRA), multiplied their efforts in order to promote lewish immigration to Ar
gentina and to protect the newcomers in their adoptive country by offering
information about the general situation, especially in reference to work oppor
tunities. 12
As results of direct dealings with A1U leaders in Europe held both by Dr.
Samuel Halphon and Max Glucksman, rabbi and president, respectively of
CiRA, the Sociedad de Proteccion a los lnmigrantes Israelitas (Soprotimis) was
created on May 20, 1922, with the purpose of helping the immigrants' absorp
tion in the land and of caring for their moral, physical, and material well
being. 13 Their activities during the twenties, and in later decades as well, were
varied. Besides the conventional aid to immigrants, Soprotimis paid special
attention to women immigrants arriving alone in order to prevent them from
becoming the prey of white slave traffickers. Soprotimis took care of the llama-
das. or affidavits to obtain visas for relatives of lews already in Argentina; trans
ferred funds to relatives in Europe; and contacted official authorities in order
to ease the entrance of lews to the country. A representative of Soprotimis, in
close connection with Ezras Noschim, a society concerned with the protection
of lewish girls and women, had a special official permit granted by the Direc-
cion de Inmigraciones to go aboard all incoming ships. The purpose of this
was to advise lewish immigrants of the existence of the society and alert them
against the traffickers in human flesh and commissioners of hotels so as to
prevent deceits. 14
At this point, in 1921, Argentina's immigration policy became less lib
eral, and lews in Eastern Europe were among those most seriously affected by
the bureaucratic obstacles placed in front of all immigrants, in 1922 the for
malities required to receive a visa for Argentina were the cause for the denial
of them to most lewish refugees. The |CA office in Argentina was able to obtain
in 1922 a rule that the emigrants they recommended in Europe be accepted
without some of the required documents that the refugees could not obtain. 15
This worked well for a little over a year, then the special permit was discontin
ued. After July 1923 lewish refugees, unable to obtain official documentation
from their places of birth, were forced to look for different horizons. Also, in
mid-1923 the liberal policy of granting a carta de llamada for relatives who could
show a guarantee of good conduct and sufficient economic means, was re
stricted. Soprotimis was not able to obtain the llamadas as liberally as before. 10
Moreover, the crucial role of Argentina at the beginning of the Roumanian


24
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
evacuation was interrupted. 17 Thus, the number of lewish immigrants, which
had in 1923 surpassed the 13,000 mark, fell to 7,799 in 1924 and averaged 6,500
per year for the rest of the decade. The average of 8,100 per annum for the
prewar decade 1905-14, was not reached during the 1921-30 decade, when
about 7,250 lewish immigrants entered annually into Argentina. These com
parisons are even more revealing when we take into account that the United
States had progressively lowered its quota for immigrants, especially from
Eastern Europe, an area most lews were fleeing. Argentina, which was the sec
ond overseas country for the period 1856-1930 not only for general but also
for lewish immigration was also closing its doors, though in a concealed way,
to many potential immigrants, especially war refugees, among whom were a
considerable number of Jews. 18
Restrictions on immigration were placed as a result of the economic low
ebb of the early 1920s, with the subsequent growing unemployment. No new
law was passed, but Argentine consuls in Europe were instructed not to grant
visas unless the candidates showed the appropriate documentation, which, in
most cases, required passing through various bureaucratic stages. These doc
uments were to come from the immigrant's country of origin, a condition prac
tically impossible for many refugees of war. Moreover, a ministerial circular
made all consuls responsible for any admissions of undesirables—that is, sick,
mendicants, criminals, anarchists, and bolsheviks—who got visas through
them. The consuls, therefore, were authorized to deny a visa without indicating
their motives. 19 The selection of immigrants was enforced, though never to an
extreme during the 1920s. Preference was given to specialized industrial work
ers and agriculturists, while other workers and professionals such as tailors,
shoemakers, and barbers, as well as merchants and even intellectuals, were
screened. 20
At the end of 1924 the Departamento de Inmigracion, headed by Juan P.
Ramos, reached an agreement with the Paris heads of |CA, Louis and Edouard
Oungre. As a result of a meeting held at the French capital on May 20, 1924,
Ramos cabled |CA that this association could "take steps to attain the en
trance in the Argentine Republic of immigrants who do not have the complete
documentation in order, but only for those who come from European regions
where the difficulties in obtaining them are unavoidable.” Moreover, |CA could
"only ask for the admission of agriculturists, who ... are destined to the inte
rior of the country, and not to the city of Buenos Aires and the towns of its
surroundings.” When ICA made clear that they could not be held responsible
for cases in which immigrants left the interior for Buenos Aires, this restriction
previously included in Ramos's resolution was omitted. 21 During the following
year, however, the concession to |CA was limited to specialized agriculturists. 22
Controls and selections of immigrants were not the only reasons for
limitation of lewish immigration to Argentina. Ticket prices to Buenos Aires
had gone up 300 percent from 1923 to 1926. 23 In 1930 they were raised 25
percent. The prepaid ticket from Poland to Buenos Aires thus rose from 267 to
331 pesos. 24 Some of the emigrants from Poland, moreover, were distrustful of
promises made to them about South America. 25 Furthermore, the Minister of


25
Iewish Immigration Flow to Argentina
Poland in Argentina, Ladislaw Mazurkiewicz, wrote to his country suggesting a
reduction of emigration to Argentina due to the economic crisis of 1929, first
from 1,500 monthly to 500, then to 300, and finally to 150 However, he did not
include lews in the restrictions, for the latter could receive the assistance of
various lewish institutions, especially the residents associations (landsman-
schaften} 26
The lewish community in Argentina organized itself in order to give ref
uge to larger numbers of their brethren in distress in Europe, basically in Po
land. At the end of May 1928 a Congress of Immigration was held in Buenos
Aires; among those present were Louis Oungre from ICA, Miron Kreinin of
H1CEM (H1AS, ICA, Emigdirect), Aaron Benjamin of H1AS, and delegates from
all lewish institutions in the country. The pervading spirit at this Congress was
one of solidarity with the whole lewish people, for in 1928 they believed that
Argentina could become a major haven for the deteriorating communities in
Eastern Europe. Moreover, the bolstering of Argentine Judaism with new addi
tions from older lewish communities that would fortify the local one spiritually
and culturally was also contemplated. 27 All problems of immigration were dis
cussed at these meetings, and the guest delegates received a strong impres
sion of the hardships involved in getting a visa. However, as Benjamin re
ported to an H1AS board meeting two months later, it was estimated that
"South America could absorb 20,000 lewish immigrants per year, especially
artisans and able-bodied people willing to settle in the land The outlook was
less favorable for merchants and intellectuals. South American industrial de
velopment also offered employment prospects." 28 We can assume that the
delegates had in mind that of the above figure, Argentina would absorb fully
two-thirds or more of them. Nonetheless, even before a full program of imple
mentation of the 1928 Congress's resolution could be approved, the economic
depression of 1929 produced a new situation not contemplated by the Jewish
leadership. Moreover, the military forces under General lose F. Uriburu took
control of the government on September 6, 1930 and ordered a radical cut in
the immigration policy as a means of fighting the crisis and the consequent
unemployment
Argentina As a New Home for lews
As Table 1 indicates, over 5 percent of the immigrants who settled in
Argentina during the period 1888-1930 were lewish. They came from different
areas in the world hoping to find in Argentina what they were lacking in their
birthplaces. The main areas whence lews emigrated to Argentina were Eastern
Europe, North Africa, and the Ottoman Empire. Though some of the reasons
for migrating were common to lews from different parts of the world, we shall
here analyze each one separately.
The population of Buenos Aires according to the census taken in 1936
can give us an estimate of the number of lews who arrived from the above-
mentioned areas (Table 2).


26
Iewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
Table 2 shows that approximately 80 percent of the lews in Buenos Aires
in 1936 were of East European origin. They had arrived in Argentina during a
span of over fifty years, starting in the early 1880s when a few individual lews
from Russia and Roumania made their way to Buenos Aires.
Table 2
Origin of the Jewish Population in Buenos Aires in 1936
Country of Birth
Jews In
Buenos Aires
Percentage of Total
Foreign-Born lewish Population
Poland
31.172
Russia
23.171
Roumania
5,175
Lithuania
1.056
Latvia
202
Total Eastern Europe
60.776
82.6
Germany
1,376
Austria
1,092
Hungary
499
Czechoslovakia
203
Total Central Europe
3,170
4.3
Syria-Lebanon
3,408
Palestine
388
Egypt
181
Total Arabic-speaking lews
3,977
5.4
Turkey
2,978
Greece
175
Bulgaria
164
Total Ladino-speaking lews
3,317
4 5
Morocco
195
Spain
179
Tangiers
24
Algeria
1 1
Gibraltar
5
Portugal
4
Tunis
2
Total Spanish-speaking lews
420
6
Other foreign-born
1.946
2.7
Argentine-born
46,589
Total
120,195
Source: Municipalidad de la ciudad de Buenos Aires. Cuarto censo general
(Oct. 22, 1936) (Buenos Aires. 1939), vol. 3. pp. 310-23.


27
lewish Immigration Flow to Argentina
The Wave from Eastern Europe
In line with the Argentine government's policy of settling immigrants in
the country's depopulated pampas with the purpose of making the land pro
ductive and of creating centers of distribution in the interior, an attempt was
made to encourage Jewish emigration from the tsarist empire to Argentina's
shores. The initiative came from Jose Maria Bustos, who, upon the first signs
of pogroms and indications of new anti-Jewish measures in Russia in 1881,
conceived the idea of inducing some of the would-be emigrants to consider
the possibility of establishing themselves in Argentina. Bustos proposed him
self as honorary agent to fulfill this task in Europe. 2 ’
President lulio A. Roca's administration reacted most favorably to Bus
tos's proposal. Catholic religious exclusivism in immigration had been termi
nated in 1853 when the agricultural colony of Esperanza was planned. Among
the colonists in Esperanza was a considerable number of Protestants from
Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, and Northern France. 30 In 1881, however, with
the official appointment of Bustos as agent, the immigration policy was further
liberalized to encourage non-Christian (i.e., lewish) immigration. The second
article of the decree appointing Bustos read, "The instructions which the said
agent will have in the fulfillment of his commission shall be dispatched
through the Comisarfa General de Inmigracion,... so that the consular agents
of Argentina in Europe grant Bustos the help he might solicit from them for
the better success of his mission." 31
Argentina's open invitation to Jews to settle her country and the special
appointment of an official governmental agent to attract specifically lewish
emigrants was quite remarkable. The seriousness of the Argentine policy is
further attested by the involvement of the commissary of immigration in Paris,
Carlos Calvo, who had initiated contacts in the same direction prior to Bus
tos's departure from Buenos Aires. 32 Moreover the head of the Committee of
Immigration advised Calvo to contact the Alliance Israelite Universelle or the
chief rabbi of Paris, Zadoc Kahn, and Ludwig Phillipson, "whose lewish peri
odical |Allgemeine Zeitung des ]udentums\ was considered the best means of prop
aganda," and other rabbis from German localities near the Russian border. 33
According to European lewish newspapers, Bustos proceeded to carry
out his assignment but without much success. The invitation to settle in Ar
gentina, which was "chiefly given to the lews in Kiev," was extended by a Mr.
Nozzolini, a resident of the city. 34 Russian lews did not consider Argentina a
convenient country of migration because of the remoteness of its location,
their little knowledge about conditions prevailing in this still economically
underdeveloped country, and their natural aversion to a country linked to
Spain with bonds of language, religion, and traditions and which might there
fore—in the minds of the Russian lews—also hold restrictive legislation for
lews. Bustos resigned in December of the same year because of his lack of
success and desire to return home. 35
Thus, this first attempt to bring large numbers of lewish immigrants into
Argentina utterly failed. It was a non-lewish initiative, promoted by elitist,


28
Iewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
liberal-minded Catholics and aristocratic landowners seated at the head of the
Argentine government. The scanty information on the issue reveals no contact
with the small and still loosely organized lewish community in Buenos Aires.
On the other hand, in 1881 the lews in Argentina were in no position of influ
ence in governmental circles and had no strong links with lewish organizations
active in salvaging the victims of Russian antisemitism. The response of these
lews was limited to a collection in favor of the Russian lewish victims and a
strong answer to the groups in Argentina that had reacted with virulent anti-
semitic arguments to Roca's decree promoting lewish immigration. 36
Never again did an Argentine administration prompt or encourage lew
ish immigration either for selfish reasons of developing its own economy and
institutions or for more altruistic ones when anti-lewish sentiments threat
ened the continuation of lewish life in the Old World. Bustos's attempt, even if
of no immediate positive results, had long-range consequences. Argentina,
through occasional articles published in the lewish press both in Eastern and
Western Europe, began to be known in the lewish communities of Russia as a
country with possibilities for lewish settlement. However, from now on lews
would wander to South America on an individual basis and at their own risk or
at the instance of lewish relief and emigration organizations established for
that purpose in several European cities.
Argentine consuls were occasionally active in places with a considerable
lewish population, promoting emigration to their country among all dwellers
without discrimination of religious belief. During the 1880s their impact
among lews was small, for the latter were quite distrustful of the consuls' as
severations and explanations of Argentine legislation and conditions. Such
was the case of a young lewish locksmith apprentice in Warsaw who in 1888
decided to consult the editors of Hazefirah, the influential Hebrew newspaper
of that city, about the veracity of the Argentine consul’s description of Argen
tina. Hazefirah attested to the credibility of the consul because "he is officially
appointed by the Argentine government and behaves accordingly, without en
ticing people who are not permitted to leave the country to do so without a
permit, ... and he does not require any money from the people who are pre
pared to sail " But still their distrustfulness, which had been fed by many im
postors who profited from the naivete of the people, made them ask "our read
ers in America to inform us about the real situation |in Argentina|, for which
we shall be grateful to them." 37
In many cities and towns of emigration, agents were making profit of the
lack of knowledge of most emigrants. Many newcomers from Italy, Spain, Ger
many, and other European countries were deceived by these agents, who
promised to take care of details of travel to and establishment in Argentina. 38
Some of the already-long-established lews in Buenos Aires tried to put an end
to these operations, at least concerning their lewish brethren At the end of
1889 David Hassan, an English lew who had settled in Buenos Aires many
years previously, upon learning of the miseries endured by the first mass group
of lews from Eastern Europe who were deceived by an agent in Europe, de
cided to ask for the cooperation of lewish organizations in Europe that


29
lewish Immigration Flow to Argentina
handled immigration. In a letter to the Anglo-lewish Association (A|A) in Lon
don, Hassan urged the AlAand the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Paris to put
a stop to unsystematic emigration, "particularly since such of the emigrants as
have means are fleeced by self-appointed agents in Europe.” This, as well as
other briefings, induced the executive committee of the A|A to request the
collaboration of the AIU "with a view to a stop being put to the present emigra
tion, and to the alleged frauds practiced on lewish emigrants. ' 39
During the last third of the nineteenth century and the first decades of
the twentieth century a large number of lews from Eastern Europe crossed the
Atlantic to the New World. The reasons were many, and in different regions
some of these were more important than others. Two main factors, however,
played a considerably important role: the progressive deterioration of the per
sonal status of the Jews vis-a-vis the Russian government and population and
the socioeconomic dislocation and eventual displacement of large numbers of
lews from the economic structure.
The pogroms of 1881, upon Alexander Ill's accession to the throne, were
but the first of a long series of physical attacks upon lews and their property
These outrages were at first passively tolerated and later connived at by the
government, thus making the fate of the lews even more desperate. The calcu
lated oppression of the tsarist regime, which followed earlier attempts in the
nineteenth century of enforced westernization, severely limited the rights of
the lews. The May Laws of 1882 separated the lews from the land, banned them
from rural centers, and forbade them to trade on Sundays and Christian holy-
days. These restrictions were an additional cause for the impoverishment of
the great majority of the lews who lacked professional or mercantile qualifica
tions. Moreover, restrictions were also imposed against lewish professionals,
such as a numerus clausus for secondary schools and schools of higher learning
in 1887 and special restrictions for the admission of lewish lawyers to the bar
in 1889. In a dramatic move, in addition, the government expelled the lews
from Moscow on the first day of Passover 1891.
lews who believed that Nicholas II (1894-1917) would bring about a bet
ter future for them were totally deceived. During his reign lews were blamed
for subversive movements against the government. The pogroms in Kishinev
and Gomel (1903) made a tremendous impression among lews all over. The
reaction after the First Russian Revolution of 1905, despite attempts of ame
lioration of the lewish status, was even fiercer. That year a new wave of po
groms affected 660 lewish communities in the course of a single week. This
pogrom wave left 1,000 lews dead, 7,000 to 8,000 wounded, and property losses
of about 31 million dollars. Antisemitism was impressed on the Russian
masses by means of books and pamphlets published and distributed under
governmental sponsorship. Moreover, the numerus clausus for lews was lowered,
and lews in the professions were faced with fresh restrictions.
The urbanization in Russia during the second half of the nineteenth cen
tury created an enormous demand for consumer goods. A market for ready
made garments was created by the influx of peasants into the cities, and by
the needs of the armies during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. The individ-


30
Iewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
ual labor of lewish artisans was thus progressively displaced by industrial pro
duction. Commerce on a large scale, stimulated by industrialization, bypassed
the petty local trader, usually a lew. Furthermore, the growing railroad net
works upset many local lewish tradesmen and practically eliminated the func
tions of draymen (balegoles). The limiting legislation of home production and
rural distribution of liquor in the 1860s seriously affected many thousands of
petty liquor agents and innkeepers. When the monopoly in liquor trade was
reorganized by the tsar at the end of the century, forbidding lewish participa
tion in it, over 100,000 lews lost their means of livelihood, lews were thus
forced to migrate either to the cities, where they became part of the wage
earning class in a society in process of industrialization, or overseas.
The fundamental economic problem appeared with the rapid multipli
cation of the lewish population in Eastern Europe during the nineteenth cen
tury. The lewish population of 2,272,000 in Eastern Europe in 1825 rose to
7,362,000 in 1900. In the Russian Empire alone it increased from about
1,000,000 souls in 1800 to over 5,189,000 in 1897, the latter figure probably
excluding 1,000,000 emigrants and their descendants. The economic structure
of lewish life, however, did not develop in accordance with the requirements
posed by the increasing numbers. Moreover, petty crafts and trades were be
coming more obsolete with newer economic developments, thus narrowing
the areas of lewish income. 40
lews left their birthplace in Russia due to the constant deterioration of
their legal status. Their economic possibilities were progressively curtailed.
Pogroms succeeded one another in several localities of the Pale of Settlement.
Due to these circumstances the United States had an almost magnetic attrac
tion for most of them. Others moved to countries in Western Europe, to Can
ada, or to South Africa. Still others considered that the time had come to
return to Palestine. During the eighties, and more during the nineties, those
preparing to leave their native soil started hearing about Argentina. Letters
from the first lewish immigrants there persuaded many other coreligionists to
make a similar trip to South America. Moreover, the ICA project of settlement
in the land and the first signs of larger groups of lews headed to work in the
interior provinces of Argentina induced many other Russian lews to consider
the possibility of that country as a new home not necessarily as agriculturists
but also as city dwellers.
As an aftermath of World War 1 Poland became independent for the first
time since the late eighteenth century. Polish lewry, which was predominantly
urban, suffered immensely from economic insecurity in a changing society and
was adversely affected by rising legal discrimination by the Polish government
against minorities, as well as by political violence and antisemitism. Help from
abroad during and after the war alleviated only partially the plight of Polish
lewry. Encouraged by the government, many sought better futures across the
Atlantic or in Palestine. Since the United States imposed restrictive quotas on
immigration during the 1920s, Argentina became a major country for lews
leaving Poland In 1922 the Polish Emigration Office issued 48,012 visas, of
which 30,981 went to lews. Of these, 21,529 were for the United States, while


31
lewish Immigration Flow to Argentina
3,903 were for Argentina. Reports for the decade 1925-35 show a reversal of
these figures. Out of 186,134 lews who emigrated from Poland, Palestine re
ceived 67,242, the United States 27,755, and Argentina 31,098. 41
lews who were avidly looking for information about places for emigra
tion were basically interested in the economic possibilities there, as well as in
their prospective status as lews both with respect to their legal situation and
to the possibilities of carrying on their lewish traditions. Articles in lewish
newspapers about the conditions in Argentina helped form in the mind of the
eventual immigrant a picture of what awaited him. In a letter to Hazefirah a lew
from Lodz reported that a coreligionist from Buenos Aires who visited his town
had told him about the community there. The visitor had explained that ten
years earlier (i.e., in 1878) there had been only about thirty lewish families
living in Buenos Aires, lews did not want to settle there because of the lack of
synagogues, rabbis, and other necessary officials for the observance of lewish
traditions. In 1888 there were about 200 families among Ashkenazim and Se
phardim, all in excellent economic situation, making profit of the developing
opportunities there. He attested to the existence of two synagogues, one Ash
kenazic and one Sephardic, with four Torah scrolls, a rabbi, a cantor, a ritual
slaughterer, and a circumciser. The letter emphasized the economic aspects,
including the possibility of working in agriculture. 42 This letter particularly ap
pealed to the lews in Russia because the news came from a lew himself and
because it emphasized economic opportunities in the country and the possi
bility of lewish continuity there.
At the beginning of the 1890s the lewish press in Eastern Europe as well
as in Western Europe and the United States started printing news about the
lewish settlements in Argentina assiduously. Notes on the arrival and fate of
the first group of over 800 lews from Podolia who desired to pursue agricul
tural activities in Argentina had begun to appear in 1889. Moreover, Baron
Moritz de Hirsch's final decision to found the ICA with the clear objective of
colonizing lews in several countries in the Americas, especially in Argentina,
received steady coverage in the lewish press starting in 1891.
The lewish press in Eastern Europe was ambivalent regarding the pos
sibilities of lewish settlement in Argentina. Some violently opposed the idea
of lews going there, advocating that if it was imperative to migrate, the trend
should be directed to Palestine. Such was the case of Alexander Zederbaum,
the famed director of the influential Hebrew newspaper Hamelitz of Petersburg.
As a supplement to no. 144 of 1893 of the newspaper, Zederbaum wrote "Four
Articles," one of which was an open letter to Baron Horace Ginzburg, head of
the ICA committee in Petersburg. In this article Zederbaum. who in 1878 had
started a campaign in favor of settling lews in Russia as farmers, 43 violently
opposed lewish emigration to Argentina. He asserted, based on information
received from Abraham Vermont in Buenos Aires, 44 that the atmosphere in the
country was not good for lews since governmental posts were bought, bribes
were freely used, and there were signs of antisemitism. 45 On the other hand,
Jews already living there had opened houses of shame in Buenos Aires. There
was no concern for lewish law, synagogue, or kosher food. Their main preoccu-


32
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
pation was amassing big fortunes. Even the rabbi there was a rich man who
had his store open on the Sabbath and lewish holy days and whose wife was a
Christian. 40 Zederbaum approached Rabbi Adolf Jellinek—a distinguished
preacher and scholar in Vienna and influential friend of the Baron,—and Isi
dore Loeb, secretary of the AIU, requesting their cooperation to try to convince
Baron Hirsch to place his money in a project to settle lews in Palestine instead
of Argentina. In this Zederbaum failed, as Theodore Herzl did a few years
later. 47 Finally, Zederbaum argued, Baron Hirsch wanted the lews to assimilate
and so solve the "lewish question." For that reason the Baron had preferred
that the new colonists’ homes be at a distance one from another and would
not make provisions for rabbis, teachers, and ritual slaughterers to sail with
the colonists. 48 The Hamelitz editor's strong appeal was based not only on Zi
onist ideology but also on the belief that Argentina had too many negative
factors for lewish establishment. 49
On the other hand, Hazefirah assiduously published articles about the
progress in the Argentine colonies, as well as letters from a few correspon
dents in various colonies. 50 There were also booklets and pamphlets in Yiddish
describing the country to potential lewish emigrants. As early as 1891 lacob
ledvabski and Isidore Hellmann published The Trip to Argentina in Warsaw, giving
details about the history, geography and climate of the country, as well as
notions about religion, legislation, and possibilities of colonization there. A
few details about the recently founded ICA colonies were also added. 51 Many
similar booklets continued appearing thereafter. 52 All these publications, even
the articles opposed to emigration to Argentina, reveal a growing interest in
opening a new place for lewish settlement. Accordingly, lews in Eastern Eu
rope began making contacts for crossing the Atlantic to Buenos Aires. A large
number of them got in touch with ICA committee in their areas.
When the idea of finding new settlements for lews emigrating from Rus
sia was first seriously considered in Europe, lews of West European origin
already established in Argentina had opposing reactions. Early in 1887, an
English lew wrote from Cordoba to the lewish Chronicle concerning the future of
"our brethren, the lews of Russia," stating that "this country (Argentina! is ad
mirably suited as a new home, being free, tolerant as regards religion, healthy
and of a fruitful soil." 55 However, this extremely optimistic opinion about the
lewish future in Argentina met with the strong opposition of one of the lewish
veterans in Buenos Aires. A "resident" in the capital of the country since 1864,
he quite disagreed with the above view after being in "daily contact with the
lewish emigrants who have reached these shores." After asserting that some of
the Russian emigrants, to avoid starvation, had turned to Rio de laneiro and
that others, "to the daily regret of the lewish population, are by no means a
desirable addition," our correspondent concluded that "the recommendation
of Russian Jewish emigration to this country in my opinion, would amount to
a crime." 54 The arguments mentioned against lews from Russia entering the
country were based on the difficulty of earning a livelihood as farmers or la
borers. Interestingly enough, in 1887 Argentina was undergoing a period of
intense economic development, and possibilities of material progress were


33
lewish Immigration Flow to Argentina
not scarce.” Evidently, among the immediate reactions of some of the well-
established lews in Buenos Aires was the consideration that their social stand
ing vis-a-vis Argentine society might be harmed by the inflow of large quanti
ties of poorer Russian lews, to whom they would have to give a hand
The initial reactions of leading members of the small Buenos Aires lew
ish community to the first en masse arrival of Russian lews was, nevertheless,
favorable. They used their influence to secure lodging, kosher meat, and other
indispensable needs, including necessary guarantees for new land contracts,
for their Russian brethren. 56 It was only after the immigrants began to encoun
ter difficulties that the older residents urged the cessation of large-scale lew
ish immigration from Russia. Henry loseph, the rabbi and most active member
of the community, in a long and detailed letter to the lewish Chronicle explained
the pitiful situation of the Russian lews recently arrived in Argentina, request
ing the editor that "instead of making your valuable journal the medium of
sending thousands of lewish emigrants to these shores, you will, on the con
trary, preach caution, as the Argentine Republic is quite unfit to receive such
emigration as the above, and if thousands of our coreligionists are to be sent
here, they must be prepared for the greatest hardships in every form ” 57
loseph's letter, as well as David Hassan’s above-mentioned request to
the A]A, 58 made an impact on the latter organization. The A|A sent "warnings
to the continental Hebrew Press against the emigration of other than able-
bodied agriculturists and artisans possessed of means, and against dealings
with unauthorized agents " 5 ’ But the disapproval by the A|A of lewish emigra
tion to Argentina was not final. At such a distance from Argentina, AJA could
better evaluate the conflicting reports of conditions there, lust like leaders of
the A1U and other associations for the rescue of Russian lewry and finally
Baron de Hirsch, the A|A, considering Argentina a country well-adapted for
lewish emigration, reflected on how to make this migration effective. 60
At the beginning of the last decade of the nineteenth century the mem
bers of the Congregacion Israelita clearly felt that a strong wave of Russian
lewish immigrants was about to arrive in Argentina. Special meetings were
called to consolidate the existing community in Buenos Aires. Rabbi loseph,
on November 22, 1891, at a general assembly of lews in Buenos Aires, spoke of
the need "to work in unity, now that we are on the eve of the arrival of thou
sands of new coreligionists." 61 Ironically enough, Rabbi loseph's call to unity
of the lewish forces in Buenos Aires marked precisely the beginning of diver
sity and fragmentation in the lewish community there. During that same year
lews from Morocco who had been settling in Buenos Aires—as well as in the
interior of the country—for the past decade, founded the Congregacion Israe
lita Latina, thus contesting the hegemony of CIRA as the sole lewish institu
tion in Argentina. 62 A few years later further immigration of Sephardic lews
coming from various sectors of the Ottoman Empire would split the lewish
community even more. The most serious challenge to the central role of CIRA
in lewish life in Buenos Aires, however, would be the continuous penetration
of East European lews into the country. 63 As we shall see, CIRA continued
being a central institution in lewish life, but only one among several; and


34
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
though it retained a distinctive character, it too was progressively (and later
strongly so) influenced by East European lews and ludaism.
The First Sephardim from Morocco 64
Parallel to the arrival of the first Russian lews, a small group of lews from
Morocco made its way to Argentina. This emigration was firstly encouraged by
the Spanish-Moroccan war of 1859-60 and the subsequent occupation of Te-
touan by the Spanish for a period of nearly two years. Many of these emigrants
settled in Gibraltar, while others opted for several places in East Africa and
Palestine. During the 1860s the first signs of emigration to South American
countries were noticed. Many of the first Jews who left settled in Brazil, where
they stayed for a period of up to eight years and later either returned to Te-
touan or moved to some other South American country, principally on account
of the suffocating heat, yellow fever epidemics, insects, and so on. 65
A couple of decades later, during the 1880s, the emigration movement
took greater proportions, lews leaving Morocco were recruited mainly from
Tetouan, though some also from Tangiers and Larache, the latter being, never
theless, "more or less of Tetouanese origin." 64 In other words, the emigrants
were Spanish-speaking lews who were naturally attracted by countries where
their mother tongue or a very similar one was spoken. Most of them were
young lews "between the ages of twelve and thirty" who were fleeing from the
compressive and sterilizing atmosphere of the Mellah, hoping to progress in
new and free countries. 67 There were three currents of lewish emigration from
Morocco to South America. One to Venezuela; a second one to the Amazon
area, including the cities of Para and Manaos in Brazil, and Iquitos in Peru; and
a third one to Argentina. 68
In 1880 the first signs of individual lews from Morocco in Buenos Aires
was evidenced when the Benjetrit family, originally from Tetouan, arrived in
the Argentine capital and circumcised there their two-year-old son born in
Montevideo. 69 Abraham Levy, after having lived in Gibraltar and Brazil, finally
settled in Buenos Aires in the early 1880s. 70 The Moroccan lews in the capital
became quite numerous by the end of the decade, since, on lanuary 15, 1889,
lose Elias Maman, petitioned the Ministry of Justice and Religion for an autho
rization to establish a synagogue of the Spanish-Portuguese rite. Maman, who
entitled himself in the petition as rabbi, evidently was requesting the right to
perform marriages according to the traditions of his community. Up to Novem
ber 2, 1888—or ten weeks before Maman's request—when the law of civil mar
riage was passed, all marriages were in the hands of the church, and religious
authorities of non-Catholic creeds were required a special authorization from
the ministry to perform them among their coreligionists. Apparently it took
some time until the civil registers started complying with the new legislation,
thus prompting the Moroccan lews to obtain a special permit. On the other
hand, this move indicates a certain differentiation with, and independence
from, the West European lewish Congregation, CIRA, whose rabbi had the
proper authorization since 1883. 71


35
Iewisfi Immigration Flow to Argentina
In a few years most of the Moroccan lews in Argentina created good
economic situations for themselves. Far from trying to restrict the immigration
of their fellow countrymen, they made every effort possible to bring to the new
latitudes families, relatives, and friends from their native cities. Usually these
relatives stayed for a period of time with the first-arrived until they became
acquainted with conditions in the new country. After that they would go to a
city or town in the interior of Argentina and establish a branch of the main
house in Buenos Aires. An eyewitness reported at the turn of the century that
he knew "some Moroccan merchants established in Buenos Aires and having
up to five, six, and even eight branches of their commerce disseminated in the
main centers of the Republic." 72
Another type of emigration of Moroccan lews, more systematic, though
less numerous, was promoted by the AIU and various of its alumni associa
tions. Most of the teachers at the lewish schools in the ICA colonies, at least
at the beginning, were graduates of the schools of the AIU. In April 1895 four
students from the school in Paris left for Argentina. 75 In 1899 the Association
des Anciens Eleves de 1'Alliance a Tanger reported it had sent five young
people to Buenos Aires, two to Caracas, one to Maracaibo (Venezuela), one to
Valparaiso (Chile), one to Iquitos (Peru), and two to Para (Brazil). 74 Similar
efforts were made in Smyrna by an analogous association, which sent there, at
its own cost, young persons formed at the AIU school "who do not always find
a remunerable job in their own town." 75 By the end of the century there were
twenty schools in the ICA colonies in Argentina, all directed by graduates from
the AIU schools in European Turkey, Smyrna, and Morocco In Argentina they
had the advantage of a common language (Ladino and Spanish), enabling
them to teach the regular program of education established by the education
authorities of the country. 76
Isaac Benchimol, who had been teaching for a number of years in the
Mauricio colony, Province of Buenos Aires, wrote in 1901 that lewish emigra
tion to South America proved to be beneficial for the lewish population in
Tetouan itself. Letters describing economic success or visits to the city of birth
after success had been attained on the other side of the Atlantic had an impact
over those who never moved: "It did away with poverty, lifted the morale ...
and developed individual initiative." 77 Benchimol called the school authorities
of the AIU to introduce the teachings of Spanish in the schools of the interior
of Morocco, where lews spoke Arabic. This would provide the students with an
additional weapon in case they would contemplate emigrating to Latin Amer
ica, for "Latin America needs hands." 78
By 1905 there were, according to the calculations of D. S. D. Levy, direc
tor of the ICA school in Mauricio, about 3,000 Sephardim in Argentina, of
whom about 750 lived in Buenos Aires. Almost all of them were Moroccan in
origin, for "85 percent are Tetouanese, and the rest from Gibraltar, from Tan-
giers of the Moroccan coast, and Turks." 7 '’ From the above figures, and from
Rabbi Flalphon's study of the lewish population of Argentina in 1909, as well
as from diverse sources of information of later periods, 80 we notice that there
were always more Moroccan lews in the interior than in the capital city, which


36
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
was not the case for other lewish immigrations to the country. Throughout the
period up to 1930 there was a constant immigration—though in limited num
bers compared to the numbers of East European lews—of lews from Tetouan
and other towns in North Africa. 81
For a few Moroccan lews emigration to Argentina was only temporary.
They came back after having achieved economic stability, in some cases after
ten years but sometimes even after thirty! 82 However, most did not return to
their old home. They permanently established themselves in their adoptive
country with no idea of going back except for a visit. They formed communities
and organized their communal lewish life. Even among those who had gone
back, many preferred to adopt Argentine citizenship before doing so, for an
Argentine passport was a better protection in unstable Morocco. Thus in 1927,
out of 95 Argentine citizens who depended on the Consul General of Argentina
in Rabat 79 (83 percent) were born in Morocco and later naturalized. 83 Such
was the case of lacobo Bibas, vice-consul of Argentina in the Spanish Protec
torate of Morocco in 1935, who was born in Tangiers and then lived in Rosario
of Santa Fe, where he had been active in several local lewish institutions. 84
Sephardim from the Ottoman Empire
In addition to the Russian and Moroccan immigrations into Argentina,
a third developed from the Ottoman Empire towards the end of the century.
Already in the 1880s a movement of emigration could be observed in several
parts of the Ottoman Empire. The financial debacle and bankruptcy of the
empire left a strong imprint on the general population—the lews included—
all over its vast territories. Christians and Muslims, though in much smaller
numbers, were the first to leave, and lews followed by the end of the century.
People from Beyrut, Aleppo, and Damascus, as well as from Istambul and Izmir,
left for Egypt, Western Europe, the United States, and several Latin American
republics. The underlying motive of their migration was the search for new
economic horizons due to the impoverishment of the population in commu
nities with little mineral wealth and no industrial development, constantly
threatened with overpopulation. 85
Christians and Muslims from the Ottoman Empire preceded lews into
Argentina for over a decade. Already in 1887 an English lew living in Cordoba
remarked that the country was suitable for Jewish settlement, but strictly lim
ited to the agricultural class "because itinerant vendors have no chance here
on account of the many Arabs who are to be seen ... selling Christian beads
and crosses and every other article that is saleable. ' 86
lews followed suit in the 1890s, settling in the capital city of Buenos
Aires. Those who came from the same city stayed together and. with the arrival
of fellow immigrant townsmen, slowly formed small nuclei resembling appen
dixes to their home communities. At the turn of the century, Ladino-speaking
Jews from Izmir, Constantinople, and other areas, settled along the streets 25
de Mayo and Reconquista, not far from the port. By 1904 they were numerous
enough to found their first society, Hermandad, to help the needy among


37
Iewisfi Immigration Flow to Argentina
them 87 That same year, a recently arrived lew from Aleppo wrote to his family
that he had found many acquaintances from his home town. They all dwelled
in rooms in the Once precinct, where the Aleppine lews would continue set
tling and where their community organizations and life have centered up to
the present time 88 Damascus lews arrived in Buenos Aires during the same
period and settled in the area of Boca and Barracas, a populous zone of pre
dominantly Italian, especially Genoese, immigrants 89
There were two predominant factors that played heavily upon the eco
nomic motivation for the lews to leave the Ottoman territories. First, letters
enthusiastically describing the liberal laws and economic possibilities of the
country, picturing fortunes to be made in peaceful Argentina; and second, the
revolution of the Young Turks in 1908. This movement, which aimed at secur
ing a constitutional government, in a certain sense, worked hardship for many
lews—and also Christians—by introducing compulsory military service. Until
then lews and Christians were not conscripted into the Turkish Army. Thus,
escaping the draft became an impelling force for the increase of lewish emigra
tion from the empire because serving in the army meant an additional diffi
culty in supporting a family and interfered with religious observances. 90
Not all the lews who arrived in Argentina from the Ottoman Empire had
decided that their final destination would be this South American country.
Thus was the case of three Aleppine lews who left for the United States in 1904.
When a medical examination in Marseille revealed that one of them suffered
from trachoma, which disabled him from entering the United States, they de
cided to change their route to Argentina, where they could disembark without
documentation. 91 On the other hand, some emigrants preferred Argentina to
the United States. Such was the case of a family that migrated at the beginning
of the century from Aleppo to Cairo. From there, the head of the family left for
the United States right before World War I but finally resolved due to instiga
tions of friends in Buenos Aires to settle in the latter city 92
The first to arrive from Ottoman territories—young men desiring eco
nomic progress—had in mind, at the moment of departure, the clear idea of
returning once they had earned enough money to live comfortably back home.
The desire to reintegrate themselves into the closely knit family and commu
nity life of their first years weighed heavily upon these immigrants. Their case
was not exactly identical to the golondrina migrations, thousands of South Eu
ropean, mostly Italian, laborers, who came—many of them yearly for a span of
several years—just for the harvest seasons in Argentina, to return to Europe
afterward. Their profits were generally good, for salaries were much higher
than what they could get in their native countries, where they could not always
find employment, and ship fares were still inexpensive due to the immense
development of trans-Atlantic traffic. 93 Turkish and Syrian lews had in mind
other ways of making a living. Back home their families, for many generations,
had worked in commercial occupations, and that was the way they would also
start in Argentina. They knew that the process of earning capital in this branch
of trade would take a number of years. They started from the very bottom, most
as peddlers in the streets of Buenos Aires, and some in other towns in the


38
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
interior. With heavy loads of cloth and other types of merchandise they would
make their rounds all day long. A few of them did not endure the effort and
their longing for family and friends motivated them to sail home. 94 But the
majority, even if they had contemplated returning, never did so. Nissim Teubal,
who left Aleppo in 1906 at the age of 15 to join his brother Ezra in Buenos
Aires, reports in his memoires:
In the proximities of Buenos Aires, I made a type of covenant with myself.
When I shall have earned, I said to myself, the first 300 pounds, I shall
return to Aleppo, and in Aleppo I will be considered as a Croesus.... But
when Buenos Aires was at sight, I increased the sum. Three hundred
pounds was too little; I would wait until I had five hundred. That sum con
tinued growing. 1 needed more and more. Mad with enthusiasm and am
bition, I said to myself that I would not return to Aleppo other than with a
real fortune. 95
But Nissim never returned to settle in Aleppo. By 1910, together with
Ezra, they brought their parents, brothers, and sisters to Buenos Aires, as most
of the Ottoman lews started then to do.
The revolt of the Young Turks in 1908, the subsequent legislation that
touched upon the lews—such as compulsory military service—the Balkan
Wars, and finally World War 1 with the gradual dismemberment of the Ottoman
Empire eventually produced a radical change in the mentality of the Jewish
emigrant of those areas. From now on the lews who left for the Americas had
already decided they would make their new homes there. Those who went to
Argentina had ample knowledge of conditions in the country. Many already
had members of their families there, and those who had no direct relatives
knew of former members of their own communities who had emigrated to Ar
gentina. They were assured of jobs until they could start their own businesses.
Patterns of Settlement in Buenos Aires
The war years had in many ways interrupted communications across the
Atlantic, thus forcing immigrants to make a decision to rebuild their lives in
Argentina.
lews who had arrived from the various areas in East Europe, Morocco,
and the Ottoman Empire gathered to form more stable institutions. The deci
sions on the part of each group—Ashkenazi, Moroccan, Damascene, Aleppine,
and Ladino-speaking lews—to buy lots of land for their private cemeteries,
are indicative of the fact that these lews had already decided upon a final break
with the community of their youth and had arrived at the conclusion that Ar
gentina was the country of their permanent settlement. Parallel to these ac
quisitions came the consolidation, especially during the period 1914-20, of
the main religious, educational, cultural, and mutual help centers of all these
various communities, each one along its independent lines.
We can follow the trends of city settlement among lews arriving in the
Federal District from the three municipal censuses of 1904, 1909, and 1936. In


39
lewish Immigration Flow to Argentina
1904, 2,000 lews, or one-third of the 6,065 lews in the city, lived in the four
teenth district, located between Cordoba and Rivadavia Avenues to the east of
Callao Avenue and comprising the Center of Buenos Aires. Nearly one-fourth
of the lews in the city—1,416—lived in the eleventh district, directly west of
the fourteenth, encircled by Callao, Cordoba, Pueyrredon, and Rivadavia Ave
nues. Five years later, in 1909, 5,122 lews, or 31 percent of all lews, already lived
in the eleventh district, constituting 13.2 percent of the whole district's popu
lation. The fourteenth district housed 2,776 Jews— 17 percent of all lews—who
represented 4 8 percent of the district.
The next municipal census was taken twenty-seven years later, in 1936
(Table 3). However, it still reflects the way the lewish population spread over
the capital during the second and third decades of the century. The lewish
population of the fourteenth district practically did not grow. The 2,865 Jews
living there represented only 2.4 percent of the lewish population in the city,
and only 3.8 percent of the district's population. The 14,550 lews in the elev
enth district constituted now 27.5 percent of the whole population there, and
12.1 percent of all lews, in other words, the eleventh district became more
"lewish," though a smaller proportion of the lews in Buenos Aires lived there,
lews were settling west of the eleventh district, in the ninth, eighteenth and
seventh and especially in the fifteenth district. Thus, lews settled preferably in
the Villa Crespo, Caballito, and La Paternal neighborhoods, which roughly cor
respond to the above-mentioned census districts.
The pattern of settlement of lews in Buenos Aires was in direct relation
to their daily occupations. In Villa Crespo a large number of lewish workers
settled side by side with their lewish employers' factories or workshops (tall-
eresY Concentrated in this neighborhood was almost the entire lewish knitting
industry, owners and workers. Many lews there also worked in their own homes
in this trade. In La Paternal an analogous process took place Here, the lewish
wood and furniture industry was concentrated, as well as that of artificial silk
or rayon. The Once neighborhood, nearer to the center of town, continued
being the commercial center for lews in Argentina and the headquarters of
many main lewish institutions. Tailors, a lewish profession par excellence at
the time, were spread over the whole city but favored Villa Crespo and La
Paternal 96
The Jews in the Economy
Jewish immigrants arriving in Buenos Aires were eager to start support
ing themselves from the moment they stepped off ship. Many were already
employed before their five days stay at the Hotel de Inmigrantes was over.
However, very few among the newly arrived possessed vocational skills 97 Still,
they did manage to earn a living and contribute to the development of the
economy. Before the end of the nineteenth century a lewish oldtimer de
scribed the new situation created in Buenos Aires by the arrival of Russian
lews, who then numbered between 350 and 400 families: 98


40
]ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
Table 3
Distribution of Jewish and Total Population by Districts in Buenos Aires in
1936
District
Total Population
lewish Population
Percentage
1 V. Sarsfield
149,446
4,536
3.0
N. Chicago
67,702
876
1.3
N. Pompeya
113,834
2,994
2.6
2
88,997
1,709
1.9
3 Zone 1
41,107
468
l.l
Zone 2
62,155
1.600
2.6
4
73,631
2,072
28
5
123,396
6,002
4.8
6
105,837
2,542
2.4
7
78,401
6,222
7,9
8
72,634
1,929
2.6
9
84,712
12,272
14,5
10
44,262
1,521
3.4
11
51,791
14,550
27.5
12
74,950
1,425
19
13
81,307
1,251
1.5
14
74,809
2,865
3.8
15 S. Bernardo
145,014
23,820
164
V. Devoto
146,717
4.167
2.8
V Mitre
104,638
5,972
5.7
16 Belgrano
110,313
2,395
2.2
V. Urquiza
118,646
1,950
1.6
17
115,532
2,861
2.5
18
123,047
10,672
86
19
99,427
2,600
2.6
20
62,837
922
1.5
All districts
2,415,142
120,195
5.0
Source: Municipalidad de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Cuarto Censo Gen
eral (1936), vol, 3, pp. 294-99.
Though they are comparative strangers they have shown much enterprise
and activity, and this energy is bearing fruit in the progressive improve
ment their condition is undergoing. Whatever Englishmen may think of the
Russian immigrant, Argentines have every reason to be thankful for his
presence, for in his wake there have come a number of industries abso
lutely new to the country, such as the manufacture of mackintoshes, em
broidery, laces, hats, Russian soaps, and a number of other articles which
Argentina had previously to import from abroad. Many of these Russian
immigrants have become metal workers, watchmakers, tailors, shoemak
ers, etc.
By the end of the century, however, several hundred lews were directly
involved in buying and selling second-hand goods. This type of commerce de
veloped mainly among newcomers without professions or skills, often known
as luftmenschen. Previous to this they earned a few pesos as waiters, servants, or


41
lewish Immigration Flow to Argentina
Percentage of Jews in Each District of Buenos Aires, 1936
4 CALLAO AVE.
CORDOBA AVE.
More than 25%
10% to 20%
5% to 10%
Below 5%
employees or were colonists who had left the colonies for the city with some
savings. The expenses to get started in this branch of commerce were not high
Patentes, or licenses were inexpensive, thus permitting the dealer to open a
shop with an expenditure of 400 to 1,000 pesos. By 1910 cambalachero, or
second-hand dealer," had become synonymous with |ew even though only
twenty-one such Jewish shops remained from earlier days. A contemporary


42
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
commented that second-hand dealings was as much a lewish occupation as a
Bottegleria was Genoese, and most of the unskilled jobs in the streets of Bue
nos Aires were Neopolitan 99
The largest number of lews started in a slightly different occupation.
Having arrived in Argentina without skills and resources, they resorted to ped
dling with packages of merchandise on their shoulders in different quarters of
the capital and the interior. Usually the peddler sold his goods on install
ments, thus introducing an important innovation in the economy of the coun
try, especially among the lower strata who could not afford the full price of an
article but could only acquire it by means of weekly payments. Every week the
lewish peddler would come to collect the quota for that period, thus acquiring
the popular name of cuentenik or sucuentenik, a word formed with the Spanish
cuenta (bill) with a Yiddish suffix. Peddling in Buenos Aires was not restricted
to Ashkenazim. Among all sectors of the Sephardic population, peddling con
stituted a conspicuous occupation during the first decades of the twentieth
century. 100
Gradually lews began participating in the commercial and industrial life
of the city. They soon became conspicuous in the commerce of furniture,
clothes, and furs, among other branches, lews also imported goods from Eu
rope that were either not manufactured in Argentina or were of inferior quality.
Likewise, lews entered several branches of Argentine industry and were pio
neers in some of them. They were most important in the needle and furniture
industry both as industrialists and as workers in workshops and factories.
By 1903 the Jews of West European origin—French, German, and En
glish—were the best off among lews in Buenos Aires. They either owned or
represented export and import companies and were also active in special
branches of commerce, such as jewelry and the like. About 20 percent of Se
phardim owned houses of commerce, especially haberdasheries and imported
cloths' stores. The rest were engaged in peddling. The Russian lewish immi
grants in Buenos Aires were also engaged in commerce, owning cloth and fur
niture shops, as well as second-hand stores. Most of them were poor and were
employed as workers or became peddlers. 101 At the beginning of the century
Ashkenazic Jews worked in branches of industry that were to become areas of
special lewish concern before the end of the first decade and more so during
the twenties and thirties. A correspondent from Buenos Aires informed the
lewish Chronicle in 1905 that "a great many of the |Russian| lewish immigrants
find easy work here, especially in the tailoring, cap-making, furniture, and
boot-making trades." 102
Still in 1909 the majority of the Sephardim were poor dealers in second
hand goods, peddlers, or small merchants. Those of Turkish origin had some
haberdashery stores; the Moroccan dealt in fabrics and in ready-made clothes.
West European lews were engaged in jewelry and export-import. Among Rus
sian lews there was a large number of workers in all types of handicrafts. 103 By
1926 fully 27 percent of the active lewish population were employed as workers
in various handicrafts and industries. 104
Though at the beginning of the century the number of lews active in


43
lewish Immigration Flow to Argentina
liberal professions was small, the number of lewish professionals by 1926 had
grown, clearly indicating the continuous trend of later decades. According to
data gathered in 1909 and 1926 the number of lewish physicians in Buenos
Aires grew from 26 to 135. In those years the corresponding increase for den
tists was 18 to 128, for pharmacists 11 to 50, for engineers 10 to 41, for archi
tects 7 to 13, and for lawyers 2 to 32. 105
lews were also conspicuous in the development of new industries in the
country and by the end of the 1920s had control of large sectors of them. In
1935 Simon Weill pointed to hundreds of lewish workshops and factories in
the capital: 113 produced furs: 58, clothes; 57, furniture: 49, handbags and
belts; 45, beds and springs; 39, caps and hats; 38, cloth and silk; 13, raincoats;
and 12, leather goods. 106
Most of the lews, however, were active in commerce. During the last
years of the twenties an estimate of the activities of the gainfully employed
lews in the country established that 55 percent were in commerce, 27 percent
worked in the industries, 4 percent were academicians or professionals, and 14
percent were agriculturists. 107 Evidently, though these are rough estimates, the
percentages of the first three categories should be somewhat raised for Bue
nos Aires, where no agriculturists lived. A conspicuous proportion of the lews
in commerce were ex-cuenteniks who established fixed stores. Many of the latter
now had their own salesmen who offered their merchandise in all corners of
the city and interior. The cuenteniks prospered during the 1920s and more so
after the financial crisis around 1930 In Buenos Aires there were about four
thousand of them still in 1940. 108
The main preoccupation of the cuenteniks was the acquisition of mer
chandise. The wholesale merchants speculated with the fluctuating market
and imposed their prices upon the peddlers. The latter, on the other hand,
were forced to raise their prices accordingly, a fact that caused a diminution of
their sales. In order to protect themselves from these situations the peddlers
founded unions. During the prewar period a number of these guilds were
founded, which, due to the difficulties involved in the organization of peddlers,
failed after a few years or even a few months. 109
During the crisis of the World War I years some peddler organizations
were established on firmer bases. On October 24, 1915, the Union Ambulantes
Israelitas (Yiddishn Ambulantn Varain) was founded by seven peddlers as a
mutual help institution that would defend their interests. Membership was
limited to peddlers "who speak in Yiddish " 110 With the economic boom after
the war a cooperative was appended to the union in order to furnish the mem
bers with good quality merchandise at lower prices. This cooperative under
went difficult periods due to the fight of the wholesalers against it, the lack of
practical cooperativists among its members, and its unbalanced trade policy
of giving credits in larger measures than its income warranted. Nonetheless,
by 1920 this peddlers' union showed positive signs of prosperity." 1
More successful, especially in its defense work against monopolies of
wholesale merchants, was the peddlers' society founded on August 13, 1916,
under the name Liga de Defensa Comercial Israelita y Socorros Mutuos Its


44
1 ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
name was changed several times and was finally called Sociedad Comercial
Israelita and popularly known as Primera Cooperativa. The cooperative was
actually attached to the society in 1919, when shares of 100 pesos each, to be
paid in ten installments, were issued. The modest economic situation of the
shareholders at the time is evident from the fact that the biggest ones had
bought only five shares each. This cooperative grew rapidly after 1921 when
large numbers of new members joined it and sales were tripled. The coopera
tive moved many times into larger premises where goods were stored, until in
1928 it moved into its own large new building in Victoria Street (now Hipolito
Yrigoyen). number 2221-51, which cost at the time 1,043.000 pesos (over
400,000 dollars). To the furniture and domestic articles sections were added
cloths, menswear, tailoring, furs, and shoes sections. By the end of the decade
this cooperative had reached a position of steady economic progress and had
become a pillar in philanthropy within the lewish community.
The postwar arrival of new luftmenschen, or unqualified workers, who be
came cuenteniks in Buenos Aires quickly brought additional members to the
Sociedad Comercial Israelita. However, it preferred to limit its membership.
Therefore, a number of lewish peddlers, unable to enter, founded a new coop
erative during 1923, Cooperativa Comercial Israelita (later Corporacion Com
mercial Israelita), known as La Segunda Cooperativa, with identical motiva
tions.
During the 1920s lews in various branches of commerce in Buenos Aires
formed mutual societies intended to further their economic progress. A third
peddler cooperative was founded in 1928; tailors united in 1922; furriers in
1923; painters in 1923; remitters for auctions in 1924. Smaller cooperatives
sprouted in Buenos Aires during the late 1920s. Retail merchants in specific
clothing items founded their separate associations, as did retail grocers, fur
riers, and the like." 2
Towards the end of World War I, especially during the 1920s, lewish com
merce and small industries were promoted by the establishment of banks.
They were founded by small groups of lewish workers and artisans as credit
chests that provided loans. In short periods of time they developed and grew
stronger, thus changing their functions into those of a bank. The first lewish
bank was the Banco Industrial, founded in 1917 by eight workers and small
industrialists, with a capital of 120 pesos. In 1930, in spite of the crisis, the
Banco Industrial gave credits for a total of 724,441 pesos (about 270,000 dol
lars). Of more rapid growth was the Banco Popular Israelita (Yiddishe Folks
Bank), founded in 1921 with 90 members and 1,805 pesos. Nine years later, in
1930, it issued loans for a value of 5,351,938.81 pesos (nearly 2,000,000 dol
lars). During that year the Banco Israelita Argentino issued loans for 2,240,000
pesos, and the Banco Israelita Polaco for 615,590 pesos. Other banks were still
undergoing their formative period at the end of the third decade of the century.
Their importance in lewish commerce and industry grew in later decades. The
popular character of the banks, with literally thousands of shareholders, gave
them a positive role in the development of lewish institutions in the country.
The banks were lewish not only in name or in their management but also be-


45
]ewish Immigration Flow to Argentina
cause of their concern with lewish life and needs. They contributed consider
able sums to most Jewish concerns both in Argentina and outside of it." 3
Simultaneous with the development of their economic life, the immi
grant lews in Argentina established their lewish institutional lives on firmer
foundations. Starting as peddlers, many lews established retail stores, some
wholesale commerces, enterprises for the importation of goods from Euro
pean countries, and finally entered industry—mainly textile and furniture—
thus becoming a more active element in the economic life of their adoptive
country. At the same time they founded their main lewish societies and pur
chased plots of land for permanent cemeteries. These factors—the consolida
tion on a much more permanent basis of both their lewish life by means of
their various institutions and their economic life—were parallel develop
ments, each influencing the other and both making for the adaptation of the
lewish immigrant to his new home in Argentina.


46

Jew and Gentile
in Argentina
lews manifest their identity through a wide
range of activities and associations. Some accentuate the religious character
of this identity, while others emphasize one of several currents of lewish na
tionalism or Zionism. Still others view their lewishness along ethnic lines, pre
ferring to participate in lewish mutual help societies or associations dedicated
to protect the immigrants newly arrived from lands in which their situation
had gradually deteriorated. Finally, there are lews who consider their ties with
other lews as essentially cultural, which might be expressed in centers such as
libraries, Yiddish theaters, or through the lewish press and journalism There
is, however, another crucial factor in the identity of the lews, namely, the fact
that they are considered as such by their non-lewish neighbors and soci
ety. Nathan Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan have asserted that "two wills
make a group—the self-will that creates unity, and the will of others that
imposes a unity where hardly any is felt."' Conceivably this will of others had
an effect on lews in Argentina, for after the 1880s antisemitism has played
a role in the country, though its virulence and even its practical results in
the lewish community have not been uniform throughout the last hundred
years.
It has been asserted that antisemitism in Argentina became a strong
element in various sectors of society in the 1930s when the same sentiment
was rampant in many Western countries. Both Moises Goldman and Silvia
Schenkolewsky have asserted that before 1930 there were only sporadic out
bursts of anti-lewish feelings, with no great inner coherence or ideological


47
Iew and Gentile in Argentina
basis. Four reasons adduced for the nonexistence of strong antisemitic senti
ments were (1) that the country was very cosmopolitan, with a heterogenous
population of varied races and religions living together, leaving no room for
rivalries; (2) that since the country was undergoing a process of development,
there was no real competition between lews and non-lews in areas such as
agriculture, industry, and science; (3) that the mass of immigrants from South
ern Europe—Italians, Spaniards, and to a large extent also Frenchmen—knew
little about lews from experience and had only a literary-theological concep
tion of them; and (4) that lews were not individualized as lews but as Russians,
Roumanians, Germans, and so on. 2
Indeed, anti-lewish demonstrations before 1930 only sporadically at
tained the vehemence, fury, and consistency they showed in later periods.
Even if sporadic during the period that ended in 1930, expressions against
lews produced an impact on the lewish community of Argentina. We shall see
that antisemitic expressions appeared constantly, thus disproving the view
that antisemitism was not a factor in the life of the lewish community. How
ever, we must bear in mind that the antisemitic attitudes before 1930 and
those of the period immediately after were different not only in intensity but
also in quality. After 1930 antisemitism in Argentina was a consistent ideology
among more or less influential nationalist groups, which was not the case, by
and large, before that time.
This chapter will not focus on the causes of antisemitism in different
periods in the history of Argentina. We shall concern ourselves with the differ
ent areas in which this sentiment was made manifest and the assiduity with
which it recurred, dedicating special attention to the reaction it produced
among lews living in the country. Finally, we shall gauge from the data thus
obtained the role antisemitism played in strengthening Jewish identity. Still, it
should be noted that the four reasons given above for the lack of strong anti
semitic manifestations before 1930 do not stand criticism. Through our analy
sis we shall show that each one of them is untrue. In the first case, the cosmo
politan character of the country in the period was the main factor for the rise
of a forceful movement to Argentinize the country, thus provoking xenophobic
sentiments. This xenophobia had strong notes of antisemitism, for lews were
the Foreigners by antonomasia. Against the second reason we shall note signs
of discrimination against lews in the universities—both students and profes
sors—and in the workers' movements, as well as arguments against the partic
ipation of lews in certain branches of commerce. Third, with respect to the
immigrants from Southern Europe who knew about the lews mainly from lit
erature and Catholic teachings, it will be pointed out that they were precisely
the most susceptible to the teachings of Catholic groups that disseminated
hatred of the lews based on their belief that the latter were descendants of
deicides. The fourth reason is not altogether correct even if during the last
years of the nineteenth century some lews preferred to be singled out by their
country of origin instead of by their religion. Most lews did not deny their
origin Moreover, the general population, especially in the big cities, was used
to reading about israelitas and even about judios in newspapers, magazines, and


48
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
books. On the other hand, the causes of the anti-lewish uprisings during the
period should be looked for in the rising nationalist feeling that developed in
Argentina from the first years of the present century, in the fear the dominant
elite had of the workers' movements that might plant socialist, communist, or
anarchist ideas among the population and in the teachings of certain clerical
groups.
Anti-Jewish Sentiments before 1905
The first signs of antisemitism in the country appeared in 1881 as a
consequence of the decree that opened the doors of the country to the lews of
Russia. 3 Active opposition to the government's policy to appoint an immigra
tion agent in Europe to encourage immigration of Jews who were suffering
pogroms and other restrictions in Russia was led by the Buenos Aires French
newspaper, L'Union Fran^aise. Its editorial of August 22, 1881, included an ex
tremely deprecatory description of the lews and warned against the disastrous
consequences of their mass immigration. The arguments were basically eco
nomic, with an undercurrent of racism: "We do not know what people would
ever have the idea of sending an agent outside to gather noxious insects, pow
erful parasites; we do not fully understand a physician who having to treat a
growing body which is in need of daily renewed blood, does not know better
than to inject leeches instead." 4
La Nacidn. the reputable daily founded by Bartolome Mitre, carried an
interesting editorial on the appointment of lose Marfa Bustos, the govern
ment's agent. While milder in tone than its French counterpart, it also de
nounced the administration’s policy, arguing that the lews would encounter
enormous difficulties in assimilating themselves to their new environment.
The editor concluded that bringing “this race of men to our soil, with its eccen
tric constitution of race and beliefs as well as habits, is to generate a kernel of
population without relationship, without incorporation, and without adher
ence to the national society." 5
On the other hand, one sector of the Argentine press, El National,
founded by Domingo F. Sarmiento, was more sympathetic to the lews and de
nounced L'llmon Fran^aise, asserting that "the slanderous and insulting words
against the Israelites ... indicate the moral level of the editor. " 6
The reaction of the few lews residing in 1881 in Buenos Aires to these
events is indicative of their identification as lews. These West European lews
seized the opportunity to demonstrate their concern for Jewish rights. Mem
bers of the Congregacion Israelita protested against the slanderous attacks of
the French newspaper and even challenged the editor to a duel This was the
first time that the lews of Buenos Aires had to defend themselves against at
tacks by the press. They responded immediately and forcefully and learned
that they had some support in the gentile community. Moreover, the attacks
provided an opportunity to call for the unity of all Jews in the city. Thus the
persecutions of lews in Russia and the negative response of some sectors in


49
lew and Gentile in Argentina
Argentina to Jewish immigration to its shores, strengthened the Jewish iden
tity of the few Jews living there. 7
For the Jews, especially those who had emigrated from countries where
they had personally experienced antisemitic attacks, the possibility of causing
the anger of the general population against them was something they forever
tried to avoid. The fear of antisemitic uprisings was more in their minds than
in those of potential antisemites. This is understandable from the point of
view of the long history of pogroms, forced migrations, and special legislation
the Jews had undergone.
In 1895 Rabbi Joseph, who had been in the country for over thirty years,
warned the members of the Chevra Keduscha that the Moroccan Jews in Bue
nos Aires, "when they bury a coreligionist, hold ridiculous ceremonies in pub
lic which attract the attention of the populace, and could provoke a conflict
with the Igeneral] population and authorities, who already tolerate us in this
country and do not make any impediments for us to keep our cult.. . . We must
try not to encourage antisemitism in this hospitable land " 8
In the last years of the nineteenth century reports attest to the fact that
some Jews did not want to be considered as such. Pinie Katz observed that
when the first Jewish periodicals appeared in Buenos Aires, in 1898, "many
subscribers requested that the newspaper be sent in an envelope or com
pletely wrapped in paper, so that nobody would see the Hebrew letters." 9
Because lews were called "Rusos" in the country, some preferred to de
clare themselves Germans, or, if accepting their Russian origin, a few added
that they were real Russian and not Jews. Furthermore, some closed their shops
on the High Holy Days but placed signs in the windows announcing, "Closed
because of family mourning" or “Closed for stocktaking " 10 In 1901 Simon Ost-
wald, who had been active in various Jewish societies and who was also one of
the richest Jews in Buenos Aires at the turn of the century, spoke of this atti
tude in a speech he gave at a celebration in Buenos Aires of the Fifth Zionist
Congress in Basle. He asserted that "nowhere is there less reason to hide one's
origin or creed than in this Argentine land, where antisemitism is an exotic
plant that will never prosper.” 11
There were Jews who forever tried to hide their origin in fear of antise
mitic provocations. However, in Argentina such Jews were more conspicuous
in the 1890s and first years of the twentieth century. Interestingly enough,
those were years of calmness with respect to instigations against them, in later
decades (before 1930), when antisemitic writings were more widespread and
when physical attacks against lews had taken place, the tendency to conceal
their identity was not so noticeable among Jews. The fear of antisemitism,
which indeed did not decrease, took a different form among active Jews. Along
with the rise of nationalism in Argentina, especially in the programs of educa
tion at all levels of instruction, some Jews feared opposing this nationalism
with Zionist activities. Testimonies to this attitude are obviously scarce, but
the documentation found clearly attests to the existence of apprehension in
some sectors of the Jewish population. At a board meeting of C1RA in 1927


50
}ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
lacobo Edelberg was "opposed to CIRA's participation in Zionist affairs, be
cause it could be charged of propagating an antinationalist Argentine spirit
and produce antisemitism."' 2
Once some antisemitic activities had shaken the lewish population in
Argentina, the attempt to cover their lewishness was a much less common
event. It was not merely the natural reaction to antisemitism that made lews
more conscious of their particularities as such but also their realization that
they could be assured of the sympathy of larger sectors of the Argentine pop
ulation when such attacks erupted. The arrival of larger numbers of Jewish
immigrants during the decade before World War I worked both as a cause of
antisemitism (the elite saw in the lewish, as well as in other foreign workers,
the peril of leftist infiltration) and as a balsam to the fear of revealing their
origin among lews, who felt more comfortable among larger numbers of their
coreligionists.
A large number of false notions are transmitted through what sociolo
gists call stereotype. In this way physical traits or cultural and social character
istics of individuals of a group are attributed to the group in general. People
are judged not according to their own personalities but according to what they
are supposed to conform to as members of a particular group. Stereotypes of
lews appeared in Argentine literature for the first time in 1891 when lose Maria
Miro (nom de plume, Julian Martel) began publishing his novel la Bolsa in the
newspaper La Nation.
A vivid description of the activities in and around the stock exchange in
Buenos Aires is given in this novel, as well as detailed portrayals of both the
place and the people who frequented it. The plot of the novel is built around
the economic boom that took place in Argentina during the 1880 decade with
the consequent abundance of currency that made for a favorable climate for
business deals. Thus the stock exchange became the scene of feverish activ
ity. 13 This speculative fever was the cause of economic cataclysms that fol
lowed. The state, as well as many private individuals, "suffered grave losses,
which, of course, had an impact on the entire economy." 14
The opinion Miro had of the lews is of interest:
The one that spoke swallowing the French words with German teeth, and
not the purest ones, indeed, was a pale, blonde, lymphatic man, of me
dium height, in whose disagreeable and effeminate face one could see the
expression of hypocritical humility that a long period of servility has made
the typical seal of the lewish race. He had small eyes, striated with red
filaments, that betray the descendants of Zebulun, and the nose bent typ
ical of the tribe of Ephraim He dressed with the bad tasted luxury of the
lews, who can never acquire the noble distinction that characterizes a man
of the Aryan race, his antagonist. He was called Filiberto Mackser and had
the title of Baron which he had bought in Germany, thinking that in this
way he could give importance to his obscure name. He was with a young
man, a compatriot of the same religion, who practiced commerce with
women, supplying the porleno brothels with the beauties of the German and
Oriental markets. 15


51
Iew and Gentile in Argentina
Martel could not have been a witness to many situations involving lews,
although he described several in detail. At the time there were practically no
instances of overt racial prejudices in Argentina However, there was in exis
tence, and circulating in Buenos Aires, some literature of an antisemitic char
acter that had arrived from Europe, mainly from France. To understand a work
like La Balsa, therefore, it is necessary to comprehend the attitude of the
people in Buenos Aires, especially the oligarchy, with respect to Europe. For
the political leaders, “To govern meant to Europeanize." 16 The same was true
of the literary activities of this oligarchy. The elite “assailed the traditional way
of thinking. They preferred the French authors to the Spanish ones, and some,
the Anglo-Saxon to the French."' 7 Doubtless, in the atmosphere of the literary
salons of the city—in the milieu of the oligarchy that had its eyes more upon
Europe than upon its own country, 18 —where European authors were dis
cussed, books, magazines, and newspaper articles with antisemitic propa
ganda, were discussed as well. Just as in Europe some authors blamed the
lews for the economic failures and depressions produced as a result of the
Industrial Revolution, Martel blamed the immigrants, especially the lews, for
the economic crisis of 1889. The Argentine society, which had relatively few
lews, showed that it, too, could give rise to antisemitic expressions. 19
The influence of Edouard Drumont is evident in Martel's work. The for
mer is mentioned in a dialogue, and several lines are taken verbatim from his
La France |uive 20 The racist sentiment, which had earlier roots in Count Gobi-
neau's Essai sur I'inegalite des races humaines and had influenced Richard Wagner
and Drumont, among others, weighed heavily in Martel's prejudice. “You do
not realize the sad role you would be playing |Glow explained to Granulillol
if it were known that you are part of a trust of German lews, since associating
with them means going against the country, against the race, against every
thing good and honest in the world They, they are the ones who are un
willing to become part of a race that has proclaimed to all the universe that
all men are equal." 21
Martel also denounced the financial feudalism of the lews, an accusa
tion that had been spread in France for almost half a century before. The lews
inspired fear in one of the characters of La Bolsa because they begin by invad
ing silently, and "will end monopolizing everything." 22 The Alliance Israelite
Universelle is accused of being one of the most powerful secret organizations
in the world, silently awaiting the moment of lewish revenge, and of having
"branches everywhere in the world where there is a means of profiting at the
expense of the Aryan." 2 ’ Baron Mackser is Rothschild's envoy, “who has been
sent to Buenos Aires to exert pressure on the market, and to control and mo
nopolize, with the help of a strong lewish trust,... the main sources of produc
tion of the country." 24 Rothschild himself is an excellent example of a lew who
has no roots in the country in which he lives and makes his money. He has
doubled his capital to the damage of France. 25
Martel's antisemitism did not have an immediate influence in the soci
ety of his time. A young man just twenty-three years old, he finished writing La


52
lewish Buenos Aires. 1890-1930
Bolsa on December 30, 1890, and died six years later. His main concern was that
of denouncing and slandering not the lews but, in general, all immigrants
speculating in the stock exchange. His antisemitism was coupled with xeno
phobia. It did not lead to exclusion laws or to riots and pogroms. We have
gone some length into describing La Bolsa because stereotype accusations
against Jews did reappear in Argentina a few years later, and Martel's work
represents the first attempt to spread this type of concept in the country. The
success of the novel among the Argentine population of the time, as well as in
later generations, testifies to the fact that there was a considerable sector of
the population absorbing stereotyped concepts denigrating the lews. This
characterization of the lews remained latent in their minds but was liable to
come out in a more active form of aggressiveness once the general atmo
sphere in the country demanded a scapegoat for its problems or a justification
of repressive measures by the government.
Few anti-lewish sentiments, nevertheless, were manifest in Argentina
before 1905. Two of them, however, deserve some consideration because of
the importance of the circles in which they originated. The first one concerned
luan Alsina, for almost twenty years the government's director of immigration.
Alsina repeatedly warned the governor of Entre Rios, where the largest ICA
settlements were located, to beware of the lews because they did not mix with
others. Alsina asserted that on account of their high birthrate lews threaten to
grow into a separate power that would never adopt Argentine culture. 26 In
other instances Alsina deviated from the law by making differences between
lewish and non-lewish immigrants. He refused to a group of lewish immigrants
the usual right they had upon arrival to be harbored in the Hotel de Inmi-
grantes and to obtain free tickets to travel into the interior of the republic to
their places of settlement. The minister of agriculture censured Alsina and
advised him to be guided by the principle of law that permits no distinction of
race, religion, or nationality to be made among immigrants. 27 However, Alsina,
who wrote repeatedly against the formation in Argentina of foreign communi
ties with a strong inner cohesion that would prevent the total assimilation of
the immigrants, 28 did much to turn Argentine opinion against the lews by
means of reports on the state of immigration. 29
The second serious instance of antisemitism before 1905 appeared in
Revista Nacional in 1902. Arturo Reynal O'Connor, describing the life and prob
lems of the various agricultural colonies constituted in their majority by for
eigners of diverse origin, also had something to say about the lewish ones. The
lewish colonists, according to Reynal O'Connor, were not like the rest of the
Russian colonists who "adapt themselves more than any other immigrants to
the nature of our country." lews are not capable of agricultural work, nor do
they want to be agriculturists: "The lew is a merchant, and his business is
usury." After a description of their small bric-a-brac businesses in several
towns near the colonies and a derogatory picture of their outer appearance,
the author added a few final remarks that reveal his prejudice against lews:
"Dirty and disheveled; the aquiline profile and long beard predominate; and
most of them have yellow faces that look as if they really were two thousand


53
jew and Gentile in Argentina
years old. You would think they are the same who crucified Christ; morally,
they are Shylocks; and from the social point of view, they turn up in the villages
like a pest." 30
Revista Nacional was one of the few literary magazines of the time. Both
its contributors and readers belonged to the educated upper class, the only
class that had a say in official policy in the country. Alsina was also a member
of this class. Both he and Reynal O'Connor were prejudiced against the lews
Alsina thought the latter would not assimilate to the country's mores; Reynal
O'Connor saw a deicide and a usurer in every lew. However, the time was not
yet ripe for a limitation of lewish immigration nor for violent attacks against
lews. The governing elite still promoted the immigration of large numbers of
immigrants to populate the country and serve its own economic needs.
Furthermore, warnings against the peril of losing the Argentine character of
the country to a growing cosmopolitan population had not yet been voiced.
Rise of Nationalism and Its Effects upon the lews
After the economic crisis of 1890-91 immigration into Argentina was
resumed. From 1892 up to World War I the net immigration into the country
surpassed the 2,000,000 mark. Large proportions of the newcomers remained
in the port city of Buenos Aires, which throughout the quarter of a century
before the war had 50 percent of its population composed of foreigners. More
over, foreigners constituted more than 72 percent of the total population over
twenty years old. 31 They thus constituted a very noticeable element among the
urban militant workers determined to improve their economic situation and
represented a threat to the Argentine ruling classes long accustomed to ser
vile laborers.
The working classes became active during the last decade of the nine
teenth century, especially by means of general strikes. Between 1885 and 1889
Enrico Malatesta visited the Rfo de la Plata, and in 1898 Pedro Gori did the
same, both prominent leaders of the European anarchist movement. Both
these activists urged anarchist workers to organize into syndicates in order to
unite their forces when necessary. Anarchists reached the working masses
mainly by means of two newspapers, L'Avenire in Italian and La Protesta Humana
in Spanish. At the same time the socialist movement began mustering forces.
In 1882 German socialists formed the Club Vorwarts. In 1894 La Vanguardia be
gan appearing as the organ of the socialist group, which was formed into a
political party under the leadership of luan B lusto two years later. 32
Strikes were organized by both socialist and anarchist groups, though
they were not often in agreement. In the eyes of the upper class both move
ments were harmful to the security and progress of the country. As a conse
quence of a huge anarchist-led general strike in November 1902 in which dock
workers and draymen joined most other unskilled workers, President Julio A.
Roca called both chambers of Congress into a special session. A state of siege
was immediately declared to put an end to the strike, and after a short debate
the Residence Law was enacted. Since most problems within the workers'


54
]ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
movements were believed to be caused by foreign agitators who launched the
workers into conflicts against their own best interests, the Residence Law of
1902 emerged as Argentina's first legislation designed specifically to discrimi
nate against the foreign-born. The principal provision of this law enabled the
executive to expel any foreigner because of civil crimes or one whose conduct
“compromises national security or disturbs the public order." The Residence
Law became a controversial issue; many voices—-among them the editors of
La Nation and La Prensa, as well as Socialist congressman Alfredo L. Palacios—
argued that it might discredit the country among prospective agricultural im
migrants in Europe, who were urgently needed in Argentina.”
Because of the support the Residence Law had among the governing
class, the movement to repeal it failed. 34 Nevertheless, agitation continued,
and the number of strikes grew. 35 Accordingly, police repression became
harsher. At the same time, the anarchists were consolidating their strength in
the Federacion Obrera Argentina, which they dominated in 1905. 36 In May 1909
violent incidents took place when 200,000 workers in Buenos Aires struck in
protest of the violent manner in which the police had dispersed a May Day
anarchist march, leaving 8 dead and 105 wounded. Violence reached its peak
when a young Russian lewish anarchist, Simon Radowitzky, assassinated Chief
of Police Ramon L. Falcon, on November 14, 1909, thus avenging most workers,
who hated Falcon for his fierce repression of strikes and demonstrations. 37
Antiforeign sentiments were thus accentuated. Even the important
newspapers that had advocated repealing the Residence Law a few years be
fore now called for more repressive legislation and for the investigation of new
immigrants to avoid potential agitators. 38 The government had, moreover, ad
ditional preoccupations in this area. It was preparing elaborate celebrations
of the first centenary of the May 25, 1810, revolution, to which were invited
foreign dignitaries, including President Montt of Chile and Princess Isabella of
Spain. The anarchists, on the other hand, had already announced their plans
for a general strike during the celebrations. However, the government was de
termined to celebrate the centennial peacefully and applied all necessary
repression to subdue the nonconformist agitators. On May 14, while Congress
was voting on another state of siege, conspicuous members of the exclusive
Sociedad Sportiva Argentina, and other members of the wealthy class, under
the permissive eye of the police, organized assaults on key workers' institu
tions. That evening, they completely destroyed and burned the premises, fur
niture, and printing presses of La Protesla and La Vanguardia, while the police
arrested several hundred working class leaders, including the head of the So
cialist party, luan B. Justo. Several workers' locales were assaulted and de
stroyed. One column of the demonstrators further indulged in a series of out
rages in the lewish quarter of Barrio Once. In the corner of Lavalle and Andes
(today, lose E. Uriburu) they plundered a grocery store, destroying it after
wards. Not satisfied with this, they also violated women.” lews were also
among the foreigners deported right after these raids; among them was Zal
man (Salomon) Sorkin, the Labor Zionist leader of the first years in Buenos
Aires. 40


55
lew and Gentile in Argentina
On ]une 27 of the same year another law was rapidly passed by both
Houses of Congress. It came as a response to the explosion of a bomb under a
seat at the Colon Opera House during a performance. Romanoff, a Russian
anarchist, was accused by the police of being responsible for the act of terror
ism, though he was probably innocent. 41 But the oligarchy in power became
even more distrustful of foreigners and requested stricter legislation against
anarchists. The Ley de Defensa Social, which was passed immediately by Con
gress, prohibited the entry to the country of anarchists, foreigners who had
committed civil crimes, or anyone who advocated the use of force or violence
against public functionaries, governments, or institutions. It further prohibited
meetings and demonstrations of anarchists and established fines against all
those indirectly involved in bringing anarchists into the country or helping
them in any of their activities. 42
The generally hostile attitude of the ruling class towards foreigners also
made an imprint among the lews living there. In 1910, even before the events
of May 14th and the final adoption of the Ley de Defensa Social, lews were
voicing their disappointment with the direction affairs were taking in the coun
try. The Labor Zionist organ Broit un Efire indicated the need for unity of all lews
in the country with the main purpose of "protecting themselves from external
attacks which are becoming stronger every day here." Being realistic, though
not without disillusionment, the editor added,
To defend oneself from the outside! Only a few years ago we could speak
about Argentina as a new "Eretz Israel," a land that opened generously its
doors for us, where we enjoyed the same freedom the Republic gives all its
inhabitants, without distinction of nationalities or beliefs And now? The
whole atmosphere around us is filled with hatred of lews; eyes hostile to
lews are staring from all corners; they lie in wait in all directions, awaiting
an opportunity to attack The word "Ruso" has become a shameful one
among official elements, meaning a white slave dealer, a cambalachero
(dealer in old stuffs), a person who has dark dealings; and among reaction
aries a revolutionary, an anarchist. All are against us.. And this is not
simply hatred of lews; it is a sign of a future movement, which is long
known under the name of antisemitism. 41
In a letter dated May 5, 1910, lacobo loselevich reported to Haolam, which was
then published in Vilna, that antisemitism had been developing at a fast pace
in Argentina. He went as far as stating that "if Baron Hirsch would rise from his
grave, he would recognize his error, because of the growth of antisemitism in
Argentina." 44
In those days anti-lewish activities were mainly directed against lewish
workers' organizations, lews were quite conspicuous among the victims of the
"patriotic" bands of 1910. When the latter entered the lewish quarters during
the sad evening of May 15, they also destroyed the locale of Biblioteca Rusa, a
lewish proletarian and socialist cultural center. Besides being the most impor
tant Russian and Yiddish library at the time. Biblioteca Rusa was also a cul
tural center where discussions on international social problems were held.
Biblioteca Rusa was active as well in gathering contributions for the lewish


56
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
victims of the pogroms in Russia, for the deportees in Siberia, for the deputies
of the Duma who were arrested, for the revolutionary movement in Russia in
general, and for the striking workers in Argentina. It also sponsored theater
shows in Russian and Yiddish and other social activities for the lewish work
ers. The end of this organization came abruptly when the patriotic mobs burnt
most of its books in a bonfire in Plaza Congreso. 45
The growing antiforeign sentiment in Argentina manifested itself
against the lews in other areas besides workers' movements, lews were ac
cused of spreading anti-Argentine sentiments to their children in their private
schools. The first reports concerned the schools in the |CA colonies in the
province of Entre Rios, though their repercussions were felt not only there but
also in the capital city. Ernesto A. Bavio, who had been director general of
education in Entre Rios during the 1890s wrote in the November 1908 issue of
El Monitor de la Educacion Comun a report, "Foreign Schools in Entre Rios," con
centrating on the Russo-German and lewish ones. His report was in no way
pleasing to the developing national sentiment in the country: "The schools in
the Russo-German villages transmit an instruction exclusively foreign in letter
and spirit.. . What takes place in the lewish villages is even worse because
the colonists are more closed and exclusive. There, all instruction in the
schools, absolutely all, is in Hebrew, and there is no reading book other than
the Bible." After confirming that most of the lewish schools in the province
received a subsidy from the provincial government, Bavio asserted that neither
the Spanish language nor Argentine geography and history were taught there.
Finally Bavio concluded that the Russian and lewish schools were a threat to
the nation. 46
The report raised an issue in high circles. The main newspapers in the
capital reported assiduously during the following months about the situation
in the schools of Entre Rios, always based on Bavios conclusions. However,
Manuel P. Antequeda, at the time occupying Bavio's former post of director
general of education in Entre Rfos, immediately published an updated report,
denying most of his predecessor s asseverations. Antequeda stated that "Bavio
has never visited the schools in the lewish villages; he does not even know the
location of even one of the twenty-three ICA schools in the Departments of
Villaguay, Uruguay, and Colon." Furthermore, the only person who visited the
lewish schools was the subinspector of the Consejo Nacional de Educacion,
who arrived there on a Saturday evening, and returned on Sunday. 47 Ante
queda, moreover, deplored the position taken by Bavio because it provoked
"the unfortunately long latent question of antisemitism." 48
In Antequeda's report there are a series of documents clarifying the sit
uation in the lewish schools at the time, all confirming that they were fulfilling
at least the minimum requirements of the provincial school system. In any
case the reaction in various circles, especially among the upper class in Bue
nos Aires, to the report is indicative of a strong xenophobic feeling. Both La
Nation and La Prensa kept their readers well informed on the issue. Both availed
themselves of the opportunity of criticizing what apparently seemed an anti-
patriotic attitude of the lews and added a few other concepts that in no way


57
lew and Gentile in Argentina
made for a just evaluation of lews among their readers. La Nacion, in effect,
blamed the lews for the stagnant situation of regional industries and other
small-scale industrial activities because they monopolized the land for mate
rial gain, not agreeing to its subdivision. 1 ' 9 With respect to the schools, La Na-
cidn appealed to the "energetic intervention of the government, called to put
into practice the most noble and patriotic of its duties." 50 La Prensa as well
repeatedly advocated taking strong action against the anti-Argentine schools.
It recommended that if the Entre Rios government did not proceed with the
urgency that the gravity of the case required, the national government should
order the immediate Argentinization of the schools or close them in case of
disobedience: "This is a supreme patriotic duty." 51
Among those who accepted Bavio's reports was Ricardo Rojas, whose La
restauracion nacionalista (1909) repeated the inspector's charges. This was Rojas's
first major work, consisting of a sharp attack on the cultural impact of the
cosmopolitan population of the country. Rojas soon became the most influ
ential intellectual figure of the generation that advocated a complete revision
of the educational programs in the country to protect the creole cultural heri
tage against the alleged corrupting influences of immigration. In particular,
the danger posed by the Hebrew schools, according to Rojas, was that "when
they bring their fanaticisms, they also bring us a Semitic question which did
not exist here because there were no lews, but which will exist as soon as the
creole son of the Semite immigrant prefers being lewish, instead of being Ar
gentine in complete union with the people and the soil in which he was
born." 52 Another disadvantage of the lewish school was that "it creates the
lewish family, whose religious patriarchate will prevent it from fusing itself
with the families of the country, and assimilate to our sociableness.'' 53 But
Rojas was prejudiced enough to believe that "a foreign association of lewish
bankers legislates over our country and mocks its laws." 54 Though others ac
cused European governments of similar interference, Rojas preferred to
ground his attack on a financially powerful alliance of lews who did not respect
national boundaries when the issue concerned the furtherance of lewish
values.
Before the celebration of the independence centennial in Argentina the
concepts about the lews spread by Bavio and repeated by authors of influence
such as Rojas, created similar situations vis-a-vis lewish schools in different
areas where lews lived. Complaints about the anti-Argentine education in lew
ish schools in the provinces of Buenos Aires and Santa Fe and finally in the
city of Buenos Aires ended with the temporary closing of some of them for the
same reasons. 55 Among the motivations given for closing the Talmud Torahs
(lewish religious schools) in the capital by the Consejo Nacional de Educacion
was the accusation that not all the students received the minimum required in
subjects such as Argentine history and geography and civic instruction and
that the education did not have an eminently national character. 56 Actually,
these were only lewish religious schools, and the students who received their
religious education there also attended the national schools. On the other
hand, lewish leaders concerned with the low level of lewish education in the


58
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
Talmud Torahs, complained that the strong assimilationist education of the
Argentine schools was estranging the lewish children from any lewish atmo
sphere. 57
The wave of protests against the lewish schools subsided shortly after
the celebrations of the centennial. By that time the Ley de Defensa Social had
also become effective, and the war against anarchists had calmed some of the
nationalists. But the attacks prompted a response from various sectors of the
lewish population in the country. From the available documentation we can
assert that the strongest responses came from some of the small lewish work
ers' parties and Zionist movements. These organizations were the most vio
lently attacked by the reactionary elements in Argentina and had some of their
more active leaders deported as a result of the Ley de Residencia and Ley de
Defensa Social. 58 The workers' organizations were assailed not only because of
their lewishness, but also because of their participation in strikes and demon
strations along with the general workers' movement. The Bundist group Avan-
gard revealed its solidarity with the general lewish community when it wrote,
"We are no admirers of the Talmud Torahs, we are against their |study| pro
gram, and also against whatever is taught there, because when the children
come out of the Talmud Torah they know almost nothing about lewish [i.e.,
Yiddish| language, history and literature; but no one has the right to take op
pressive measures against the Talmud Torahs, which have rights according to
the Constitution." Avangard further tried to awaken the lewish population to
think about the near future: "We must protest sharply against the injustice that
the government is making, and we hope that our voice will not be lost in the
desert of lewish unconcern." 59 The Zionist workers' party, Poale Zion, had
called, by means of their short-lived biweekly Broit un Ehre, for the union of all
lewish institutions and individuals in order to defend the community "against
the attacks of the press and in society, as well as from the government." But
the union, in their view, had also to include cultural, economic, and mutual
help committees to serve all lews inhabiting Argentina. 60 The "General Zion
ists," or Zionists active in societies directly connected with the Zionist Organi
zation in Europe, wrote assiduously in their journal Di Yiddishe Hofnung against
assimilation and concentrated on the improvement of lewish education,
through which, they hoped, Zionist ideals might also be taught. 61
Institutions representing the most established part of the Ashkenazi
community in Buenos Aires were during this period (1908-10) grouped around
the Federacion Israelita Argentina. This sector of the lewish community en
dured the attacks of the press against the lews in general but probably sided
with many of the government's measures against workers' strikes. The Federa
cion sent flowers to Falcon's funeral and decided not to take any action with
respect to lews in prison. 62 Rabbi Halphon, "the soul of the Federation," wrote
to the ICA headquarters in Paris about antisemitism in Argentina and pointed
out the need for improving the situation of the working class lews in Argentina
by offering them more courses in the Spanish language and in lewish history
and also for "improving the Jewish immigration" coming into the country, in
order to avoid new uprisings against them. 63 Doubtless, lews active in societies


59
lew and Gentile in Argentina
attached to the Federacion considered Jewish activists in the workers' move
ments to be the cause of antisemitic responses in various sectors of the pop
ulation and thought that if the latter's immigration were reduced, normalcy
could be restored.
In preparation for the centennial many articles were written on the gen
eral state of affairs in the country. Many of them were devoted to studies on
the population and the influence of different groups of immigrants in Argen
tine life. There were many who praised the Russo-lewish newcomers along
with other foreign immigrants. Both Leopoldo Lugones in his Odas Seculares
and Ruben Dario in his Canto a la Argentina praised the contribution of lewish
colonists to the development of agriculture in the country 64 On the other
hand, lews praised the freedom they had found in Argentina and expressed the
willingness with which many of their coreligionists were adapting to their new
country's mores and developing a strong sense of patriotism. Outstanding
among the latter was Russian-born Alberto Gerchunoff, who in 1908 published
in La Nacion stories about the lewish agricultural colonies, which two years
later he edited and presented as homage to the country's centennial under the
title Los gauchos judios. In these short episodes Gerchunoff expressed his convic
tion that the lewish colonists, while keeping a few of their lewish traditions,
were gradually adopting ways of life typical to their surrounding neighbors,
the gauchos. Gerchunoff thought, as did many other lewish colonists in the
country, "that Argentina is Palestine for the Israelite, because the Promised
Land, in the strict sense of Scripture, is the land of freedom." Furthermore, in
Gerchunoff's eyes, "the sons of the Israelites, residing in the cities or in the
Argentine country, are almost chauvinists, and even the older ones, those born
in Odessa or Warsaw, are highly patriotic, deeply and sincerely Argentine." 65
Los gauchos judios. which obtained almost unanimous praise by Argentine men
of letters—including Martiniano Leguizamon, the "father of Entre Rios's writ
ers," who wrote the prologue—also found some resistance, not for its style but
for the message it conveyed. Benjamin Garcia Tores considered Gerchunoff's
work an apology for the lewish colonists and asserted that lews and Creoles
could never harmonize due to essential characteristics of the lews that did not
allow them to mix freely with gentiles. 66 This was not the only time that lews
would be criticized in Argentina by an ardent nationalist who, when confronted
with evidence disproving his basic convictions, dismissed it by branding it as
apologetic.
During the second decade of the twentieth century lewish immigration
continued to be criticized by the main newspapers in the capital. During that
period the problems raised by Rojas and a whole generation of nationalist
authors became a major concern for the upper class in Argentina. Editorials in
the main newspapers and in the literary magazines of greater prestige among
Argentina's educated high society presented different opinions about the
types of immigration the country should encourage and those it should reject.
The lews were usually among the undesirable ones for different reasons,
though their difficulty in assimilating to the country's way of life and customs
was a constant argument.


60
Jewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
The colonists of Palacios and Moisesville in Santa Fe were accused by
la Nacion of forming a state within a state because most municipal posts in
these towns were filled by lews. A long article describing the strong bonds
between these lews—bonds that prevented them from fusing with the general
population of the country—concluded that "to mock the foreign' law is a pro
gram that one might think is the obligation of every lewish colonist; they think
that this constitutes a form of religious consequence to history and to the law
of the race ," 67 An apparent deviation of the law that was often mentioned with
respect to the lews was that even among those born in the country only a small
percentage fulfilled the military service requirements. A strong denial was
made by Coronel Ricardo Sola in a letter to La Nacion in 1914, but the argument
continued being voiced. 68
The frequency with which articles criticizing lewish immigration ap
peared, along with new aspects of Argentine law against all foreigners,
alarmed the lewish community in the country. When the first Argentine lewish
Congress was convened in Buenos Aires on February 26-29, 1916 with the
purpose of deciding about conditions a lewish delegation should demand at
the eventual peace conference once the war ended, internal problems of Ar
gentine lewry were also discussed. The delegate from Moisesville, Noe Cocio-
vich, in his address, "The Organization of Argentine lewry," proposed the crea
tion of a central body representing the whole lewish community in the country.
The main reason for this he explained quite clearly: "We cannot remain opti
mistic when confronted with frequent and unjust attacks against lewry in this
country. We must struggle so that the Argentine atmosphere does not become
polluted with antisemitism.... lews should not suffer from regulations that
limit their rights |this legislation] which is passed under the category of
extranjeros' is due to the fancy of the executive power or propaganda by the
press.... The word 'extranjeros' frightens us, ... it has the same connotation
as the word ihid in Russia." 69
Cociovich also mentioned a few of the antisemitic attacks that had taken
place in Argentina to which lews had not responded effectively and suggested
that the formation of a lewish representative body could prevent more attacks.
A provisional committee was elected at the Congress, but it never convened.™
Some lewish officials answered the attacks made against the lewish
community by means of explanatory articles. Though apologetic, these articles
fulfilled the purpose of not letting defamatory concepts go by unchallenged.
Such was the case when Francisco Stach published an article in the Boletin
Mensual del Museo Social Argentino in 1916 in which he reviewed the accomplish
ments of several groups of immigrants, denigrating the lewish ones. Manuel
Bronstein, active in luventud Israelita Argentina, answered with an elaborate
article in the same journal, and Natan Gesang did likewise, publishing in the
Revista Argentina de Ciencias Politicas 71 Stach had asserted that the most unfitting
element for the country was the Russian-lewish one, because among them
"there are many dangerous elements, anarchists, caftens |white slave dealersl,
and prostitutes capable of criminal acts." Moreover he wrote that lews did not
succeed in Argentina either in agriculture or as artisans. They were mainly in


61
lew and Gentile in Argentina
commerce and controlled the cereal market not only in the country but also in
the international market. Furthermore, Stach suggested that the rise in the
number of fraudulent bankruptcies during the previous years was due to the
participation of the lews. Finally, "besides the religious, economic, and moral
reasons, which would be sufficient for not fomenting but flatly rejecting lewish
immigration, there is also a physiological reason, because there is no other
race in Europe as degenerate as the lewish one. We have today in the insane
asylums in the Capital a large number of degenerate and idiotic children of
lewish origin. -72
Bronstein defended the lewish immigration, first by making a clear dif
ference between the lewish caftens and prostitutes and the rest of the lewish
community, which had no real contact with the other in daily life. Second,
Bronstein showed that the lewish immigration fulfilled what he considered
were the three most important conditions for a good assimilation to the coun
try, namely the habit for work, good morale in their customs, and physical
health. Furthermore, Bronstein emphasized the contributions lews had made
to Argentine economic progress and to the country's culture. 73 Gesang, a Zi
onist leader, answered along the same lines, dwelling upon the contributions
of the lewish people to civilization in general, as well as to the Argentine
people. 74
The immigration question continued being debated in official circles
The events in Europe during the last part of World War I, especially the Bolshe
vik Revolution in Russia, made a strong imprint in these circles. The growing
restlessness among workers that caused an increase in the number of strikes
in the last years of the 1910s 75 further alerted the upper class against the pos
sibility of a communist takeover in Argentina. Indeed, the Bolshevik example
gave new strength to the labor movement in the country, and the Argentine
elite reacted against the immigration of labor leaders who would spread their
doctrine among the local proletariat. In particular, lewish proletarians were
considered by many a revolutionary stock because they were identified as Rus
sians due to their country of origin. Thus world events, magnified by the fear
that most reactinary elements in Argentina had of their possible conse
quences in their own country, set the stage for what is considered the first
pogrom in Argentina
La Semana Tragica
The metaliurgic factory of Pedro Vasena, in Buenos Aires, by the end of
World War I employed about 2,500 persons, workers and employees. The work
ers were on strike since the first day of December 1918, demanding the reduc
tion of the working day from eleven to eight hours, a gradual increase in sala
ries, the enforcement of Sunday rest, and the reinstatement of the workers'
delegates fired at the beginning of the conflicts when on lanuary 7, 1919, the
police accompanied a group of strikebreakers to the premises of the factory
The clash between strikers and strikebreakers was inevitable. The police inter
vened in favor of the latter killing a few workers and wounding many others.


62
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
These events caused the greatest general strike in Argentina up to that time
and gave rise to a confrontation between the forces of order—police and army,
backed by many upper class persons and the Radical government—and the
workers. The former saw in the latter an anarchist, foreign-dominated force
that had to be abated in order to save the country and its institutions, lews—
specifically Ashkenazi, or "Russian" lews—were considered to be an important
part of the "maximalist" movement by the forces of order. The week that started
on January 7 was called La Semana Tragica in the history of the Argentine
workers' movement. It was no less tragic in the history of the lews in Argen
tina. 76
At the time the workers were divided into several ideological currents.
Up until 1905 there had been two ideologies within the working class: anar
chist and socialist. Towards the end of the first decade of the twentieth century
a third current began having influence among the proletarian masses in Argen
tina. This was called syndicalism (or unionism), which started among adher
ents of the Socialist party, who criticized its essentially parliamentary struggle.
They considered parliamentary activities only auxiliary to the union struggle,
along the lines of Georges Sorel's ideas of revolutionary unionism. Anarchists
and syndicalists, in spite of having a common enemy within the workers’
movement, namely, the Socialist party, were divided into two different organi
zations. Anarchists constituted the Federacion Obrera Regional Argentina
(FORA) del V° Congreso along the lines of their fifth Congress of 1905, while
the syndicalists, who were the strongest in 1919, constituted the FORA del IX°
Congreso (of 1915). There were, in particular, lews active in all branches of the
workers' movement, in both FORAs and in the Socialist party. 77
When the general strike paralyzed the country's commerce, industries,
and transportation, the army was called in to help the police restore order. A
civilian group called Guardia Blanca, integrated by members of the Argentine
elite, decided that they too should actively participate in the defense of the
national institutions. They launched physical attacks against anarchists, in
cluding principally foreign workers who “looked" maximalist or "Russian."
Other groups under the general name of Defensores del Orden were
rapidly organized by leaders of the elite clan. The most important group
formed in the midst of the disturbances of lanuary 1919 was the Liga Patriotica
Argentina. Its leader was the Radical congressman Manuel Carles, who, like
many liberals of the time, was rapidly turning conservative. Moreover, the Liga
Patriotica was sponsored by other strongly nationalist organizations, notably
Asociacion del Trabajo and Comite Nacional de la luventud. The latter sent a
note to the chief of police offering the collaboration of its members with the
police forces because "civil backing is necessary to counteract subversive ac
tion." The young men of the Comite Nacional de la luventud did not lose time:
"In its midst there were liberals, oligarchic nationalists, and clericals, but all
acted in unison organizing pogroms against the lews, shooting against work
ers, and assaulting union and party locales. This they did on lanuary 10, 11,
and 12." 78


63
Iew and Gentile in Argentina
The lewish quarters during the tragic week were attacked mainly by the
civilian groups under the permissive presence of policemen and soldiers, luan
E. Carulla, a nationalist, gave a personal account of one of the 'missions" of
the Defensores del Ordern
A phalanx of enthusiastic Argentines, later to be called Liga Patriotica Ar
gentina, was grouped around him |Carles|.... I heard that they were burn
ing the lewish quarter, and there I directed my steps I walked on lunin,
Uriburu, and Azcuenaga streets, at first finding no manifest signs of distur
bances. There were only groups of men, women, and children in expectant
attitude at doors and street corners. Only when I reached Viamonte
|street|, opposite the School of Medicine, was I able to witness what could
be called the first pogrom in Argentina Piles of books and old furniture
were burning in the middle of the street One could recognize among them
chairs, tables, and other domestic chattels. The flames sadly illuminated
the night, making prominent with reddish glare the faces of a gesticulating
and shaking multitude. I made my way through the crowd and saw fighting
in and around buildings nearby. 1 was told that a lewish merchant was
accused of making communist propaganda. I thought, nevertheless, that
other Hebrew homes were suffering from this cruel punishment. There was
noise of furniture and cases violently thrown into the street mixed with
voices screaming "death to the lews, death to the maximalists." Every now
and then long bearded old men and dishevelled women passed by me. 1
shall never forget the livid face and supplicant look of one of them who
was being dragged by a couple of youngsters; or that of a crying child who
held fast to the old black coat, already torn, of another of those poor devils
Not without repugnance, I could not but see similar pictures wherever I set
my eyes, because the disturbances provoked by the attacks to the Hebrew
stores and homes had spread to various blocks around us. 79
luan lose de Soiza Reilly, a journalist, described what he called the "mar
tyrdom of the innocent," who were attacked by gangs carrying the Argentine
banner: "I saw innocent old men whose beards were uprooted ... ; an old man
lifted his undershirt to show us two ribs. They came out of his skin like two
needles, bleeding.. . A woman was forced to eat her own excrement, ... poor
girls of fourteen or fifteen ... |were| raped." 80
The precincts of the Bundist association Avangard and of Poale Zion
were assaulted by the mobs and burned. Books from the Moses Hess library
(Poale Zion center) and archives from all these institutions, went up in flames
in bonfires kindled by the Guardia Blanca. Pedro Wald, active leader of Avan
gard, was arrested in the streets by the police. He was tortured in order to
"confess" the Bolshevik plan in Argentina since he was supposed to be the
president of the future Argentine Soviet. 81 His fiancee, Rosa Weinstein, was
arrested together with Wald. The charges against her, according to different
sources, were being the fiancee of the future president of the soviet, having
too many books, and being Russian. 82
The lewish quarters returned to normal when the general strike was fi
nally terminated after a series of negotiations between FORA del IX°, govern
ment officials, and industrialists.


64
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
As part of the general reaction against foreign agitators in the workers'
movement, Jews were attacked. The elite was prejudiced against all Russian
immigrants—of whom about 80 percent were Jewish 83 —and considered that
they were the source of all the major uprisings and disturbances in the working
class. The Russian Revolution, in the opinion of the upper class, had affected
the mental health of a large part of the Russian urban population. Horacio
Beccar Varela argued that "it is undeniable that the brain of those who were
Nicholas' subjects can be considered sick. It is a type of collective insanity,
which we should avoid i exclude the agriculturists and prefer the illiterate,
because the agriculturist lost in the country is a minor danger, and the illiter
ate, in Russia, is an uncontaminated being, who will easily adapt himself to
our atmosphere of freedom and order," 84 Tomas Amadeo affirmed along the
same lines that"|Russia| is at present sick, and most of those who emigrate
from that country suffer from that sickness, thus spreading all over the world a
perturbing current.'' 85
The upper class remained convinced that the strike had been planned
outside of the country's borders. Carlos Ibarguren, who was later to become
one of the theoreticians of nationalism in Argentina, clearly stated this in his
memoires: "The Semana Tragica' in Buenos Aires was undoubtedly prompted
by Russian agitators, revolutionary agents of the Soviet, who profited from the
climate of workers' malaise among us for that uprising. Public opinion and
the government accused the 'Russian anarchists' or 'maximalists' of being the
main promotors of the rebellion, and, in effect, the police imprisoned the so-
called Dictator,’ named Pedro Wald, and the appointed Chief of Police in case
of triumph, a Slav called luan Selestuk or Macario Ziazin, both foreigners of
dangerous antecedents. " 86 The daily press described Wald's antecedents in de
tail, including his participation in the Russian Bund and. from 1906, in Avan-
gard in Buenos Aires. 87 Ibarguren, however, repeated the charges against Wald
in spite of the clearly socialist, anti-Zionist, and antianarchist platform of
these organizations.
Frederick Jessup Stimson, United States ambassador in Argentina dur
ing World War 1 and up to 1921, was convinced that the workers had been
terrorized into striking under Bolshevist or German orders. The early official
figures received at the embassy were that 1,500 had been killed and 4,000
wounded, "mostly Russians and generally lews " When the strike was settled,
Stimson met one of the commanders of the military repression, who proudly
told him that at the arsenal there were 193 corpses of workers who had been
identified: "Fourteen were Catalans—the other 179 were Russian lews." Stim
son maintained twelve years later in his memoirs that a Bolshevist revolution
was avoided by the services of the military police, "and there was discovered
the whole plan of their government, with the names of their president, secre
taries of state, military leaders, the whole proposed Bolshevist regime" 88
Moreover, Stimson claims to have received secret knowledge that the strike in
Buenos Aires was part of an international communist movement to strike in
1918-19 in the five principal seaports of the world most important to the Al
lies—Stockholm, Rotterdam, Liverpool, New York, and Buenos Aires—and


65
jew and Gentile in Argentina
that he had received the names and addresses of the ringleaders: "The names
were in great part lewish. the addresses always in slums near the ports."
It has been impossible to confirm Stimson's recollections. On the con
trary, all reports seem to contradict his assertion that so-called lewish conspir
ators like Wald or even Selestuk, were really part of a Bolshevist plan They
were in fact freed after a few days. Nevertheless, Stimson's testimony indicates
quite vividly the confusion and fear of communism in Argentina toward the
end of World War I. Katherine S. Dreier. a U.S. citizen visiting Argentina for a
period of five months coinciding with the Semana Tragica, offers supporting
evidence for the atmosphere of a "red scare" and its implications for the lewish
community of Buenos Aires: "Feeling ran so high, and so great was the confu
sion which existed in the minds of the people between Russians and lews, that
many lews were attacked as they were mistaken for Russians, and all Russians
were classed as Bolshevists. Already several firms had dismissed all their Rus
sian and lewish employees.” 89
At the time, antisemitic groups were found in various schools of the
University of Buenos Aires, notably at the School of Medicine, situated on the
borders of the lewish quarter, lewish students were repeatedly confronted by
attacks of other students, most of them sons of the porteiio elite. A witness told
us about some cases that took place before the Semana Tragica, in which lew
ish students were insulted because of their accent and their origin 90
A second important cause of the onslaught upon lews in 1919 was the
continuous antisemitic propaganda and education sponsored by some Cath
olic groups in Argentina. Already in 1908, when the lewish schools in Entre
Rios were accused of being anti-Argentine, some defenders of the lewish col
onists observed the influence of Jesuit hatred, spread especially from the city
of Cordoba to all corners of the country 91 A few years later, in 1917, the pub
lishers Hermanos de las Escuelas Cristianas put out two books, La Tierra and
La Argentina, that were utilized as textbooks in elementary and high schools in
the country. These books contained several deprecatory statements of lews in
general and the lews in Argentina specifically. They accused the lews of being
almost exclusively moneylenders and usurers and the wave of migration to the
country promoted by Baron Hirsch—"that modern Moses with a dresscoat,
monocle, and white tie"—of attempting to create a new Palestine in Argentina.
Rabbi Halphon, representing CIRA, approached Dr Francisco Beiro, president
of the Municipal Council (Concejo Deliberante), requesting the suppression of
these books from the school program Halphon mentioned the case to Presi
dent Yrigoyen when a delegation of Jewish officials visited him during the
aftermath of the Semana Tragica, but still the texts continued being used. The
colonists in Clara, Entre Rios, made similar requests in 19261 s12
Foryears before the events of 1919 the Catholic church in Argentina had
been a most reactionary institution and actively denounced the activities of
maximalists within the working class. Prominent among the clergymen who
fought against anarchism, socialism, and finally against communism, was
Monsenor Miguel de Andrea. In 1912 de Andrea was appointed spiritual direc
tor of the Cfrculos Catolicos de Obreros, which were started twenty years be-


66
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
fore with the purpose of helping workers by means of social works and of pro
tecting them from the liberal philosophy of other workers' organizations 93
While in this post, Andrea put into practice his initiative of popular confer
ences by the clergy in the streets to counter the propaganda made in similar
way by "agitators' 1 in the anarchist and socialist movements. A contemporary
admirer of the Monsenor described the situation as follows: "The city |Buenos
Aires] seemed seized by the rostrum of the enemies of God and his Church; in
front of the factories and in the places most frequented by the people, in the
streets, plazas and walks, the socialist stage was placed, while the Catholic
circles circumscribed their propaganda and their popular action to the pulpit
in the churches." 94
Sponsored by the Cfrculos Catolicos de Obreros, many priests spoke on
streetcorners against anarchists and socialists. In their harangues they quite
often attacked the lews, which they did even in the lewish neighborhoods.
Monsenor Dionisio Napal, "the apostle of this crusade," around the time of the
Catholic festivities of Christmas and New Year delivered strong lectures
against socialists and lews in different sections of the city. On December 22,
1918, he spoke at the corner of lunfn and Corrientes, the heart of Once, the
most important lewish quarter in Buenos Aires, attacking the lews in the coun
try as being traitors and the only ones guilty for local scarcity. On another
occasion he asserted that socialism was a lewish malady and that lews were
bloodsuckers who had been thrown out from all countries. 95
The priests were also active in the antisemitic indoctrination of their
parishioners in the very churches. Augusto Bunge witnessed in the streets
"and in certain churches a no less infamous libel, seeking to import into Ar
gentina that shame of civilization called antisemitism, combat banner of the
European clerical parties that followed the influence of the lesuits." 96 lose In-
genieros, one of the most original thinkers in Argentina at the time, blamed a
"semi-secret student society, alumni of the lesuit schools and directed by
some priests," of leading a militant clerical political life at the service of the
conservative classes. The latter had promoted antisemitic agitations against
lews at the universities. 97 Still others decried the lesuit press, especially Los
Principios, directed by the disciples of Loyola in Cordoba, which made frequent
antisemitic attacks ,s
There was still a third element, which, though not a main cause of per
secution of lews, was of major importance in making these attacks more fierce.
This was the plunder and pillage of lewish property and money. Several
sources attest to this type of activity by many policemen, who made a poor
living from their salaries and were used to accepting bribes for infractions that
were not reported. The daily Critica reported that "the poor policemen took
what they could in three days of antisemitic riots. In the assault of calle Victo
ria 300 pesos were lost, as well as many pieces of jewelry." Among the sons of
the elite there were many who thought that together with the lews "some dis
turbing promissory notes could also fall, and the honest and patriotic grocers
inferred that by killing all of them (the )ews| they would free themselves from
many competitors." 99 Many an assailant, besides defending his country from


67
lew and Gentile in Argentina
dangerous foreign elements, did not lay aside the opportunity of indulging in
personal gain.
lews and the Socialists
The growing nationalism in Argentina during the 1900s and 1910s was
not limited to the conservative and upper sectors of the society. The Socialist
party likewise advocated a rapid adaptation of all foreign elements to the cul
ture and norms of the country. The views of some of the most conspicuous
Socialist leaders on lewish particularism is of special interest.
The Socialist party in Argentina was organized in 1896 at a Constituent
Congress attended by delegates of nineteen socialist centers and fifteen work
ers' unions, all from the capital city. At this Congress, led by Dr. luan B. Justo,
the basic program of the party was approved. In lusto's words, "The Socialist
Party is, above all, the party of the workers, of the proletarians, of those who
have but their working power; the doors of the party are nevertheless wide
open to those individuals of other classes who want to enter subordinating
their interests to those of the proletarian class." Cognizant of the large num
bers of recent immigrants, lusto added that "the milieu in which we act forces
us to assume a well-defined attitude with respect to foreigners, whom we must
admit into the party, with propaganda goals, even if they have no political
rights." 100 The Socialist party throughout this period was composed of a large
number of foreigners. In their attempt to capture the leadership of the urban
working classes with proposals of better working conditions the socialists
propagandized in workers' circles of different and foreign origin.
Many Russian lews upon arriving in Buenos Aires were attracted by the
Socialist party which conformed the most to their ideological background. As
a result of the wave of immigration from Russia after 1905, lewish workers'
societies were formed in Buenos Aires, lews expressed their socialist ideology
by means of membership either in the Socialist party, in Avangard (founded in
1907 along the lines of the East European Bund), or in the Zionist Socialist
workers' party Poale Zion (founded in 1906). The latter two organizations ad
vised their members and sympathizers who were empowered to vote in presi
dential and congressional elections in Argentina to do so in favor of the So
cialist party. Other lewish societies, notably luventud lsraelita Argentina
(founded in 1908, a cultural society composed mainly of lews of Russian origin
educated in Argentina), though not specifically involved in politics, sympa
thized as well with the socialists.
The Socialist party from its inception considered as a basic and funda
mental principle the absolute assimilation of the immigrants to the mores of
the country. After a short period it dissolved the national centers—Italian,
French, and German—out of which the party had been founded. Linguistic
groups, however, continued operating, and socialist leaders permitted them
among workers who had not yet mastered the Spanish language. Along the
same lines, the Socialist party led a strong campaign for the naturalization of
immigrants, its goal being to incorporate them into the political life of the


68
lewish Buenos Aires. 1890-1930
country, thus stressing its national character. The proletarian struggle, accord
ingly, had to be fought by parties representing the labor forces within national
boundaries. It was this last concept which put the lewish people in an ambig
uous position vis-a-vis the Socialist party.
Relations between the Socialist party and the lewish socialist organiza
tions were cordial. Actually, Avangard was recognized as a linguistic group with
the specific function of propagandizing among the Yiddish-speaking immi
grants. However, Avangard managed to remain quite independent from the
Socialist party in its activities in lewish circles. The monthly Der Avangard was
published exclusively through the effort of the Bundist society. It remained
autonomous in its organizational structure and in the arrangement of cultural
activities such as meetings and demonstrations in the streets. 101
Poale Zion, on the other hand, had little contact with the Socialists be
fore the Balfour Declaration. The society itself had not been too active be
tween 1910 and 1917 due to the expulsion of some of its most active leaders
during the 1909-10 repression against workers' agitators. The Balfour Decla
ration and the arrival of the Poale Zionist sheliach (emissaryl Marcos Regalsky
shortly thereafter gave new strength to the organization. At the time, Enrique
Dickmann, a Russian-born lew who had arrived in Argentina in 1891, a leading
figure of the Socialist party, and congressman since 1914, wrote a short article
entitled "Zionism and Socialism." Writing exclusively as an Argentine socialist,
Dickmann hailed the Balfour Declaration for what it represented for the lewish
people, maintaining that the Socialist party "even before the war accepted and
upheld the principle of nationalities as one of the postulates of international
socialism.’’ 102 Furthermore, the Socialist party sent an official note of sympathy
to the Poale Zion center in Buenos Aires on the occasion of the first anniver
sary of the Balfour Declaration, encouraging the attainment of the aspirations
of Labor Zionism. 103 On several occasions during the following decade Enrique
Dickmann and his brother Adolfo, also a militant socialist and congressman,
spoke at Poale Zionist meetings. 104
Relations were also good between Poale Zion and the Partido Socialista
Argentino, which was formed after a schism had taken place in the Socialist
party in 1915. It was led by Alfredo L. Palacios, the first socialist to occupy a
chair in Congress (1904) and a close friend of the lewish community in Argen
tina. 105 During the Semana Tragica the Partido Socialista Argentino issued a
declaration denouncing the "excesses committed against the lews, contribu
tors to our progress, respectful of our laws, who arrived in the country fleeing
brutal European antisemitism and seeking the shelter of our wise and humane
constitution ” 106 This declaration, as it was formally expressed, was formulated
after direct contacts with the Partido Socialista Sionista (Poale Zion).
Not all the leaders of the socialist movement in Argentina were sympa
thetic to the lews. Its founder and mentor of a generation of socialist leaders
in Argentine politics, luan B. lusto, manifested in many opportunities his
strong prejudices against the lews as a people and against ludaism as a reli
gion. The first of lusto's antisemitic remarks appeared in the Yiddish monthly
Shtraln in 1913 when the editors of that periodical submitted to various dis-


69
lew and Gentile in Argentina
tinguished Argentine personalities a questionnaire about the (Menachem
Mendel) Beilis case. 107 All the other persons who responded to the question
naire-including the socialists Palacios and Enrique del Valle Iberlucea—de
nounced in strong terms the antisemitic accusations of ritual murder against
Beilis in Kiev and forcefully denied that lews ever engaged in this type of ritual,
lusto, on the other hand, in line with his well-known antipathy to all religions,
answered that "in questions of religion and superstition 1 consider everything
possible . . land] if the lews are capable of practicing circumcisions, they
might observe other blood rituals as well." 108
lusto represented the Socialist party of Argentina at the International
Socialist Conference of Amsterdam in April 1919, at which a special resolution
on lewish rights was adopted. Besides the demands for equal civil rights, free
dom of immigration and settlement in all countries, national autonomy, and
representation of the lewish people in the League of Nations, the resolution
contained a clause demanding “recognition of the right of the lewish people
to build their National Home in Palestine " lusto was opposed to this resolu
tion, maintaining that an independent lewish state might be a good idea but
had no relation with the International. With respect to the lewish problem, he
added that “the lews do not differ at all from the non-lews and can therefore
merge with the non-lewish population. In this way we shall be freed once and
for all of the lewish problem." The president of the plenary session in Amster
dam responded in a way that may well explain some of lusto’s motivations or
lack of them Henderson, of England, said that "Dr. lusto comes from far away
countries and is not therefore at home with European conditions." I0Q Indeed,
in the Latin American countries the question of minority rights had never been
raised. The lewish problem, as lusto had experienced it in Argentina, had a
relatively easy solution. Having the same rights and the same education as the
general population, lews would assimilate to the majority in each country.
Finally in 1923, when the editors of Vida Nuestra prevailed upon lusto to
write an article for their periodical, the latter entitled it "Why I Do Not Like To
Write for a lournal That Calls Itself lewish." Here lusto explained not only what
the title suggests but also why he disliked the lews, lusto, who was married to
a Russian-born lewish woman, differentiated between lews as individuals and
lews as a group: "Separately, or mixed with the rabble of peoples, 1 admire
some and esteem many human specimens labelled as lews Together, instead,
they become immediately suspicious and enigmatic to me," Moreover, he ut
terly opposed lewish racial, religious, and national particularisms. The preser
vation of a lewish race in Argentina was contrary to the process of racial mix
ture taking place in the country, lusto found the lewish religion dogmatic and
exclusive and full of myths that prevented its followers from freely developing
their individuality. Practices such as the “dirty and bloody rite" of circumcision,
the special slaughtering laws, their separatedness in questions of burials, the
“dogma" against the consumption of pork, and other "sectarian preoccupa
tions" are some of the many manifestations of "a spirit that will contribute
nothing to the national unity and energy" With respect to lews as a nation,
lusto saw little sense "in the national ideas of people scattered all over the


70
iewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
world, under all governments and flags, without a living language or an auton
omous government in any country of the world " Only Zionism found sympathy
in (usto's eyes but solely if "it did not bother too much other peoples already
established in Palestine." Zionism had, moreover, an additional positive factor:
"No established nation would complain if the lewish crusade to Zion purifies
it from heteroclite and unassimilable elements" lustos final recommendation
to the lews was "Abdicate, as lews, from all secret pride, and thus the word
'lew' will faster loose its present offensive connotation,"" 0
The Socialist members of the Municipal Council of the capital showed a
similar attitude with respect to lewish particularism in a long-fought issue
over the opening of a lewish cemetery within the city limits during the 1920s.
On December 31. 1921, the Municipal Council authorized the Chevra Keduscha
to build a cemetery in their plot in Punta Arenas street. During 1923 the Chevra
Keduscha initiated the building of offices and other appropriate chambers,
which were completed in 1925. In the meantime the Sociedad de Beneficen-
cia—which had bought a neighboring lot. though after the 1921 authorization
to the Chevra Keduscha, for the purpose of building an orphan asylum for
girls—as well as some residents of the area, appealed for the repeal of the
permit granted to the lewish institution. The Municipal Council discussed the
issue in various lengthy sessions during the period 1924-27. Its Socialist
members were the more strongly opposed to the authorization and finally suc
ceeded in outvoting the faction leaning to grant the Chevra Keduscha the per
mit for a private cemetery, in the session of May 11, 1926. Throughout the
debates the Socialist members of the council—notably Angel Gimenez and
Americo Ghioldi—emphasized the existence of municipal cemeteries for the
interment of the dead of all religious and national communities and the dan
ger of proliferation of burial grounds if all religious groups demanded the au
thorization of a private area for their dead. With this argument socialists de
sired to avert all possibility of retarding the effects of the Argentine "melting
pot" among the immigrants' descendants." 1
Repeatedly the Socialist representatives at the Municipal Council man
ifested their acquaintance with many individual lews and the multitude of so
cialists the world over of lewish origin. However, their assimilationist desires,
mixed with a forcible impatience with religious "prejudices" can be discerned
in their speeches, which include subtle attacks against lewish particularism." 2
Gimenez, when stressing the contributions of lews to socialism, pointed out
that "we have in Parliament two congressmen [Adolfo and Enrique Dickmann|
of lewish origin, fortunately redeemed lews, who honor the Argentine Parlia
ment.""’
The lewish press in the country denounced what they considered an
antisemitic attitude of the Socialist representatives at the Municipal Council
The Chevra Keduscha appealed to the good services of Rabbi Halphon to at
tain a hearing with President Marcelo T. de Alvear in order to try to influence a
favorable decision of the council." 4 However, all these efforts were of no avail,
and the Chevra Keduscha had no alternative but to sell its plot in the capital
and buy another one outside the city limits. Interestingly enough the Munici-


71
lew and Gentile in Argentina
pal Council passed an ordinance on December 16. 1925, prohibiting the estab
lishment of private cemeteries in the city of Buenos Aires, which, because it
was passed after the first authorization to the Chevra Keduscha in 1921, did
not facilitate the latter's final repeal in 1926,’ 15 This prohibition, however, ob
viated all further conflicts regarding Jewish cemeteries within the capital city
limits. The cemetery incident further made clear to the lews in Argentina that
they were viewed with good eyes by the socialists as long as they conformed
to the general population’s customs. However, all particularistic deviations
were scorned and contested.
Aftermath of La Semana Tragica
The Semana Tragica had important consequences for the inner structure
of the lewish community in Argentina, lews realized at the time that many of
their rights could also be vulnerable in Argentina. This came as a shock to
many who considered the country as their Promised Land, where they would
enjoy full freedom and tranquillity. It was now evident to them that they
should not take those things for granted, and many sought to find a way
through which their lives would not be endangered.
The Comite de la Colectividad was the main organization formed at the
time to protect the lewish population. It carried out varied activities within the
lewish community. Almost immediately, delegations were sent to various cities
in the interior and even to Montevideo to intervene in favor of several lews
imprisoned as consequence of the uprisings in these cities." 6 Funds were im
mediately raised to help the victims of the riots, and to care for the final recov
ery of the wounded." 7
The comite, which was formed by officials of the Federacion Sionista Ar
gentina, the Congregacion Israelita, luventud Israelita Argentina, and leaders
of other lewish organizations, made several important achievements. In a
strong and bold memorandum submitted to the government, which was en
tered in full into the minutes of the lower chamber of the Argentine Congress,
the comite denounced the police and Guardia Blanca, petitioning the govern
ment to investigate the matter, to individualize the guilty, and to carry out
justice." 8 During the month of May of the same year—May being traditionally
a month of disorders and workers' agitation due to May Day and May 25th,
when workers tried to boycott celebrations of the anniversary of the 1810 rev
olution—representatives of the main institutions of the lewish community in
Buenos Aires gathered together in order to avoid possible repetition of the
lanuary disturbances. A delegation visited President Yrigoyen, who assured
them of his administration's intentions of keeping order and protecting every
inhabitant of the country." 9
Nevertheless, the lewish community, as soon as the atmosphere seemed
calm, returned to its petty quarrels for representation.' 20 A central body was
not formed, and the comite slowly dissolved. In luly of that year a new attempt
to create a Comite de la Colectividad with no political or trade union attribu
tions but purely for the defense and protection of ludaism and lewry in Argen-


72
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
tina failed. Among the reasons for the formation of this type of body was the
fact that some individuals and organizations had tried, sometimes with politi
cal or particular motivations in mind, to represent and speak in the name of
the whole lewish community The preparatory meetings of this new comite took
several months and were attended by representatives of up to forty-two lewish
societies of the capital. When the moment came to choose a board for the
comite, personal ambitions produced all sorts of fragmentations and disunity
(see ch. 5). The united voice of the lews went down with this project.
What bothered the lewish officials was the formation of the Partido Is
raelita Argentino right after the lanuary events. This was led by lews who uti
lized the name of the whole community for political activities and self-gain.
This lewish party, of short existence, had the purpose of "organizing the (Ar
gentine! citizens of lewish origin in the social and political level in order to
defend the security of the lews in the future and support its millenarian culture
for the good of the country."' 2 '
The Partido Israelita Argentino supported candidates of the Democrata
Progresista and Socialist parties for the congressional elections of March
1919. Among the main points of its platform was a liberalization of the natu
ralization laws for foreigners, and suppression of antisemitic textbooks, and
the introduction of divorce laws and laws in defense of workers. During the
three years that the Radical party had been in power it had not improved the
situation in those areas. Thus the Partido Israelita Argentino launched a cam
paign in the lewish quarters by means of pamphlets and signs both in Spanish
and in Yiddish, inducing the lewish population that had the right to vote to do
so against the official party, elements of which captained "the barbarian
hordes ... who satiated their perverse instincts in the defenseless members of
the lewish community." 122 lews, however, voted for different parties. Indeed,
many apparently voted Socialist, but still many continued to vote for the Rad
ical party.' 22 In any case, most lews—except those active in Avangard (Bundl
and Poale Zion, who openly favored the Socialist party—were opposed to the
creation of a lewish political party or to the proclamation of specific candi
dates emphasizing the benefits they would give to the lewish community in
the country. 124
A small group of lews, however, decided to try to establish good rela
tions with the reactionary groups that were formed as a consequence of the
lanuary disturbances. As we have mentioned above, the main organization
that took upon itself the role of "keeper of Argentine patriotism \Argentinidad |"
was the Liga Patriotica Argentina, founded by elitist members of the armed
forces, government, church, and the Ladies of the Argentine society, with the
motto Fatherland and Order (Patna y Orden).' 25 Most of the lews willing to collab
orate with the Liga were not involved in lewish communal life. They were active
in the stock exchange and in contact with members of the Argentine upper
class. When they finally formed the Liga Israelita Pro-Argentinidad and ad
hered to the Liga Patriotica Argentina, they met with the general repudiation
of those lews who cared to take notice of them Their membership was limited
to twenty or so members, and this liga only lasted for some months. 126


73
lew and Gentile in Argentina
The bulk of the Jewish population in Argentina responded to the attacks
of the forces of order—for which they were totally unprepared—with appeals
to the government and came to the rescue of the victims quite promptly. Ex
cept for some marginal lews who attempted to gain political power or who
sought the approval of the country's upper and reactionary class, Jewish offi
cials in Buenos Aires put personal and ideological differences aside and
united in the Comite de la Colectividad to deal with the emergency. When the
emergency had subsided, however, these personal and ideological differences
became paramount once more. The impact of the assault on the Jewish quar
ters was only momentary. During the 1920s the Semana Tragica was men
tioned only sporadically by Jewish publications, in spite of a few other cases of
antisemitic expressions—though in a lesser scale of gravity—that took place.
On the other hand, it was a decade in which Jewish institutions were consoli
dated, lews prospered economically, and the community grew in numbers.
Antisemitism played a small role during a decade in which lews enjoyed ex
tremely good relations with government authorities. The few antisemitic sen
timents came from groups of limited influence in the country, thus producing
in Jewish officials a reassuring feeling of trust in the country's institutions vis-
a-vis their own coreligionists. This confidence was the central motive for the
failure of all attempts to create a representative board of the Jewish commu
nity that could speak in the name of all lewish societies. Only as a result of the
systematic antisemitism of the 1930s would this board be formed. The Semana
Tragica was only an isolated major antisemitic issue and thus did not consti
tute a strong enough incentive to the centralization of the lewish commu
nity. 127
The Late 1920s
Anti-lewish feelings and prejudices that were manifest for almost five
decades in Argentina, with more or less virulence according to the occasion
and the source, had an effect on various sectors of the population of the coun
try. During the last years of the third decade of the twentieth century there was
a recrudescence of these prejudices and sentiments, harbingers of a more sys
tematic antisemitism during the 1930s. The main sources of antisemitism in
Argentine society—politics and the Catholic church—had a growing effect on
similarly conservative elements of the more popular classes of the country's
population.
Parallel to these antisemitic feelings was the growing discontent and
dissatisfaction of the oligarchy with the Radical party, which was in power from
1916 until a military coup dethroned it in 1930. Such was the position of Lucas
Ayarragaray, a conservative congressman and writer of influence since the
dawn of the century. Ayarragaray perceived that since 1916 lews had been more
active in left-wing parties in the country, and that by 1930 their numbers had
waxed to more than 300,000. He saw a danger for his country, because lews
were constituting a separate society, with synagogues, periodicals, and politi
cal committees of their own. Their chief rabbi was even received by President


74
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
Yrigoyen! The solution, according to Ayarragaray could only be found in apply
ing a proportional quota system of immigration to limit the growth of a com
munity that would not take proper roots in the country's institutions. 128
Ayarragaray who had often written about Sephardim in the colonial and
early independent periods in the Rio de la Plata area, always showing the good
influence that lewish blood had had upon important personalities in the first
decades of Argentine history, had somewhat changed his views by 1930. Actu
ally, the Sephardim he was referring to were conversos who had penetrated into
the Spanish colonies in America and had mixed with the aristocracy of the
time. Ayarragaray admired the fact that those conversos fully integrated with the
rest of the population and that their descendants were now proud Catholics,
some even members of the Argentine high society. The new Sephardic immi
gration, alas, was not the same as the old one in his eyes: "The wave of |ew( ish
immigration]: Syrians, Turks, Greeks, Lebanese, Moroccans, Arabs, Russians,
. . . we should filter with a selective and restrictive sieve." I2g Ayarragaray was
one of the few people in Argentina who noted that Sephardim were just as
lewish as Ashkenazim and that the restrictive measures suggested for the lat
ter immigration should also be enforced against the former.
During the late twenties Catholic elements started to write antisemitic
articles with renewed vigor. Criterio, the most representative weekly of the Cath
olic establishment in the country systematically published charges against the
lews. It introduced antisemitism even into articles in their theater section.
When Henri Bernstein's Israel was first performed in Buenos Aires, the critic
sided with Dreyfus's accusers in France, adding that "as Catholics we cannot
here (in Argentinal but understand the antisemitic movement of those times,
and justify it, recognizing, as we do, that it had some excesses." 130
lews were consistently accused in Criterio of being deicides. The present
generation was also guilty in their eyes because "it incurs in the same fault
committed by their parents and makes common cause with it." lews were fur
ther criticized for not accepting the New Testament because "their greediness,
lust, vengeance, and racial and personal or national pride dim the spirit land
prevent them from| ... seeing the truth and disable them for faith and piety."
Furthermore, lewish hatred of lesus and the church was stressed in Criterio. But
what most bothered the editors of the weekly was the lewish obstinacy not to
accept the Catholic faith: "Skeptics and heretics see that in the Church is
found the human Right, Moral, Culture, Intelligence and Piety: that only she
solves with comforting and pacifying solutions the problems of social peace,
of human injustice, of pain, of death, and of the unknown beyond the grave;
that outside of her there is barbarity, corruption, cruelty, and in spite of it they
reject it, they slander it and they persecute it like the lews with the Christ." 131
Articles such as the above-quoted one could not but form in the minds of the
naive Catholic believers a monstrous picture of the lews.
Restrictions to immigration, advocated by Ayarragaray and other con
servative political leaders, were put into practice after the September 1930
revolution ousted the middle-class regime of Hipolito Yrigoyen. Potential im
migrants, especially lews fleeing Europe due to the developments there during


75
Iew and Gentile in Argentina
the 1930s, were confronted with obstacles when trying to enter the country in
a much higher degree than their predecessors. On the other hand, the church
started attacking the lews in Argentina for theological reasons at the end of
the period. To the main traits of Catholic antisemitism in the country in earlier
periods—antianarchism and anticommunism, with a strong dose of xenopho
bia especially directed against lews—was now added the belief that the lews
were deicides and obstinate nonbelievers in lesus' gospel. Parallel to these
developments, a growing interference by the military—influenced by German
training missions, modern weapons, and esprit de corps—and the strength
ening during the 1930s of European fascism, which had many emulators and
sympathizers in Argentina, shaped a picture of a country not-too-friendly to
lewish settlement.
We have seen that antisemitism was not lacking during the period be
fore 1930. This was not a sentiment that expressed itself in violent antisemitic
activities by and large, though there were occasions in which force was used,
property damaged and stolen, and lews injured and even killed. During the
period, antisemitism was not systematic. No organization had a policy of at
tacking lews and their institutions. However, fear of foreign and leftist ideas
created an atmosphere of intolerance to lewish workers who were considered
Foreigners by antonomasia Though unsystematic, antisemitism was growing
in the minds of several groups in Argentina. There was a rising dislike for the
foreigner, for the unassimilable, and later for the God-killer. Prejudice and lack
of significant contact with actual lewish customs were creating problems for
lews in places such as hospitals, universities, and to some extent even within
workers' unions.' 32
The lews maintained, however, excellent contacts with the Radical party
leaders. Numerous delegations of diverse lewish sectors were received by Yri
goyen during his first period in office (1916-22). Most of the lewish institu
tions participated in a demonstration to both Yrigoyen and Alvear before the
presidency was passed from the former to the latter. Rabbi Halphon and Max
Glucksmann, president of CIRA and Soprotimis, had direct and personal con
tact with Alvear during his period as president (1922-28). Outwardly, the life of
the lews in the country seemed not to be affected by lew hatred. When difficul
ties arose, such as in the Semana Tragica. most institutions united to solve the
emergency. Some of the written attacks, moreover, did not remain unchal
lenged. However, little could be done to counter the growing feeling of dislike
for the lews in many circles of the population, lews had realized upon arriving
in the country that it was not free from antisemitism, but they still considered
that this sentiment would not grow into dangerous proportions. Even if they
responded whenever threatened, they were not moved to create a special com
mittee to check all uprisings and to combat antisemitic manifestations at their
very inception. Nonetheless, all the attacks on lews were felt by them even if
they did not grant them sufficient importance. They reminded them of their
lewishness and stood as an important factor in keeping lews linked to their
people.


76
Religions
Institutions and
Observances
During the 1870s and 1880s the Congregacion Is-
raelita (CIRA) had been providing religious services during the lewish Holy
Days and had arranged for circumcisions and funeral and burial services for
the small lewish community in Buenos Aires. But during those decades the
religious needs of the lews in Buenos Aires remained limited to those offered
at CIRA. With the arrival of lews from North Africa and Eastern Europe starting
in the 1880s, and from the Ottoman Empire starting in the early 1900s, the
religious needs became more diversified. Religious lews were confronted with
the need of adapting themselves to new situations in Argentina. They had to
create institutions that would allow their religious observances, institutions
that had existed for many generations in their home towns and that were taken
for granted there. Among the major areas of preoccupation were the availabil
ity of religious functionaries, such as a rabbi to solve legal questions and to
speak to lews gathered at the synagogues, a ritual slaughterer (shochet) who
would provide them with kosher meat, and a cantor (hazan) for the lewish holy
days. Furthermore, lews in Buenos Aires lacked a Talmud Torah (religious
school) for their children, a mikveh (ritual immersion pool) for their wives, and
a lewish cemetery for their dead.
In 1891 the Moroccan lews founded the synagogue Congregacion Israe-
lita Latina (C1L) in the Barrio Sud section of Buenos Aires. The East European
lews, on the other hand, had first settled in the Centro area, especially in the
Lavalle and Talcahuano streets, near CIRA. lewish white slave dealers of East
European origin had settled in the same neighborhood (see ch. 9). Early in the
nineties East European synagogues were founded in this section of Buenos


77
Religious Institutions and Observances
Aires. The first one, Sociedad Obrera Israelita (Poale Zedek), was established
in 1891. According to one of its founders, the inclusion of the word obrera
(worker) in the name of the society had the purpose of differentiating its mem
bers from the white slave dealers. 1
Late in 1892 a second synagogue was founded by East European lews of
the neighborhood. Isaac Presser, loseph Gotlieb, and others who were not in
full agreement with the priorities adopted by Soly Borok and Miguel Kuper-
man, leaders of Poale Zedek, formed Machzikei Emunah. 2 According to A L.
Schusheim the disagreement had a religious foundation. Poale Zedek consid
ered it the top priority to start a religious school for the children, while Mach
zikei Emunah wanted to build a mikveh before anything else. 3 This reason
seems legitimate, though it probably was not the main one. Indeed, Poale
Zedek issued a circular both in Spanish and in German (at the time there were
no printing types in Yiddish, the language they would probably have written
in) 4 calling attention to the lack of Hebrew and religious education for lewish
children and announcing that the association would found an institution
where such instruction would be given. Furthermore, several of the members
volunteered to teach various topics gratuitously. 5 Apparently they succeeded
in founding the school, for in the minutes of CIRA it is mentioned that it took
under its protection "the Jewish school recently founded in Buenos Aires." 6 On
the other hand, mikvaot were inaugurated in the area around the same time,
the first one in Victoria Street, and others in Viamonte. 7
However, the reason for the creation of two separate synagogues of Rus
sian lews in Buenos Aires in 1892, when they probably did not number more
than a few dozen families, does not seem to rest only on a theological contro
versy (Mahloket leshem shamaim). They could have accomplished both the mikveh
and the school better united than separately. More likely the motive was one
of personal ambitions, which made for a situation where there were fewer
leading roles to fulfill than people willing to perform them, thus making a
severance inevitable. Four years later, in 1896, and also the following year, a
visitor in Buenos Aires from the agricultural colonies described in letters to
Hazefirah in Warsaw the growing number of synagogues founded in the Russian
lewish quarter of the capital, lews there were "dispersed and scattered in small
communities ... each one having a pulpit of its own." 8 In 1898 a correspondent
of the lewish Chronicle reported along the same lines: "The usual squabbles pre
vail. They divide and subdivide themselves just because 'So and So' has been
elected, with the result that more congregations’ are formed than are re
quired, and with naturally unsatisfactory results, from a financial point of view,
for everybody concerned." 9 In 1901 the same correspondent further informed
that the lewish population of about 8,000 souls gathered for the High Holy
Days in twenty-three different congregations, four belonging to the different
Sephardic groups, and nineteen to the Ashkenazim. 10
From the very beginning of lewish immigration en masse to Argentina
the clash of personalities, forever nurtured on individual jealousies and aspi
rations, was an important factor in organizational life. This factor will become
even more prevalent in religious institutions, especially when there is an eco-


78
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
nomic component appended to it. Such will be the case, as we shall see,
among such religious functionaries as rabbis, shochtim, and bakers of matzot
(sing., matza, or unleavened bread).
First Priority: The Cemetery
The young lewish community in Buenos Aires was soon confronted with
a situation that demanded its immediate attention. Whether religious or sec
ular. almost all lews during this period wanted their dead buried in a lewish
burial site and funerals according to their particular rites. During the 1870s
and 1880s the members of CIRA had made all the arrangements necessary for
lewish burials, which took place at the Cementerio de los Disidentes in Bue
nos Aires In 1892 this Cementerio de los Disidentes was definitely closed.
When in 1919 the Concejo Deliberante (Municipal Council) of the capital de
cided to exchange that location for another in the Cementerio del Oeste (Cha-
carita), the cadavers were moved to the new place. However, not all the corpses
were claimed, including some lewish ones, and due to the depth in which
some were buried it was considered inconvenient to recover them. They re
main many meters under today's Plaza Primero de Mayo."
The influx of larger numbers of lewish immigrants into the city called for
a wider organization for funeral rites and for necessary procedures of burials.
But various sectors of the lewish population in Buenos Aires had great diffi
culties reaching an agreement over who should run the organization and how.
The Chevra Keduscha (Burial Society) was founded on February 11, 1894. The
minutes of the founding meeting illustrate that compromises were made by
the delegates of some of the lewish societies there represented Rabbi Henry
loseph was elected honorary president, and the board was formed by four
officials from CIRA, four from the Moroccan lewish Congregacion lsraelita La
tina (CIL), three from Poale Zedek, and two from Machzikei Emunah. Further
more, "at Mr, Achille Levy's suggestion, |Soly| Borok, M. Lazarus, and |Miguel)
Kuperman were nominated initiating members.” 12 Levy was at the time presi
dent of CIRA.
Indeed, the initiative to form the Chevra Keduscha had come from these
leading members of Poale Zedek, who had called a general assembly of their
institution on September 26, 1893, for that purpose. However, there was also a
definite desire to constitute the society independently of CIRA. Kuperman ar
rogantly stated at this assembly that "until now no one had thought of taking
the initiative of creating a Burial Corporation, in order to give the dead of
mosaic religion their last honors,” 13 knowing well enough that Rabbi loseph
and other officials at CIRA had been filling precisely those functions up to the
present At a second meeting held on October 3, 1893, Poale Zedek invited
loseph to become the rabbi of the new society, totally disregarding CIRA. 14
This attitude was probably due to personal misunderstandings between
Borok and Kuperman and the members of CIRA. Borok, besides presiding over
Poale Zedek, was a member of the board of CIRA. On September 4. 1893, he
resigned because he disagreed with a resolution taken by the board and sent


79
Religious Institutions and Observances
an insulting letter to its members. The issue was explained, and Borok reinte
grated the board of CIRA. However, a few days later, on September 17, at the
annual general assembly, Borok was not reelected to the board of CIRA. 15 Even
after the Chevra Keduscha was created, Borok, Kuperman, and Lazarus contin
ued being at odds with the members of CIRA. In September 1894 they
launched a lampoon against the board, which ended in the expulsion of the
first two from CIRA. The incident provoked antagonisms between lews of East
and West European origin. One of CIRA's members said, "Only a Russian lew
like him |Borok| could be the author of such a lampoon." 16
When Rabbi loseph announced to the board of CIRA that he had been
invited by Poale Zedek to represent their burial society, the response was
violently negative. President A. Levy retorted that "the present board [of
C1RA| has been elected by the lews of Buenos Aires, and being officially recog
nized, these coreligionists [Poale Zedek| have the duty to inform us of their
project.' 17
Rabbi loseph was the go-between. He evidently convinced the Poale Ze
dek people that he could not represent their burial society if CIRA was not
among the sponsors, loseph, furthermore, acted as a conciliatory figure, spon
soring the meeting of representatives of lewish societies in Buenos Aires to
form the Chevra Keduscha on February 11, 1894. Poale Zedek only agreed, ap
parently, when assured of being given credit for the initiative to form the soci
ety. 18 Antagonisms between East and West European lews in Buenos Aires
were overcome thanks to the good services of Rabbi loseph. However, as we
already mentioned, they arose again a few months later, and would reappear
sporadically
The Moroccan lews did not get involved in this power struggle between
the two major Ashkenazic groups. Their essential concern was to keep the par
ticular traditions they brought from their North African communities and not
to become diluted in the much more numerous Ashkenazic community. A large
number of the members of the Chevra Keduscha during its first three years
was of Moroccan origin. Not only those living in Buenos Aires joined the insti
tution but also some who had settled in places where lews were so few that
they could not afford buying substantial pieces of land for a separate cemetery.
Thus in 1895 we find Moroccan lews living in Rio Cuarto, Province of Cordoba
and even in distant Tucuman joining the Chevra Keduscha. 19 Soon, however,
they formed a separate burial society and in 1900 bought land in Barracas al
Sud for their own cemetery. The discrepancies within the Chevra Keduscha
that motivated this secession were the different burial customs, which both
ered both groups, and, especially, the impossibility of reaching a financial
agreement
Already in 1895 Rabbi loseph complained "that the members of CIL, ..
when they bury a coreligionist, hold ridiculous ceremonies in public that at
tract the attention of the populace, and could provoke a conflict with the |gen-
eral[ population and authorities." Furthermore, at the same meeting. Rodolfo
Ornstein protested against the claims of the members of CIL, who "pretend
that the Chevra Keduscha pay for nurse services for their sick, something


80
Iewisfi Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
which is against our constitution, . . and likewise demand that the chamos-
chim |sic, meaning the attendant of the burial societyl be obligated in some
cases to make two night watches for the same price |as one|." 20
These differences in ritual and pretensions that were not justified by
their Ashkenazic coreligionists constituted the weightiest considerations
among the Moroccan lewish community to form a separate burial society,
Gemilut Hassadim. at the beginning of 1897, 21 Thus, two burial societies were
active in Buenos Aires by that year In addition, the lewish white slave dealers
also formed a similar organization. 22 Nevertheless, none had an independent
cemetery, and all buried their dead at the Cementerio de los Disidentes.
The acquisition of a permanent burial place was much more compli
cated than forming a society to take care of the ritual arrangements of the
interment. The former required a head investment that was beyond the means
of the still young lewish community. It was necessary, furthermore, to obtain
municipal permits that wold enable them to utilize an extension of land as a
burial place. Technical problems, such as complaints of neighbors against hav
ing a cemetery in their own vicinity, complicated the issue. Efforts were made
as early as 1874 to acquire a permanent field for lewish burials by the first
lewish residents in Buenos Aires. 23 Indeed, the minutes of the CIRA continu
ously deal with the problems they were having in finding suitable conditions
for a private cemetery. 24 lewish burials, as mentioned previously, took place at
the Dissidents' Cemetery before 1892, and at the British Cemetery in Chacarita
after that date.
The number of Jewish burials increased with the years. There were
twenty-three in 1895, and thirty-six in 1896. 25 On September 24, 1897 the au
thorities of the British Cemetery communicated to the Chevra Keduscha that
they could not accommodate more lewish dead in their premises. The Chevra
Keduscha obtained from the former a year's extension for lewish burials, but
the necessity of a new site remained extremely acute. 26 Immediately, all possi
bilities were studied very carefully, including an offer by the Municipality of
Buenos Aires of extensions of land for 300 or 600 graves at a price of 10,000
and 20,000 pesos respectively, half to be paid in cash with a discount of 20
percent, and the rest in installments during three years' time. To this the
Chevra Keduscha had to add 9,000 pesos to close the fence and other ex
penses. Evidently, with only 4,000 pesos in reserve and few members, it was
out of the question. It seems that the Chevra Keduscha, nevertheless, got an
extension at the British Cemetery until 1900. 27 After that the only solution was
to rent graves at the Municipal Cemetery of Flores, thus having to pay a yearly
sum. 28 Only in 1910, when the Chevra Keduscha bought its own cemetery in
Liniers, were these graves transferred there.
In 1898 the Chevra Keduscha tried to buy a permanent piece of land for
burials and attempted a joint venture with the newly formed Gemilut Hassa
dim of the Moroccan lews. The first approach took place at the general as
sembly of the former, on March 20, when the president R. Ornstein asked the
Sephardim present to "decide if they would consider cooperating with us." Soli
Cohen thought that they could not deny their cooperation and proposed that


81
Religious institutions and Observances
the Chevra Keduscha invite them formally, specifying the conditions under
which they could cooperate. When it was suggested that both groups, Sephar
dim and Ashkenazim, would have equal representation on the board, Cohen
replied that "we Sephardim want to contribute only one-fourth of the amount
needed and have, therefore, the right to ask for the conditions." The Ashkena
zim did not want to make separate conditions. Ornstein as president declared
at a subsequent meeting that "there cannot be special conditions for the Se
phardim" and that he would be opposed to them "even in the case that other
members of the board were inclined to grant them." 29
The issue was basically financial. The Ashkenazic population was much
larger than the Sephardic. However, the former insisted on equal representa
tion, which meant, equal shares in the expenses. On the other hand, the Se
phardim wanted to provide for only one-fourth of the expenses, considering
this share more in accordance with their relative numbers Furthermore, they
insisted on having the freedom to establish the rate for the burials of their
members independently from the Chevra Keduscha. Finally, on lune 12, 1898
the Ashkenazim decided that they too would prefer to run their society without
the interference of the Sephardim. They proposed to Gemilut Hassadim that
their members cooperate individually with the Chevra Keduscha either as
members or as contributors to a fund for the cemetery. Conversations contin
ued for the rest of the year, but to no avail. 30
A fourth party was also interested in a private lewish burial site. They
were the lews who dealt with human flesh. The tmeyim (Yiddish "impure"; in
Argentina it applied to the lewish white slave dealers) had organized their
synagogue with cantors and religious authorities 31 and were anxious to have a
foot in some of the "clean" lewish institutions. Due to their commerce in "ex
pensive" merchandise, many of them had acquired a prominent economic sit
uation. This encouraged them to attempt to buy their way into general lewish
institutions. Thus when the Chevra Keduscha tried to bring together different
sectors of the lewish population in Buenos Aires for a cemetery, the tmeyim
availed themselves of the opportunity to join forces. On May 4, 1898, Ornstein
informed the board that a group of lews offered to contribute a substantial
amount of money for the purchase of a cemetery without becoming members
of the institution. 32 Evidently, this offer came from the white slave dealers, who
realized they would not be accepted as members but considered that a sub
stantial donation would at least allow lewish funerals for their dead. 33 The
Chevra Keduscha did not consider the offer. Shortly thereafter the white slave
dealers acquired land for a cemetery in Barracas al Sud (later on called Ave-
llaneda, a suburb of Buenos Aires). The Moroccan lews bought from the latter
a section of their land for their own burial site. While the Ashkenazic lews
remained firm in their total exclusion of the tmeyim, some type of accommo
dation was effected by the Moroccan group. In any case, no condemnation of
the latter was found in the available documentation at the Chevra Keduscha
and CIRA. The small group of Moroccan lews, who could not agree with the
Ashkenazim regarding a joint cemetery, thus solved their burial need 34 (for
more on this see ch. 9).


82
lewish Buenos Aires. 1890-1930
These voices of condemnation against those willing to compromise and
accept contributions of tmeyim were the first signs of a growing sense of re
sponsibility among lewish leaders in Buenos Aires vis-a-vis their relation to
the impure sector in their midst. The cemetery question was the first one that
tempted the lewish community in the capital to accept collaboration from
those elements because of the financial implications. The result was a com
plete separation in this area. But it was not mere coincidence that the ceme
tery question became a major issue between sectors of the lewish population
in Buenos Aires. It really was the first major enterprise of the community since
the building of the first synagogue of CIRA in 1897. Notwithstanding the dis
agreements motivated by differences in ritual and in views over financial par
ticipation, the issue of a lewish burial ground brought all lews together in
order to find a solution. During the last years of the nineteenth century all
lews in the city, Sephardim and Ashkenazim, religious or secular, pure or im
pure concerned themselves with the question of burial according to lewish
rites and practices. In spite of the fact that the actual interment constituted a
religious act, even secular lews acknowledged the supremacy of an indepen
dent cemetery for their people. From the very outset, burial in a lewish necrop
olis comprised a leading factor in lewish identity in Buenos Aires.
It was not until 1910 that the Chevra Keduscha was permitted to trans
form its property in Liniers into a cemetery. The Sephardic communities that
were formed during the first years of the twentieth century also acquired their
own cemeteries, though for some periods they concluded agreements with the
Chevra Keduscha, which enabled them to utilize the latter's cemetery. The
Damascene lews officially opened their private grounds in Lomas de Zamora
in 1915. The Aleppine lews did likewise at the end of the 1920s with a field in
Ciudadela. Part of this field was sold to the Ladino-speaking lews, while still
another to the Chevra Keduscha itself, which had gone through great difficul
ties obtaining a municipal permit to transform its grounds in Chacarita into a
cemetery, which was finally denied (Cf. ch. 2|.
Religious Observances
It is difficult to measure the religious observances and practices of the
immigrant lews in their new environment because those who followed a rou
tine of observance in their homes and in their hebrot did not leave records of it.
Although tens of hebrot began functioning in the lewish quarters of Buenos
Aires, their names indicative of a strong attachment to the lewish faith, such
as Hebra Tehilim (Psalms Society). Hebra Mishnaies Shomrei Shabbes
(Mishna and Sabbath Observers' Society), and Hebra Shas DeAnshei Polin
(Talmud Society of Polish lews), we have no way of knowing what the actual
participation of its membership was in daily, weekly or yearly services in the
synagogue. Was membership in one of these hebrot indicative of observance of
other religious precepts as well, or did the new immigrants select, keeping
specific areas of their heritage and abandoning others? How did the general
attitude towards religious life in Buenos Aires affect the lews? Were the obser-


83
Religious Institutions and Observances
vant immigrants successful in transmitting their faith and practices to the new
generation born in Argentina? Documentation about these issues is scanty
and sparse.
In our attempt to draw a picture of the religious identity of the lews in
Buenos Aires during the period up to 1930 we shall first look into their reli
gious attachment at the moment of migration. Another source will be descrip
tions of religious practices by lewish residents and visitors in Argentina. More
over, the religious authorities and leaders who came to the country and the
response of individuals to their work are indicative of the actual state of affairs.
Finally, from testimonies of the "old" generation and those born or at least
educated in Argentina, we shall describe the process of this identity.
As early as 1898 a correspondent of the lewish Chronicle describing the
way Christians fraternized with lews in Buenos Aires, wrote sarcastically: 55
They join in sorrow as well as in pleasure, due principally to the liberal ten
dencies of both, for "Tephillin" are at a large discount in Buenos Ayres." On the
other hand, East European lews formed many small congregations where they
met for praying. According to the same correspondent, in 1901 there were
nineteen of these places open for the High Holy Days. 56 The number of these
congregations grew during the following decades. In 1925, for example, the
Yiddishe Zeitung was filled, starting over a month before Rosh Hashana, with
advertisements of more than forty different societies organizing services for
the Holy Days. However, these rasas de oraciones (praying houses), as they were
called by El Sionista, in 1905 were not open all year around: "The Holy Days
have passed, and with them, the doors of all salons, temples, and synagogues
have been closed." 57 Another description of these improvised houses of prayer
was offered by Di Yiddishe Hofnung in 1912; 58 "Very soon, in two or three weeks,
one will be able to see in the streets of Buenos Aires how lews run into the
synagogues to pray three days a year, the Days of Awe. Where is that syn
agogue?, you might ask. That, however, would be a naive question. Better ask
where is there no synagogue in Buenos Aires during the three Days of Awe."
Religious heritage among the lews who arrived from Russia was not
monolithic. Even if many were devout in the observance of traditional laws
and customs of the lewish people, the majority of the newcomers were already
advanced in a process of secularization or, as many would later refer to it
modernization, which meant a gradual if not total relaxation of religious cus
toms. The impact of haskalah (Jewish enlightenment) had been felt in many
lewish homes in Russia, promoting a release from the ghetto and an aliena
tion from religious life. Most of those who came directly to Buenos Aires had
already abandoned many religious practices in Europe. Whatever they had
read or heard about lewish life in the Argentine capital before departing did
not, for sure, include a description of orthodox practices there. Moreover, the
existence of lewish white slave dealers in noticeable numbers did not encour
age observant lews to move there, in spite of the fact that the former were
known for their concern with religious practices.
Among the first colonizers of the ICA project in Argentina were a good
number of nonobservant lews even if some of these were learned in lewish


84
]ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
texts. An early settler of the Mauricio colony described the scene of the first
meal his group received in the country, at the Hotel de Inmigrantes:” '"Wait
ers' of dark, almost copper-colored complexions, served us white rolls, and
gave each one of us a can with meat. Many of us ate it (it was very tasty) but
the more religious did not even touch it." Furthermore, Mordechai Alpersohn
mentioned that in the same colony the settlers were divided in several groups.
Among those who were appointed to the Alicia section were the nonobservant,
the "nonkosher fellows" (treifener hebre) 40 The same was true in other colonies
in Santa Fe and Entre Rios. We can say so a fortiori of the lewish population in
the cities since in the colonies lews lived near each other, thus facilitating a
continuation of organized lewish life. In the city the new immigrant could
choose whether to live in the lewish quarters or not. And even if he did dwell
there, it was fairly easy for him, if he so wanted, to remain aloof from the
religious manifestations of his fellow lews.
The different Sephardic communities in Buenos Aires preserved
stronger links with religious practices. Quite naturally there were differences
among the various communities, which were a direct reflection of their lewish
background beyond the Atlantic. The Arabic-speaking lews were the most reli
giously inclined. In Damascus and Aleppo the role of the hacham was one of
supreme weight within the community. Cases in which an individual lew chal
lenged the hacham’s dictum were very infrequent, as were deviations from strict
orthodoxy in the observance of religious precepts and communal discipline.
Before World War 1 the rabbis had issued an order of excommunication against
a violator of the Sabbath and had issued a proclamation of warning to the
community. It was only after the war that communal discipline weakened be
cause of the departure of many of the rabbis and the wealthy. 41 In Buenos Aires
they continued a strict observance of the commandments. The vanguard of
Syrian lews in Argentina, almost all making a living as peddlers during the first
years, did not go out to their clients on the Sabbath, preferring to congregate
in their synagogues. Likewise, it was customary among them to meet early in
the morning for their daily prayers before initiating their workday. In later years
and up to 1930, when many had become retail or wholesale merchants and
importers with shops in the quarters of Boca-Barracas, Once, and Flores, most
of their businesses remained closed on the Sabbath. Some opened on Sunday
morning instead, and then made transactions with non-lewish wholesale mer
chants. 42 In all the respective Talmud Torah schools the students were not
allowed to go to their classes at the national schools on Saturdays, on pain of
expulsion from the Talmud Torah. 43 The numerous complaints by teachers at
the Syrian Talmud Torahs indicate that many parents were actually sending
their children to the state schools on Saturdays because the children might be
expelled for reiterated absences. Officials of the Union Israelita Sefaradit Or
Torah of Damascean lews in Barracas approached some members of the Con-
sejo Escolar in order to obtain an exemption for their students. The result was
a semiofficial success. Two members of the Consejo Escolar, at the beginning
of the school year, 1923, ordered the directors of the schools of the area not to
compel the lewish students to attend school on Saturdays. 44 Similarly, through


85
Religious institutions and Observances
the insistence of members of Yesod Hadath of the Aleppine community in
Once, as well as pressures made by Rabbi Halphon and Israel magazine, the
Consejo Nacional de Educacion resolved on October 28, 1925 that it was not
possible to "compel those students, sons of lews, to attend classes on Satur
day if they do not do so for religious reasons. ' 45
The Ladino-speaking community, though orthodox, was “not as
staunchly observant as .. the Arabic-speaking |one|" 46 in their home towns.
When in Buenos Aires, their knowledge of the Spanish language made their
adaptation to the mores and customs of the country much easier in spite of
living in specific neighborhoods, notably Villa Crespo and its vicinities, they
did not encircle themselves as closely as their Arabic-speaking coreligionists.
The lews of Morocco underwent the most rapid assimilation to the
country. The first generation of immigrants were very observant and preserved
almost all the traditions of their native communities, not only religious cus
toms but in some cases also social and economic ones. 47 However, they were
dispersed in many communities throughout the country, and in the capital
they comprised only a few hundred families during the 1920s, At this time
there was a grown-up generation of Argentine-born jews from the Moroccan
community that was much more liberal in religion. A contemporary described
this community in 1921 as religious but not overzealous, opening their stores
on the Sabbath and lewish Holy Days. 48 Five years later another contemporary
wrote that "the elders are extremist believers in the Messiah on a white horse,
. while the young are completely assimilated' 4,> In 1929 a member of the
Congregacion Israelita Latina protested against the appointment of Rabbi
Shabbetai Djaen—originally from Monastir and belonging to the Ladino-
speaking community—as chief rabbi jointly of the Moroccans and Ladino-
speaking lews in Argentina. He wrote that the Moroccan lews do not need
Rabbi Djaen "to correct them of all these errors we commit voluntarily.” 50 In
the list of "errors" he included opening business and smoking on Saturdays,
not going to the synagogue on the Sabbath and Holy Days, organizing ban
quets to celebrate religious ceremonies (weddings, circumcisions, Bar Mitz-
vahs) without fulfilling the prescribed lewish dietary laws, and so on.
The attitude to religious observance by lews in Buenos Aires during the
first years of their settlement there was a reflection of their experience in their
home towns. Many Ashkenazic lews had been exposed not only to the haskalah
in Eastern Europe but also to the growing influence of socialism, anarchism,
and other radical workers' movements in Russia, which their Sephardic coun
terparts had never heard of. But the general situation in their new environment
very soon had its effect upon the religious life of the immigrant lew. Due to
compelling circumstances many otherwise observant lews—with the excep
tion of Arabic and Ladino-speaking lews—found themselves working on the
Sabbath, something unthinkable to most of them before crossing the Atlantic.
Labor circumstances did not permit them to do otherwise, especially for those
employed as workers and apprentices in workshops and factories owned by
Christians. However, an index of the little observance of the Sabbath among
Ashkenazim can be obtained from the fact that even when there were enough


86
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
lewish patrons of workshops and mills to employ large numbers of lewish
workers, all, to the best of our knowledge, opened on Saturdays. Moreover, this
was the payday of the week. 51 An orthodox visitor of the community in 1907
wrote the following description of the situation: 52 "Practically every lewish
shop opens on Sabbath, even the butchers' shops kept by rabbis. The offices
of the ICA there only close at two o'clock on Saturdays."
Although there was growing indifference and laxity, few immigrants
showed resentment or rejection of their religious heritage, except in radical
antireligious circles. Notably, among the first generation of Ashkenazim edu
cated in Argentina, who had gathered around luventud Israelita Argentina
since 1908, a strong sentiment of scorn and contempt for religion was mani
fest. They not only had been "long divorced from the affairs in heaven" 53 and
advocated the "religion of the future," which is that of "human lustice, Science,
Equality, and Fraternity" 54 but they also fought bravely against permitting the
Federacion Israel ita Argentina which was being envisaged in 1914, to promote
religious initiatives. 55 Members of a similar group applauded when Di Presse, a
Yiddish daily, decided to appear also on Saturdays against the protests of a
few orthodox voices and criticized de Levy, the Sephardic editor of Israel, for
observing the Sabbath and other lewish customs. 56
The Rabbis
In Eastern Europe and in the Sephardic communities the rabbi was the
central figure in lewish communal life. He was the authority that adjudicated
judicial cases and was in control of marital affairs. Due to either his personality
or his investiture, he commanded the respect of a large part of his community
For these reasons, an investigation of the rabbinical situation will help us
understand the religious attachment of the various communities transplanted
to Buenos Aires. How many rabbis arrived in Argentina and from where? How
did they fare there? What was the response to their work among their respec
tive coreligionists?
Among observant lewry in Buenos Aires the lack of rabbis was very no
ticeable. Indeed, the number of rabbis in Argentina remained very small, and
those who had a scholarly preparation that enabled them to influence the
local community by means of legal Responsa that carried weight were even
less. Among the latter we can but name Hacham Shaul Setton Dabbah of
the Aleppine community in Buenos Aires, Rabbis Aharon Goldman, active in
Moisesville, and loseph Taran in Colonia Zonnenfeld, Province of Entre Rios.
Rabbis Goldman and Taran engaged in a scholarly polemic regarding
the kashrut of wild ducks common in Argentina with such famous rabbinic au
thorities in Europe and lerusalem as Rabbis Haim Berlin and Samuel Salant.
After long discussions, the latter two confirmed the verdict of the rabbis in the
Argentine colonies that permitted consumption of wild ducks. They also en
gaged in religious and legal problems of the lewish community in Argentina,
especially regarding mixed marriages and conversions to Judaism. 57 Rabbi
Goldman also corresponded with Chief Rabbi Hermann (Naphtali) Adler of


87
Religious institutions and Observances
England, Chief Rabbi Zadoc Kahn of France, and Rabbi Isaac Elhanan Spektor
of Kovno on different legal issues and contributed to scholarly publications in
Europe and Jerusalem. 58 However, except for some legal consultations from
the communities near the colonies where these rabbis lived, their influence in
religious life in Argentina was limited to the groups of colonists that were in
close contact with them”
Some of the groups that left Eastern Europe to settle in the |CA colonies
in Argentina departed their home towns with their necessary religious minis-
trants. In that manner Rabbis Taran and Goldman arrived in Entre Rios and
Santa Fe, respectively 60 In 1894 a group leaving Grodno to settle in Moisesville
took with them two melammedim Iteachers of religious subjects for children!,
"and one shochet, ... Rabbi Mordechai Reuben Sinai, whom the Central Com
mittee of ICA had appointed as leader and counsellor for the colonists for their
religious needs,... left with the same group.' 6 '
Rabbi Sinai did not stay long in Moisesville. In 1896 he spent the Tishre
festivities (Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot) in Buenos Aires, where he
preached and lectured on ten different occasions. Rabbi Sinai's visit had great
impact as it stirred memories of the maggid (popular preacher) who would
come and preach in the lews' home towns in Eastern Europe. During Yom
Kippur 1896 Sinai preached three times in synagogues at the lewish quarter,
on each occasion for over two hours. Some lews followed him from one syn
agogue to the other, and even a few members of CIRA came to listen to his
words. 62 The following year, 1897, Rabbi Sinai moved permanently to Buenos
Aires. 63
The role of the hazan (cantor) was much more important than that of the
rabbi. A good cantor not only evoked in his audience pleasant memories of his
old home synagogue and life-style but also contributed in inducing them to
prayer Occasionally, though quite seldom in Buenos Aires, lews had an oppor
tunity of listening to a maggid like Sinai. 64 The leaders of hebrot and Talmud
Torahs, knowing that attendance for the High Holy Day services would be
greater than on other days of the year, rented a salon or prepared larger rooms
to accommodate them. Advertisements in the newspapers and magazines set
in large letters the name of the cantor hired to perform and indicated the
number of participants in a specially trained choir, usually directed by the
cantor himself.
The role of the rabbi was altogether secondary. The poverty of the hebrot
and the nonexistence of a central rabbinical body in Argentina made for the
sad situation of the few East European rabbis who arrived in Buenos Aires.
Actually, the latter's duties were not pastoral but legal. He would decide upon
appointments of shochtim and supervise the kashrut of meat and matzot and wine
for Passover and was arbiter in family and commercial cases, as well as teacher
of the most learned lews. As we shall see below, even in these aspects, the few
rabbis in Buenos Aires during the first three decades of the twentieth century
did not enjoy the respect of the community.
A unique case in this respect was CIRA. Being a synagogue that operated
along the lines of the German and French congregations that had undergone


88
lewish Buenos Aires. 1890-1930
a process of modernization during the nineteenth century, CIRA needed a reli
gious leader who would perform pastoral duties and would represent the lew
ish community to the general population. As a legal authority, his functions
were to be only minor. However, even if CIRA was the only organization that
could afford the services of a rabbi, it did not engage in such an expense easily.
Henry loseph had been performing these functions on a voluntary basis
without salary empowered by a certificate extended by Lazare Isidor, the chief
rabbi of the French Consistory, in 1882 s5 When in 1894 loseph's daughter was
married in a church to a Catholic, a great commotion took place at CIRA. Most
of the board members considered asking loseph for his resignation, while oth
ers, including president Achilie Levy did not believe that the daughter's inter
marriage disqualified loseph from his rabbinical duties. When the General As
sembly specifically called to discuss this contingency decided to accept
loseph's resignation, Levy likewise resigned. 66 Solomon Liebeschutz filled the
post as temporary rabbi with an annual salary of 600 pesos However, diver
gencies with some of the members caused his resignation in November 1895. 67
In the meantime efforts were made to attain the services of a rabbi, and nu
merous personal and epistolar contacts were made in Europe, especially with
the French Consistory. 68
For a full decade CIRA was officially without a rabbi, loseph, however,
continued serving and was sometimes consulted about religious practices.
However, on questions of rabbinic jurisprudence it was preferred to obtain the
opinion of authorities in Europe. 69 In 1903, when Rabbi Amsel Hoffmann ar
rived in Buenos Aires and applied for the job at CIRA, the latter was forced to
clarify the situation. When CIRA discussed the problem, the economic advan
tage of the current arrangement was noted immediately. Most of those present
considered that loseph was already filling the post and was doing so without
pay, which was quite advantageous; thus they decided that no rabbi was
needed.™
Nevertheless, a few months later the board realized "that CIRA, for its
prosperity, needs a rabbi,” and new approaches were made to the French Con
sistory. They received a promise from its rabbinic head, Zadoc Kahn, to coop
erate in their efforts. 7 ' The rabbi for CIRA, however, was already in Argentina.
On April 1904 Rabbi Samuel Halphon, originally from Russia and a recent
graduate of the Ecole Rabbinique de France, arrived with the mission of
strengthening religious life in the ICA colonies. This was the first rabbinical
mission sponsored by ICA in the country. Halphon traveled through the colo
nies and organized various religious institutions there. He also had contact
with the colonists, to whom he delivered sermons on "diverse subjects dealing
with the moral and material situation of his flock, on religious questions, on
man's duties, etc." 72 Before the High Holy Days in 1905 Halphon arranged to
deliver a sermon on Yom Kippur at CIRA. After this "brilliant speech” CIRA
offered Halphon the post, which the latter accepted after consultations with
ICA authorities in Paris. Halphon continued, in addition to his duties at CIRA,
his pastoral tours of the colonies. 73
From 1906 until 1930, when he returned to Paris because of a severe


89
Religious Institutions and Observances
heart condition, Halphon was one of the most influential and active lews in
Argentina. His activities were not circumscribed to his rabbinical functions at
the Temple or his tours of the colonies. Halphon was the force behind the first
attempt of a Kehilla (representative lewish body) in Buenos Aires (1908-10),
the director of a network of religious schools in the whole country sponsored
to a large extent by |CA, an active member in Ezras Noschim, the Argentine
branch of the Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women with
headquarters in London, and one of the initiators of Soprotimis. Halphon's
personal acquaintance of Marcelo T de Alvear, president of the country for the
period 1922-28, facilitated hearings of representatives of lewish institutions
with the chief executive, though it did not always guarantee positive results. 74
Halphon became the religious leader representing CIRA and institu
tions led by its conspicuous members. In addition to these institutions, Rabbi
Halphon advised the Sociedad de Damas Israelitas, which was constituted by
the women of CIRA and which founded and sponsored the Asilo de Huerfanas
(lewish Orphanage for Girls). In spite of the fact that these organizations were
created for the protection of new immigrants, mainly from Eastern Europe, the
lews of this origin never accepted Halphon's leadership. In their eyes, Halphon
belonged to the Temple lews, the rich, the more assimilated Yahudim who lived
downtown of Callao Avenue. 75
Halphon was a unique figure in Argentine lewry up to 1930. No other
rabbi with West European instruction came to the country in that period, ex
cept for Amsel Hoffmann. Hoffmann's case, tragic as it was, is indicative of the
religious situation in Buenos Aires. A duly certified Austrian rabbi, aged
twenty-seven, Dr. Hoffmann arrived in Buenos Aires early in 1903, where he
came in contact with Simon Ostwald, a German lewish millionaire who tried
to guide his first steps in the city. Most probably Ostwald proposed Hoffmann
to CIRA. CIRA did not consider his candidacy, due to either his age or the fact
that they preferred a rabbi with French rather than German background. Hoff
mann, again probably at Ostwald's suggestion, became active in the Zionist
movement. 76 In 1904 Hoffmann published articles in El Sionista 77 and partici
pated in the propaganda committee of the first Federacion Sionista Argentina,
traveling throughout the lewish colonies and cities in the interior in order to
unite the Zionist groups, an activity he pursued until his death in 1908. 78 In
spite of his varied occupations, Hoffmann did not succeed in attaining a se
cure economic position. 76 Finally, in 1907, officials at CIRA lead a campaign to
rid the community of Hoffmann's presence, claiming the latter was responsible
for defrauding colonists in a travel agency he had started. References about
Hoffmann were solicited from the chief rabbi in Hamburg, M. Hirsch, who
claimed that Hoffmann had worked in a Christian mission there. 80 CIRA re
solved "to do everything possible so that this gentleman leaves without
delay." 81
Hoffmann was found dead in lune 1908, and after careful investigations
by the federal police in the capital it was concluded that he had committed
suicide. 82 There are contradictory arguments as to the reason Hoffmann took
this determinate action. Hoffmann was learned in lewish texts and had written


90
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
on Biblical criticism. 8 ’ On the other hand he had become uncongenial to many
lews active in the community, which contributed to his economic impoverish
ment 84 The accusations of dishonesty in his commercial relations were not
confirmed by the investigations, and the accusations were made exclusively by
CIRA. In a suicide letter Hoffmann asserted that "the lewish community in
Argentina had not contributed to it" and named the main persons responsible,
though their names were not printed in the press. 85
Hoffmann's case was that of a learned man completely incompetent of
solving his economic poverty. After failing to get the job at CIRA, over which,
according to one contemporary, there had been some tension between Hoff
mann and Halphon, 86 he held minor jobs in which he barely survived. His em
barrassment in this respect, only increased by the accusations of dishonesty,
constituted no small cause for his tragic decision. On the other hand, the lew
ish community in Buenos Aires could not make room for another religious
functionary of the category of a rabbi, in spite of the fact that there were none
besides Halphon and Sinai.
The East European rabbis who arrived in Argentina before 1930 found
great difficulties not only in promoting observance and learning but even in
sheer survival. Some of them threw away their rabbinic garb and occupied
themselves in different branches of commerce. Those active in the community
had to struggle with some shochtim who, noticing the lack of rabbinic authori
ties, had appointed themselves as supervisors of the ritual purity of various
foodstuffs and as arbiters in family relations. Soon it did not matter whether
they were ordained rabbis or merely shochtim performing rabbinic functions.
Furthermore, personal rivalries between the few rabbis, caused by professional
antagonisms or by sheer competitive factors in a limited market, brought ad
ditional disunity on the religious front. This, too, was reflected in the attitude
of the general lewish population towards them.
Some of these rabbis formed small synagogues in the city, of which they
were the leaders, teaching courses in rabbinic texts on Sabbaths and other
special occasions. However, they did not derive much profit from these func
tions. At times they even had to concern themselves with obtaining money for
the rent of the room they used as synagogue. Thus in 1930 Rabbi Israel Ehrlich
solicited a loan from the Chevra Keduscha "in order to spare the |lewish| com
munity the shame that a schil |synagogue| be evicted for owing two months'
rent." 87
An important part of most rabbis’ income came from their arbitration
functions. Of these, divorces were the most common. Rabbi David Maler, for
example, during the period 1924-30, arbitrated in over one hundred cases of
divorce, most of which consisted of wives left in Europe and husbands wanting
to remarry in Argentina 88 At the end of the 1920s the number of divorces grew
to enormous proportions. An informant of a meeting of several representa
tives of lewish organizations convened to deal with the situation, narrated
"alarming facts with respect to divorces and weddings among the immigrants,
because the majority of them leave their wives in Europe, and send them from


91
Religious institutions and Observances
here the divorce in order to remarry. He deplores that the institution he repre
sents ISoprotimis] has not been able to do anything for the more serious
cases, but he is convinced that the Chevra Keduscha is the only one that can
have control over the rabbis, who have direct contact with the petitioners of
divorces.” 89 in 1931 Ezras Noschim called a meeting of all lewish institutions
in Buenos Aires to deal with the problem, and in the presence of delegates of
thirty-eight such organizations it was resolved that "no rabbi will have the right
to grant a Get |divorce| without the respective authorization of Ezras Noschim,"
and in case he did grant a divorce, he could be "expelled from the lewish com
munity of Buenos Aires." 90 In other words, the lay officials of the community
were imposing restrictive measures upon the rabbis, even in situations de
manding the consideration and intervention of someone deeply versed in rab
binic law. The lay leaders feared the rabbis would grant divorces with ease in
order to profit by it without taking into consideration the extremely miserable
situation of wives and children still in Europe. This attitude is a telling ex
ample of the poor esteem in which the rabbis were held, be it due to their
generally not-so-outstanding scholarship or to their economic dependence on
communal functions. It also denotes a tendency to give precedence to a secu
lar leader's discernment concerning social problems even if there is a religious
element involved.
A similar confrontation took place regarding members who were ex
pelled because of their involvement in white slavery. When some of these tme
yim died the Chevra Keduscha was asked to bury them. Some members of the
board proposed sending the matter to the religious committee, but they were
outvoted by those who "did not recognize it to intervene in the case of the
expelled members," g| Thus in an issue concerning ritual burial, the opinion of
those members who would have based their verdict upon rabbinic sources was
excluded, and the policy to follow was formulated by lay officials.
There were no permanent rabbis in the hinterland with the exception of
some ICA colonies. The communities there approached the rabbis in Buenos
Aires and the colonies when some question concerning religious law or pro
cedure arose. Thus the Asociacion Israelita de Beneficencia (AIB), the main
Ashkenazic association in Rosario, repeatedly consulted with Rabbis Aharon
Goldman of Moisesville and Aharon Waisman in Buenos Aires. 92 The only at
tempt to maintain a permanent rabbi in Rosario did not last long due to eco
nomic problems that arose as consequence of the general indifference of the
lewish population to this type of functionary. In 1926 a group of the more
observant lews in the city invited Rabbi Isaac Gottlieb, at the time in Buenos
Aires, to settle there, assuring him a salary, which they gathered from among
themselves, and the participation of AIB. Rabbi Gottlieb was to be in charge of
all rabbinic functions, especially the surveillance of ritual slaughtering. After
eighteen months, however, the members of the committee that sponsored the
rabbi was reduced, and AIB refused to subsidize the project any more. Rabbi
Gottlieb, after a sad experience regarding his payments, returned to Buenos
Aires. 9 ’ Other rabbis had contacts in several lewish communities of the interior


92
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
and even in neighboring countries. David Glasserman traveled repeatedly even
to Asuncion, Paraguay, while Raphael Kitaygorodsky traveled to Montevideo,
Uruguay 94
After the establishment of the first hebrot of East European lews in Bue
nos Aires early in the 1890s, one of the major preoccupations was the availa
bility of kosher meat. In 1892 a shochet, David Hurwitz, was sponsored by the
newly formed hebra Machzikei Emuna. 95 Through the years many more ritual
slaughterers started to practice in Buenos Aires, most of them ex-colonists
who moved to the capital. 96 Indeed, conflicts soon arose concerning the appro
priate supervision of the slaughtering and the retail sale of kosher meat.
In 1903 Gustavo Glaser, president of CIRA, noted that some lews
"wanted to have the monopoly, or something similar, over the sale of kosher
meat, and therefore asked the Board's intervention to avoid such abuses." After
long deliberations they decided that "CIRA shall issue permits to sell kosher
meat to qualified persons who merit their confidence." 97 Interestingly enough,
CIRA arrogated this function to itself without having the slightest idea of the
laws governing ritual slaughtering. However, convinced that CIRA was the Iefe
de la Kehila (chief institution of the lewish community), Glaser considered that
they should intervene for the sake of the whole lewish population in the city.
But the problem was not solved, and abuses continued. Aaron Vecht, an
orthodox manufacturer visiting the country in 1907, was horrified at the situa
tion and attempted to form a "Board of Shechita which enjoyed Sabbath clos
ing." 98 However, Vecht was too optimistic. The selling of kosher meat repre
sented a profitable gain for those controlling it, and many of these were not
scrupulous enough to adhere to lewish ritual law.
By the end of 1908 orthodox officials in Buenos Aires were extremely
disturbed at this state of affairs. Ephraim Rosenzwit, president of the Talmud
Torah Harischono, tried to put a stop to it He contacted La Negra packing
house, where evidently most shochtim slaughtered, and solicited for his institu
tion the control over lewish slaughterers. When La Negra responded that they
were willing to deal only with a larger representation of the lewish community,
Rosenzwit appealed to the most established institutions in the city, namely,
CIRA, Chevra Keduscha, Ezrah, and Bikur Joilim. From these contacts the Fed-
eracion lsraelita Argentina was born. 99
After many preliminary sessions, the FIA began operating in August
1909 with four representatives of each of the federated institutions under the
presidency of Gustavo Weil of CIRA. Part of their program was that the FIA
would take upon itself the expenditure of kosher meat, ensuring an appro
priate surveillance of each and every step. The FIA officials further considered
that this activity would create a source of income for the community's needs. 100
During the same month negotiations for the export of kosher meat to
London were started. Hermann Adler, the chief rabbi of England, informed La
Negra that he was sending two inspectors to supervise the meat that would be
exported to London. The FIA felt the necessity to cable back to Adler request
ing him not to send the inspectors because the newly formed FIA, together
with Rabbi Halphon, would have complete control. 101 Adler, indeed, did not


93
Religious institutions and Observances
heed this request. His priorities were to his own community and the reaction
it would have to importing kosher meat from Argentina. There were protests in
London's East End against importing frozen and chilled meat from abroad on
the grounds that there were possibilities that this product might be contami
nated but mainly because of suspicions about its kashrut. The chief rabbi re
peatedly assured the lewish population in London that "every proper care
would be taken by the London Schocbtim before they left the Argentine that the
meat there was killed by expert schocbtim who enjoyed their complete confi
dence." 102 Evidently Rabbi Adler did not have full confidence in the Argentine
community's way of regulating kosher slaughtering and distribution. He was
not mistaken.
For local consumption FIA reached an agreement with La Negra that no
shochel without their authorization would be admitted to the abattoirs. For a
short period most shochtim and kosher butchers adhered to the FIA's stipula
tions. 103 But Halphon soon realized that they were doing so to temporize and
appease the FIA. The situation was still deplorable, since "there are lewish
butchers who buy from their gentile neighbors the front parts of their beasts
at more or less .15 pesos per kilogram, to sell it afterwards as kosher for .35
pesos, and this will be impossible to avoid, given the desire for gain that dom
inates them." 104
Shochtim and butchers finally defeated the FIA. They could easily con
vince their clients that FIA involvement would cause a rise in the price of meat.
A major factor in the final collapse of the FIA in October 1910 was the Jewish
population's indifference to lewish dietary laws and, among those who con
sumed kosher meat, indifference to the way it reached their hands. 105
Several attempts were made in the following years to remedy this situa
tion. Even after World War 1, when a few rabbis of East European origin were in
Buenos Aires, things did not improve. Some of the rabbis, together with offi
cials of many orthodox hebrot, started on lune 30, 1925 a Committee for Kashrut
with hopes of controlling religious affairs and founding unions of rabbis and
shochtim respectively. 106 The initiators observed that "there are now a number of
lews who do not buy kosher meat arguing that it is really not kosher. With the
practical regulations of the Committee for Kashrut it will be assured in the
whole city." 107 Hacham Shaul Setton also actively participated in this endeavor
CIRA was also approached, but even if Rabbi Halphon promised to help, he
did not take an active role. 108 More than twenty different synagogues and Tal
mud Torahs adhered to this Committee for Kashrut. By December the goal of
forming a rabbinical union duly authorized to give licenses to shochtim and
bakers of matzot was almost achieved, but due to internal strifes and opposi
tion of some groups among the latter, the project failed. 109
When Rabbi Raphael Kitaygorodsky arrived in Buenos Aries early in
1927, orthodox officials were optimistic once more Rabbi Kitaygorodsky stud
ied in famous geshivot in Eastern Europe and received his ordination from
noted authorities, including Rabbi Haim Berlin. 110 Orthodox lews, especially
Isidro Masel and Gershon Ginzberg, immediately founded a new society, Mach-
zikei HaDath (Upholders of the Religion), with Kitaygorodsky as spiritual


94
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
leader, with the purpose of "solving the anarchy and licentiousness rampant in
the lewish street, Therefore they wanted to found a Rabbinical Committee
or Beit Din and put an end to competition between rabbis and between shoch
tim in Argentina. However, before they could organize the Rabbinical Commit
tee, three of the older rabbis in town—Waisman, Maler, and Abraham David
Kamiker—in a parallel initiative founded a Permanent Beit Din, 112 Machzikei
HaDath, which already was representing eighteen hebrot and more than 400
undersigned, warned the lewish population against the Permanent Beit Din,
qualifying it as "absolutely fraudulent," without the backing of an organized
community, and the fancy of Rabbi Waisman, "who wants to crown himself with
the title of Gaon and Av Beit Din | Learned and Presiding |udge|, which is too
big for him. ' 113
Both groups tried to get more sympathizers to their respective move
ments, thus widening the breach between them. 112 The new organization of
Machzikei HaDath did not succeed in unifying the rabbinic functions in the
city. The lack of support from rabbis, shochtim, and other religious officials,
weakened its basis. Rabbi Kitaygorodsky already in July 1927 accepted a rab
binical position in Montevideo. 115
In Buenos Aires each rabbi operated individually and "did what seemed
good in his eyes.” Glasserman had his own rabbinic office. The Agudat Israel
group, on the other hand, supervised kosher slaughtering themselves. This
was violently opposed by the Permanent Beit Din, which in some cases ap
proved the shechita that Agudat Israel had declared deficient, thus creating
more confusion for observant lews. 116 Enmity continued between rabbis, and
some did not refrain from utilizing base means to defame their colleagues. A
note signed by Waisman appeared in Unzer Lebn of Montevideo claiming that
Kitaygorodsky had false papers and therefore was not an ordained rabbi. After
the intervention of the Chevra Keduscha and numerous petitions of orthodox
lews in Buenos Aires, Waisman assured them that he had not sent the letter,
the contents of which were false, and wrote to Unzer Lebn clearing himself from
all responsibility in the issue. But the harm had already been done, and Kitay
gorodsky returned to Buenos Aires." 7 Apparently this was also the cause for
the dissolution of the Permanent Beit Din in November 1927 when Waisman’s
two colleagues announced that they were no more "responsible for what is
done in the name of the Beit Din."" 8
The few religious elements in the city, however, did not slacken in their
attempts to form a central body that would regulate religious affairs for the
lewish community. During the first week of 1928 a meeting was convened at
the precincts of the Chevra Keduscha with the participation of representatives
of the most important institutions. A provisional committee for a new Reli
gious Organization was elected, under the presidency of Abraham Elias Wai-
ner." 9 This Religious Organization was able to unite the seven East European
rabbis then active in Buenos Aires with respect to giving rabbinical authoriza
tion to shochtim. All rabbis agreed not to do so separately but only with the
approval of their organization. Furthermore, an agreement was reached with
the malza bakers, who also adhered to the Religious Organization. The same


95
Religious Institutions and Observances
was true for a large number of the shochtim However, soon some of the matza
bakers dissociated themselves, arguing that "until the Religious Organization
is recognized by some more [lewish| societies, and thus able to impose a spe
cial taxation for matzot in the city, we cannot initiate dealings with them." 120 The
real reason, however, was that the bakers were not prepared to pay the two-
cent taxation per kilogram of matza (which they sold at forty-seven cents), ar
guing that they sold up to 60 percent of their produce to the lews in the prov
inces. To no avail the Religious Organization appealed to those communities
to back their project of organizing a central religious body and not to approve
the move of the bakers. 121 Moreover, the lack of unity shown by the latter was
followed by a final break among the rabbis. Four of them left the rabbinical
committee of the Religious Organization, because of "moral motives."' 22 Again,
it was an attack directed mainly against Rabbi Kitaygorodsky and those who
recognized his superior qualifications compared to those of his colleagues.
Only Rabbis Kitaygorodsky and Gottlieb remained when Glaserman resigned
because of his numerous trips to the interior. Rabbinic unity again failed, and
the goal of reaching a centralization of the rabbis' functions was postponed
once more.
The Chevra Keduscha was the major lewish institution in the city, not
only because of the number of its members but also due to its sound economy.
When there was no representative body for Argentine lewry, some individu
als—though not without opposition—proposed that the Chevra Keduscha
change its statutes and become the Kehilla of Buenos Aires. 123 Under the
sponsorship of such a body a union of the religious leadership could have
been imposed. The hebrot that sponsored the various committees and unions
in the 1920s were small in membership and without a solid monetary basis.
Even together they could not have supported a rabbinic committee. Further
more, a centralized religious body, in their eyes, would produce, through taxa
tion of the different services—supervision of meat and matzot. granting wed
ding and divorce bills, and arbitrations—sufficient income to provide the
rabbinic committee an honorable existence and to subsidize lewish education
in the city. 124 They never got past the first stages of such an organization be
cause the different groups involved—shochtim, bakers, butchers, and rabbis—
were not in a position to make concessions. Such rabbinic organizations, at
least during the initial periods would diminish the personal profits of the rab
bis. In a society that was more and more oblivious to religious observances
the religious functionaries, who, with few exceptions, did not have the will to
promote an atmosphere for the continuance of such values, saw fit to protect
their own personal interests. The lewish community—-to a large extent indif
ferent in religious matters—supported neither the religious functionaries nor
their work. The reaction of the lewish population to the rupture of solidarity
among the rabbis was along the lines of the following remarks of Mundo Israe-
lita:' 2i "This disunion does not afflict us, for it does not affect in any way the
stability of our collective life. We see in this a sign of the lack of interest for
these types of religious associations, that have no place here. For the indis
pensable ritual services every one will go to the rabbi of his choice, as he used


96
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
to do before. On the other hand, the rabbis' disunion makes evident their lack
of moral authority over the community.. . There is none (among them] ca
pable of exerting it."
A rabbinic authority had more weight in the life of the Sephardim in
Buenos Aires than among their Ashkenazic brethren. Moreover, we notice sig
nificant differences in the attitudes towards religious leaders among Seph
ardim.
Among the Moroccan and Ladino-speaking lews no ordained rabbi
served before the late 1920s. However, their respect for such an authority is
reflected in their attitude to rabbis in their original communities and to those
who visited Argentina. When rabbis of their home towns passed away, memo
rial services were held in their honor in Buenos Aires. Such was the case when,
among others, Rabbis Mordechai Bengis of Tangiers, Moses Benaim of Gibral
tar, and Samuel Israel of Tetouan died. 126 Rabbi Hizkia Shabetay, upon his visit
to the Comunidad Israelita Sefaradi in 1922, was received with all honors, and
his opinions at a General Assembly of the institution were accepted unani
mously. 127
The Moroccan synagogues were directed in all details by their respective
boards because there was no rabbi. This procedure did not seem effective at
CIL, their most important institution. In 1901 a parnas was nominated "with the
obligation of attending the Sabbath and Holy Days prayers, collecting dues
and paying debts, and having ample authority to do and undo in the syn-
agogue." 126 This system proved inadequate after two years, and it was decided
to return to the previous one. The basic guidelines at the Ladino-speaking
Comunidad Israelita Sefaradi were also drawn by the lay officials. Samuel Bu-
chuk was occasionally called Ra&mo because he was in charge of officiating at
weddings and circumcisions and taught at their Talmud Torah. However, the
latter was far from being a religious authority. On the contrary, he was merely
a functionary of the community who performed some ceremonies, though al
ways under the strict control of the board. 129 In questions of lewish law or
practice the members of this Turkish community preferred to address them
selves to Rabbi Halphon at CIRA. Their Talmud Torah received directives from
Halphon's Central Committee for lewish Education in Argentina. Moreover.
Halphon was made honorary president of the Comunidad Israelita Sefaradi for
his cooperation in different opportunities. 130 It is interesting to notice that
both these communities, when confronted with situations that demanded
contact with other lewish organizations in the city outside their own, directed
themselves to CIRA. They rarely contacted the Damascene or Aleppine com
munities, which were much more observant of lewish law.
The most orthodox elements of both these groups repeatedly tried to
attract a rabbi from their original communities to become their religious au
thority in Buenos Aires. In 1923 several members of these communities, to
gether with a few from the Syrian ones, assembled with the idea of forming a
Sephardic Union that would not only unite all Sephardim in the country but
also would "constitute a representative committee before the public powers,


97
Religious Institutions and Observances
and would nominate a rabbi for religious affairs." 131 This attempt failed be
cause of the lack of a unifying rabbinic personality.
When Rabbi Shabbetai Djaen, representing the Confederation Univer-
selle des Juifs Sepharadim arrived in Buenos Aires in 1927, the officials of
many of the representative organizations of the Moroccan and Turkish lews in
the city invited him to stay there as their chief rabbi. 132 Djaen immediately
declined the offer, adducing that he had a three-year contract with his com
munity in Monastic Contacts with officials of the Confederation des luifs
Sepharadim in lerusalem succeeded in convincing Rabbi Djaen to return to
Buenos Aires one year later. 133
At the end of 1928 Rabbi Djaen was installed as chief rabbi of the Moroc
can and Ladino-speaking lews. He stated that the rabbinate, "an institution
that never existed before here ... includes contrasts of several worlds, great
fanatics, modern religious, opponents to religion, and many assimilated." 13 ''
With such a variety of people, coupled with the differences in ritual practices
between the two main communities sponsoring it, it is no surprise that the
new institution would very soon encounter serious opposition.
Djaen sent a circular calling all the Sephardic communities to unite. In
it he stressed the importance of a rabbinate to “guide the religious, spiritual,
and cultural destinies of our community, which are dispersed and incoherent"
and to assure the future of the “race" against the assimilationist spirit. 135 He
also visited some of the communities in the interior and tried to organize a file
of vital statistics among the lews. In some cases, he was also approached with
questions concerning lewish practices. 136 In Buenos Aires he divided his time
between the two main synagogues of Moroccan and Turkish lews respectively.
The beginnings of the rabbinate were full of grand projects that promised ac
tive work among the Sephardic population. However, different factors were al
ready operating within the communities that caused the final folding of the
institution and Djaen's departure after less than two years. 137
It did not take much time for the Moroccan lews to protest the nomina
tion of Djaen, who belonged to the Ladino-speaking community. The board at
CIL, noticing “the disrespect for Gran Rabino Djaen in the Temple," decided to
place notice there "reminding [the membersl that the Gran Rabino is invested
with authority in religious affairs in agreement with the Board as decided by
the General Assembly." 138 This was answered by a sixteen-page pamphlet full
of arguments against the nomination of Djaen, and criticizing the Rabbi for his
haughty personality and his insistence on trying to impose his own customs
among the Moroccan lews. This pamphlet, written by Benjamin Benzaquen,
caused great turmoil at CIL. At first most were against Benzaquen, and it was
decided to form a committee to judge him. However, it was impossible to
gather the individuals to form such a committee, and the issue was postponed
many times until it was finally dropped. In the meantime, Djaen requested
vindication. CIL was ready to make it, but they were also tired of the issue, and
the only vindication they made was sending Djaen a letter notifying him that
CIL did not make common cause with Benzaquen's pamphlet. In December


98
Iewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
1929 the issue was brought to the General Assembly of CIL. which decided to
keep the rabbi, though the vote casting (eighteen in favor, nine against, two
undecided) showed a noticeable amount of dissatisfaction. 139
The Turkish lews followed the lead of CIL when the latter decided that
the rabbinate was a useless expense. The rabbinate committee on July 10,
1930, decided to terminate Rabbi Djaen's mission since it was considered in
effective, Moreover, the economic crisis might very well have prompted this
resolution. There were some institutions that could not pay their respective
allotments to the rabbinate, and the others did not consider that it was their
duty to increase their own shares, especially during the crisis period. Further
more. Djaen was a rabbi with modern education and interests; he wrote drama
and essays for popular lewish journals; he had deep Zionist sentiments and
wanted to change the Talmud Torahs into modern schools. These factors
doubtlessly angered the most orthodox elements among the Sephardim spon
soring the rabbinate, and made for the cancellation of Djaen's contract 140
The Syrian Jews had an attitude vis-a-vis their hacham radically different
from all the other sectors of the lewish population in Buenos Aires. Hacham
Shaul Setton Dabbah moved to Buenos Aires from his native Aleppo in 1912.
From then until his death in 1930 he exerted strong influence in the Aleppine
community in Buenos Aires and to a large extent also among the Damascene
coreligionists Hacham Setton was rigid in religious affairs, and his departure
from Aleppo was due, among other reasons, to disagreements with other
members of the Rabbinic Bet Din of that city. Furthermore, his influence in the
life of his community was also a consequence of the positive attitude of most
of the Syrian lews to religious practices. Many of them, according to some of
the oldtimers of this community, "were superstitious with respect to reli
gion." 141 Moreover, Setton was active in the formation of institutions that
strengthened the religious and communal feelings of his community He pro
moted the creation of the Talmud Torah Yesod Hadath and the society Hesed
Schel Emeth Sefaradit of the Aleppine lews in Buenos Aires.
The respect of the community for their rabbi is reflected in policy discus
sions with officials of the various institutions, lacobo Setton (president of Ye
sod Hadath, no relation with the hacham) and the board of Yesod Hadath de
cided to change the old system of learning at the Talmud Torah—which
consisted in translating texts into Arabic, thus not giving the students the
possibility of learning the Hebrew language and grammar—and brought for
that purpose a teacher from Jerusalem who would stress the teaching of He
brew. Hacham Shaul was violently opposed to this, prohibited the teaching of
Hebrew, and asked that the teacher be fired. The board immediately ac
quiesced and President Setton resigned. Though some members present at
the General Assembly protested against this action by the officials, the policy
at the school was not changed during Hacham Setton's lifetime. lacobo Setton,
who had been president for eight years, since the foundation of Yesod Hadath.
and who had modern ideas about lewish education, fought strongly to sway
the general opinion of the community to his side but to no avail. Even if many
showed a preference for the teaching of Hebrew, their conservative attitude


99
Religious Institutions and Observances
and their devotion to the Hacham’s dictum prevented them from openly sup
porting such a change in the curriculum lacobo Setton finally used offensive
language against other members of the board, who then decided to expel him
from the institution. 142
The Damascene community had no rabbi until the end of the 1920s and
thus used the services of Hacham Shaul Setton in cases of legal decisions. In
1928 their main synagogue and Talmud Torah, Or Torah, made arrangements
with Hacham lacobo Mizrahi to serve their community. It was difficult to reach
an agreement because of the various offers Mizrahi had had from Beyruth,
other cities in the Middle East, and the Syrian lewish community in Rio de
Janeiro. Nevertheless, Or Torah conceded to Mizrahi’s demands in order not to
be deprived of a rabbinical authority. 143
The Syrian lewish communities in Argentina preserved a strong attach
ment to religious values. Their respective Talmud Torahs emphasized the
teaching of religious observances and customs. Hacham Setton, moreover,
was a renowned scholar in a city that was not known for its rabbinic scholar
ship. The Syrian group that arrived in Argentina with a stronger religious iden
tification also had in its midst a recognized authority in lewish law who was
respected even in Aleppo, his home community, and had the support of the
chief rabbis of Palestine for his legal Responsa. 144 In other words, the most
observant lewish group in Buenos Aires, at the time of its arrival, also made
arrangements to have the services of a religious official who would help them
continue their religious practices in their new environment and assist them in
transmitting this heritage to their descendants. 145
Decreasing Influence of the Synagogue
The lews who were uprooted from their native communities underwent
a rapid process of adaptation to their new environment in Argentina. There
was a decreasing influence of the synagogue in organized lewish life in Argen
tina throughout the period ending in 1930. The main reasons for this are to be
found in the general social and political developments taking place in the
country's institutions, especially in reference to the Catholic church.
Although there had been full religious freedom in Argentina after 1860,
the Catholic church had a privileged position in the public and social life of
the country until the 1880s. A fundamental institutional change took place
during the first administration of lulio A. Roca (1880-86) and that of Miguel
luarez Celman (1886-90). The impact of the liberal ideas of that decade re
duced the previously strong Catholic influence in social and cultural institu
tions in Argentina. Congress passed, after long-debated controversies be
tween clericals and liberals, a series of laws that stripped the church from
many of its prerogatives. In 1884 the Ley de Educacion Comun made religious
education no longer compulsory, relegated it to parental option, and limited
instruction to before or after the class hours in all public schools of the coun
try. That same year the Civil Registration Law took away from the parishes the


100
]ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
duty of registering births, marriages, and deaths. Finally in 1888 civil marriage
was made compulsory. 146
Debates about these laws—and their aftermath—produced two anti
thetical political spheres: the socioreligious one, supported by the Catholic
church and clerical groups, and the liberal secularist one, which advocated the
relegation of the church from its position of public influence to a less powerful
one. Thus, the Argentine Catholic community was divided between a clerical
segment and an anticlerical one. The lews were placed by the clericals—
among whom were the strongest antisemites—in the liberal group. Indeed,
the lews themselves sided with the anticlericals or non-Catholic group quite
naturally, due to the exclusivist ideas of the clericals. Thus they agreed with
the position held by the liberal secular group of the nominally "Catholic" com
munity, which regarded all religious adherence as outmoded. This was partic
ularly true of the Argentine-born lews, whose education had been essentially
secular and who closely followed the internal social developments in the
country. 147
The liberal ideas of the "generation of 118|80" had a strong effect upon
the following generations as well. The church became a conservative body
struggling to preserve vestiges of its former glory. However, the masses, even if
they continued supporting the church, were loosing their religious zeal and
abnegation, loaquin Aduriz, S. |„ depicted Catholic life in Argentina before
1930 as follows: "Being a hereditary Catholicism, hardly balanced because of a
deficient education in personal faith, it appeared in mainly affective forms, and
was incapable of assimilating the cultural evolution of society. The Christian
living content was hardly recognizable in attitudes transmitted almost conven
tionally from generation to generation. Seen from outside, Catholic religious
life was presented as bordering on superstition among the more popular
strata, and formalist among the more evolved."' 48
Religious fervor was comparatively small. The majority of the porteno
Catholic population may be characterized by Fichter's expression of "marginal
Catholics" because of their low mass attendance, their only occasional paschal
reception of the sacraments of Communion and Penance, and their little con
cern for religious education of their children. In big cities, such as Buenos
Aires, church-goers were mainly women, a characteristic of most Latin coun
tries. Hence, Catholic passivity in religious affairs was reflected in the lewish
community—especially Catholic male apathy which left an imprint among
lews, who were taught that in ludaism the male role was dominant. 149
Liberal religious movements did not take root in Argentina as they did
in North American Jewry. This was due to the fact that Argentina was a country
where Catholicism remained practically uncontested. Protestant denomina
tions did not pose a challenge to the church. The more liberal movements in
ludaism were born in Germany, following the example of religious diversity
there, and later passed to the United States. The overwhelming majority of
Argentine lewry had come either from Eastern Europe or from Sephardic com
munities and thus had never experienced this religious ferment in nineteenth-
century West European lewish communities. The only example in Buenos


101
Religious Institutions and Observances
Aires of a modern Temple was CIRA, which was looked upon with reservations
by the majority of Russian and Polish lews. Moreover, there was no religious
leadership available to present ludaism in a more liberal fashion, already suc
cessful in Anglo-Saxon countries. Hence, when confronted with modernity in
the form of universal culture and higher education in the national universities,
the Argentine-born lew had basically two alternatives: either orthodoxy in re
ligious practices or secularism. Most chose the latter.


102
Mixed
Marriages
The individual lew can identify with the lewish
group in various ways, be it by means of religious, cultural, or ethnic links.
Likewise, there are several patterns to measure assimilation and acculturation
to the majority group in the adopted country. A crucial index of assimilation,
however, is the phenomenon of mixed marriages, when a lew decides to form
a family with a non-lew Moreover, the response of the leadership of the orga
nized lewish community to this phenomenon indicates the degree of group
assimilation within this particular community.
During the first period of Argentine Jewry, 1860-90, mixed marriages
were a frequent event Due to the scarcity of lewish women many of the first
settlers in Buenos Aires married gentiles. During that period, and up to World
War 1 being intermarried was not an impediment to being an active member at
CIRA Luis H Brie, for example, was its president during 1904-14 However,
this may be seen as an extension of the situation rampant before 1890, when
many members of CIRA were intermarried. In any case, almost all descendants
from a mixed marriage, where there had been no conversion of either partner
to the faith of the other, had no participation in Jewish life in the country
From 1880 to 1930 immigration of lews to Argentina was a continuous
event interrupted only by World War I As a consequence of this immigration
there was a surplus of lewish young men with respect to lewish women, thus
causing many men to find their partners outside lewish circles. This was partic
ularly true in towns in the interior of the country. Being few in numbers, the


103
Mixed Marriages
lews naturally constituted a limited social group, and therefore were more
inclined to having daily contacts with gentiles. Furthermore, for religious prac
tices as well as for lewish cultural and national activities, the lews in the small
towns depended upon envoys from the larger Jewish communities in the vicin
ity, which, on their part, greatly depended on the community in Buenos Aires.
But these contacts were sporadic, thus promoting their gradual relaxation of
lewish customs and traditions, as well as of their Jewish identity, much more
rapidly than in larger Jewish concentrations.
Even in Rosario, the second-largest city in Argentina, with the second-
largest lewish population, mixed marriages were taking place in large enough
proportions to worry the officials of the Asociacion Israelita de Beneficencia
(AIB). At a board meeting of this institution it was proposed that "the propa
ganda committee investigate if the wives of the Sephardim who inscribe them
selves as members of our community are lewish, because many Sephardim
marry non-)ewesses, and in that case it would not be convenient to accept
them as members since it might result that non-lews would be buried in our
cemetery." This proposal was accepted after it was observed that a similar type
of investigation was needed for the Ashkenazim! 1
It is practically impossible to find statistics about the rate of intermar
riage in Argentina during this period. However, from the frequency with which
this problem is mentioned by the lewish leadership and from their concern
with the situation thus caused, we shall be able to draw a picture.
lewish officials were concerned about the large exodus from the lewish
community. In 1921 Nachman Gesang warned his coreligionists about the
ever-growing numbers of conversions from ludaism and of mixed marriages in
Argentina. Both these phenomena were debilitating the community and re
ducing the number of participants in common causes. 2 During the 1920s these
cases became even more frequent. Samuel Rollansky, writing in Di Yiddisfie Zei-
tung, was scandalized at the “innumerable cases among lews of family trage
dies caused by mixed marriages." 3
The marital decision represented a reliable indication of the individual's
commitment to or disaffiliation from his community or tradition. It is impor
tant, indeed, to emphasize the difference between intermarriage—where one
of the partners adopts the faith of the other in the hope of achieving religious
unity in the family—and mixed marriage—where both partners remain in
their respective faiths without regarding this as an obstacle in raising a family.' 1
In the former case, pressure from one partner or family demanding conversion
of the other is indicative of a stronger affiliation to the group. In the latter case,
mostly involving nonbelievers in organized religion, ties to the group are
weaker. Finally, the bonds are even more feeble in the person that decides to
convert out of his faith. Our documentation, quite naturally, is based on cases
preserved in many of the lewish institutions in Buenos Aires and the Argentine
hinterland. The immense majority of the few documented cases found deal
with mixed marriages and concern the situation of the lewish partner and the
children born to the couple vis-a-vis the lewish institution Some cases also
deal with the attitude of lewish officials regarding conversions to ludaism.


104
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
Many jews, in spite of having non-lewish partners, wanted to be buried
in the cemetery belonging to their original community. Thus, the Chevra Ke-
duscha, besides being the largest lewish institution, was also the one most
confronted with questions of what to do in cases of mixed marriages. This
institution set the tone for the policy in most lewish societies in the country.
The Chevra Keduscha, which was organized on a family membership basis,
officially maintained the position of not admitting mixed families as mem
bers. 5 The lewish member, ordinarily, was not denied lewish burial privileges,
though there were exceptions even to this rule. 6 Apparently, with regard to
burials of intermarried lews the policy was unclear. During the first decade that
the Chevra Keduscha had its own cemetery (1910-20) lews married to gentile
women were buried there. However, during the early 1920s the Chevra Ke
duscha considered that "the Cemetery is designed for lewish members" to the
exclusion of lews married outside the faith. 7 In 1926 an agreement could still
not be reached among officials of the institution with regard to persons mar
ried to Christians, and it was decided "to treat each case separately after con
sultation with some members of the Board." 8
The issue was reopened in 1930, when some officials of the Chevra Ke
duscha considered that their policy should be reexamined. It was proposed to
consult various rabbis, and above all "to take into consideration the century in
which we live, an era of tolerance, ... so that no hatred will infiltrate between
our sons and brothers, because they have been placed outside of the commu
nity." The orthodox members of the board reacted immediately. Quoting reli
gious fundamentals and previous rulings of the institution, they vehemently
argued that the only way one could be accepted as a member was by having a
religious wedding ceremony. 6 The orthodox faction won, but still the discus
sion indicates the existence of a growing tendency among lews in Argentina to
consider themselves an ethnic group more than a religious one.
The Sephardic communities were not exempt from cases of mixed mar
riages. There is documentation dealing with situations in which the mixed
couple or their children wanted to become active in their respective lewish
circles. However, a larger number of lews completely left their community once
they married out of it 10
There were also many cases in which the non-Jewish partners—by and
large women—converted to ludaism. During the 1880s there were a few cases
at CIRA. Rabbi loseph presided over short ceremonies in which the concerned
person abjured from a previous faith and adopted the lewish one." During
Rabbi Halphon's ministration at CIRA (1906-30) converts were accepted if they
submitted a letter indicating that they had decided upon the conversion of
their own free will and if they promised to educate their children in the lewish
faith. However, even if conversions were occasionally practiced at CIRA, some
of its officers were categorically opposed to them, maintaining that they were
not sincere acts since there were personal interests involved. The majority
nevertheless, argued that the country granted absolute religious freedom and
thus that the will of the individual was enough. 17
In a community where the religious and spiritual values of ludaism were


105
Mixed Marriages
becoming more and more obsolete many lews still were willing to maintain
ethnic ties with the lewish people. Thus it proved sufficient to many wanting
to marry gentile women and form a lewish home to arrange private and simple
ceremonies of conversion that had no rabbinical sanction. This caused great
confusion regarding the status of the children of these couples. Furthermore,
it denoted a relaxation of essential precepts in lewish law that was disturbing
to both secular and religious leaders in the community. For the former it
meant a deviation from the ethnic particularism of the lewish people, while for
the latter these "pseudoconversions" meant a religious legalization of mixed
marriages under a haphazard ritual disguise. There was nothing secularists
could do to cope with the situation of mixed marriages from a legal point of
view because Argentina guaranteed full freedom of association and had insti
tuted compulsory civil marriage in 1888. On the other hand, the religious lead
ership could attempt to enforce lewish religious legislation upon the lewish
community in order to prevent the situation from deteriorating even more.
Rabbi Shaul Setton of the Aleppine community in Buenos Aires, after
consultations with Rabbi Aharon Goldman of Moisesville, issued a herem, or
ban, on all proselytism in Argentina in the mid-l920s. The exchange of letters
between these two religious authorities in the country, as well as words of
approval of their action by other rabbis, were printed in Setton's Dibber Shaul.
Besides announcing their ban on proselytization in the country "forever," Set-
ton and Goldman gave honest descriptions of what, in their eyes, was a deep
religious crisis among lews in Argentina. In the words of Goldman: I * * * * * * * * * * * 13
I received your fervent and impassioned words, reflecting the glow of the
fiery law. I was stunned and shocked by the dreadful report on the state of
affairs in the land, the shameful situation of those men who have thrown
off the yoke of Heaven They have taken to themselves foreign wives and
have begotten with them children. Then, to cover up their hasty actions,
they wish to have them accepted by the community as converts to ludaism
so that they may be included in the Congregation of Israel. Regarding your
description I became excited and frightened. I was previously consulted on
a similar state of affairs in Paraguay, Entre Rios and elsewhere. I responded
to them at length. Heaven forbid we do such things which are forbidden by
the teachings of our holy Torah.
From the references to the halakhic sources which we presented on
the question in point it will be that. . in consequence of their trespasses
they put themselves outside of the community and attach themselves to
something akin to idolatry. . Who will be so gullible as to trust their mo
tives. since all their gestures and demands of conversion are nothing but
an attempt of whitewashing and irresponsibility, in order to obtain reli
gious sanction? ...
In summing up all the arguments we issue a strict warning to these
uncontrolled persons lest they think that by simply pronouncing the mar
riage formula "Be thou betrothed unto me in keeping with the traditions of
Moses and Israel," over an alien woman, or by just removing the preputial
stigma from their alien children they have introduced and initiated them
into the covenant of Israel However, if the gentile adult or these chil
dren. when they grow up, will come before us, and in complete sincerity
and out of their own free will seek admission to ludaism without any ulter-


106
)ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
ior motive, and only after each case has been properly investigated by a
duly qualified rabbinical court, we shall not reject them.
These unprincipled offenders, however, call for stern measures; we
are impelled to restrict them all around, to reinforce the fence within and
without, to keep them at a distance from us and from our sacred institu
tions. Neither they nor their like shall constitute the Congregation of
lacob.
Hacham Setton added, 14
Life in this city IBuenos Aires| is exceedingly unrestrained, and everyone
does what he pleases; there is no rabbinical authority to be minded and
respected, neither a governmentally appointed rabbi nor a rabbi main
tained by the lewish community itself. Hence, anyone who so desires takes
an alien woman for his wife without her being converted; or he chooses
individuals at random (to serve as witnesses] and “converts" her in their
presence. And they have children who do not qualify |as |ews|, though
their natural lewish fathers claim that they were converted. If anyone asks
them: in whose presence did this conversion take place? they counter bra
zenly: who has appointed you |as judge over us|? .. He keeps his alien
wife, begets children whose status is like their mother's, to be absorbed by
the Gentiles.
I prepared a ruling and forwarded it together with the cited opinion
of Rabbi Aharon Halevi |Goldman] to Rabbi loseph Yadid Halevi, president
of the Aleppo community Rabbinical Court in lerusalem. The latter en
dorsed our judgment .1 disseminated announcements that it is forever
forbidden to accept converts in Argentina, for the various reasons en
dorsed by the three of us.... Whoever wishes to be converted may travel
to lerusalem; perhaps the court there will accept the applicant.
The ban was published with the written consent of both the Sephardi
and Ashkenazi chief rabbis of Palestine—lacob Meir and Abraham Isaac Kook
respectively—and Rabbi ludah Leib Zirelson of Kishinev, a founder of Agudat
Israel. In spite of the backing of these renowned Jewish authorities, the ban
had an effect only in those reduced and limited circles that were under the
surveillance of a rabbinical leader. Furthermore, it is impossible to measure
the preventive role this ban played in the large Jewish population of Buenos
Aires in the years immediately after it was issued.
The ban's major influence was exerted in the Aleppine lewish institu
tions in Buenos Aires. This is confirmed by the changes made in their Statutes.
Before the ban was promulgated all members were required to be Sephardic
lews not younger than eighteen years and of good reputation, while after the
ban the requirements included having Jewish parents. 15
The Comunidad Israelita Sefaradf of Turkish lews signed an agreement
with Hesed Schel Emeth Sefaradit in 1930, by which the latter sold part of their
cemetery in Ciudadela to the former The Aleppine lews required from their
Turkish coreligionists to submit all cases of lews in their community married
to gentiles to a Bet Din (Religious Court) of the Aleppine community that
would judge "according with a book edited by Rabbi Shaul Setton Dabbah '' 16
The status of these mixed marriages, as well as the status of the children born
to them and who were circumcised, remained unclear. In 1932 concerned offi-


107
Mixed Marriages
cials at the Comunidad Israelita Sefaradi demanded the formation of a Bet Din
to solve "the cases of weddings and circumcisions of the mixed families in our
community formed many years ago " 17
The Aleppine and the Turkish communities—and it stands to reason
also the Damascene one.—in Buenos Aires officially rejected proselytism in
the country. The only way open for a lew of these communities who desired to
marry a gentile was either to form a mixed family and thus be excluded from
his community or to convert out of ludaism. Due to the ban, a conversion by a
rabbi or at a private ceremony would still not open the doors for the couple in
the community of the Jewish-born partner. The knowledge of this communal
reaction may have exerted weighty pressure on many young lews and dis
suaded them from making the move that would mark their separation from
their community. But the ban did not succeed in preventing mixed marriages;
it only guaranteed that the mixed families would not become part of the lew
ish people. Moreover, the peremptory character of the ban did not consider
particular cases in which a conversion ceremony would solve enormous per
sonal problems in many families; this needed a more humane approach, not a
ban that did not admit exceptions.
Persistent opposition to Rabbi Setton's dictum continued even among
the Syrian lews in Buenos Aires. The issue was formally reopened in 1937 upon
the return trip of Rabbi Hiskia Shabetay to Argentina. Rabbi Shabetay, who
had presided over the community of Aleppo for eighteen years (1909-27) and
was now a leader of the Sephardic Rabbinate in lerusalem, studied the matter
and wrote long Responsa analyzing the legality of the ban. He also consulted
with Rabbi Isaac Herzog, chief rabbi of Palestine, and Rabbi Tzvi Pesah Frank,
chief rabbi of lerusalem, regarding the legality of declaring void even the con
versions practiced before the ban was issued and regarding the circumcision
and lewish instruction of children born of such marriages. While these rabbis
sought to find a fair and plausible solution to these questions, their major
conclusion took into consideration the special situation rampant among Jews
in Buenos Aires. They recommended to maintain the prohibition, even retro
actively. In those cases Rabbi Shabetay proposed a reconversion ceremony in
Buenos Aires under the surveillance of a special envoy from the rabbinical
courts in lerusalem, while Rabbi Frank insisted on the need of those who
wanted to "legalize" their conversion to do so in lerusalem, as stated earlier in
Rabbi Setton's original declaration. Moreover, the children born of these
unions should not be deprived of a lewish education. In a communication to
the whole lewish community of Buenos Aires in 1938 Rabbi Shabetay declared
that "it is forbidden to estrange these children; even more, it is a command
ment [mitzvah] to bring them under the wings of the Divine Presence." 18
These influential rabbinic endorsements of Rabbi Setton's decree en
couraged the leadership of the Aleppine community in Buenos Aires to make
another major effort to bring the situation under control and to exert stronger
influence over rabbis and individuals who did not observe the ban. In 1938
they published a booklet with the halachk (legal) opinions of the chief rabbis of
Palestine and the heads of the rabbinical courts of the Sephardi, Ashkenazi,


108
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
and Aleppine communities in lerusalem, as well as the heads of the rabbinical
court of the city of Aleppo. 19 Neither the original ban nor the fresh endorse
ments put an end to mixed marriages or stopped conversions to Judaism in
Buenos Aires. On the contrary, the efforts of certain sectors in various of the
local lewish groups to enforce the ban indicate that unions between lews and
non-lews continued being a reality
The Moroccan lewish community in Buenos Aires did not accept
Hacham Shaul Setton's legislation for the whole lewish population in Argen
tina. During the first half of the 1930s conversions and wedding ceremonies in
which one of the partners was a convert were performed at CIL.
In lanuary 1936, as a reaction to this situation, a group of sixty-seven of
the most concerned members of CIL presented to the board the following
petition: 20
The undersigned, reckoning the extraordinary importance that the prob
lem of assimilation is obtaining daily among the members of the commu
nity, and, considering, that even not taking into account religious precepts,
which prohibit and confine within narrow limits the conversion of persons
of other beliefs, there are secular bases |for it| such as:
1. Vehement doubts arise immediately about the firmness of the convic
tions of those who abjure from the beliefs their parents impressed upon
them, and
2. That in the present hour the recrudescence of the antisemitic persecu
tions compel us to maintain the community united, without defections
of any type.
They accordingly proposed
i That from this date on it is positively prohibited to the First Sexton
|Oficiante|. or any other employee of the Society, being liable to be fired
in case of non-compliance, to perform conversions or bless marriages
of converted persons
ii. Hereafter any member who officiates at conversions or who gives his
consent to a marriage with a converted person or belonging to a differ
ent religion will be declared source of dishonor for the Society, and thus
be passible to the extremes of Article 12 of our Statutes |expulsions|.
The head of the family shall be regarded as a consenting person.
The petition was accepted by a General Assembly of the institution. It
should be emphasized that the petition itself was not prompted by a concern
with religious practices Religious prohibitions to mixed marriages are men
tioned en passant in the exposition of the problem. It stressed, however, sec
ular reasons such as difficulties adapting to lewish values by the converts and
the need to unite the lewish people when antisemitism was the sign of the
time not only on the international scene but also in Argentina. The attitude of
the Moroccan lewish community in Buenos Aires can clearly be extended to
larger sectors of the Jewish population in the country: a ban with a definite
religious character, which was issued to prevent religious transgressions, was
seriously considered only by a limited group and was redressed in a secular


109
Mixed Marriages
frame and accepted by wider circles when the continuity of the people was
menaced. A religious dictum obtained additional relevance when it applied to
an ethnic issue, thus making it manifest that lewish identity was being ex
pressed more along ethnic rather than religious lines.
Mixed marriages and conversions were a growing problem in the lewish
community during the 1920s. The leadership noticed it, but only a few of the
religious authorities of weight could and did try to remedy the situation. They
sought and attained endorsements of higher authorities overseas, but locally
their influence was confined to reduced groups, notably the Syrian communi
ties, and limited elements of other sectors of the Jewish population. Moreover,
the unclear policy in many institutions regarding mixed families evinces that
the religious aspects of the situation were only secondary to the ethnic as
pects.


First synagogue of Congregation Israelita, built in 1897.


Congressman Enrique Dick-
mann speaking. Seated, with
moustache, is Alfredo Palacios,
also a Socialist congressman and
leader.
Interior of Congregacion Israeli
tes first synagogue.


Cigarette vendor, early 1900.


■C,,,.rSnd.'U*.
o/Lti rrut J. * A -cTif c.4 eda.cC
**•4 fit /• A »^'#rH At 4i Aatfa /* cti
hi la. $*+A\cJa4 Sc. i\6*c emtio. 4udTuo/++%tolt~ iff ms
Wivrw v * ' <?**£ aim ftn£jZ> *nni*. <*/***»£
' frmLcdod turu. ****** (£*/yto *fx.lt, lya dtndt Sc
educate** cUuft, e/ //de c/lt<{ eXt d l /m /%e$ fa l**ry
Cailelfet »*4 tit,, r
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w/ Krw*uvtx. I j£, X. <dm-~*cC\ *** l*d*l ‘/$r&l++3'.
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$ K++J de /a ^ 4fc^-'S.
- ^-W / edfay * cO /S9J*
CftA4< ccuadt. — J. *T
/< -hud*, -U. "
Report of La Union Obrera Is
raelite /or tAe six-month period
from November 1, 1897, to May
1, 1898.
Cover of the humorous journal
Penimer un Penimlach o/
MarcA 26, 1924. TAe Jorge
caricature is of writer Alberto
Gerchunoff.


Max Glucksmann.
During the Semana Trdgica


* LA i C C I E D A d
/W . w )un J, irutruiiiSn J xlor R^, l£u ,.
fr\ierc3iis. c&npuetta cast intciramentc par tcncbra\as
II I IS I A L 11) N AI PC€CEI€
/ j, mi c*; i a m<. ion**. Jtn£iJas enfrfica y hihltturnle
permittee n j.’rf'tVtJiT u imj An KVift/iii/i’J nuis
Miguel Klaimen.
Eaihrr K..hn, U mitUi
do» por lot dirigrntra
At hill Mattofaky.
Miuricio Steinberg
Arrest of individuals involved
in white slave traffic. From
Caras y Caretas, june 7,
1930.
Leaders of the lewish Com
munity visit retiring Director
of Immigration juan A. Al-
sina on December 18, 1910.
(Left to right, front) M.
Sigal, David Elkin, Alsina,
Rabbi Joseph, and Dr. Ale
jandro Zabotinsky. (Back)
Naum Enquin, lacobo Jose-
levich, Arnoldo Elkin.


AIewisfi furniture workshop, Tulipan, 1927.
Jdairicula Y ...
45s a’rnx.Tioan
Soseidad P{>ajtjosas Orjim
J/farjuqfeneton para pobres Jsraelitas
460-LIBBRTAO-466
por v:e: de
President*.
///'///
Member card in the union of furniture workers.


Receipt from Hachnosas Orchim, 1920s.
IIV
(0 UNICO Cl OBREROS EN iwAUt
ilA )
i \tr
>rc daria: RIVAUAVIA 396 r >
V. T.&2, MITRE 6138
».OCAI.ES L'E HAKPIO
>v. I IUAL WOJ y ALVARADO 1965
NV 1014
I
El compafiero
: r (« en condiciones para trabajar en el taller d(
Cal/e
— ——-—>
\JL ci v
co i qJ % c
UBLlCACIOiv


110
National and
Political
Challenges
The Beginnings of the Zionist Parties
On November 2, 1917, the Balfour Declaration,
viewing with favor the establishment of a lewish National Home in Palestine,
produced a great impact among Argentine Jewry. Various sectors of the com
munity—-at the time far from the national aspirations of the Jewish people—
were shaken by the announcement Even the then small community of lews
who had arrived from Syria—both Damascus and Aleppo—which a few
months before the Declaration had started a periodical in Arabic with news
about their institutions and other short articles felt the necessity of devoting
an issue almost completely to the developments in Palestine Thus several
articles on Palestine and the Jews appeared; others on General Allenby, Theo
dore Herzl, agriculture among the Jews, and even the pogroms of 1881 in Rus
sia completed the issue 1 Even if the impact of the Balfour Declaration was
short-lived among the Arab-speaking Jews in Buenos Aires—they were still
quite far from playing a role in local Zionism—the event served to keep their
Zionist sentiments awake.
Dr. Enrique Dickmann, a Russian-born Jew who rose to prominence as
one of the main leaders of the Socialist party in Argentina, was affected by the
Balfour Declaration on quite a different level. Dickmann at the time had almost
forgotten his boyhood yearnings for Zion. 2 However, he was induced to write
an article entitled "Zionism and Socialism," first printed in Vida Nuestra in Oc
tober 1918. Writing exclusively as a socialist identified with Argentina, Dick-


National and Political Challenges
mann maintained that his party had already accepted the principle of nation
alities as one of the postulates of international socialism He thus viewed
Zionism with sympathetic eyes. 3
The Balfour Declaration did not constitute the first impulse for Zionist
work in Argentina. Organized Zionist activities had been going on there for
already twenty years. On August 12, 1897, when news arrived from Europe an
nouncing the impending meeting of a Zionist Congress in Basle, a few lews in
Buenos Aires decided to found a Hovevei Zion group.
During the first twenty years (1897-1917) the Zionist movement in Ar
gentina remained a limited one. Far from being a popular cause, it could be
portrayed as the pastime of a few idealistic lews with some lewish knowledge.
However, in spite of the many internal strifes between leaders of the different
groups and organizations that were being founded and, many times, closed
after a short span, the ideas behind Zionist propaganda began to attract the
attention of more and more lews both in the capital city of Buenos Aires and
in the provinces.
The Federacion Sionista Argentina (FSA) of 1913 was founded after a
hard-fought battle for recognition by Zionist headquarters in Europe between
two different groups in Buenos Aires, the Liga Dr. Herzl and Tiferet Zion. 4 la
cobo Liachovitzky, who headed the former, had been with one of the Hovevei
Zion groups that in 1891 had attempted to establish themselves in Palestine.
This group was stopped at the doors of Constantinople and through the ser
vices of the lewish Colonization Association, recently founded by Baron Mau
rice de Hirsch, was diverted to the lewish colonies in the Entre Rios province
in Argentina. Analogously, lacobo loselevich, leader of Tiferet Zion, was an ar
dent and passionate Hovev Zion from Lithuania, who had later moved to
Odessa and Warsaw before establishing himself permanently in Buenos Aires.
He was influenced by Leib Lilienblum and especially Ahad Ha'Am. The mem
bership in these two Zionist organizations was of similar stock. Tiferet Zion,
being constituted by more liberal and active forces, was recognized in 1909 as
representative of Argentine Zionism by the Zionist Organization in Europe,
and formed the FSA at a congress of all Zionist groups in 1913. The activities
of the FSA were also limited. Up to World War 1 its main concerns were organiz
ing propaganda meetings to spread Zionist goals, collecting funds, and found
ing new Zionist groups
A new wave of immigrants from Russia, imbued with the liberal ideas
rampant among wider groups of lews, arrived after the abortive revolution of
1905. They founded Zionist groups with the ideals they had imported with
them from their home countries. Thus already in 1906 a Poale Zionist (Labor
Zionist) society was established in Buenos Aires Their activities, in what for
years remained a small group, were limited to raising money for the organiza
tion of libraries in the capital and later in some provincial cities and colonies
where lewish workers met and discussed topics related to their ideology. They
also fought against the lewish white slave dealers in Argentina and finally,
under the initiative of Leon Chazanovich, attempted to defend the interests of


lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
the lewish colonists in the ICA colonies against the abuses of the administra
tion. A publication, Broit un Ehre (Bread and Honor), was published in 1910, of
which only a few numbers appeared, in that same year, however, the Poale
Zionists were deprived of the participation and active leadership of both Cha-
zanovich and Zalman Sorkin, who were expelled from the country in a "depur
ation" effected by the Argentine government of workers' ringleaders who might
blur the celebrations of the country's first centenary.’
World War I almost completely stopped the Atlantic migrations for four
years, in particular, it interrupted the flow of lewish immigrants who were leav
ing Eastern Europe searching for a haven in the Americas. 6 The lewish com
munity in the country was still relatively young and in constant need of new
blood from the old country. This was due to the lack of inner cohesiveness in
the lewish community and to the failure of the lewish leadership, so far as it
existed, to establish conditions within the community that would induce the
lewish immigrants to participate in the building of institutional life within the
lewish sphere and not elsewhere. The war also touched directly upon Zionist
institutions in Argentina because the organizations became isolated from the
centers of world Zionism in Europe, a fact that "demoralized the limited num
bers of Zionists" in Argentina. 7 Furthermore, the Russian lewish immigrants
usually brought added strength to the lewish national movement because
they had been in contact with and also worked for Zionism before migrating.
The war deprived the ranks of Argentine Zionism of this new addition.
During the first years of the war the FSA busied itself with two quite
important enterprises: (1) It organized, together with other lewish officials in
the community, the Comite Central to help lewish war victims—throughout
the country funds were collected and sent through lewish international orga
nizations to those in need of aid in the countries at war (cf. ch. 8): (2) The FSA
was responsible for the First Argentine lewish Congress, which met in Buenos
Aires on February 26-29, 1916.® Both these activities were strongly related to
Zionism. Of course, help to persecuted and homeless lews did not end with
the signing of peace. It continued being an argument in favor of the endeavors
of Zionists.
The First Argentine lewish Congress, on the other hand, had greater po
litical importance. It constituted the response of the lews in Argentina to the
idea of Luigi Luzzatti, ex-minister of finance and prime minister in Italy, who
already during the first stages of the war contemplated the possibility of a
lewish representation at the eventual Peace Conference. At that opportunity
the lewish delegation should have the backing of as many lewish communities
as possible, in order to give validity to their claims’ The Argentine lews, called
by the FSA, were among the first to take heed of Luzzatti's general call, and
decided upon the following resolutions: 10 (1) lews should have equal rights
with other citizens in the countries where they live; (2) where lews constitute
the majority of the population they should enjoy recognized national rights:
and (3) those lews who want to settle in Palestine should be given broad and
unlimited rights to migrate and occupy land autonomously, with power to gov
ern. On May 23, 1919, on the occasion of the Paris Peace Treaty, the FSA sent


113
National and Political Challenges
telegrams to the Committee of Jewish Delegations there, as well as to Georges
Clemenceau and Woodrow Wilson, in support of the 1916 Congress's resolu
tions."
A period of fundamental Zionist activities in Argentina was inaugurated
in 1917. During the first weeks of the year the FSA asked the Zionist Organiza
tion in the United States to send a propagandist to awaken the lewish popu
lation in the country to the national lewish aspirations. The leaders of the FSA
considered, nearly one year before the Balfour Declaration, that the time was
ripe for tighter organization and that there were good possibilities of spread
ing the "idea'' among wider circles of the lewish population in all corners of
the country, even in neighboring republics. It is to the credit of the FSA that it
was decided to invite Dr. Baer Epstein from the United States to tour the Jew
ish communities in Argentina as a Zionist envoy. The efforts and achievements
of Epstein on behalf of Zionism were substantial, from his arrival in March
1917 until his departure early in 1919. The number of branches affiliated to the
FSA rose, as did the amount of money collected and the people working for
the cause. Epstein's stay added prestige to the FSA among the rest of the lews
in the country.' 2
The Balfour Declaration and England's involvement in the Palestine area
during the latter part of World War 1 produced a realignment of the relations
between lews all over the world and His Majesty's government. The FSA, ac
cordingly, made immediate contacts with the British embassy in Buenos Aires
and received a favorable reply from Sir Reginald Tower, the British minister in
Argentina. During his stay in Buenos Aires Tower maintained good relations
with the Jews and on several occasions visited different lewish organizations
in various localities throughout the country. However, as we shall see below,
this special situation of the British minister vis-a-vis the lews widened the
conflicts between different sectors of the lewish community, particularly in ref
erence to leadership in and representation of the lewish community.”
For the period starting in 1917 up to 1930, leadership in Zionist activi
ties in Argentina was held, by and large, by lews born in Eastern Europe. Many
of the initial founders of the FSA in 1913 continued at its head during the
1920s. It was during this decade, furthermore, that some young lews, including
professionals, held leading positions within the FSA. The majority of the latter
were foreign-born, though they had studied at the universities in Argentina
and had received a strong Hebrew and Zionist education both in their old
home and in their new homes across the Atlantic. But overweighing the few
physicians and lawyers, Zionist leadership was held by successful manufactur
ers and merchants. The East European background of these lews is evident
from the enormous proportions of letters written in Yiddish. On the other
hand, the Zionist atmosphere they had been trained in emanates from the
Hebrew correspondence with the centers in lerusalem and Europe. Though
small in number, it was this nucleus of educated and enthusiastic Zionists that
was responsible for gaining the support for national ideals, in accordance with
the Basle program and the Zionist Organization directives, among lews in Ar
gentina, as well as in some of the neighboring countries.


114
lewish Buenos Aires. 1890-1930
The Poale Zion group, or Zionists with a socialist ideology, had been
operating in a reduced way after 1910. It underwent a sudden revival in 1918,
due mainly to the Balfour Declaration, which enforced its national leanings,
and to the international events during the last stages of the war, especially the
new political developments in Austria and Germany and the Russian Revolu
tion. 14 In addition to these factors we must emphasize the effect of the work of
Marcos (Mordechai) Regalsky, the Poale Zionist delegate who arrived in Argen
tina in 1918. Regalsky was responsible for many of the achievements of this
group, which, in addition to its followers in Buenos Aires and major cities in
the provinces, was able to enroll in its ranks young lews from the colonies.
At the end of 1919 the first assembly of Poale Zion delegates was held.
This convention, to which delegates from all important centers attended, laid
down the groundwork for the founding of the lewish Socialist Workers' Party
Poale Zion in Argentina with a sociopolitical and national platform. Already at
their second meeting in 1921, the Poale Zionists in Argentina were divided
along the same lines as the World Union of Poale Zion movement The latter
had split in 1920 over the issue of joining the Third (Communist) International.
The resolution in Argentina favored remaining with the rightist world associa
tion of Poale Zion by a vote of 238 against 153, with two abstentions. With the
departure of the leftist Poale Zionists, the movement was deprived of many
active forces. The division weakened the movement, which during the previous
three years had been very active. The two popular schools created by Poale
Zion in Buenos Aires—Folks Shul in Villa Crespo and Ber Borochov in the
center of town—remained in the hands of the leftists after the division.’ 5
The rightist Poale Zion, as its name indicates, was a Zionist socialist
workers' organization In their struggle for socialist ideals these lewish workers
believed that the way to a socialist society was different for lews than for oth
ers. Only a people living independently in its own land could form a healthy
proletariat In particular, the lewish proletariat could only be strengthened
within its independent boundaries. Their special political aspirations, geared
to form a socialist society in Palestine, were made clear even prior to the 1921
split. When the Peace Conference after World War 1 was to receive a lewish
delegation, Poale Zion made an appeal to all lewish workers in Argentina for
an independent representation of Poale Zion at the conference. 16 Moreover,
their practical aim, when spreading their ideology among the lewish proletar
iat in Argentina, was the collection of money for the Palestinian Workers' Fund
(PAF). Within the context of the world Poale Zion movement, the collections in
Argentina were of major importance. For the period April 1924-January 1926
the sums collected for PAF in Argentina were second only to those assembled
in the United States and surpassed those of England, France, and Eastern
Galicia. 17 After 1923 the PAF campaigns were strengthened by visits of dele
gates from the Palestinian Flistadrut (Labor Federation). 18
The rightist Poale Zionists in Argentina were concerned with the im
provement of the situation of all workers, and their periodical Di Neie Zeit
(started 1918) contained constant references to the progress of workers' move
ments all over the world, in Argentina and Palestine in particular In this re-


115
National and Political Challenges
spect they were in close ties with the Socialist party in the country and openly
supported the Socialist candidates in all elections in Argentina. 19
In line with their Labor Zionist position, the rightist Poale Zion platform
for the Fifteenth Zionist Congress of 1927 included demands for active support
of lewish colonization and help by creating jobs for the unemployed in Pales
tine The Zionist budget had to give preferential consideration to these as
pects Furthermore, national funds should not help private enterprises in any
way. Cultural projects, not religious ones, were to be emphasized. 20
Early in 1919 a group of dissenting Zionists seceded from the FSA and
formed an independent branch of Zeire Zion. Most of the founders of Zeire
Zion had been active in Tiferet Zion, which was composed of younger Zionists,
including many workers, who were interested in a more active organization
with more radical goals, including aliyafi (immigration to Palestine) and con
quest of labor in Palestine. 21 Already during the Fourth Zionist Land Confer
ence held in Buenos Aires during February 23-26, 1918, the Tiferet Zion mem
bers were strongly opposed to the direction given by the FSA to the last
Emergency Campaign for the lews in Palestine (1917). At a certain point the
representatives of Tiferet Zion left the Conference, though they did not sever
their affiliation with the Zionist Organization On May 1, 1918 a proclamation
was launched, announcing the formation of a new branch of Zeire Zion. The
founders themselves had only a vague idea of what it meant to be part of the
Zeire Zion movement, for the war years had cut the Argentine lewish commu
nity from much news of Europe, in particular with respect to social and politi
cal directions of the Zionist movement. The forty-three persons who signed
this proclamation concurred that the Balfour Declaration had opened a new
era for the lews. They foresaw an epoch of more democratic work in lewish
institutions, in particular among Zionists. The era of dependence on the
Rothschilds, the |CA, and the like was over; lews should rely more on the
masses At present the leaders were removed from the lewish masses; the folk
was forgotten: "The leaders in the Zionist movement know how to ask the
masses to give for our high purpose, but never ask them to do as well.” 22
The basic intentions of this new group were not separatist. They ac
cepted the basis of the Basle program, recognized the World Zionist Con
gresses and their resolutions, especially the lewish National Fund, but op
posed autocracy in the movement, mainly from the rich elements in lewry.
Their motto was to defend the democratic spirit in the Zionist Organization,
and their purpose was to give the Zionist movement a popular character and
to democratize the institutions in Palestine 23
They formulated their program in the following eleven points:
1. Propagandize among the lewish masses the necessity of immediate
and direct work for Palestine, of founding a Pioneers' Fund and Pioneers'
Groups, and of organizing industrial cooperatives, etc....
2. Create in Argentina a special information bureau for opportunities in
Eretz Israel
3 Systematize the collections for Zionist funds


116
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
4. Help organize here |Argentina! the lewish communal institutions.
5 Democratize and modernize the already existing ones.
6. Propagandize among the lewish population the necessity of taking
an active part in the political life of the country.
7. Propagandize for the founding of loans and saving chests, mutual
credit, and insurance companies against unemployment, sickness and death
8. Strengthen the organization of the lewish population with profes
sions and employments.
9 Agitate in favor of the use of the Hebrew language in daily life.
10. Spread and support Hebrew literature.
11. Help found Hebrew libraries, kindergartens, and schools.
In spite of all the glamour that the proclamation seemed to throw into the
Zionist camp in Argentina, the Zeire Zion faction did not do too much in the
way of adding new blood to the movement. 24 It did not spread out of Buenos
Aires, except for a group formed in Basavilbaso, Entre Rios. Precisely this fac
tor helps us understand the formation of Zeire Zion. First, it is evident that it
rose against the establishment in the Zionist movement, the FSA. The fact that
it did not take roots in places without a numerous lewish, and in particular
Zionist, population shows that ideological differences were not fundamental
in the split, at least not as fundamental as the will to oppose the present
leaders and inject new life into the Zionist movement. Second, Zeire Zion did
not have a separatist position in Zionist affairs, as Poale Zion had. This pre
vented them from presenting a novel platform, except for the fact that they
considered themselves more capable than the FSA people to do practically the
same things.
The reaction at FSA was strong, both as a response to the challenge and
as an attempt to minimize the new organization's importance. At the very be
ginning loselevich, the FSA president, could not understand their complaints
and called for unity. 25 In letters to the Zionist Organization in Europe FSA
wrote that the new faction of Zeire Zion "does not really know what to do ... ,
(however!, we see a peril for our movement, because it has brought anarchy,
less discipline, and disorder." 26 Though they ridiculed Zeire Zion, they saw in it
a threat. This threat became stronger when the Zionist Organization in Copen
hagen responded that it recognized the new faction. FSA was thus forced to
protest to Copenhagen, mentioning that this official recognition by the Zionist
Organization of the Zeire Zion "will produce more divisions and factions ," 27
During the first few years, however, Zeire Zion was not extremely active.
Its main Zionist activities of that period were the initiative of organizing a
group of legionaries to fight with the Allied armies in Palestine and the reso
lution to collect 100,000 pesos for a cooperative colony in Palestine to colo
nize Argentine lews. Among those who left with the legionaries were a few
Zeire Zion leaders, thus restricting the movement. Moreover, the campaign for
the colony in Palestine, which was launched on the first anniversary of the
Balfour Declaration, on November 2, 1918, was not successful. According to
Zeire Zion's own version, besides the grippe epidemic at the time, the main


117
National and Political Challenges
reason for only collecting 10,000 pesos in place of 100,000 was the opposition
of the FSA to such an independent initiative. 28 But we should also look for the
causes of the failure of this campaign in the Zeire Zion organization itself. The
FSA might have made a vacuum around the project, but Zeire Zion lacked an
important element in that their own goals were unclear in their differences
with the FSA. Moreover, settling in Palestine was not in the minds of more
than a few Zionists in Argentina, even of those who had moved there with the
ultimate intention of migrating later to Palestine.
On the other hand, antisemitic manifestations in Argentina had been
quite sporadic. Only two months after this issue, during the Semana Tragica of
lanuary 1919, lews, in somewhat larger numbers, inquired at the FSA's offices
about opportunities and economic conditions in Palestine. 29
The failure, quite immediately after, of colonizing most of the volunteers
to the lewish Legion from the Americas, was a confirmation of the fact that
settling the Biblical Land was still something for the future for the majority of
the lews. 50 Thus the colonization fund did not sufficiently attract the lews in
Argentina, especially, when sponsored, as it was, by an organization competing
with FSA, on which they relied.
When Poale Zion in Argentina invited Zeire Zion to join their committee
to decide about their demands to both the Peace Conference and the Socialist
International, the latter, consistent with its nonseparatist position, answered
strongly in the negative. Zeire Zion's refusal to separate demands was based
on the following reasons: (1) lews should be united in one group at Versailles:
(21 the Argentine lewish Congress of 1916 had made the attempt to unite all
lews in the country, and had decided about the action to be taken once the war
was over; (3) as part of the Zionist Organization, Zeire Zion did not feel free to
make any political move without its approval. Moreover, they deemed sending
Poale Zion’s demands to the Peace Conference as injurious because it could
deprive the Zionist Organization of its role as a unique representative of lewry.
On the other hand, sending demands to the Socialist International was impos
sible because not all sectors of lewry recognized the International. 51 The ex
change of letters with Poale Zion, as well as the formal declaration of their
position regarding the lewish postures at the Peace Conference, are telling
arguments for the vague position Zeire Zion had, at least during the first years,
among Zionists in Argentina. Poale Zionists saw in it a group with proletarian
leanings that might approach their own position. On the other hand, FSA saw
in it a group without real principles, leading a personal fight. At the Fifth Land
Conference (November 1-6, 1919) FSA resolved that there was no reason for
the faction and that Zeire Zion had no justified existence. They demanded that
Zeire Zion stay within the Zionist Organization. 52
Only in 1922, with the influx of new immigrants from Eastern Europe,
who instilled new energies into the local organization, did Zeire Zion become
more active. At this time they started contacts with the same movement in
Europe. Deliberations were held over the question whether to become formal
members of the Zeire Zion movement in Eastern Europe. For most of the first
members of Zeire Zion in Argentina the European Organization was too far to


lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
the left. This caused, by the end of 1922, the rupture between rightist and
leftist Zeire Zion. The latter, after a short independent existence, joined the
rightist Poale Zion. On the other hand, with the departure of the leftist ele
ments, the Zeire Zion organization associated itself with the world Hitachdut
movement. 33
After World War 1 new immigrants brought new ideas to Zeire Zion in
Argentina. Among them was the organization of halutzim (Heb., "pioneers") and
their training for aliyah. With this intention Zeire Zion founded a Hechalutz
group in 1924. Most of its members lived around Berisso, an industrial town
near Buenos Aires. In lanuary 1925 nine certificates were received by Hecha
lutz, thus prompting the departure to Palestine of nine of its members. Shortly
thereafter it dissolved because of its reduced numbers and few chances in
Berisso of organizing larger lewish groups. This branch that had been formed
in Buenos Aires thus became central. 3 ' 1
Signs of a rapprochement between Poale Zion (right) and Zeire Zion
were already evident in 1929, when a group formed by members of both parties
and also of a Hug Eretzisraeli (Eretz Israel Group) joined forces to promote
among the young the ideals of Hechalutz. Furthermore, Poale Zion and Zeire
Zion, in the same year, under the initiative of Eliahu Golomb, delegate of the
Palestine Histadrut, worked jointly in the recently formed League for Palestine
Workers. It was in 1932 when finally both groups joined into the lewish Social
ist Party Poale Zion-Zeire Zion. 35
Towards the end of the 1920s the FSA and the main parties—Poale Zion
and Zeire Zion (Hitachdut)—formed a local committee (Vaad Artzi) for joint
work on behalf of the lewish National Fund (INF) and for placement of shekalim.
In spite of this committee, the results obtained by the parties were quite un
satisfactory. 36 But while both parties were able to compromise with the FSA for
the formation of a joint board for INF work, they could not accept the condi
tions offered by FSA for identical work on behalf of Keren Hayesod (Palestine
Foundation Fund). At the end of 1928 the FSA had sent an invitation to the
parties to join in the work for Keren Hayesod. Zeire Zion answered that in
a plenary session they decided not to join the FSA in this enterprise because
(1) they did not believe in the usefulness of a mixed committee for practical
work in Eretz Israel; (2) an interparty committee should be completely inde
pendent from all parties, like the one of INF (FSA had proposed the formation
of a Keren Hayesod Board dependent mainly on the General Zionists, or FSA,
and thus it would be ruled by them as it had been previously); and (3) accord
ing to the proposal of FSA the new board would have no autonomy, since the
budget would be administered by FSA, while the parties would only help in
taking the responsibilities of the budget. 37 On the other hand, Poale Zion did
not even bother to answer FSA's letters. When Solomon Pazi, envoy of Keren
Hayesod, arrived in Argentina in 1929, one of his main goals was to get the
parties to join the FSA in an autonomous board for Keren Hayesod. He had
many long discussions with members of Zeire Zion but to no avail. The latter
again demanded direct elections for the Keren Hayesod Board by individual


National and Political Challenges
donors and were opposed to the appointment of members directly by the FSA.
Furthermore, they resisted the financing of the budget of the FSA with Keren
Flayesod's money. The root of the conflict appeared to be in the Labor Zionist
parties' opposition to the financing of FSA’s local budget with monies from the
Keren Hayesod campaign. They would only enter a joint board for Keren Hay
esod when they would be guaranteed a voice in it proportionate to their
strength. 38
The Poale Zion sector had a growing influence on lewish life in Argen
tina, not only in its capital city but also in the interior and in the agricultural
colonies. The Zionist Organization in London felt the effects of Poale Zionist
work in Argentina and advised lacob (Akiva) Ettinger, envoy of Keren Hayesod,
upon his arrival in Buenos Aires in 1928, about the structure of Zionist work in
the country, emphasizing the importance of Poale Zion, a comparatively small,
but militant group.
The different ideologies of the various Zionist groups working simulta
neously in Argentina were clearly delineated when lacob Zerubavel visited the
country in 1927. Zerubavel, a leader of Poale Zion (left) in Warsaw, came to
South America to gather support for the Yiddish Schools in Poland. He re
ceived the unconditional backing of the leftist Poale Zionists, while FSA and
even Zeire Zion (Hitachdut), made war on them, arguing that Hebrew should
take precedence to Yiddish in lewish education. 39 The rightist Poale Zion did
not oppose Zerubavel's endeavors but advised its members and sympathizers
to help this action only after having finished the work for PAF. 40 The struggle
between Yiddishists and Hebraists, rampant in Eastern Europe, did not spread
to Argentina, so far as we can verify it, with the same virulence. There were
some advocates for Hebrew among FSA leaders, especially in Zeire Zion, who
organized a few Hebrew-speaking groups, and whose leaders published,
though irregularly, some Hebrew periodicals. The vast majority of Zionists,
however, utilized Yiddish more than Hebrew; and the official organs of all the
Zionist organizations—FSA, Zeire Zion (Hitachdut), Poale Zion (right), and
Poale Zion (left)—were in Yiddish. 41
After having traced the main ideologies within the Zionist camp in Ar
gentina, an evaluation of the role that Zionists and the separate Zionist ideol
ogies played within the lewish community in Argentina and the role that Ar
gentine Zionism played within the World Zionist movement seems pertinent.
In order to assess the role of Zionism within Argentine lewry we shall analyze
the different forces active in two events that shook the lewish community; the
formation of a lewish Legion to fight with the British armies on the Palestinian
front in 1918 and the different reactions of the various sectors of Argentine
lewry to the Semana Tragica in 1919. We shall then proceed to describe the
interaction of Zionists with other groups of lews in Argentina, for instance, the
communists, the Sephardim, and the assimilationists. Furthermore, the polit
ical weight of Argentine Zionism, its ties with the Zionist Organization, and the
way it was seen by the leaders of the movement in Europe and Palestine will


120
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
be analyzed. Finally, we shall evaluate the practical work for Zionism done in
Argentina, namely, monetary contributions, Zionist education of the masses,
and commerce with Palestine.
The lewish Legion
During the first months of 1918 several young lews in Argentina decided
to emulate the movement that was officially authorized in England in August
1917 and had stirred many Zionists in the United States a few months after
wards to constitute a lewish Legion to fight on the side of the British on the
Palestine front. Official communiques reached the British Ministry of Informa
tion reporting that young men in Moisesville, as well as in other lewish colo
nies and in Buenos Aires proper, were organizing a group of volunteers to go
to the Palestine front. 42 Individual lews and the FSA approached Ambassador
Tower for information about the procedure of the matter. Tower, due to the
unprecedented character of the request, consulted the Foreign Office in Lon
don before giving a definite reply. The FSA made contacts with the Zionist
Organization in London, which took up matters with the British government.
Nahum Sokolow conveyed the offer of the lewish community in Argentina to
provide volunteers for the British Army in Palestine to Mark Sykes. The answer,
originating from Balfour, and in the form of a letter from R. Graham, at the
Foreign Office, to Sokolow, mentioned that "the British Military Attache at His
Majesty's Legation at Buenos Aires has been informed by telegraph that these
volunteers will be accepted provided adequate credentials are forthcoming
and that they understand that the right is reserved to send these recruits else
where in the event of any individual being found on arrival to be unsuitable for
a lewish unit." 43
The group of legionaries were not that rapidly organized. Vladimir Ger
man, a twenty-five-year-old lew who had migrated six years earlier to Argen
tina, was the initiator of the lewish Legion in the country. Early in 1918 he had
been very active in Tiferet Zion. In March he approached the English minister
in Buenos Aires, who on April 2 suggested that German and his followers re
sort to the Zionist Federation in London. Later, it was agreed to meet with the
president of FSA, lacobo loselevich. Relations were not too good between the
leaders of the FSA and the group of volunteers. First, the volunteers did not
resort to the FSA at the beginning and were later hesitant to contact them.
Furthermore, FSA did not, apparently, respond enthusiastically to the project
and only at a later stage of the deliberations fully supported the legionaries. 44
This passivity of the FSA was violently attacked by Vida Nuestra, a lewish
monthly in Spanish with assimilationist tendencies but that had reacted very
favorably to the Balfour Declaration. This publication accused FSA of German-
ophilia due to the obstacles it placed in the way of the volunteers. When the
volunteers finally were able to arrange for their departure to the front, FSA
made difficulties until credit was given to it for the enterprise. 4 ’
Germanophilia, it appears, was not really the main issue for the initial
passivity of FSA. The problem was basically a financial one. The British em-


121
National and Political Challenges
bassy was not interested in sponsoring the trip of the lewish legionaries. FSA
did not offer to do it either. Finally, a committee was formed with the partici
pation of fifteen Jewish organizations from Buenos Aires and two from the
agricultural settlements of Clara and Basavilbaso in the Province of Entre Rios
to help finance the endeavor of the volunteers, most of them modest artisans
or students. The central role of this committee was played by the Congrega-
cion lsraelita de la Republica Argentina (CIRA|. Some of their more conspicu
ous members were active in raising funds for the project and contributed the
lion's share. For better or for worse, their coming into the picture angered FSA
and ushered in a long period of tense relations between both institutions and
between most of their leading members. 46
C1RA had taken the lead in May 1917 as a result of a communication
from Europe regarding the situation of the lews in Palestine during the war.
Max Nordau and Professor Abraham S. Yahuda were active in Madrid trying to
induce Spain to negotiate in favor of the lews in Palestine. Nordau was in good
relations with the Argentine ambassador in Madrid, Marco M. Avellaneda. The
latter assured Nordau of his cooperation and his readiness to speak about the
matter with the Argentine minister of foreign relations. He also recommended
that the lews make contacts with government officials in Argentina. At this
point Nordau cabled Rabbi Halphon of CIRA to organize such a movement
among Argentine lews. Nordau's contact with Halphon and not with the FSA
gave CIRA an additional mark of prestige in the eyes of the lews there. Hal
phon, therefore, presided over the delegation that spoke with Dr. Francisco
Beiro, a congressman belonging to the Radical party in power at the time, and
on |une 4, 1917, spoke with Hipolito Yrigoyen, the president of the nation.
Later the minister of foreign relations notified the delegation that the Yri
goyen administration had agreed to the petition of the lews and had advised
the ambassador in Madrid to support Spain's negotiations in favor of the lews
in Palestine. 47
Again in 1918 members of the board of CIRA came in contact with the
legionaries and upon learning of the financial problems of the group, suc
ceeded in having the treasury of CIRA authorize the sum of 3,950 pesos and 50
British pounds for expenses. In the meantime Rabbi Halphon started to work
in favor of Zionist ideals, especially at public functions concerning the lewish
Legion being formed in the country. 48 What is more, through the services of
Halphon, and due to the good name CIRA enjoyed in the lewish communities
of France and England, 49 it was finally achieved from the British embassy that
Halphon, and only he, could extend the official identity certificates to the le
gionaries, by stamping the rabbinate's seal on them. CIRA also organized a
farewell ceremony for the legionaries at the Coliseo Theater, in which in the
presence of all diplomatic representatives from the allied countries and with
major repercussions in the Argentine press, a Zionist flag was given to "the
lewish legionaries who are leaving, offering their lives.. The first flag to wave
in the battlefields side by side with the glorious colors of the allied ar
mies. .. ." ,0
The first contingent of fifty volunteers left Buenos Aires on October 4,


122
]ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
1918. There were about one hundred more volunteers ready to leave for En
gland and Palestine when the armistice made their participation unnecessary.
In the booklet issued in commemoration of their departure we find short bio
graphical details of the first group. All of them were born in Eastern Europe
and most were between twenty and thirty years old. They had been in the
country from four to ten years in 1918. In other words, they had left Russia
between the revolt of 1905 and World War I. Some belonged to the lower-
middle-class Zionist societies in Buenos Aires—Tiferet Zion and the recently
constituted Zeire Zion—and even more were active in Poale Zion and other
workers' circles. 51 lust as the larger groups in the United States and Canada,
the legionaries movement in Argentina had a Zionist and popular character. It
was inspired by a strong belief in Zionism on the part of the East European
youth. Furthermore, even if Argentina remained neutral throughout the war—
both during the administration of Victorino de la Plaza (1914-16) and the first
term of the Radical leader Yrigoyen (1916-22)—the country was divided be
tween neutralistas and rupturistas vis-a-vis the European conflagration. The lews,
by and large, favored the Allies. With the fall of tsarism in Russia, the Russian
lews in Argentina could more freely side with the "Entente" powers, thus re
moving all doubts in the minds of ardent Zionists about fighting on the Pales
tinian front. 52
The episode of the lewish Legion revealed that many groups were open
to Zionist ideals, including the members of CIRA, usually depicted by the East
European lews as the Temple of the rich, the elite among the lews, who were
considered assimilationists. In matters of religion they certainly were not
among the most observant lews, and the Zionist idea did not especially appeal
to them, though they never discouraged it. For these reasons, the East Euro
pean lews, among them the Zionists, preferred to refer to them as Yahudim, the
same way German and other West European lews were referred to by their East
European coreligionists in the Old World. 53 CIRA became involved in the issue
of the legionaries, thus demonstrating that they could be concerned with Zi
onist endeavors. However, FSA saw a threat in the way CIRA was gaining pres
tige in Zionist circles abroad. The whole episode throws light on some of the
concerns of FSA, which repeatedly requested from the Zionist Organization in
London not to grant so much prestige to CIRA at the expense of FSA. 54
Through the ministration of the Zionist Organization, FSA finally was recog
nized by the British government as the representative of all Zionists in South
America, by means of a letter from the minister of foreign relations, dated lune
7, 1919, London. 55
There were two main issues related to FSA's prestige and ascendancy
that bothered its leadership. On the one hand they were in constant competi
tion for hegemony in the local lewish community, while on the other hand,
they were forever trying to attract more attention from the Zionist World Head
quarters, an attention that, as we shall see, was mainly based on the financial
worth of the community. The above-mentioned British recognition had the ef
fect of a momentary balm for their complaints. It conceded the FSA some po
litical power, bestowed upon them by the nation that was now in control of


123
National and Political Challenges
Palestine; and it proved that the Zionist leadership in Europe considered the
FSA to be sufficiently important to try and get them the representation of
South American Zionism. However, it solved neither of the issues The British
recognition referred to Zionists in South America and made no mention of
"lews" in Argentina, for there was obviously no connection between the lews
and the British government. Locally the FSA would have to continue striving
for hegemony. Furthermore, we shall see that the Zionist Organization did not
always utilize the FSA in political issues developing in South America, prefer
ring to rely on its own envoys.
Zionists during La Semana Tragica
Several issues arose during this period that demanded a response from
Zionists, regardless of the fact that they were not directly related to Zionists'
activities but concerned the entire lewish population of Argentina. We have
already noted that the FSA had been the initiator of the First Argentine lewish
Congress, where the formation of a central body of Argentine lewry was sug
gested. However, the 1916 congress did not have an effective influence in lew
ish life in the country. It did, nonetheless, attain its basic goal of presenting
the requests of Argentine lewry vis-a-vis Palestine and Zionist aspirations that
were later, in 1919, forwarded to the Peace Conference in Versailles.
In 1919 Zionists played an important role in affairs of the local commu
nity. The issue started with a succession of workers’ strikes at Pedro Vasena's
metallurgic factory in Buenos Aires. On lanuary 7, 1919 the armed forces fired
against the workers concentrated at the factory. Many were wounded and a few
killed. It was this incident that started the Semana Tragica. 56
Among the lews, the first to react was Rabbi Halphon. On lanuary 12 he
informed the lewish population of his visit to Francisco Laguarda, inspector
general of the police, who, in the name of Elpidio Gonzalez, chief of police, had
assured him that all necessary measures had been taken to protect the lewish
community from all future types of disorders. This announcement was not
published by the Yiddish daily press until the fifteenth. 57 The FSA presented
its argument soon afterwards. They argued that "the lewish community of Bue
nos Aires, just as those in the provinces, has no relation with the last deplor
able events.... We peremptorily deny the insinuation that the lewish commu
nity is responsible for the sad events that came to pass. Unfortunately there
are in our community some hot-headed elements, such as there are in other
communities. We are, however, sure of the honesty of the great Argentine
people, who shall not confuse these hot-headed individuals with the great and
pacific lewish community of the country." 58
This response by the FSA, the apologetic character of which coincided
with a reply given later by other sectors of the lewish population to the undis
criminate attacks against lews, merely constituted a negation of the maximal
ist character of the lewish population in Argentina. The hotheads were limited
in number and did not represent in any manner the whole lewish community.
It seems as if the FSA with this declaration was brushing off an accusation


124
]ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
made by some reactionary sectors in Argentina against the lews in general,
and diverting the blame to a fairly reduced part of the lewish population. On
the other hand, there is no plea for justice; there is no mention of the possibil
ity that the riots and assaults carried on by the police, the army, and some
civilian reactionary groups, were altogether out of place or that justice should
be administered.
A letter sent by a leader of Poale Zion appeared in some of the Buenos
Aires newspapers. Marcos Paryseusky protested against the massacre of lews
that had taken place in Buenos Aires, "the only reason being that they are lews,
and confused unfortunately with lawless elements and Moscovite Russians.”
Paryseusky wrote that civilian groups under the surveillance of the police had
destroyed books and archives, as well as injured many members at these
places. Furthermore, he affirmed that their organization did not accept the
internationalism and cosmopolitanism of the maximalists, being a cultural
society that spreads nationalist doctrines among the lewish proletariat.” The
reaction of Poale Zion left much to be desired. Their published protests were
weak and apologetic. On the other hand, they denounced the aggression to
gether with other workers' organizations, but not so much through lewish con
duits.
CIRA, leading eighteen other lewish organizations, by means of a
pamphlet in Spanish that was posted in the streets of Buenos Aires and pub
lished in the country's press, came out with a somewhat more vigorous publi
cation. The pamphlet, entitled 150.000 Israelitas al Pueblo de la Republica (150,000
lews to the People of the Republic), regardless of a somewhat angry tone, maintained
a tenor of an undoubted apologetic makeup. 60 "Argentines: 150,000 honest
men from all conditions, affiliated to all political parties, are speaking to you
through us, so that you come to prevent the consummation of an unatonable
crime.... Let the justice you are preparing to do with the malefactors, whom
we repudiate, be inexorable and severe, but corresponding to the faith that we
deposited in you." FSA was among those institutions that signed the docu
ment. Evidently the lewish community was unprepared for an attack of that
sort. It had never successfully organized itself into a unified body to respond
to an outside assault. In the midst of the onslaught the leading figures of the
main institutions tried to respond. Rabbi Halphon, due to his position of dig
nity and his ability in representing the lews before the governmental authori
ties, had first tried to make profit of his accessibility to these authorities and
attempted to secure protection and assurances of well-being for the lews.
Later, the FSA, of growing prestige during the last two years, and CiRA, as the
most veteran and reputable institution, tried to create a representative body
of the community.
Nonetheless, the role of FSA became more energetic Under the FSA
leadership, the Comite de la Colectividad convened in its precincts. The idea
that the lewish community had to take action for its own protection and for
the enforcement of its legal rights had slowly presented itself in the minds of
the lewish officials. The comite declared itself in permanent session. It immedi
ately assigned different commissions; one in charge of mutual aid, which had


125
National and Political Challenges
to care for the situation of the imprisoned; a juridical committee that included
the socialist Alfredo L Palacios; a third in charge of medical assistance for the
wounded; and a political committee. FSA heads, its president loselevich, its
first vice-president Gesang, and the director of INF Solomon Liebeschutz were,
together with Rabbi Halphon, the main organizers of the comite. It was not with
out unmerited pride that FSA reported to the Zionist Organization in Copen
hagen about the forceful role the FSA took in the events. For a moment all
other Jewish institutions followed the leadership of FSA. Even the proud CIRA,
seeing the central position of its rabbi in the comite, accepted FSA directives in
the contingency. 61
Zionism among Sephardim
With the purpose of involving the growing Sephardic communities
around the world in Zionist work, the World Zionist Organization considered it
convenient to propagandize among their circles. Therefore Dr. Ariel Bension
traveled throughout Latin America in the latter part of 1926 and the begin
nings of the following year. His main interests were in Argentina, where a con
siderable Sephardic population had settled. Before Bension's trip various Se
phardic groups in Buenos Aires had initiated some Zionist activities, however,
most of these accomplished little.
By the turn of the century a few Moroccan lews had achieved financial
stability and even wealth. Thus, not surprisingly, the emerging Zionist leader
ship tried to involve them in national work. The Argentine Zionist Congress
convened in Buenos Aires on April 16-18, 1904 was also sponsored by Congre
gacion Israelita Latina, and Hebra Gemilut Hassadim of the Moroccan com
munity. In practical terms the role of the Moroccan lews at the congress was
minor when compared to that of the Ashkenazic lews. Nonetheless, some of
the Moroccans were appointed to positions of leadership, doubtless with the
intent of ensuring their support for Zionist ideals. Thus Isaac Benzaquen was
appointed vice-president of the congress, and Abraham Benchetrit was a
member of the committee”
As a result of the congress, a Federacion Sionista Argentina (not to be
confused with the federation of the same name founded in 1913) came into
being. Two prominent leaders of Congregacion Israelita Latina, Mair Cohen, its
president, and Yona Migueres, a past secretary, were elected vice-president
and secretary respectively, of the Federacion Sionista Argentina. Moreover, in
line with a recommendation by the Argentine Zionist Congress, a biweekly
Zionist magazine in Spanish was created in order to reach those lews who did
not understand Yiddish, especially the Sephardim. Isaac Bentata, an active
leader of the Moroccan lews, helped in the editing of El Sionista during its early
stages. 6 ’
Two years later, in 1906, Adolfo Crenovich of the Federacion Sionista
Argentina reiterated in a letter to the Zionist Action Committee in Cologne,
Germany that the two Moroccan synagogues in Buenos Aires, Congregacion
Israelita Latina and Ez Hayim, continued to sympathize with Zionism 6 ’ In


126
]ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
March 1907 in a long report to Cologne describing the overall lewish situation
in Argentina, the country's Zionist leaders mentioned the formation of two
small Zionist groups by Moroccan lews in the interior, one in Villa Mercedes,
Province of San Luis, and the other in Margarita, Province of Santa Fe. How
ever, toward the end of the report the correspondents asserted that among the
Spanish (i.e., Moroccanl lews, "some are religious fanatics, who see in Zionism
a blasphemy of the Messianic idea." 65 This last statement clearly reflects the
existence among Moroccan lews of a strong religious undercurrent militating
against the adoption of a positive political posture with regard to lewish na
tional goals. This attitude would appear even more strongly among the
Ladino-speaking Jews from the Balkans and the Arabic-speaking lews from
Syria (both Aleppo and Damascus), who settled in Argentina in much larger
numbers than their Moroccan brethren around the turn of the century and
thereafter.
The impact of the Balfour Declaration, however, was reflected positively
at the Congregacion Israelita Latina. A few days before the celebration of the
first anniversary of the declaration, the congregational board resolved "to ad
here to the celebrations programmed for next November 2 119181. by buying a
box for the performance that FSA is sponsoring at the Opera Theater; partici
pating in the public manifestation on Nov. 3; celebrating a special ceremony
during the morning services of Saturday, Nov. 2; sending circular letters to all
members to adhere to the celebrations by closing their businesses and dis
playing flags in front of their houses ” 66
The Moroccan community, however, remained cool to the lewish na
tional aspirations. Some sparks of activity were evinced during Herzl's lifetime
but subsided shortly after his death. Again, at the moment of lewish pride and
renewed hopes in Zion as a consequence of the Balfour Declaration, support
was given to the efforts of the Federacion Sionista Argentina, but when the
enthusiasm gave way to more realistic analyses in the political sphere, support
of the national cause also decreased. During the Keren Hayesod campaign of
1924, the FSA sent a long letter to the Congregacion Israelita Latina asking for
a contribution, but the congregation's board answered "that this society
is strictly religious, and they are not authorized |to approve expenditures] to
this end ” 67
Some initiatives also took place among Ladino- and Arabic-speaking
lews before 1926. lews from Turkey and the island of Rhodes founded Bene
Sion in 1914 for Zionist work. After the Balfour Declaration its membership
increased somewhat, but shortly afterwards it was discontinued. 68 Another
group of Arabic-speaking Sephardic lews, originally from Eretz Israel and Syria,
founded Geulat Sion in 1916 and participated in the popular demonstration of
1917 together with the rest of the Zionists. Geulat Sion sent three of its most
prominent members to the Fifth Land Conference of Argentine Zionists in
1919. Hacham Shaul Setton Dabbah, serving the lewish community of Alep
pine origin, was invited to the conference as a special guest, but due to the
fact that the majority of the speakers insisted on expressing their views in
Yiddish, the Sephardic participants left the gathering In 1921 due principally


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National and Political Challenges
to the language problem, both Spanish- and Arabic-speaking Sephardim de
cided to establish a Zionist federation independent of the FSA. 69 The forma
tion of the Centro Sionista Sefaradi did not take place until 1925, however It
initiated some small-scale activities in the capital and some of the cities of
the interior and during Bension's visit served as an instrument for his educa
tional program and for his efforts to organize a network of Sephardic Zionist
clusters. Nonetheless, throughout the 1920s the great majority of the country's
Sephardim remained far removed from the Zionist ideal.
Argentina's Zionists leaders, aware of the need to enlist more of the
Sephardim in Zionist activities, repeatedly tried to broaden the FSA's sphere
of influence. The Sephardic question came up again and again at land confer
ences and during special campaigns, and in most instances the delegates
adopted resolutions encouraging a more positive approach to the Sephardim
As early as 1921 the FSA asked the World Zionist Organization in London to
send a Sephardic delegate to work with the Argentine Sephardic communities.
The Sephardim, it was felt, would more readily listen to the Zionist message
from one of their own, basically because of their localism and parochialism
but also because in the eyes of many Sephardim Zionism was a secular ideol
ogy, opposed to the traditional Messianic conception. Moreover, since the Se
phardim mistrusted the world Zionist leadership, which in effect was East Eu
ropean, they needed assurance that the movement would benefit Sephardim
in the Land of Israel and also in their communities of origin. These assurances,
quite naturally, would be better conveyed by delegates who shared their roots,
concerns, culture, and traditions. 70
In 1924, Sephardic leaders in Europe and the Middle East founded a
World Union of Sephardic lews (WUSJ), claiming the support of such Zionist
leaders as Chaim Weizmann, Nahum Sokolow, Menahem Ussishkin, and Vla
dimir (Ze'ev) labotinsky. At the time Sephardim constituted nearly a third of
the lews in Palestine, and the founders of WUSI claimed they were not receiv
ing, upon their arrival in Palestine, the same guidance and help as was given
the Askkenazic lews from Russia and Poland. In light of this, the WUSI in
tended to advise potential Sephardic emigrants from the Middle East. North
Africa, and the Balkans before their departure from their communities of ori
gin, in order to facilitate their settlement in Palestine. WUSI also launched a
campaign against Keren Hayesod for failing to keep its promises to Sephardic
olim and for pursuing policies that favored the Ashkenazim. 71
When Bension arrived in Mendoza after having visited the lewish com
munity in Chile, he learned that the WUSI had begun propagandizing in Bue
nos Aires against Keren Hayesod. Sephardim who met Bension in Buenos
Aires told him that they would only contribute to Zionist causes if the money
went to WUSI for the Sephardim in lerusalem. lacobo Karmona, president of
the Centro Sionista Sefaradf, further argued that unless all the money col
lected in Bension's campaign was sent to the WUSI, they would not officially
recognize his delegation. Moreover, despite Bension's objections, the Sephar
dim insisted on complete autonomy, including the authority to deal directly
with London, since they felt it was impossible for them to work with the FSA. 72


128
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
Although the WUSI tried to prevent him from founding a Sephardic
branch of the World Zionist Organization, Bension was able to achieve some
temporary success. On October 23, 1926, after a month-long mobilization of
Sephardic Zionists led by Bension, the Order Bene Kedem was founded at a
large public gathering in Buenos Aires, in the presence of Dr, Isaac Nissen-
sohn, president of the FSA. Bene Kedem was established as an independent
organization, with no formal ties with the FSA. Its first president was lacobo
Benarroch, an honored member of CIL, of Moroccan origin. Branches of Bene
Kedem were immediately started, under the auspices and activation of Ben
sion. in Rosario, Cordoba, Rfo Cuarto, Tucuman, Mendoza, and Santa Fe. Con
tacts were made with the Sephardic communities in Montevideo, Uruguay, and
Rio de laneiro, Brazil. 73
In addition to external factors impeding his work, Bension found in Bue
nos Aires a Sephardic community divided along origin lines, lews from Mo
rocco, Ladino-speaking lews from Turkey, Salonika, and Rhodes, and the two
Arabic-speaking lewish groups from Aleppo and Damascus formed the four
main Sephardic communities in the city. At the time there was little contact
among these groups. The Moroccan lews constituted the smallest—about 200
families—but also the richest group. The Turkish community was larger but
much poorer. The Aleppine lews, except for a few individuals, were also poor,
while the Damascene ones constituted the largest Sephardic community, with
a few rich men. In most organizations Bension visited he received the impres
sion that most Sephardim in Buenos Aires were extremely indifferent to Zion
ist efforts. The older elements of the Moroccan community were "extremist
believers in the Messiah on a white horse, . while the young are completely
assimilated." At the Damascene community, Bension was badly received by its
president, Moises Schoua, who insulted his whole committee with the allega
tion "that all the Zionist leaders and delegates were working on a commission
basis" and refused to contribute. The rabbi of the Aleppine community.
Hacham Shaul Setton Dabbah, the chief representative among Sephardim in
Argentina of Agudat Israel, was anti-Zionist on religious grounds. In his ser
mons he forbade his congregation to contribute to Keren Hayesod. Hacham
Setton's negative attitude to modern Zionism is reflected in some of his Re-
sponsa. His views regarding education at the Aleppine Talmus Torah con
firmed his anti-Zionist position, for he obstinately refused to permit the teach
ing of Hebrew as a language. Bension contacted Setton, and after a long
debate the latter promised that he would no longer actively interfere in the
former's efforts but that he would not help in any way. 7 ' 1
Poor results obtained by Keren Hayesod in the campaign among Ash
kenazic lews did not help inspire Zionist ideals among Sephardim. Yiddish,
spoken by most Ashkenazic Zionist officials in Buenos Aires, was incompre
hensible to the Sephardim. Finally the fact that most of the World Zionist
leadership was Ashkenazic and that most of the immigrants to Palestine came
from Eastern Europe, created in the minds of these Sephardic lews, who, after
all. had migrated from regions near Palestine, the idea that Zionism was
mainly an enterprise of Ashkenazim. Bension's labors opened the door to na-


129
National and Political Challenges
tional work for the Sephardim in Argentina, but even if there were cordial re
lations between Bene Kedem and the FSA, the former being in direct connec
tion with London, a major collaboration between Sephardim and Ashkenazim
was not effected via Zionism
Meanwhile the WUSI sent Shabbetai Djaen, rabbi in Monastir and one
of the founders of WUSI, as delegate to South and North America, He arrived
in Buenos Aires in April 1927, just before Passover, and during his stay in Ar
gentina visited Rosario, Mendoza, and other centers with Sephardic popula
tions. 7 ’ Djaen soon aroused suspicion among Zionist leaders in Argentina, in
cluding leaders of Bene Kedem. Dr. Moises Cadoche, at the time secretary of
Bene Kedem. mentioned on several occasions that Djaen was playing a double
role: on the one hand he spoke highly about Zionism as an ideal, and on the
other he spoke against the Zionist Organization and its personnel, demanding
that the Sephardim send their contributions only to the WUSI. 76
In 1928 Cadoche became president of Bene Kedem and in an interview
in London with Zionist leaders asserted that "the WUSI . . in spite of its pre
tended Zionist tendencies, only created obstacles for us and made our Zionist
work much more difficult... trying to convince us to change our allegiance” 77
In a campaign to discredit the Zionist Organization in the eyes of Sephardic
communities all over the world, the WUSI published some of its attacks in an
independent Sephardic publication that had a large following among Sephar
dim all over South and Central America and in Morocco. These articles argued
that the Zionist Organization did not help Sephardim in Palestine and did not
appoint Sephardim to posts in its bureaucratic hierarchy. The WUSI would do
a better job. 78
At the end of 1928, Rabbi Djaen returned from the United States to Ar
gentina, where, with the help of some leaders of the Moroccan lews (CILj and
lews from Turkey (Comunidad Israelita Sefaradi) he formed a Consistorio Ra-
binico to deal with rabbinical questions among Sephardic lews. He also be
came Gran Rabino of the Moroccan and Turkish lews. Meanwhile, the central
offices of Keren Hayesod in lerusalem approved a proposal suggested by their
delegate in Argentina, Akiva Ettinger, to ask Djaen to spend four months work
ing among Sephardim in their fund-raising campaign across the country. The
first three thousand pounds collected would go to Keren Hayesod; 30 percent
of anything over that amount would be given to WUSI. For some time Djaen
handled this work, though without great success. He was again approached by
Keren Hayesod on the eve of the enlargement of the lewish Agency, to allow
his name to be included, along with the names of chief rabbis and teachers in
every country, in a circular sponsoring Keren Hayesod's work as provider for
the lewish Agency. In spite of these recognitions. Djaen was already complain
ing about his personal situation in Buenos Aires. In lune 1930 the Consistorio
Rabinico was permanently closed, having accomplished little. Soon thereafter
Djaen left the country for Europe. 79
Bene Kedem initiated its Zionist activities with energy and enthusiasm,
but, as often happens, once its founder—in this case Ariel Bension—left and
contacts with him became more diluted, the organization languished. Bene


130
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
Kedem published a booklet containing "Call to Sephardim" by Bension; salu
tations by Wiezmann, Sokolow, Sir Alfred Mond (president of Keren Hayesod
in England), and Isaac Nissensohn from the FSA. The goals of Zionism, and
the functions of each of its institutions and funds were explained in this pub
lication, emphasizing the particular interests of Sephardim 80 The organization
was chiefly involved in financial affairs, promoting a shekel campaign. During
the first two and a half years of activities, until May 1929, Bene Kedem did
poorly even in the distribution of shekalim. Ettinger in 1928, and Pazi, as Keren
Hayesod delegate in 1929, believed there was no hope of effective action
among Sephardim. Pazi wrote, just before the lerusalem riots of 1929, that
Djaen could help with the shekel campaign, although he was convinced that "for
Keren Hayesod it is impossible to do something among Sephardim " 81
Bension's efforts, and the continuation of his work by the leaders of
Bene Kedem, finally had positive results in the aftermath of the anti-lewish
riots that swept Palestine in 1929. Argentine Jewry, seriously concerned about
the safety of the Palestinian lewish community, immediately proclaimed an
Emergency Campaign at a meeting attended by lews from all sectors, Ashken
azim and Sephardim, Zionists and non-Zionists. The grandiose goal of raising
1,000,000 pesos by September 30, 1929, was not achieved. However, although
the harvest in the lewish agricultural colonies had been poor and the country
was experiencing a monetary crisis, Argentina's lews contributed 313,000 pe
sos to the emergency fund. More than 50,000 pesos were collected by and
among Sephardim. In Buenos Aires alone, where a total of 194,399.69 pesos
was raised, fully 35,661 pesos were contributed by Sephardim. These figures
make it evident that Bension and Bene Kedem had succeeded in influencing
wider circles of the various Sephardic communities. 82
The localism of the Sephardim, however, remained strong. The Emer
gency Campaign was intended to aid Palestinian lewry, but the Aleppine com
munity in Buenos Aires, for example, decided to allocate only half of the
money it raised to Zionists in Palestine and to divide the other half among
institutions in Aleppo, Sephardim in Palestine, and the Ahavat Zedek society,
which helped Aleppine widows, orphans, and poor people in Buenos Aires
Thus only half of the proceeds were turned over to the Federacion Sionista
Argentina. 83
The leadership of the FSA enthusiastically welcomed the participation
of the Sephardim in this campaign. Dr. Isaac Nissensohn, its president, wrote
to Chaim Weizmann in London that "the Sephardim, who had hardly contrib
uted to the upbuilding of Palestine, are now contributing to the Emergency
Fund with a liberal hand." 84 Bension had brought the Zionist message to the
Sephardim in Argentina in a language they understood. As a result, they were
now somewhat more conscious of the Zionist program and recognized the
importance of working for and contributing to its fulfillment. They had also
begun to realize that the Sephardim already in Palestine and potential Se
phardic immigrants were benefiting from the building of the lewish National
Homeland 8 ’
Despite these accomplishments, however, Zionism made little progress


131
National and Political Challenges
among the Sephardim of Argentina in the years that followed. Although some
of the Sephardic leaders had begun warming up to the Zionist program and
had worked together with Ashkenazim in an effort to propagate the Zionist
idea among the country's lews, the Sephardic rank and file continued to dis
trust the Ashkenazic leadership. Strongly linked to their communities of origin
and imbued with intense localist feelings, Argentina's Sephardim required
much more in the way of explanation and reassurance if they were to overcome
their suspicions and doubts. In the 1930s, however, both the Zionists and
world lewry as a whole were preoccupied with other issues that took prece
dence over the work of reassuring the Sephardim. Thus the necessary effort
was not forthcoming, and the attempt to win over the Sephardim was dropped
before it ever attained substantial results. In part because of this unfortunate
inconsistency in the approach to Argentina's Sephardim, a segment of the
community was permanently alienated from Zionism.
The Zionist movement failed to win the cooperation of the Sephardim
during its early decades either locally in Argentina or at the international level.
In later years, especially after the creation of the State of Israel and once its
most urgent challenges—including the absorption of large numbers of refu
gees in a very short period of time—were met, the rift between these two
major segments of lewry would again be evident Even today it continues to
be a concern shared by Sephardim and Ashkenazim in Israel and the diaspora.
Political and Practical Work of Zionists
The developments in the Zionist movement in Europe after World War I
had their effect upon FSA officials in Buenos Aires. In April 1920, when the
Peace Conference at San Remo conferred the Mandate for Palestine upon
Great Britain, tens of thousands of lews in Buenos Aires, and more in every
city and town of the interior, celebrated with joy. Again, in July 1922, with the
confirmation of the Mandate in London by the Council of the League of Na
tions, over 30,000 lews demonstrated in the capital of Argentina. On both oc
casions delegations from the FSA were received by President Yrigoyen, At the
1920 meeting loselevich, as president of the FSA, asserted that the San Remo
declaration provided lews the world over with the possibility of becoming a
nation. After explaining briefly the special situation of lews in Argentina, he
asked Yrigoyen to recognize the lewish nation, so that Argentina should be
come the first republic in South America to do so. Yrigoyen complimented the
lews in the country and stated that antisemitic outbursts like the previous
year's Semana Tragica would never occur again. With respect to loselevich s
request, Yrigoyen suggested the presentation of a memorandum to the cabi
net. Some time later FSA presented a long memorandum describing the his
tory of the Zionist movement and the aspirations of the lewish people, as well
as some particulars about Zionist activities in the country. It ended with the
following petitions:
1. Recognition of the existence of the lewish nationality.
2. Recognition of the Jewish flag as symbol of that nationality....


132
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
3. A declaration from the government of the young and noble Argentine
Republic expressing its sympathy and moral support for the lewish Nation. 86
This memorandum was discussed at a special meeting of the cabinet. Accord
ing to Nachman Gesang's view, it had the support from Yrigoyen and some of
the ministers, but the majority of the latter were opposed to it. The main rea
son was the Vatican's objection to the ratification of the Mandate and to the
recognition of the lews as a separate nation. 87
Brazil's unwillingness to support the ratification of the Mandate was a
further stumbling block to Zionist aspirations. Brazil's government was under
strong influence from the Vatican, and as was the rule of the Allied nations,
absolute unanimity was required for this question. It was at this moment that
the FSA should have been instructed to petition the Brazilian government,
according to the power the Zionist Organization had given the FSA in 1919
However, the executive of the Zionist Organization in London did not turn to
the FSA to deal with the situation. Instead, they entrusted the mission to Dr.
ludah L. Wilensky, delegate of Keren Hayesod then in South America. Wilensky
was able to change Brazil's position, and the Mandate was ratified.
Nevertheless, the FSA attempted to play a political role in this issue.
Once more in the name of all lews residing in Argentina, the FSA solicited the
Brazilian minister in Buenos Aires, Pedro de Toledo, to convey to his govern
ment the wishes of Argentine lewry for a favorable vote of the Brazilian dele
gate at the League of Nations concerning the ratification of the Mandate. To
ledo sent a cable to Rio de laneiro forwarding the request. 88 FSA cabled to the
League of Nations a few days before the vote with similar petitions. In the
midst of all the turmoil before the vote at the League of Nations, the FSA
complained to the executive of the Zionist Organization in London that the
latter did not utilize the political ties the former had with other South Ameri
can countries. The answer, indeed not very encouraging for the FSA, affirmed
"that Dr. Wilensky, being fully acquainted with the South American situation,
would be in the best position to judge what action would be most effective
and through what channels it should be taken." 89 It seems that the long dis
tances to and from the Zionist headquarters had other effects besides delaying
communications; it produced an attitude of circumspection in the minds of
European leaders vis-a-vis their distant partners in the movement, especially
in the most delicate situations. After all, their only contact had been through
the mail. Moreover, the European officials might have considered the FSA
leaders not sufficiently competent to handle international political matters.
In 1922 there was a decline in Zionist work in Argentina. Its ascent had
started in 1917 with Epstein's visit and the Balfour Declaration. The conse
quent maturity and the substantial achievements of Zionism at San Remo and
the ratification of the Mandate by the League of Nations had produced enor
mous enthusiasm among lews in Argentina 90 After the San Remo resolution
Zionists in Argentina contributed to the INF the third largest sum, after the
United States and England. 9 ' In the same year they conducted a campaign for
the Restoration Fund, assembling 380,000 pesos, a sum that gave the Zionist


133
National and Political Challenges
executive the incentive of starting the Keren Hayesod in Argentina. 92 Active
leaders of Keren Hayesod in Europe and Palestine—Alexander Goldstein and
ludah Wilensky—visited Argentina and the neighboring countries during the
early twenties, arousing interest in others for what was happening in world
politics for the sake of the lewish nation.
However, there was something obstructing the continuous growth of the
Zionist movement in the country, lewish national education was at an ex
tremely low level—regarding both education of the general public in Zionist
ideals and the preparation of new leadership by instructing the young in the
national aspirations of the lews—and the officials of FSA did not succeed in
developing resources to fill the gap. Delegates from the Keren Hayesod contin
ued visiting the area. Leib laffe and Benzion Mossensohn, in 1923 and 1925
respectively, traveled to South America and again accomplished the main task
of contributing to a successful campaign However, the movement needed a
day-to-day effort in educating the lews about Zionism, not just an annual
uplifting lecture pronounced by a world leader of the movement 93
Leib laffe arrived in Buenos Aires during the first week of 1923. 94 During
his nine-month stay in South America laffe was active in Buenos Aires and in
most of the lewish centers in the interior of Argentina. He also visited Chile
and Brazil. It happened to be a year of great economic crisis, especially with a
decrease in the price of cattle. Some of the lewish colonies were in an ex
tremely impoverished situation, laffe pointed out the deficiencies of the lewish
community in general. There was an enormous lack of lewish education, and
religion did not play much of a role either: "The youth is not taught about the
history of their people, they are not given any spiritual values, no national
instruction." In his lectures laffe not only spoke about fund-raising for Keren
Hayesod but tried to awaken the nation, the conscience of the people; he at
tempted to make his audiences aware of the need of national education and
schools. He saw assimilation as a tremendous problem in the country. On the
other hand, his success in spite of the economic crisis gave him second
thoughts about the community and about the role of Zionism within it. The
fact that in some of the colonies lews were setting apart the produce of the
corners of their fields as contributions to the lewish National Fund (INF)
strengthened those thoughts, up to the point of asserting that Zionism and
Eretz Israel were the only hope for the future of Argentine lewry.
They asked how do I see Argentina I responded that she is in my eyes like
the trees I saw in Moisesville—eaten by the locust—but they shall grow
leaves and buds once more as long as there is some sap of life preserved
in their roots and in the race. Eretz Israel nourishes this sap of life, she
brings to Argentine lewry spirit and content to life, as she does to the few
leaves that remain from the tree of the people. Eretz Israel and Zionism
plant personal pride and honor Fifteen years ago, twenty years ago. it was
difficult in Argentina to be a "lew in public." lews were basically a small
abhorrent group, which debased the name of Israel... Only in the light of
Eretz Israel and Zionism did ludaism become known in Argentina. 95
For the period 1923-28 Argentine lewry contributed to Keren Hayesod a


134
Iewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
more or less stable annual sum. A delegate from the Zionist executive visited
Argentina each year—except in 1924 and 1926—to direct the fund-raising
campaign 96 The FSA understood the importance of having a representative
from Jerusalem bring a message to the lews in South America. Zionism in
Argentina needed bolstering from the outside; it had not produced leaders
capable of attracting lews to the movement in the same way a sheliach (emis
sary) of Leib laffe's stature could. 97 The envoys viewed the internal problems of
the organization from a better perspective, thus enabling them to easily spot
deficiencies and contribute to their solution. Furthermore, the cosmopolitan
structure of the country during this period, especially of its capital city Buenos
Aires, communicated a feeling that the "best" was always imported. 98
At the beginning of 1926 the FSA devoted special attention to strength
ening the organization. Its president Wolf Nijensohn wrote to London about
the need of "an instructor whose duties should be to visit the Zionist societies
in a frequent and regular manner in order to instruct them in discipline, to
encourage the active members, and to increase their numbers.... The prevail
ing local conditions, however, demand that such an instructor come from
abroad, and we therefore request that you propose to us a candidate for the
post." 99 lacob (Akiva) Ettinger, delegate to South America, upon returning to
lerusalem, advised sending a special director to Argentina who would devote
himself full-time to Zionist and Keren Hayesod work. 100 Furthermore, after the
lerusalem riots of 1929 the FSA invited Nahum Sokolow to come and launch
the 1930 campaign. 101 None of these requests materialized, yet they show the
deep need felt by leaders of Zionism in Argentina for support and collabora
tion from the highest echelons of world Zionism. Moreover, the Poale Zion
organization was since 1918 under the direction of Regalsky, who arrived in
Buenos Aires after having been active in Poale Zion circles in the United
States. Regalsky established himself in Buenos Aires, thus providing his move
ment with new strength. 102 Finally, the Zeire Zion group also recognized the
need for a leader from overseas. They wrote to the Zionist Organization in
London requesting a sheliach representing their organization who could unite
and fortify it in Argentina. 103
Zionists in Argentina did not play a central role in the ideological evo
lution of the Zionist movement at large during this period. Even at the Zionist
congresses Argentine Jewry—both FSA and Poale Zion—was represented in
most cases by proxy. Alexander Goldstein. Wilensky laffe. and other leaders in
world Zionism represented the FSA on different occasions while A. S. luris took
the representation of Poale Zion in Argentina. Samuel Hurwitz went from Ar
gentina to the Twelfth Zionist Congress at Carlsbad, but he did not participate
actively. Nahman Gesang brought the message of the FSA to the Fourteenth
Congress in Vienna in 1925. In his speech he presented the resolutions arrived
at nine months earlier at the Ninth Argentine Land Conference of Zionists:
(1) to vote unconditionally for Dr. Weizmann's proposals with regard to the
lewish Agency and (2) to vote for transferring the financial and economic insti
tutions from London to Palestine. The first point was one of deep concern and
dispute between Weizmann's group and his opponents. The former wanted


135
National and Political Challenges
serious negotiations with the non-Zionists, hoping to reach an agreement for
the establishment of an enlarged lewish Agency comprising also the non-
Zionists. The various groups opposing Weizmann saw in his scheme a compro
mise that would hamper the achievements of Herzl's program of a political
struggle for obtaining statehood. FSA unconditionally supported Weizmann's
plan and soon made attempts to establish a lewish Agency in Argentina. 104
It was right after the enlargement of the lewish Agency at the Sixteenth
Zionist Congress in Zurich, which only preceded the riots in Palestine by a few
weeks, that Gesang, then president of the Keren Hayesod in Argentina, and
Isaac Nissensohn, president of the FSA, insistently tried to constitute a lewish
Agency in the country. During the last three months of 1929 letters to laffe in
lerusalem and to Weizmann in London explained the situation of Zionism in
Argentina. The time was ripe for active work—especially after the Emergency
Campaign for the lewish victims in Palestine—among Jewish circles in Argen
tina that had hitherto remained aloof from national work. The leaders of the
FSA had in mind different sectors of Argentine lewry, including some of the
rich officials in the community who had not taken a role in Zionist endeavors,
especially members of CIRA. They also considered approaching some of the
Sephardic lews—who had, in the Emergency Campaign, participated for the
first time in considerable manner in the work of reconstruction of Palestine—
and some well-known Jewish politicians and writers, such as Enrique Dick-
mann and Alberto Gerchunoff. Both Gesang and Nissensohn considered the
visit of Nahum Sokolow imperative for launching the forthcoming campaign of
Keren Hayesod and for starting a branch of the lewish Agency in Argentina.' 05
Leib laffe stressed in letters to Sokolow, who was undecided about the
profit of such a trip, the importance of the visit for Zionist propaganda and for
its financial results. Sokolow, in reply to laffe, clearly expressed what he
thought of Zionism in South America:
For these matters (political value and lewish Agency in Argentinal I do not
have the moral right to move away from Europe for such a long time |three
monthsl and to go to the end of the world. As a political factor, the value
of Argentina and of all of South America is not too much, and spiritual
help they can probably get from someone else, as is the case with respect
to the foundation of the lewish Agency. .. But we have to make clear to
Mr. Gesang without waiting for his letter, under what conditions I am pre
pared to travel to South America. If it is not possible to obtain the sum of
40,000 pounds sterling, there is no justification for me to make the trip
now. 106
Already at the beginning of February 1930 the economic crisis pro
foundly touched most sectors of the Argentine population, obviously not to
the exclusion of the lews. Moreover, Argentine lews had only a few months
earlier sent 300,000 pesos (about two thirds of the 40,000 pounds sterling
sum) for the Emergency Campaign When presenting these arguments Gesang
added that Sokolows trip might be financially useful and also might instill a
new spirit in Zionist work. 107 Only in September did Sokolow agree to make the


136
Iewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
trip to South America. However, by that time important developments had
occurred in Argentina. Yrigoyen’s second term in office ended abruptly when
the Conservative forces in the country led a successful revolution (September
6) With the toppling of the Radical party's administration a new era started for
Argentina Along with most of the Western countries, Argentina underwent a
period of intense nationalism with numerous and violent antisemitic erup
tions during the 1930s and throughout World War II At that juncture, right
after the September coup, leaders of the FSA, just as many other Argentines,
had an expectant attitude. The new government—the military and the con
servatives—knew nothing about Zionism. The extremely good relations the
lews had had with both Radical presidents—Yrigoyen and Alvear—could con
tinue, but the issue was still an open question. Moreover, there was an eco
nomic crisis, and farmers were once more distressed by a decrease in the price
of cereal, lewish colonists, except in part those in the province of Entre Rios,
were deeply affected. The FSA, dramatically, had to cancel Sokolow's trip. 108
Palestine had also been affected by the economic crisis and riots at the
end of the 1920s. The Passfield White Paper of 1930, which echoed the view
that immigration, land purchase, and settlement policies of the Zionist Orga
nization were prejudicial to Arab interests, contended that restrictions would
be imposed on the growth of the lewish National Home. At this point, already
at the beginning of 1931, the FSA was urged to accept the request of the ac
tions committee of the Zionist Organization that Sokolow visit the South
American communities. The Zionist Organization further appealed to those
communities to carry out an especially energetic Keren Hayesod campaign, in
spite of the difficulties. 10 ''
Due to the enormous pressures on the Zionist Organization, exerted
mainly by the economic conditions in Palestine and the White Paper, the Zi
onist leadership in Europe was in need of greater sums of money to allocate
to its various projects. This situation partly justifies Sokolow's financial con
ditions for his trip to Argentina. When the economic situation became critical,
the Zionist Organization decided to encourage the trip, considering that So
kolow would induce the lews in Argentina, in spite of their present situation,
to contribute to the Palestine funds." 0 However, the argument that Sokolow's
presence would stir the Jewish community and would transmit the national
message through the appropriate communication and propaganda means to
which the FSA would resort for the occasion, was not convincing enough. Be
cause they had had no first-hand contact with the South American communi
ties, the top Zionist leaders in Europe had only a vague idea of the situation
there. The issue for a national education program was raised by Leib laffe in
1923. But laffe was a lonely voice that favored Sokolow’s trip not only for its
possible financial benefits but also for its long-range effects in educating lew
ish generations.' 11 The episode of Sokolow’s prospective trip to Argentina il
lustrated the great need in the Argentine community of messengers who
would inspire the lewish population with the national and educational ideals
of the lewish people.


137
National and Political Challenges
The riots in Palestine in 1929 proved that Argentine lewry was seriously
concerned with the situation of the lews living in the National Home. While
not all sectors of the general population in Argentina decried the riots—con
spicuously enough, an important Catholic weekly wrote against the right of
the lews to settle in the land 112 —the incident created a major response among
the lews there. An Emergency Campaign was proclaimed a few days after news
was received from Palestine. At a meeting held during the first days of the
events in Palestine, which was attended by lews from all sectors, Ashkenazim
and Sephardim, Zionists and non-Zionists, a resolution was passed: 11 ’
United Argentine lewry declares solemnly that Palestine is a question of
life and death for the lews, it proclaims a universal campaign for the col
lection of one million pesos, to be handed over to the lewish Agency, the
Argentine contributing towards that universal fund one million pesos, to
be raised in cash until September 30th,
Argentinian lewry believes in the urgent need of a World lewish
Congress to be convened by the lewish Agency, to be held in New York, in
order to eliminate any trace of doubt with regard to the realization of the
Balfour Declaration, and for the purpose of demanding from the govern
ments that they should honor their statements and agreements.
Furthermore, among the resolutions adopted at this public meeting we
find the determination to assess every lew in Buenos Aires and the interior in
accordance with his ability to contribute to the Emergency Fund and to de
mand additional contributions from those who did not conform to their as
sessment (Art. I, 2). No lew was to be omitted from the list of contributors
(Art. 5); women and children should also join the list (Art. 6): and quotas were
imposed on societies and groups (Art. 3). Other American countries should be
informed that Sephardim in Argentina were united with Ashkenazim for Pales
tine work (Art. 10).
They fell far short of the 1,000,000 pesos goal. However, in spite of its
being a year of bad climate for the colonists and the monetary crisis' being
already felt in the country, Argentine lewry gathered over 313,000 pesos for the
Emergency Fund." 1 '
The events in Palestine also deeply touched the more assimilated
groups of Argentine lewry. In the Sociedad Hebraica Argentina (hereafter
SHA)—a cultural organization that promoted intellectual activities and cre
ated bonds between the lewish community and Argentine intellectuals, whose
members were professionals, students, and lews adapted to the language and
norms of the country—a climax was reached. The SHA was formed in 1926
through the fusion of former organizations of similar character: prominent
among the latter was Asociacion luventud Israelita Argentina, or luventud.
Some ardent Zionists had been members of luventud and SHA, but the gen
eral policy of the first and to a certain degree also of the second was one of
noninvolvement concerning issues of lewish religion, race, or patriotism." 5
SHA's assimilationist tendencies were interrupted—with respect to lewish
"nationalism," at least—in 1929. It was not without discussions among its


138
]ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
leaders that the SHA turned from a position of mere spectators to semiactive
assistants." 6
The main interests of the Zionist activists in Argentina were geared to
the financial success of the campaigns for the lewish National Home. Educa
tion was a topic brought up at every land conference in the country, but reso
lutions on that topic were not fully heeded. Furthermore, early attempts in the
1920s to promote trade between Argentine firms and their Israel counterparts
were maintained on a low key. The economic crisis put a parenthesis around
most of these operations, which were resumed some years later, and devel
oped into heavy trade in the postwar period, especially since the establish
ment of the State of Israel." 7
The roots for the inertia and apathy of the Zionist leaders concerning
Hebrew and national education are to be found in the general atmosphere of
a cosmopolitan country, especially in the city of Buenos Aires. Cosmopolitan
ism had produced a violent reaction among certain sectors of the people that
resulted in particular in attacks against the lewish schools, claiming they were
of an anti-Argentine character. In 1909 Ricardo Rojas launched a sharp attack
on the cultural impact of foreign immigration and reproduced the prejudiced
argumentation against the lewish schools. But Rojas was not alone in pro
claiming the imperious necessity of a major restructuring of the education
program. A generation of writers arose with him. Patterns of education were
thus revised. National heroes were exalted; national pride became a central
point in all schools in the country." 8
lews were not an exception to the new wave in education. Very soon
lewish children were absorbed by Argentine culture, as expected by those who
proposed the change. Even the family of lacobo loselevich, president of FSA,
who had been a member of Ahad Ha'Am's Bene Moshe, and founder of Zion
ism in Argentina, had a hostile reaction to (udaism. Children of lews, as all
others, were educated in a spirit of extreme love for their fatherland Argentina
and its national heroes. This made Leib laffe remark in 1923. 119 "The children
are educated with extreme love for their Argentine fatherland; the lessons in
history here are nothing but passionate speeches about Argentine heroes, and
about acts of heroism for their fatherland. The people of the South know very
well the art of rhetoric."
Hebrew instruction, still not well developed in Argentina, was no com
petition. Assimilation via education was bearing its fruits. Zionists in Argen
tina, conscious of their failure in promoting lewish national education among
lewish youngsters, were evidently helpless in front of the strong national re
vival in Argentine education. Some of the Hebraist circles blamed Zionists for
their apathy in this respect. 120
In 1929, shortly before the Palestine riots, according to the organ of the
FSA only 700 of the 20,000 lewish families in Buenos Aires contributed to the
Keren Hayesod. "Where are the 19,300?" it asked Evidently, they were not ac
tively participating in the national movement. There were, doubtless, some
who proceeded to Palestine, but the ample majority of the lewish immigrants


139
National and Political Challenges
had decided to remain in Argentina. All the various communities built syn
agogues and acquired cemeteries. Furthermore, the investment in the building
of two pavilions of the Hospital Israelita was a telling sign that they were there
to stay. The above-mentioned enterprises, as well as the preparation for the
reception of large numbers of new immigrants after the world war were, in the
eyes of many active lews, more important than the reconstruction of a lewish
Palestine. Many of the above-mentioned 700 were among those who partici
pated in the latter projects. On the other hand, most of those engaged in the
bolstering of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires, were among the 19,300.
A large number of the lews in Argentina had been affected by years of
propaganda from the Zionist circles. Their interest in lewish survival and the
sentiment of brotherhood they felt for all lews were major factors in producing
the response it did in 1929. By 1930 Zionism had already made attempts, some
successful, of recruiting important individuals from among the Sephardic
communities, the West European lews of CIRA, and some lews in Argentine
political and cultural life, who had some influence among the lews in their
own circles. A branch of the WIZO, the Organizacion Sionista Femenina de la
Argentina (OSFA), was founded, which occupied itself in establishing an agri
cultural school for women in Afulah (Palestine).
But Zionism was far from conquering all lews in Argentina by 1930. Be
sides the nonaffiliated lews, there was ambivalence towards Zionism among
Sephardim, Yahudim, and other assimilationist groups of importance, such as
SHA. Sephardim were rightly opposed to the Yiddish utilized by most FSA
delegates, although the largest Sephardic groups by 1930 still utilized Arabic
assiduously. The localism of Sephardim and their suspicions of Ashkenazim,
made their collaboration in Zionist goals with the Ashkenazim difficult. On the
other hand, the West European lews of CIRA saw a serious competition in FSA
because of the latter's growing prestige. Furthermore, by 1930 most of their
leading members were engaged in institutions for an upbuilding of the Argen
tine lewish community that had a clear non-Zionist ideology Likewise, SHA
had a non-Zionist position, opposing all types of political activity.
The political Labor Zionist parties also entered the picture in this pe
riod. Zeire Zion and Hitachdut started the Hechalutz movement, which pro
moted the migration of some groups of young idealists to Palestine. Poale
Zion, after its division in 1922, was weakened. But by 1930 the right wing of the
party was gathering strength. Upon the unification of Poale Zion with Zeire
Zion in 1932, they would start a period of intense activity in Argentina
The communist lews were totally opposed to Zionism. Zionists were
also threatened by the Procor organization's settlement of lews in Biro
bidzhan and did everything possible to dissuade lews from contributing to
their campaigns and listening to their message.
The Leftist Parties
With the arrival of large numbers of lewish workers from Russia after
1905 the areas of lewish settlement, especially Once, became the stage for


140
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
their political activities. Most of them were young people, mainly bachelors,
who fled Russia in the aftermath of the abortive revolt against the tsar. Their
socialist ideology was what they had in common, though they differed in par
ticulars that during those days of ferment and protest constituted dividing
walls between the factions. Socialists, Labor Zionists, Bundists, socialist terri-
torialists, and anarchists settled in the same areas. Their activities, in contrast
to what they had experienced in Russia, were now carried on openly.
We have already described those groups with a Zionist orientation, and
have also mentioned some major developments in the Argentine workers'
movements in previous chapters. In addition, there were lewish groups repre
senting the various political ideologies. Soon every group considered that the
mere spreading of leaflets with party propaganda and adhering to demonstra
tions organized by the general socialist and anarchist workers in Buenos Aires
was not enough. They thus printed their own organs of opinion with articles
expounding their respective ideologies and explaining to the lewish workers
what in their eyes were abuses committed by the bourgeoisie against the
working class. Most of these journals included sections on literature and po
etry in an effort to raise the cultural level of the Yiddish-speaking immigrant
worker.
The editors of these political periodicals were young immigrants im
bued with enthusiasm for their fight for freedom, justice, and emancipation of
the workers. Their circles were small, but their desire to spread higher ideals
was strong. News about the workers' movements in and outside the country
was also printed in these periodicals. Their lewish character was not only evi
dent in the language. They published poems, feuilletons, and news on lewish
themes. Local issues such as the fight against white slavery and some aspects
of lewish communal life in Argentina were of special concern. These periodi
cals had a positive influence among lewish workers, for whom, in many cases,
it was their major cultural source.
During the decade commencing in 1905. as mentioned, the anarchists
were the dominant influence among workers in Argentina. There were various
anarchist groups, with slightly different ideological emphases, though the pre
vailing orientation was anarchocommunist. A small number of lewish workers,
many of whom had previously lived in London, formed a society called Arbeter
Freind with the purpose of spreading the anarchist views among the Jewish
proletariat. Soon thereafter, in 1907, they published Dus Arbeter Lebn. a monthly
directed by A. Schapira. It lasted only a few months. In 1908, under the initia
tive of Pedro Sprinberg and E. Edelstein, another anarchist monthly, Lebn un
Freiheit, was published. It also lasted only a few short months. In 1909 lewish
anarchists wrote a page in Yiddish in the otherwise Spanish-written anarchist
daily La Protesta. This fact clearly reflects on the positive interest of the anar
chist movement in the linguistic groups and the ideological binding among
them, whether lewish or not. These Yiddish publications also reveal the coop
eration of the lewish groups with local anarchists. Moreover, their anarcho
communist philosophy, coupled with forceful antiparliamentarianism, oppo
sition to social democracy, nonrecognition of government or law, and their


141
Nnlional and Political Challenges
denial of religion and fatherland made it difficult for the lewish anarchists to
develop a working relation with other anarchist linguistic groups, especially
the Spanish and Italian. Still, the fact that Yiddish was spoken to such a large
extent in the immigrant lewish neighborhoods, where the whole character and
spirit of lewish culture and life was so pervasive resulted in some joint actions
between lewish anarchists and lewish workers of other ideological positions
Under the early influence of Poale Zion, some anarchists in Buenos Aires de
veloped a sympathy for Labor Zionism.
During the early years of the century many Jewish immigrants in Argen
tina were attracted to socialism. A few even attained prominent positions in
the Socialist party. Thus Enrique Dickmann, as well as his brother Adolfo, were
repeatedly elected to Congress, and to the Concejo Deliberante (Municipal
Council) of Buenos Aires, as candidates in the Socialist ticket. As noted above,
most of the members of the Socialist party were foreigners, and their leaders
saw the need to propagandize among the various linguistic groups in order
eventually to strengthen the party. Thus in lanuary 1907 a group of lewish
workers founded the lewish social-democrat organization Avangard in Argen
tina. With the ideals of the East European Bund in mind, their goals were to
spread the socialist principals and ideals of democracy among the lewish
workers, to awaken their international instincts, and to build bridges with the
class-oriented parties of the Christian population in their struggle for eco
nomic and political rights. 121
During the first few years there was a minority group among lewish
Bundists, consisting of the lewish lskravtses, who spoke Russian and had as-
similatory tendencies, while the majority spoke Yiddish and fought against the
cultural assimilation of the lskravtses. The former separated themselves from
Avangard and formed their society, called, almost identically, Centro Avangard
In 1910, when a state of siege was declared, all socialist activities were sus
pended for six months. After the lifting of the state of siege only the Yiddish
speaking Avangard survived.
The energies of the "Yiddish" Avangard were channeled in several direc
tions. In the political field it worked in close cooperation with the Socialist
party. It advocated celebrating May Day and urged the lewish workers to partic
ipate in the demonstrations together with the rest of the working forces, but
as a distinctive group. Avangard also propagandized the minimal program of
the Socialist party and fought for the suppression of antilabor laws such as
the Ley de Residencia and Ley de Orden Social. In the economic held Avan
gard rallied for the unionization of the lewish workers, whether in totally lew
ish unions, as was the case with cap makers and lewish bakers, or in the gen
eral professional unions. 122
In addition Avangard saw the need to concentrate on cultural issues and
became a vigorous advocate of secular socialist lewish culture, based on the
Yiddish language. Libraries, literary and musical societies, evening courses in
Spanish, mathematics, and social hygiene were among the varied cultural ac
tivities that Avangard organized. A key element in their cultural program was
the publication Der Avangard. It started in August 1908 and appeared monthly


142
Iewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
until December 1909, when, as a consequence of the state of siege it was dis
continued. It reappeared in February 1910 until May of that year, when another
state of siege and the reaction in the country against socialists and anarchists
caused its closing. It reappeared in 1916 and was issued until 1920. Edited first
by S. Kaplansky and later by P. Wald, Der Avangard not only related to party
questions, theories—Argentine socialist problems in the broad sense of the
word—but also paid great attention to Yiddish belle-lettres, through which it
played a significant role in the development of the Yiddish printed word. Dur
ing 1911 ten issues of Unzer Wort appeared, under the direction of Robert Ko
gan, a Russian social democrat, and Pinie Wald, a Bundist.
The founders had opted for the name Avangard rather than Bund—as
the lewish party was known in Europe and the United States—in order to
emphasize their estrangement from all Zionist claims of lewish peoplehood
and nationalism.
They also opposed Argentine nationalism, which put them at odds with
the Socialist party of luan B. lusto. On the occasion of the eightieth birthday
of Mendele Mocher Sforim in 1916, Avangard sent a congratulatory message
from the "triangular piece of land” (Argentina is shaped as a triangle), thus
emphasizing that the organization operated within a geographic area, not a
nation. 133
Nonetheless Avangard showed concern with the fate of the lewish com
munity in Argentina. It was aware of the existence of antisemitism and noted
with realism that the growing nationalism was curtailing the freedoms of all
inhabitants, in particular of the lews.
The Russian Revolution was deeply felt among the lewish workers' quar
ters in Buenos Aires. A few weeks after the revolution, on lanuary 1, 1918, a
daily, Di Presse, was first issued, representing the views of the working masses
inclined to secularism and to the struggle for social justice by means of social
ism and communism. New centers advocating revised ideologies in accord
ance with developments in Europe were formed. Loyalties among leftists were
divided along the lines of the Second International or the Communist Inter
national. During the 1920s many groups within the lewish population were
active in promoting various ideologies. The fact that these centers were all-
Jewish, that the language spoken at meetings was Yiddish, and that their peri
odicals were in this language, testify to the existence of a lewish sentiment in
the midst of these fringe groups of the lewish community. However, among the
more leftist organizations the lewish component was weaker, while the ideo
logical component was stronger.
In 1920 Avangard was split into two separate groups, one socialist and
the other communist. With the continuous flow of Polish Bundists during the
1920s, the socialist Avangard was restructured into the Algemeiner Yiddisher
Arbeter Bund and later into the Yiddisher Sotsialist Farband (1929), which
published Sotzialistisfter Bletter (1930). Two small anarchist societies issued pe
riodicals with names identical to their own: Dos FreieWort (1921) and Di Freiheit
Shtime (1923).
The lewish communists initiated a period of mu.tifaceted activities dur-


143
National and Political Challenges
ing the 1920s. Actually, the Jews played a distinguished role within the new
born Communist party in Argentina, whose members were primarily artisans
and petty bourgeois immigrants from Eastern Europe. 1 " Since the pillars of
the Communist party during that decade were immigrants with sympathy for
the USSR, important linguistic groups were formed that developed ample po
litical and cultural activities, including the issuing of periodicals in various
languages. The mission of these linguistic groups was to enroll the immigrants
in the Communist party. The lewish section—Yewsektsia—of the Communist
party was established with the purpose of propagandizing among the lews,
especially among those dissatisfied with the Socialist party of luan B. lusto.
Indoctrination was done through a variety of publications in Yiddish and
through the establishment of secular class schools for children and cultural
programs for adults. Practical work concentrated mainly on gathering funds to
help the indigent in Soviet Russia and on campaigning for a lewish settlement
in Birobidzhan. As was the case with the young Communist party in Argentina,
the lewish section was influenced more by directives from Moscow than by
local developments and needs.' 25
The goal of the Communist periodicals was to spread the party ideals
among lewish workers. Der Roiter Shtern, published by the lewish section of the
Communist party in Argentina, was first issued in 1923. One of its editorials
said, "The lewish working masses here in Argentina must lead a struggle
against the surrounding reaction, against the lewish bourgeois press, which
misleads the workers and feeds them with bourgeois poison. We must have a
daily paper that will lead a work of enlightening within the lewish proletarians
and fight the harmful effects of the street press of every type 126
Likewise Roiie Hi If, a journal published first in 1928 by the lewish sub
committee of the International Red Relief (MOPR)—Polish subcommittee in
the Argentine Section—urged its readers, "The lewish workers must take part
in the great communist manifestation under the banner of MOPR." 127
Other Communist publications in Yiddish were Dorem Amerika, a literary
journal (1926), and Nriewelt (1927), with a Marxist Revolutionary ideology, both
directed by H. Blostein; Unzer Shul, put out by the parents committee at the
Workers' Schools in 1929; and Nod/ Arbeter, the official organ of the Union of
Tailor Workers in Buenos Aires in 1922.
While the rest of the lewish community raised funds to help the lewish
victims in Europe, the lewish communists organized campaigns to help the
Soviet Union. In mid-1921, the International Workers Relief Committee for So
viet Russia was formed in Berlin, while branches in all countries collected
funds to fight hunger in Russia. The Argentine Communist party instructed the
formation of a United lewish Russian Committee to help the USSR, with the
participation of the Communist Avangard, Poale Zion left, the cooperative
owning the daily Di Presse, and several other cultural and workers' organiza
tions. 128
The Soviet Union, furthermore, started a project of settling lews in agri
cultural colonies in Southern Russia and in Birobidzhan. The reaction of the
expanding Jewish communist sector in Argentina immediately followed, 129


144
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
An organization—Procor—consistent with the interests of Gezerd, the
Organization for Settlement of lewish Toilers on Land in Russia, was formed
as early as November 1924 by delegates of the leftist lewish groups in the
country Having had relatively little success during the first year in gathering
contributions for the Russian project, Procor was restructured under individ
ual affiliation in February 1926. Its numbers in Buenos Aires grew speedily for
a period—from 71 in May 1926 to 1,194 in |uly 1927—and soon subcommit
tees were opened in twenty-three localities in the interior, with about 1,000
additional affiliated members. Procor's message found a response mainly
among the lewish proletariat not involved in Zionist activities. During its first
years, Procor was also supported by Mundo Israelita, a weekly still in its period
of struggle before fully accepting a Zionist position, and by some |CA colo
nists. The daily Di Presse was also in favor of the settlement plan in Soviet
Russia, as were the various Yiddish communist publications listed above.
During a plenary session in 1927 a heated discussion took place con
cerning whether Procor should operate under ideological principles or not. H
Blostein, a leading lewish communist, stressing the proletarian character of
Procor, argued that the organization must be led by workers. Only the working
class could appreciate the efforts of the Soviets "in favor of the unemployed
lewish masses suffering the consequences of their economic function in the
old regime.'' Miguel Polak, at the time wavering between socialism and com
munism, did not see the need for an ideological basis for the work in favor of
lewish colonization in the USSR, since, in his opinion, all classes sympathized
with the project. The majority opted for giving Procor a class orientation that
would attract not only workers and farmers but also the petty bourgeoisie de
void of any ideological posture. 1 ’ 0 However, Procor continued to propagandize
among all lews. This prompted a Zionist reaction. Zionists did not believe the
USSR could create a lewish republic in Birobidzhan. It was too far away from
the major areas of lewish population; the weather and the land were not con
ducive to the establishment of agricultural colonies; and the sincerity of the
Soviet leaders was doubtful.” 1
Procor's propaganda deeply affected some of the most idealist among
the communist lews, who committed themselves to travel to the USSR and
settle in the lewish colonies there. According to Pinie Katz—a member of the
first delegation to visit the settlements in Russia—what motivated some lews
to leave Argentina for the Soviet Union was "the character of the Argentine
Ishuv Icommunity], which was composed of toilers and idealists of land-arbeit
(agriculture! Among those who left ... there were city workers and colonists'
sons, and also the so-called candidates' or land workers who could not wait
until the ICA colonized them".” 2
Two fact-finding committees of Procor were sent to Russia, especially to
Birobidzhan, in 1929 and 1935 from Buenos Aires. Reciprocally, delegates from
Gezerd in Russia visited Argentina to help in the work there, as well as to
promote migrations of lews from the South American continent to the new
lewish settlements in the Soviet Union, lacob Levin visited Argentina in 1929,


145
National and Political Challenges
Gina Medem in 1935. For a short period of time Der Yiddisher Poier, a monthly
issued irregularly, was published in support of the activities of Procor. 1 ”
Partisans of Procor infiltrated the main institutions of the lewish com
munity in Buenos Aires, trying to convince the memberships to contribute to
their collections, as well as spreading communist propaganda. At the Chevra
Keduscha a great struggle took place concerning the amounts of money the
institution was to contribute to the campaigns of Keren Hayesod and to Pro
cor On luly 14, 1926, the board of the Chevra Keduscha decided to allocate
5,000 pesos to Keren Hayesod and 500 to Procor "because most of the mem
bers of the board have nationalistic sentiments." Protests from members of
the institution and reports presented to the board made them double their
contribution to Procor, thus reflecting the pressure of the communists in the
community. 134
Demonstrations were organized at social events of the lewish commu
nity. At presentations of the lewish theater, which concluded with the singing
of Hatikva, lewish communists made noise and whistled loudly, provoking the
antagonism of the rest of the audience. Banquets were organized for the day
of Yom Kippur, as well as affronts in synagogues. Zionists from all sectors,
except the leftist Poale Zionists, responded with an avalanche of articles in the
lewish press and with lectures in public gatherings warning the public against
contributing to Procor. They denounced Procor's virulent anti-Zionism and its
inchoate communist designs. Semanario Hebreo, a Spanish weekly with Zionist
goals, ardently fought against Procor, repeatedly cautioning that the monies
Procor collected were not sent directly to Russia, but 83 percent of it was used
locally for anti-Zionist propaganda. Furthermore, Semanario Hebreo warned the
heads of the Talmud Torahs and synagogues in Buenos Aires of the devious
ness of some advocates of Procor who attended High Holy Day Services, hop
ing to create a positive image of their religious concern. 135
After the return of the delegation of Procor to Russia in 1929, the move
ment gained many new members and contributors. A full report was published
in Yiddish stating its findings and impressions about the colonization project
in Soviet Russia. Various newspapers and magazines published by leftist or
ganizations, all of them in Yiddish, described with glowing words the future of
the lews in Birobidzhan. The Zionists, with the exception of the leftist Poale
Zionists, reacted even more strongly against this new wave of attacks against
their own ideals. They strongly denied "all the fantastic stories about that Gan
Eden |Paradise|, which the friends of Soviet Russia are spreading" and ap
pealed to the hearts of the lews with Zionist inclinations by denouncing the
"brutal, senseless, and sadist persecutions" against Zionists, "even against the
Communist Hashomer Hazair"' 3 ' 5
Contributions continued to come in, many, if not most, from lews anx
ious to help fellow lews in the Soviet Union. However, the executive leaders of
Procor launched an all-out ideological campaign early in 1930. During a period
of growing controversy in lewish circles they denounced everything and every
one opposed to the USSR and communism, including English imperialism, the


146
Iewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
opposition press, and the socialist organizations and broke relations with Di
Presse, which had till then supported them. Pressures were mounting to declare
Procor officially a communist endeavor. In spite of warnings by the moderate
lewish press, a Congress of Procor in April 1930 voted for a resolution requir
ing, since the Colonization project was in the USSR, that all members of Procor
sympathize with the Soviet regime. Donations, however, were accepted from
everyone. This resolution set the record straight and clearly defined the ideo
logical division within the lewish community. The noncommunist groups, in
cluding Mundo Israelita, declined further support. 1 ’ 7
After the revolution of 1930 and during the repression of Generals Uri-
buru and lusto, the communist Yiddish press became even more radical and
attacked its opponents without scruples. Roiter Shtern, Ueiewelt, Unzer Skul, and
also Pioner, a monthly children's magazine, published vitriolic articles defaming
not only the bourgeois Talmud Torahs but also the secular schools and the
Borochov schools for not preparing the children for the battles against fascism
and unemployment in Argentina. In their eyes the Borochov schools trained
its students for English imperialism and a Palestinian utopia, while the work
ers' children should be taught to condemn the imperialist preparations of war
against the proletarian fatherland, the USSR. 1 ’ 8 Even Di Presse, which during
the 1920s had supported all the communist endeavors, including Procor, was
now violently decried as a bitter enemy of the communist press. In fact, Di
Presse was moving slightly toward socialism but still maintained a proletarian
posture. In their zealousness in pursuing the mandates originating in the
USSR, the lewish Communist leaders pursued an anti-Zionist, antinationalist,
and antisocialist line that allowed no deviations (for more on the leftist groups
see chs. 6, 8). 139


147
4*
Concern for
Jewish
Education
Formal education is a fundamental means for
transmitting specific values, lewish immigrants have by and large been con
cerned with the lewish education of their children in their new environments.
However this concern did not always reach the point of turning into an active
force for promoting the teaching of lewish subjects to the generations born
overseas. The lewish urban immigration to Argentina is an example of a
group's indifference to lewish instruction at the turn of the century.
Regarding lewish education in Argentina, there was a difference be
tween the needs and demands of the lewish agricultural settlers and those
who established themselves in the large cities. The colonists immediately re
quested the lewish Colonization Association (|CA) authorities to help them in
establishing schools so that their children could be taught lewish religion,
literature, history, and languages. 1 The city dwellers, however were preoccu
pied with matters other than the lewish education of their young.
At the turn of the century Argentina was developing a national system
of education. In 1884, when the Ley de Educacion Comun Number 1420 was
passed by Congress, education became secular, universal, and compulsory at
public expense. 2 The lewish immigrants profited from this situation that al
lowed their children to receive an elementary education and that permitted
them to pursue their more immediate necessities of earning a living and ad
justing to the ways of their adoptive country. For the vast majority of the new
immigrants to the cities lewish education was a matter that would be tackled
once the lewish population grew in numbers and resources. Moreover, the fact
that the lews who had settled in Buenos Aires before 1890 had not contem-


148
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
plated creating special courses in lewish subjects for their young made the
process even more difficult for those who moved to the city after that year.
Education in Argentina was not comparable to the highly developed
national systems already adopted in several Central and West European coun
tries. Nonetheless, it was far superior to what the lewish immigrants had ex
perienced in their native towns. Most of the lews who arrived in Argentina had
been educated in Eastern Europe in a heder (lit., “room")—a one-room school,
usually the home of the melammed (schoolmaster). Here children—various
ages simultaneously—were taught portions of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testa
ment), elements of prayer, and other religious traditions, together with the
rudiments of arithmetic and composition. The room was generally small and
decrepit, and the melammed usually incompetent. Some gifted students aspired
to a more intensive Talmudic preparation in a yeshiva.
lews who arrived from the Ottoman Empire had a similar background,
though with even less contact with Western culture. The boys learned—usu
ally by heart—portions of the Pentateuch, the commentary of Rashi, selec
tions from the Bible and the Talmud, and other legalistic texts in dark and
somber schools. Due to poverty and a lack of teachers and appropriate didact
ical methods, not all the boys managed to learn how to count and write. The
Alliance Israelite Universelle started, at the end of the nineteenth century, a
net of schools in various parts of the area, thus also introducing the basic
secular studies into many Sephardic communities. However, not all parents
sent their children to these schools, sometimes due to religious prejudices
but more often because of insufficient funds. 3
lewish education was only the concern of a few officials in Buenos Aires.
The fact that most immigrants had an intense and all-pervading desire for
making America," thus devoting all their efforts to the attainment of a solid
economic situation, was a cause of their unconcern for the lewish education
for their children. Moreover, those who came as young bachelors, with no fam
ily to support, were understandably not worried about educating children.
Most lewish immigrants, however, did want to give their children an education
that would provide them with the knowledge and skills enabling them to pur
sue a professional career or allowing them to build a secure position in com
merce or industry.
The urban lewish immigrant found no obstacles to obtaining a secular
education for his children since the legislation of the country had made it
compulsory and free. However, the development of lewish schools with the
specific goal of imparting instruction in Jewish subjects was not mandatory.
Not all lews felt the need for such schools. A study of these schools will indi
cate the extent to which the lewish immigrant population in Buenos Aires was
interested in the strengthening of lewish identity in their children and the
extent to which they were prepared to make sacrifices for the furtherance of
that identity.
The lewish schools in Buenos Aires throughout the period ending in
1930 can be divided roughly in two categories: religious and secular. To the
first category belong the Talmud Torahs, or schools that stressed the teaching


149
Concern for)ewish Education
of religious law and customs, Bible, languages such as Hebrew, and (depend
ing on the origin of the members of the synagogue sponsoring the school)
Yiddish and Arabic. The secular schools, on the other hand, were strongly
based on the ideology of the party or society sponsoring them. There were,
thus, Poale Zionist, Yiddishist, communist, and Worker's schools in Buenos
Aires sponsored by different groups of lews. 4
The Religious Schools
The first type of lewish school established in Buenos Aires was the Es-
cuela Particular Primaria (later Talmud Torah Harischono), started by the Hevra
Poale Zedek in 1891. This was an elementary day school, where the students
followed the Argentine educational curriculum besides a series of lewish sub
jects taught in Yiddish. The instruction concentrated in the Spanish program,
but two hours a day were devoted to Jewish studies. It did not however, attract
large numbers of lewish students. Even the parents, including many on the
board of the school itself, preferred to send their children to the state schools.
Actually, the state schools were modern at the time, and the national program
was taught with more competence. Furthermore the lewish school buildings
compared quite unfavorably with those of the national ones.
This Talmud Torah school functioned thanks to the efforts of a few com
munal officials and a small number of idealists and learned lews. For a long
period—until 1906—it was the only institution offering children a semisyste-
matic program of lewish studies. Only when the large stream of immigration
from Eastern Europe—following the Russo-Japanese War and the abortive re
volt against tsarism in 1905—reached Argentina and settled in Buenos Aires,
were new efforts made to found additional lewish schools. Thus in 1906 the
Talmud Torah Dr T. Herzl was founded, and during the same year the Zionist
society Liga Dr. Herzl founded its own school. The latter had to close after a
few years due to financial difficulties. In 1911 the Linat Hazedek society
opened a Talmud Torah in the center of Buenos Aires. Between 1908 and 1910
three Talmud Torahs were started in the neighborhoods of Boca y Barracas,
Constitucion, and Caballito, where a large number of lewish immigrant work
ers from Eastern Europe had settled.
Each of these Talmud Torahs was sponsored by a small synagogue
formed by some of the more traditionally inclined lews in the neighborhood.
The synagogue itself provided a substantial part of the budget of the school.
Thus, for example, the Talmud Torah Harischono expenses, which were always
quite limited, were covered during 1899 in the following way: 28 percent from
tuition paid by the students' parents; 20 percent from members' dues; 16 per
cent from the lease of one room; 18 percent from donations and contributions
for honors at the synagogue The rest was gathered by extraordinary means
such as theater shows and High Holy Days profits. 5
Among Ashkenazim only a small number of children of grammar school
age attended the Talmud Torahs. In 1903 the Talmud Torah Harischono, which
offered courses corresponding to the first four grammar school years in the


150
]ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
state program, had a total of only 35 students 0 By 1908 the two schools oper
ating in the capital had at most 240 students, and by 1910 four schools gave
instruction to 400 to 500 students. 7 Nonetheless, the situation of the Talmud
Torahs was not secure, and there were constant difficulties in attracting new
students. Talmud Torah Dr. Herzl had 140 students in 1914 but had difficulties
the following year in reaching that same number. 8 In 1922, in spite of having
42 new students, total registration amounted to only 107. Two years later, out
of 108 enrolled, an average of only 83 students attended regularly 9 The follow
ing years, the total was reduced to 75 in 1925 and 78 in 1926. 10 In the meantime
enrollment in the Talmud Torah Harischono school increased to 180 in 1927."
When in September 1927 these two Talmud Torahs decided to join forces in
order to strengthen their schools and also to build a synagogue in the central
lewish section of Once, the new school thus formed had 250 students in two
sections, morning and afternoon. 12
As a consequence of a report of the general situation of the lewish com
munity—including the state of lewish education—prepared by Rabbi Samuel
Halphon for the |CA in 1909, the Cursos Religiosos Israelitas were created in 1911,
with the purpose of offering courses in ludaism to the sons of immigrants
throughout the country. 13 The |CA agreed to subsidize these Talmud Torahs or
Cursos with the explicit desire that the pupils' parents, committees, and
boards of each one of the schools contribute in increasing proportions to meet
the yearly budgets. It was expected that the local school committees would
progressively fully support their institutions, and that the )CA subventions
would be gradually reduced.
Table 4 shows that throughout the period 1911-30 there was an increas
ing participation of the local committees in the expenses of the schools. While
in 1911 the local contribution amounted to only 6.5 percent of the total edu
cational budget, in 1912 it already reached 25 percent and in 1913 34 percent.
For the period 1915-19 local contributions roughly equaled those coming
from abroad. In 1926 they amounted to 60 percent and reached 73 percent in
1929, and 84 percent in 1930. The net contributions of Argentine Jewry to the
schools were constantly increasing during the period. However, the total bud
get, which attained its peak of 304,864.18 pesos in 1923, decreased during the
last years of the decade and reached the low mark of 238,547.04 pesos in 1930
The monetary figures clearly demonstrate that the lews in Argentina were con
cerned more and more with the expenses of religious education for their
young. The money coming in from European lewish organizations did not in
crease during the World War I years, but after the conflagration was over till
1923 even these amounts increased to two and three times the sums received
before and during the war. The local figures grew, nonetheless, in larger pro
portions. During the mid-1920s the ICA authorities, who had supported many
educational and religious projects in Argentina, decided that the time had
come for the lewish communities in the country to organize and carry the
burden of their continuity and support the cultural activities by themselves." 1
Thus the local communities, which had been increasingly assuming the re-


Concern for ]ewish Education
Table 4
Cursos Religiosos Israelitas: Number of Cursos, Students, and Teachers
and Budget for the Entire Argentine Republic
Cursos functioning
Budget (In pesos)
Year
Cities Colonies Towns Total
a b c d
Students Teachers
)CA
Local
Total
191 1
7


7
470
7
20,483 41
1.432.00
21,915 41
1912
15


15
1,089
17
27.939 22
9,261 90
37.201 12
1913
23


23
1.106
26
38.216 95
20,091.45
58,308.40
1914
25


25
2,102
29
40.34565
27.568 80
67,914.45
1915
25


25
2.435
30
34,722.90
32,391 65
67.1 14 55
1916
28


28
2,757
33
36,38023
34.202 25
70,582 48
1917
26
13

39
3.710
48
40,74390
41,088.00
81,831.90
1918
25
17

42
3.842
51
49,957.90
49.619.00
99,576.90
1919
28
17

45
5,012
59
57.906.52
48.281.00
116,187.52
1920
32
49

81
5,180
96
78.356 78
84.394.60
162.751 38
1921
33
47
8
88
5,508
107
110,278.97
126.317.95
236.596.92
1922
33
54
12
99
6.087
112
129,763 15
155,531 57
285,294 72
1923
25
57
11
93
6,129
112
133,711.16
171,153 02
304,864.18
1924
29
57
13
99
5.171
109
125,686 59
167,429 65
293,116.24
1925
23
53
11
87
5,692
97
122.368 45
167,906 77
290,275.22
1926
23
52
12
87
4.985
96
116,365.50
164,931 20
281,296.70
1927
24
47
12
83
4,710
92
100.654.67
167,617 15
268.271 82
1928
22
45
12
79
4,447
94
83.760.46
186,296.05
270.056 51
1929
22
45
12
79
4,064
96
72,25469
198,371 85
270.626 54
1930
24
40
11
75
4,331
88
37,416 97 201,130.07
238.547 04
Source: ledidia Efron, "La obra escolar en las colonias judfas.''
in 50 afios de colonizacion en la Argentina (Buenos Aires. 19391, 250,
261. Also found in M. Meiern Laser Dos Yiddishe Sfiulvezn in Ar
gentina (Buenos Aires, 1948), 59.
sponsibility for religious education, were confronted with the necessity of tak
ing full responsibility.
Moreover, the table shows that the proportions between the numbers of
schools, students, and teachers maintained certain uniformity. There is an av
erage of about 1.2 teachers for each school and about 50 students per teacher
In most of these schools the instructor taught different groups of students in
the morning and afternoon, thus the average number of students per class
must have been near 30. Again, we note a strong increase in the number of
students in the post-World War 1 period, with a maximum of 6,129 in 1923 For
the balance of the decade these numbers sharply decreased, though not uni
formly. In 1930 only 4,331 students were enrolled in the Cursos.
The greatest number of students, schools, and teachers, as well as the
largest budget, was reached in the postwar years. This was due to the relatively
large immigration of lews into Argentina during those years. The lack of conti
nuity in many of these schools, and the decreasing number of students attend-


152
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
ing them are telling arguments for the poor impact this type of religious edu
cation had upon the vast majority of the lews established in Argentina. They
attest once more to the secular character of lewish identification among large
numbers of Jewish immigrants and to the secularization process in lewish life
during the 1920s. This conclusion is further bolstered by the fact that most of
the numbers of students and teachers are somewhat inflated. The figures given
in the annual rapports of the |CA were always lower than those of table 4. 15
One of the crucial causes for the weak state of lewish education in the
1920s in Argentina was the teachers' situation. In many cases the teachers
were lewish immigrants who could not earn a living in other occupations. Due
to the extremely low salaries paid to teachers at the Cursos Religiosos and
Talmud Torahs, the most capable ones left the profession for more lucrative
positions. In 1917 the teachers of lewish schools in Buenos Aires formed a
union called Agudat Hamorim. The main objectives of the Agudat Hamorim
were to improve the moral situation at the lewish schools in the country, to
tighten the organization of these schools, to defend the economic interests of
the teachers, and to promote interest among the lewish population for lewish
education. They were opposed to the heder type of school and advocated mod
ern institutions of learning. 16 They deplored the fact that within the lewish
community the most "intelligent representatives busy themselves with all na
tional, social and communal daily questions, but never with lewish educa
tion." 17
In 1919 and 1920 the Agudat Hamorim went on strike for six months.
Their demands were in accordance with the above-mentioned objectives of the
union. Only after a long struggle with the boards of the schools were the teach
ers able to achieve their justified petitions. The lewish press in the city kept
the public informed of the slow dealings between teachers and school com
mittees, but in spite of this effort those concerned with the problem were not
able to awaken the lewish population to the need of parochial education. 18
The long-fought battle between teachers and schools further attests to what
priority lewish education held among the leadership of the Buenos Aires lew
ish community. On the other hand, the lewish teachers were supported by a
large part of the lewish working force in Buenos Aires. Their solidarity was
strictly founded on an identification with fellow workers in their struggle for
better salaries and working conditions. In the special case of the lewish teach
ers this also meant the struggle for recognition of their professional worth and
indispensability within the lewish community. The cap makers—an almost to
tally lewish profession in Buenos Aires during the 1920s—supported the
teachers "in the economic war they led against the school committees .. and
. . ask|ed| the members |of their union| who have children enrolled in the
|lewish| schools, not to send them." 1 ’
The program of studies both at the Cursos Religiosos and at the Talmud
Torahs included the study of the Hebrew and Yiddish languages, with more or
less emphasis on one or the other according to the school, readings from the
Siddur (Hebrew Prayer Book), blessings for various occasions, and stories and
legends from the Bible. The program proposed by Rabbi Halphon, who headed


153
Concern for \ewish Education
the Cursos Religiosos, was divided into three levels spanning six or seven
years. Probably a very small number of the students went through the whole
program. In all likelihood most of them attended the Cursos for only two or
three years.
The history courses strongly emphasized the Biblical and Second Com
monwealth periods in lewish history. Only in the last year of studies was the
student confronted with the dispersion of the lewish people after the destruc
tion of the Second Temple. During that last year a survey of eighteen centuries
of lewish history was taught. Analogously, the Talmud Torahs Dr. Herzl and
Harischono, upon uniting in 1927, issued a program that stressed Yiddish and
Hebrew languages, traditions, prayers, and biblical history. In the last year was
taught lewish history after the destruction of the Second Temple and up to the
twentieth century. In other words, the basic concept for lewish education at
the Cursos Religiosos and Talmud Torahs was that the lews were a religious
entity with roots in ancient times that deserved to be studied. 20 No major effort
was made to adapt those values to the open environment of Argentine society.
Furthermore, the lewish children remained unchallenged by events in lewish
history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that touched their personal
lives more directly. Moreover, the student's association with the lewish com
munity in Israel during the Second Commonwealth period remained a big
question mark in his mind because of the gap of over eighteen centuries in his
studies. On the other hand, lessons in Argentine history at the state school
were emphatically taught, with the purpose of Argentinizing the large numbers
of immigrants in the country, and these left a powerful imprint on the lewish
immigrant's child.
By 1909 many lewish officials were alarmed at the widening abyss be
tween parents and children in Argentina, due to the education received by the
latter in the national schools, which estranged them from ludaism and the
lewish people. In many cases, due to the patriotic education in the state
schools and the aspirations of the Argentine elite in power to assimilate all
foreigners, the sons of lewish immigrants were "even ashamed of lews and of
everything lewish ... Phrases such as 'You are lewish, but 1 am Argentine,' were
commonplace in family vocabulary, even in genuine lewish homes." 21 Ricardo
Rojas's La restauracion nacionalista in 1909 advocated a strong revision of public
education in the country in order to impede the alleged destruction of the
Argentine cultural heritage by the massive immigration. It was a stimulus for
stressing the national cultural values and condemning cosmopolitanism as
the antithesis of civilization in state schools. 22 The strong nationalist character
of the Argentine schools was also felt by other immigrant groups, notably the
Italian, which constituted the most numerous one. Robert F Foerster summa
rized the documentation in 1919 saying that "in the public schools the training
of the children is intensely nationalistic—to a degree rare in other coun
tries." 23
The different Sephardic communities had their separate Talmud Torahs,
each reflecting its own attitude toward lewish learning The emphasis in lewish
studies was, among the Sephardic communities in Buenos Aires, directly pro-


154
\ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
portional to their attachment to religious traditions and observances. The old
est, smallest, and also the most assimilated of the Sephardic groups in the
Argentine capital, that is, the Moroccan one, encountered the greatest ob
stacles to starting its own courses. Only in 1917 did the Congregacion Israelita
Latina consider initiating Hebrew courses. 24 Their Talmud Torah was only cre
ated in 1922, after five years during which the idea remained in oblivion.
Courses included Hebrew language, traditions, prayers, and Bible. 25 However,
the progressive estrangement of many members of this community from lew
ish sources and traditions is also evident from the participation of the children
in the school. While in 1925 it was functioning relatively well, giving instruc
tion to about sixty students, three years later the numbers decreased drasti
cally to only six. In spite of the great efforts made by the board to revive the
Talmud Torah, it did not constitute a very popular activity of the Moroccan
lewish community in Buenos Aires. 26
The Turkish- or Ladino-speaking lews who migrated from Constanti
nople, Smyrna, Rhodes, and so on and settled in the Villa Crespo neighbor
hood in the capital had founded in 1914 the Kahal Kadosh and Talmud Torah
La Hermandad Sefaradl. During the war there were about forty-five students. 27
In 1917 they started receiving a subsidy from the Cursos Religiosos. 28 This
school developed during the 1920s. In 1921 it had seventy students, while in
the last half of the decade there was an average of ninety students. The lan
guage of instruction was Spanish, and little Hebrew was taught. 29
Much more intense was the instruction given at the Talmud Torahs of
the Arabic-speaking lewish communities. The Damascene and Aleppine lews
opened Talmud Torahs in Barracas and Once, respectively, as soon as there
was a fair number of young to start a class. In 1920 both these communities
founded their respective main schools, Or Torah and Yesod Hadath, in these
same quarters. A third school, Agudat Dodim was formed simultaneously in
Flores, consisting basically of Damascene lews and some Aleppine lews. These
Talmud Torahs conducted their classes in Arabic. The students studied the
prayer book, the Pentateuch with the commentary of Rashi, parts of the
Mishna, and some Talmud. The Damascene lews switched to Spanish as
the language of instruction earlier than the Aleppine, mainly as a consequence
of their close ties with the Cursos Religiosos. The Aleppine remained com
pletely separate from the Cursos.
Hacham Shaul Setton Dabbah, the leader of the Aleppine community,
was a zealous defender of orthodoxy and intransigent to changes in the school
curriculum. He also controlled the school and taught advanced students in
Talmud, with the intention of having them take courses in ritual slaughtering
(shechita), and ordain them rabbis and cantors (hachamim and hazzanim). More
over, Hacham Setton was strongly opposed on religious grounds to the "mod
ernization" of the school, advocated by most of the board, who considered that
the Hebrew language should be taught parallel to the children's learning of
sacred texts. The hacham strongly adhered to the opinion that Hebrew was to
be utilized only for sacred purposes and should not be taught as a language
for daily and secular use. The conflict between some members of the board


155
Concern for ]ewish Education
and the hacham over this issue started in 1928 and caused a big split in the
community. At an assembly early in 1929 the argument got out of control and
required the intervention of the local police. Nevertheless, during the lifetime
of Hacham Setton (d. 1930) nothing was changed in the curriculum of the
school. However, modernizing forces were there, and starting in 1930 even Ye-
sod Hadath underwent basic modifications, including the introduction of a
course in Hebrew. Eventually, the main language of instruction was changed
from Arabic to Spanish. 50
The program of studies at the schools of the Arabic-speaking lews in
Buenos Aires was thorough. Classes met daily for three to four hours depend
ing on the season of the year, before or after the regular hours at the state
schools. 51 The number of students remained very high during the 1920s. Or
Torah had 220 in 1922 and 250 in 1930. 52 At Yesod Hadath the 200 students
with four teachers in 1921 rose to 300 students and nine teachers in 1924 and
to 450 students in 193 1. 55 Agudat Dodim had 170 students in 1929. 54
These schools were supported by voluntary contributions, by pledges of
members at the synagogue, and especially by the profits of the sale of kosher
meat at the meat markets sponsored by the societies. To help meet the need
of the school budgets the boards of the Talmud Torahs made every possible
effort to have every parent buy at their meat markets. Strong measures were
repeatedly imposed on parents who did not patronize these shops, such as
demanding special monthly tuition sums for the education of their children. 55
Indeed, the sale of kosher meat was one of the main sources of income for
communal organization of Syrian lewry before World War 1, and the immigrants
from these communities maintained this as a source of income for their
schools also in Buenos Aires. 56
With the intention of arousing enthusiasm among the lewish population
in Argentina for lewish education and having local lews contribute to its sup
port, Rabbi Halphon—together with leading members of the Congregacion
Israelita and some other officials in lewish education in the country—founded
in 1917, the Comite Central de Educacion Israelita en la Republica Argentina
(also called Vaad Hajinuj). The founders of this Comite Central fought against
the indifference of most of the lews for Jewish education, arguing correctly that
the few institutions of Jewish learning in the country were in existence thanks
to "the generosity of some European lews, who, justly alarmed by the negli
gent state of Hebrew education, did not hesitate to contribute enormous sums
during eight consecutive years for the establishment of courses.” 57 Until 1930
the Comite Central did not attain outstanding success from the financial point
of view. During those thirteen years it was able to collect the sum of 130,000
pesos, which helped cover the deficits in the schools when the |CA gradually
curtailed its financial support of the Cursos Religiosos. 58 Moreover, the Comite
Central marked the transition from the first period, in which education was
supported from abroad while Jews in Argentina remained by and large aloof to
this problem to a period in which the Argentine community had to resort to
its own resources.
The institutions dedicated to religious education were constantly, dur-


156
)ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
ing our period, in a state of financial stress. Besides the Cursos Religiosos and
the Comite Central, many Talmud Torahs approached the Chevra Keduscha,
which already after World War I had become economically powerful, for mone
tary support of their work. 39 When the ICA, by means of the Cursos Religiosos,
discontinued its grants to the Talmud Torahs, most of the latter suffered even
more. Only few of the boards of these schools, composed mainly of students'
parents, reacted positively to this curtailment and were able to make the
schools prosper by means of stronger local contributions in order to prevent
their closing.' 10
The Talmud Torahs, especially the Cursos Religiosos, were severely crit
icized by some sectors of Buenos Aires Ashkenazi lewry. The orthodox circles
considered the Cursos Religiosos too modern, deviating from strict religious
teachers and cause for rampant assimilation and irreligiosity. On the other
hand the atheists and secular lews considered that these schools were too
religious in their approach to lewish education and that the concepts taught
there were fanatic and backward.Others considered religious instruction to
be antidemocratic, and the fact that the Cursos Religiosos received subsidies
from Paris (ICA) was regarded as a foreign encroachment in the life of Argen
tine lewry. 42 In spite of these criticisms and in spite of their strong limitations,
both financial and didactical, the Cursos Religiosos constituted until 1930 the
most influential effort in lewish education in the country.
Secular Jewish Schools
The Talmud Torahs and the Cursos Religiosos were not the only type of
lewish education envisaged by the immigrant parents. True, a large proportion
of the latter remained indifferent to lewish education. However, among those
indifferent to religious instruction there were some who advocated a secular
approach to lewish studies. The progressive element along the lewish workers
in Buenos Aires was deeply affected by the events in Russia during the last
stages of World War I and was immediately influenced by the movement ad
vocating the creation of secular lewish schools in Poland and Soviet Russia. A
small group, the anarchists, on the other hand, received their inspiration from
the (Francisco) Ferrer schools in Spain. It was only after the war that the lewish
secular proletariat in Argentina tackled the problem of giving their children a
class education within a lewish framework.
Since 1884 education in Argentina was officially secular. However, the
values taught at the state schools were the values of the dominant class in the
country, that is, the bourgeois, Catholic elite. The workers—and in our specific
case, the lewish workers—imbued in their respective political and class ideol
ogies, advocated an instruction for their children that would present the other
side of the coin: a secular and class-conscious education. During the 1920s
approaches were made, with different political and social outlooks, to fill this
gap among the lewish working class in Argentina.
In 1909 the first Federacion Obrera Israelita (Yiddisher Arbeter Verband)
was founded—a society for mutual help, which also sponsored cultural activi-


157
Concern for I ewish Education
ties—having among its objectives the creation of a non-religious school. 43 But
the short-lived federation never put this into practice. Other attempts to found
modern lewish schools were made before 1920 in Rosario and in other towns
near the lewish agricultural colonies. 44
The first phase in modernization took place as an aftermath of the strike
of the Agudat Hamorim of 1919. A Folks-Shulrat (Popular School Board) was
established, school committees were formed in several areas of Buenos Aires,
and schools were founded with names of modern lewish writers, such as
Shalom Aleichem, 1. L. Peretz, Shalom Asch, Mendele Mocher Sforim, and so
on These schools eliminated the name of Talmud Torah and were called Folks
Shuln (Popular Schools); they did away with the skullcap for boys during the
study of sacred texts as well as with other religious practices. The program,
which was taught in Yiddish, consisted in language, history, and literature. For
texts they utilized books prepared by Joel Entin, the Yiddish educator and
translator in New York. 45
These schools did not attract the mass of lewish workers. The only
school of the three founded in 1920 that still existed in 1929 was the Folks
Shul Shalom Aleichem in the center of town (at lean luares number 392). Oth
ers were established later-—lasting only a few years—in various sections of
Buenos Aires. The Shalom Aleichem school had an average of one hundred
students, and there were no more than three Folks Shuln in existence simul
taneously. 46 Moreover, the joint board of these schools existed only a few
years. The Folk Shuln thus did not have a common program of studies, and the
teachers were required to teach according to the instructions of the school
committees, which did not always maintain a fixed ideology. 47
The secular character of the Folks Shuln caused opposition from reli
gious sectors. On the other hand, even if secular, these schools still retained a
certain bourgeois character, at least in the eyes of the most progressive work
ers. During those stormy years of class differentiation some extremist groups
remained completely separate from other leftist groups This opposition, both
from the religious and from the extreme left, was the cause for the little influ
ence of the Folks Shuln among the Jewish working class. 48
Poale Zion founded a net of schools under the name of Ber Borochov,
the ideologist of the movement in Eastern Europe. A board of trustees (Cura-
torium) of the Borochov schools was formed in Buenos Aires on (anuary 6,
1920, which administered the educational institutions. The first of these
schools was opened in Villa Crespo, and soon others followed in the center of
Buenos Aires and near Mercado Abasto. In accordance with the ideology of
Labor Zionism, the Borochov schools taught in the first stage Yiddish lan
guage, stories from the Bible, and lewish songs; in the second stage of studies
emphasis was placed on lewish history, literature, and folklore, together with
notions about Eretz Israel, in the more advanced years Hebrew and the history
of popular movements were taught. After the rift within the Poale Zion party in
1921 (ch. 5), the Borochov schools remained with the leftist Poale Zionists,
and accordingly the ideology of the schools moved further to the left. There
was an average of 200 students at the Borochov schools at the beginning of


158
)ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
the 1920s. When they were closed in 1932 by the Argentine government, which
accused them of being communist, the number of students had reached 300. 49
The lewish communists—consisting mainly of lews associated with the
lewish socialist organization Avangard (after 1920), and members of Poale
Zion (left)—founded Workers' Schools (Arbeter Shuln) in 1922. 50 Their propa
ganda in the lewish neighborhoods was aggressive and fell among the workers
"as a tempest." 51 They launched antireligious mottos and political manifestos
promoting class-consciousness among the lewish proletariat. The bourgeoisie
was violently attacked because of the values taught in their schools, such as
the superiority of private property, the fundamental principle for the develop
ment of society and the family. They believed that the worker's children were
taught by the bourgeoisie to relate only to the machine. Moreover, the Argen
tine state schools were criticized for being chauvinistic and emphasizing patri
otism. The Argentine heroes of independence had become, in the minds of the
children, the heroes of humanity. On the other hand the Workers' Schools
taught the proletarian students class loyalty and prepared them to battle for
its liberation. The students were expected to become builders of a new social
ist order, to think materialistically, and to acquire the necessary tools to fight
against the bourgeois order. 52
The difference, during the late 1920s, between the Borochov and the
Workers' schools was that the latter fought against Zionism, while the former
were positively Zionist. Both school systems were constantly in competition.
A major polemic was built around the controversy between Yiddishism and
proletarian culture in Yiddish, which was rampant in Poland and in the United
States at the time. In Argentina there was no place for such a battle. As Pinie
Katz asserted, this polemic was rooted in a fight for the hegemony of leader
ship in the lewish working class. 53 The Workers' Schools were slightly more
successful than the Borochov ones. In 1927 there were eight Workers' Schools
and five Borochov schools. 54
In 1925 a convention was organized in Buenos Aires with the objective
of establishing a union of all lewish proletarian schools. This attempt failed
due to each group's wanting the united board to accept its own directives and
principles. The communist contingent—indeed the largest—could not toler
ate the position of the small Bundist cluster. The rationalists, or anarchists,
who had a plan for a rational school, left the conference because of the general
disagreement to their ideology. On the other hand, the Poale Zionists wanted
the conference to adopt a more positive stand towards lewish education. The
rift between Poale Zionists and communists reached absurd proportions when
the schools of the former were branded "Talmud Torahs" by the latter, and
those of the communists were denominated "party parishes" by Poale Zion
ists. 55
Both the Borochov and the Workers' schools had constant financial dif
ficulties because they were not founded upon secure economic bases. Since
they never had the support of the ICA because they were party schools, their
income came basically from tuition of students, picnics, and cultural festivals
The repeatedly approached the Chevra Keduscha for financial support, which


159
Concern for \ewish Education
finally was granted. A few members of the board of Chevra Keduscha thought
that the Talmud Torahs should get first priority regarding economic help. Oth
ers were against the secular schools because these did not contribute to the
preservation of ludaism among the young generation. The majority, however,
agreed that the Chevra Keduscha should help all types of lewish schools, in
the same way it supported institutions antagonistic to each other such as
Karen Hayesod and Procor. 56 Thus the Chevra Keduscha, the largest lewish
organization in the country, formed around a burial society with clearly reli
gious goals, had, already in the 1920s, adopted a more universalist position. In
the area of lewish education it chose to bolster and support, whenever its
financial situation allowed, all (ewish schools, whether they be religious Tal
mud Torah or secular communist Workers' Schools. This fact also attests to the
participation of the leftist and secular elements in the life of the lewish com
munity in Buenos Aires. They were granted support for their schools because
they constituted a fairly discernable part of the membership at the Chevra
Keduscha and their views were represented at the board of the institution.
Moreover, the secular element outweighed the religious one at the Chevra Ke
duscha, thus confirming that Argentine lewry, already during the 1920s, had a
secular and ethnic character
By 1930 there were over twenty Talmud Torahs in Buenos Aires. Most of
them were in financial straits. The end of ICA subsidies and the economic
crisis that had started a year earlier only worsened the situation. The natural
road for these institutions to follow was the one that led to the Chevra Kedus
cha for assistance. A delegation of the various Talmud Torahs described the
conditions under which these schools were operating. Besides their unstable
financial situation there were deficiencies in instruction and programs due to
the lack of qualified teachers, and students were lost every year. On the other
hand, the Argentine national schools attracted the full attention of the stu
dents because of their better teaching programs and organization, their better
physical environment, and because state education was the one needed in
order to reach institutions of higher learning. 57 All lewish schools had a sectar
ian approach to lewish education The secular program focused around one
specific doctrine, be it Yiddishism, Marxism, or Labor Zionism, while the Tal
mud Torahs stressed languages and religion.
Both the religious and the secular schools in Buenos Aires lacked a real
objective approach to lewish education. They all considered that the basic
needs of education were provided by the national Argentine school. Moreover,
all the students at the lewish schools had to be enrolled in the state schools.
The lewish schools could therefore not compete with the state schools. They
could not provide a full program for the education of the child both in the
official Argentine program and in one adequate to the particular ideology of
the school. This could only be possible at a day school (escuela integral) Al
though there were various individuals advocating this type of school they were
not established until later decades. 58
The passionately patriotic education given at the state schools was not


160
]ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
paralleled with a lewish education of a similarly appealing character. 59 The
Argentine-born generation of the first decades of the twentieth century, espe
cially in the cities, was more inclined to following currents of Argentine nation
alism than to retaining lewish particularism by studying at the lewish schools.
In 1923 Leib laffe, an envoy of the Keren Hayesod, met Argentine lews who told
him about the necessity of the lews to assimilate fully into the Argentine cul
ture and society. An end had to be put to the active cosmopolitanism rampant
in cities such as Buenos Aires. All expressions of particularism were to be
made void in order that the Argentine heritage be preserved. 60
The program in the Cursos Religiosos, as well as in most Talmud Torahs,
did not stop the assimilationist trend among the lews. Practically no lewish
literature or lewish post-Second Commonwealth history was taught there. The
students did not relate to their ancestors of ancient Palestine as they did to
the heroes of the country where they lived or to lewish literature as they did to
Spanish and Latin American literature. In the program of the Cursos Religio
sos one could see the "assimilationist myopia" of educators not able to under
stand the needs of the lewish generation born in Argentina. 6 '
In the secular schools there was also a lack of qualified teachers. The
classrooms were narrow and small and in poor hygienic conditions. The main
concern was the ideology of the party, not didactics. Moreover, classes were
conducted in Yiddish, which was not the mother tongue of some students,
who spoke Spanish much more fluently. 62
With the exception of the Arabic-speaking lews, a vast majority of the
lewish parents were negligent in the lewish education of their children. The
leadership of Buenos Aires' lewry, on the other hand, did not build modern
and efficient school systems during the 1920s in spite of both the numerous
voices advocating them and even the different committees appointed to deal
with this necessity.
In 1926 the Consejo Nacional de Educacion confirmed that 13.5 percent
of the general population of Buenos Aires was of school age. The lewish pop
ulation of the city was between 80,000 and 100,000 individuals, lose Mendel-
son furthermore asserted that there were less than 1,000 lewish children who
went regularly to a lewish school. Even granting that Mendelson did not in
clude about 700 students at the various Sephardic Talmud Torahs in the city,
the 1,000 Ashkenazi students represented between 8.7 and 11.4 percent of the
school-age Ashkenazi population. 63 Thus, a generation practically illiterate in
lewish knowledge was being brought up in Buenos Aires, lewish leadership a
generation later had to be recruited from more recent waves of immigration or
from certain limited number of lewish colonies where lewish education was
more widespread.


161
Jewish Cultural
Expressions in
an Aeeulturating
Community
The contributions of the Argentine lewish com
munity to lewish culture did not have a noticeable distinction in centers in
continental Europe at the turn of the century. The immigrants who arrived in
Argentina were in no way rabbinic scholars. Moreover, among those who left
Eastern Europe the pious and the learned were in the minority. They would
rather settle in a land where the observance of religious precepts was assured
Buenos Aires, like most of Argentina, with the possible exception of some of
the lewish agricultural settlements, was far from being a place that would in
duce pious and knowledgeable lews to settle permanently. Few lewish immi
grants in Argentina were influenced by haskalah (enlightenment), a movement
that aspired to Europeanize Jewish social and cultural life. Furthermore, lews
in Buenos Aires were not associated with the Russified lewish intelligentsia of
the time. 1 The Sephardic immigrants in Argentina were even less enlightened
than their Ashkenazi brethren. Deeply imbued in traditional lewish life, the
Sephardic communities in the Orient had only begun to receive the impact of
the Europeanizing forces of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, through which
an inkling of French culture and language was being instilled. Only a small
number of the emigrating Sephardic lews had been in contact with the Wester
nizing teachings of the AIU. 2
The overall reason for emigrating and the main goal for the overwhelm
ing majority of lews arriving in the port of Buenos Aires was to improve their
economic situation. The dream of “making America" was in their minds. 3


162
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
Upon arriving in Argentina, the lewish immigrant had to organize a so
cial and cultural life. The first consideration was to be among coreligionists
and conationals. This gave rise to tens of residents (landsmanschaften| associa
tions, both among Ashkenazim and Sephardim. The lewish immigrants had
brought with them the culture and language of their native society. The Ash
kenazim from Eastern Europe preferred and sought fellow lews who spoke
their native tongue, Yiddish, and were also eager to maintain in Buenos Aires
their cultural pursuits. Similarly, the Sephardic lews were concentrated in var
ious centers, each one conducted in the respective mother tongue of its con-
tituents—Arabic, Ladino, or Spanish—and with a membership composed of
lews of similar geographic origin.
It was imperative for the immigrant to learn the Spanish language, to
adapt to the mores and customs of the Argentinian society, and to participate
as far as possible in the social, political, and economic life of the adoptive
country. This, together with the immediate acclimatization of children—
whether born in Europe or in Argentina—made the process of Argentinization
an inevitable one. Moreover, the lewish immigrant had come to settle in the
country and was eager to participate in the mainstream of Argentine life and
take root in its fate and culture.
Rabbinic Culture
The lewish immigrant's life before crossing the Atlantic was built around
the lewish community. Whether still adhering firmly to Biblical and Talmudic
precepts or having already abandoned some or all religious practices, the lew
maintained a strong bond with the lewish community in the home town. The
basic roots of the immigrant lews from Eastern Europe—and even more those
from the centers of Sephardic lewry in the Turkish Empire and in North Af
rica—were in historic rabbinic ludaism as practiced in their communities of
origin. In these areas the rabbis or hachamim, the intellectual and religious
leaders, constituted the epitome of wisdom and sanctity. Yet in Argentina
these pious, learned, and wise personalities were not to be seen so frequently
The new communities formed in Buenos Aires and in other centers of lewish
settlement in the country offered a completely transformed scene, which cre
ated the background for an inexorable diminution of the religious leaders'
authority, preeminence, and repute. This was especially noticeable in the im
migrant communities formed in the urban centers; in the agricultural colonies
the process was more slowly paced. The newly arrived immigrants felt not only
uprooted geographically from their former Jewish environment in the Old
World but also considered launching themselves into conquering the New
World in every way possible. Rabbinic authority and religious observances
stood, in many cases, in the way of the Jewish immigrant, in the new environ
ment they both lost their former preponderance. The rabbis' authority—in the
few instances of rabbis or hachamim attempting to exert some religious author
ity in the communities in Argentina—attracted little sympathy. With respect


163
Jewish Cultural Expressions
to observances, most lews were gradually drawn into a transformed state of
religious permissiveness.
The lack of concern in ritual law was a determinant factor regarding reli
gious creativity in Argentina. There were few legal questions raised, thus rab
bis were rarely challenged with new situations arising from the transformed
environment of lewish settlement. Therefore, there was no sizable body of Re-
sponsa to queries from immigrant lews either to local rabbis or to authorities
abroad. The major questions related to religious practice concentrated in
common aspects such as ritual slaughtering and burial procedure. Moreover,
the small number of rabbinic authorities sheds light on the need of the com
munity for them. With the exception of rabbis Aharon Goldman in Moisesville.
loseph Taran in Colonia Zonnenfeld, and Shaul Setton in the Aleppine com
munity in Buenos Aires, no rabbinic scholar produced a sizable body of Re-
sponsa. 4 The paucity of such Responsa by immigrant rabbis in the period end
ing in 1930 in Argentina is a major indication of the decline of the culture and
cultural values that these scholars symbolized.
Hebrew Culture
When the enlightenment reached the lewish communities in Europe, a
Western literature was developed both in Hebrew and in Yiddish, departing
radically from the tradition of exclusively rabbinic intellectualism. The role of
Argentina in the flowering of Hebrew literature before 1920 was practically
null. The Hebrew literary centers were in Galicia, Vilna, Warsaw, and Odessa;
and only New York, in the Americas, reached an unsteady position of note in
this respect. A reduced number of scholars during the period 1891-1911 did
migrate to Argentina from centers in Eastern Europe, imbued with the ideals
of reviving Hebrew culture and promoting Zionist propaganda. Their impact
within the growing lewish population in Argentina was not, however, of impor
tance. Their activities were limited to letters they wrote to friends and relatives
in their home towns and to a large number of letters to the Hebrew news
papers appearing in Europe.’
With the arrival of Dr. Zvi Ashkenazi as director of the lewish Coloniza
tion Association's (ICAs) schools in the colonies in 1911, new impetus was
given to Hebrew culture, both in the agricultural colonies and in Buenos Aires.
Shortly after his arrival the first Hebrew-speaking group, Dovrei Sfat Ivri, was
established in the capital, with fifty-five active members. Quite naturally, many
of the most conspicuous participants in this group were also active in local
Zionist activities. Dr. Ashkenazi, however, died suddenly, still a young man of
thirty, in Moisesville in 1913; and the Hebrew-speaking group was deprived of
its most enthusiastic promoter. 6
The overwhelming majority of lewish immigrants from Eastern Europe
did not speak Hebrew. Even among the most passionate Zionists, Yiddish was
nearer to their hearts than Hebrew. All Zionist groups and parties in Argentina,
including the General Zionists and Zeire Zion, published their official periodi-


164
I ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
cals in Yiddish, hoping to attract more sympathizers and to maintain a closer
contact with their membership
There were, nonetheless, attempts to promote Hebrew culture by means
of periodicals during the 1920s. The editors of these journals wanted their
publications to become the guardian of Hebrew language and culture in the
country However, they were confronted with numerous difficulties that re
sulted in the closing of all of them after more or less short periods of time.
These difficulties arose from the lack of popular response to the Hebrew peri
odicals, resulting in serious financial and ideological obstacles The limited
response was due mainly to the unsuccessful side efforts to create long
standing Tarbut or Hebrew schools in the large centers of lewish population.
These schools failed during the early 1920s after short periods of existence
Secondly, the Federacion Sionista Argentina (FSA) did not succeed in founding
Hebrew schools in spite of the fact that in all the Zionist Land Conferences
this point was discussed, and it was repeatedly decided to promote lewish
studies in Hebrew. Only towards the end of the decade did a reaction take
place, and positive work was started in this direction. 7
Habima Haivrit, founded in 1921 by Tuvia Oleisker and 1. L, Gorelik, was
the Hebrew periodical of longest duration during the 1920s. It appeared nearly
monthly for two years, but then its issues were published more irrregularly. In
1925 only one number was issued. It reappeared in 1929 but was again discon
tinued until 1936. Gorelik, as a result of an argument with Oleisker in 1922, left
Habima Haivrit and founded his own journal, Hechalutz, of which nine issues
were published in 1922 before it had to close.
Both these Hebrew periodicals, as well as Atideinu, of which five issues
appeared in 1926, had similar goals. Its editors saw that the lewish community
in Argentina was developing in all ways of life, in its economic, social, and
cultural (In the broad sense) aspects but not with respect to Hebrew educa
tion, Hebrew culture, and the revival of the Hebrew language and literature.
"All these concepts, and the like, are foreign words in the lexicon of our lives
here, in Argentina." 8 Moreover, they saw a peril in the overwhelming drive of
most lewish immigrants to "make America," for they kept estranging them
selves from the spiritual values of the lewish people. 9
The separateness within the lewish population in Buenos Aires was an
issue strongly utilized by the editors of the Hebrew periodicals to promote the
diffussion of the Hebrew language and culture. The Sephardic element was
repeatedly a theme in editorials, and various articles kept the readers in
formed about the progress made by these communities in the capital. The
abyss between Sephardim and Ashkenazim was to be overcome by the devel
opment of a culture common to all lews, that is, a Hebrew culture. "The Se
phardic community here, in the capital, which is very important both in quan
tity and quality, is far away, as it is known, from our community, the Ashkenazic
community. The Sephardic lews have no contacts, dealings, nor relations with
us Ashkenazim, in the way, for example, the Italians here—Neapolitans and
Sicilians and the like—have. All this was caused by the language, their lan
guage of exile being different from our language of exile." 10 The Hebrew Ian-


165
lewish Cultural Expressions
guage would also encourage Zionist work among Sephardim, who were often
estranged from these activities partly due to the insistence of most Ashkena
zim on conducting their meetings and campaigns in Yiddish. 11
During the early 1920s small groups of Hebrew enthusiasts were formed
both in the capital and in the cities and towns in the provinces. 12 Furthermore,
courses in the Hebrew language were opened in Buenos Aires and in many
other centers of Jewish population in the country, such as La Plata, Medanos,
Moisesville, Cordoba, San Salvador, Rosario, Carlos Casares, Mendoza, Tucu-
man, and Salta. Some of the latter, however, had a very erratic existence, espe
cially in the small centers.
Nonetheless, during the 1920s Hebrew life and culture did not attain a
position of importance among lews in Argentina. The forces sponsoring these
activities, even if enthusiastic, were very small. The desire to unite Sephardim
and Ashkenazim was not within a good framework of probability, because the
immense majority of Sephardim, as well as most Ashkenazim, did not know
the Hebrew language, nor were they involved in circles that promoted its
learning. Yiddish among Ashkenazic immigrants, Arabic among Syrian ones,
and Spanish among Turkish and Moroccan newcomers as well as among the
children of all lewish immigrants were the languages of discourse. For some,
Hebrew was utilized only at the synagogue or in Zionist correspondence, while
for others it constituted a dead language. Notwithstanding, the resurgence of
Hebrew in Eastern Europe made an impact in Argentina through the activities
of a few immigrants. The more positive consequences of this impact were only
manifest after 1930 and, even more, after the Second World War, when devel
opments in world and Jewish history promoted a major trend from Yiddish to
Hebrew education in lewish schools in Argentina.
Yiddish Culture
While Hebrew was the language spoken by a small elite of educated lews
in Eastern Europe, mainly ardent Hovevei Zionists and Maskilim, or enlightened
lews, Yiddish was spoken by the lewish masses. Similarly, the enlightened lews
in Russia who had undergone a process of Russification and preferred the
Russian language to Yiddish (usually as a sign of superior culture) were very
few. Among the lewish immigrants in Argentina who arrived from Eastern Eu
rope before 1930 there were very few belonging either to the Hebrew-speaking
or the Russian-speaking elites. The masses of poor immigrants spoke only
Yiddish, and it was quite natural for them to express themselves in this lan
guage whenever the opportunity of doing so presented itself in their new
Spanish-speaking atmosphere. The bulk of cultural expressions during this pe
riod were thus conducted in the language of the Jewish masses.
The original literary production in Yiddish was not, however, of great
importance before 1930 in Argentina. During the period 1910-30 about one
hundred books and brochures were printed in that language in the country,
including Isaac David Horowitz' short Spanish-Yiddish Dictionary (between 1911
and 1914), David Goldman's Di Iuden in Argentine, in der Vergangenheit un in der


166
jewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
Gegenwart, in Wort un in Bild (The ]ews in Argentina, in the Past and in the Present, in
Word and in Pictures) of 1914, and Mordechai Alpersohn's three volumes, Thirty
Years in Argentina (1922, 1926, 1928). 13
It was difficult for a Yiddish writer to earn a livelihood from his writings.
The market for Yiddish books in Argentina was reduced to the lewish immi
grants of East European origin, and the cost of printing could not always be
met. Thus the poet or writer in that language had either to forsake his calling
or emigrate, lose Horn quotes an ad in Der Tog of October 2, 1914, where a
benefit cultural function was announced, the profits of which would allow the
young writers Moshe Pinchewsky and Abba Kliger to travel to the United
States to pursue their literary goals. 14 Writers then resorted to the Yiddish
press, where their poems, feuilletons, and sometimes novels or plays, were
published in installments. However, even this did not represent a sufficient
income for the authors.
Even if the relatively small Yiddish-speaking population in Argentina
did not make notable contributions to Yiddish letters during the first three
decades of the twentieth century, the interest of this same population in what
was being published originally in Yiddish, or was translated from other lan
guages abroad—mainly in Poland and New York—always remained high.
Proof of this is the continuous stream of visits of Yiddish writers from centers
in Europe and the United States to the lewish communities in Buenos Aires
and the interior of Argentina. 15
A large number of cultural centers sprouted in several neighborhoods of
Buenos Aires, as well as in many cities in the interior. Practically the entire
membership of these centers was composed of lewish immigrant workers who
found in them a place for socializing and cultural uplifting. Most of these cen
ters had a sociopolitical ideology that their members brought with them from
Eastern Europe. Their activities consisted of weekly or periodical debates and
conferences on sociopolitical, literary, artistic, and even scientific topics. Many
offered courses in Spanish, Yiddish literature, and even mathematics. The goal
was to raise the cultural level of the lewish worker. Moreover, many had as their
principal preoccupation the building of a library for their members and the
public in general.
In 1905 a group of Russian lews with different ideologies, such as social
democrats, Bundists, and social revolutionaries, formed the biblioteca Rusa.
At the beginning the language spoken there was Russian, but within a few
years the Yiddish-speaking members won a hard-fought battle against the
Russified minority. 16 When the Biblioteca Rusa was destroyed by the antimax
imalist mobs in the wake of celebrations of the centenary of Argentina's revolt
against Spain, in 1910, the library consisted of 5,000 volumes in Russian and
Yiddish. By 1916 the largest lewish cultural centers in Buenos Aires had volu
minous libraries, especially the Biblioteca Progreso, the Society Dr. Herzl. |u-
ventud Israelita de Boca y Barracas, the Center I. L. Peretz in Caballito, and
Biblioteca Israelita de Villa Crespo. 17 New centers were formed and many were
enlarged during the following fifteen years. 16 The impact of these centers upon


167
lewish Cultural Expressions
the masses of the lewish proletariat in Buenos Aires was described in 1916 in
the following way: 19
The worker leaves his labor tools at the workshop or at the factory, and
hurriedly goes, just as the employee or any other, to the warm hearth of
the library, to take delight in the reading of good works; to acquire in the
night school the rudimentary and indispensable knowledge that he was
deprived of because of the ignorance or poverty of his parents. . Every
thing |takes place| in a familiar, pleasant, and comfortable atmosphere,
which he could not find outside his own nucleus, to which he feels at
tracted by irresistible forces, and where he can speak his language and
keep his customs.
At the end of November 1915, at the initiative of the literary society and library
Max Nordau in La Plata, Province of Buenos Aires, a congress of lewish cultural
centers in the country was held in their premises. Delegates from twelve insti
tutions, representing centers in La Plata, Colonia Dora (Santiago del Estero),
Santa Fe, Rosario (Santa Fe), Tucuman, and Bernasconi (La Pampa), and six in
Buenos Aires—with the backing of ten other centers that could not send del
egates due to the economic crisis rampant in Argentina—founded at this con
gress the Federacion Israelita Argentina de Cultura (FIAC). Later, other centers
in the country entered FIAC. 20
Most of the constituent members of FIAC were centers with a definite
ideology, including Bundism and anarchism. The congress in La Plata pro
voked a negative reaction from some sectors of the more established Jewish
societies in the country, notably the Zionists. Di Yiddishe Zeitung published ar
ticles against the congress, and recommended institutions not to participate
in it. The issue was intensified by the proximity in time of the First Argentine
lewish Congress called for the end of February 1916. The sponsors of the Ar
gentine Jewish Congress—Zionist leaders in Buenos Aires—had proclaimed
that the platform would be the demand of effective equality of rights for lews
and other citizens in the countries where they reside and lewish autonomy in
a territory where they could lead an authentic national life. In accordance with
this platform—which the sponsors of the congress would forward to lewish
leaders at the eventual Peace Conference after the war, once it was approved
by the congress itself—propaganda was launched for the Argentine lewish
Congress. At this moment Avangard—a Bundist center founded in 1907 and a
major force in FIAC, opposed to the second point of the platform—left the
organizing committee of the congress and demonstrated against it. Avangard
was followed by many other cultural societies, also members of FIAC. 21
FIAC slowly started to develop its program. It contemplated the transla
tion of Yiddish classics, mainly I. L. Peretz, into Spanish. The latter's death, as
well as Sholem Aleichem's, were duly commemorated. Moreover, FIAC peti
tioned the Ministry of Education to stop the circulation of some textbooks
that included clear antisemitic paragraphs. 22 This provoked the ire of the edi
tors of Di Yiddishe Zeitung, who argued against FIAC's taking the initiative in


168
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
petitioning the government. They asserted the FIAC was not the organization
to petition because its representation was limited. This should be the prerog
ative of the officials of the more veteran lewish institutions who considered
that they were the appropriate representatives of the lewish population vis-a-
vis the government, not a federation of institutions leaning to leftist ideolo
gies. 23
At a second convention at the premises of Biblioteca Villa Crespo in
Buenos Aires—of anarchist orientation—on March 25, 1917 the objectives of
FIAC were discussed. The delegates contemplated creating secular schools
and night schools for adults where the workers would learn the Spanish lan
guage and Argentine history and institutions and would have an opportunity
of receiving technical instruction, with the final objective of promoting culture
among the lewish proletariat and strengthening the bonds of union and fra
ternity among the various federated circles. 24
Not all the delegates had the same attitude to lewish culture. The spirit
of universalism and the negation of lewish particularism had impressed many
of them. At the second convention a group proposed to change the name of
FIAC so that it would not include lewish culture. Though the majority voted
against this motion, and Jewish culture was retained as an integral part of
FIAC, the spirit of acculturation to values not particularly akin to their culture
of birth was evident in these circles. 25
The heterogeneity within FIAC was a major reason for its dissolution
towards the end of World War I. Indeed, the changes effected in Europe, espe
cially with the Russian Revolution, also produced a realignment of loyalties
among lewish workers in Argentina. Some opted for a more extremist position
and ceased associating with their previous circles. Moreover, the long dis
tances between cities, the economic crisis, and the indifference of other sec
tors of the lewish community accelerated the process of dismemberment.
Yiddish continued being the language of the Ashkenazi majority. In sev
eral neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, especially in Once, Villa Crespo, Cabal-
lito, and Boca-Barracas, a large proportion of commerce was carried on in Yid
dish. Political parties tried to attract the relatively insignificant lewish vote
(most lewish immigrants, like most immigrants in general, did not attain Ar
gentine citizenship and thus did not constitute a considerable element in the
elections! by posting political propaganda in Yiddish in the lewish quarters. 26
Moreover, many Jewish workshops were located in these quarters. Furniture
talleres (workshops), as well as tailors' and other needle industry shops were
situated in their neighborhoods. The cultural centers, synagogues, mutual
help societies, and other hebrol, had their premises side by side with lewish
grocery stores, restaurants, and travel agents.
The growing number of Yiddish-speaking lews settling in Buenos Aires
and in other centers throughout the country gave the final impulse to those
lews with literary or journalistic talents to start publishing periodicals in Yid
dish. Thus the Yiddish press saw the light of day—indeed as early as 1898—
and soon became a pivotal factor in lewish cultural life in Argentina. The con
siderations were quite simple. Commerce and institutions were forever


169
lewish Cultural Expressions
sprouting and developing, and the press was the best way of letting other lews
learn about those commercial enterprises and about the activities of the soci
eties. Both commercial and institutional advertisements provided for the
lion's share of the budget of the periodicals. Indeed, the Yiddish press in Ar
gentina, in contradistinction to its counterpart in Warsaw or New York, was not
as dependent on the number of its readers as it was on commercial and com
munal sponsorship and advertisements. 27
The Yiddish press in Argentina, 28 had an important role in the develop
ment of lewish life there as did later (though to a much lesser degree) the
Spanish lewish press in the country. Its influence in communal life was such
that it could often decide upon the success or failure of communal enterprises,
depending upon its feeling about them. It moreover was the inspiring force of
many initiatives within the community. 29 This tendency could be perceived at
the beginning of the Yiddish press in Buenos Aires, for the first Linotype with
Yiddish characters was brought into the city for the purpose of journalism;
previous needs for printing Yiddish brochures had been satisfied in printing
offices in New York. 30 Literary purposes came only second to journalism in
Yiddish letters in Argentina, in contrast to the situation in Vilna, Warsaw,
Petersburg, and New York.
The immigrant Jewish generation in Buenos Aires and the provinces,
including both workers and officials in more established lewish societies, be
came more and more attached to the press: "Ail initiatives were found in the
Yiddish press; every society wrote news about its own |board] meetings, as
semblies, banquets, and activities." 31 Quite often the press printed so many
minutiae—including petty quarrels, letters to the editor, entire board meet
ings—that the outsider could obtain a false impression of community life in
Buenos Aires if the only frame of reference was the lewish periodicals: "By
evaluating according to the dailies one could be convinced that the Argentine
|Jewish | institutions are much larger than what they really are. The Yiddish
dailies in Buenos Aires are the magnifying glasses of societal life." 32
A strong reliance on the press bolstered its cultural influence in the
lewish community. The periodicals printed translations of major works of the
time, reproduced articles, novels, and poems by Yiddish writers in Europe and
the United States, as well as novels, plays, and other works describing lewish
life in Eastern Europe. The journals sponsored by sociopolitical centers im
bued with ideologies such as Bundism, anarchism, communism, Labor Zion
ism, or general Zionism filled their pages with articles—by and large written
in the Northern Hemisphere—advocating the principles of their respective
positions.
Of the many journalistic designs during the pioneering period of the
Yiddish press in Argentina—from the appearance of the first weekly, Viderkol
[Echo) in 1898 until the beginning of World War I—most enjoyed only a very
short existence. Di Folks Shtime (People's Voice) was the only paper to appear
throughout the 1898-1914 period. It had, however, no clear stand. Its editor,
Abraham Vermont, was inclined to sensationalism and resorted to blackmail
against lewish officials who would not sponsor his journal. Vermont proved to


170
]ewish Buenos Aires. 1890-1930
be well informed about the activities of the lewish white slave dealers in Bue
nos Aires, against whom he directed fierce attacks. On the other hand, he de
fended their female victims. Di Fo/fes Shtime came out defending the |CA colo
nists against the "abuses" of the management; it attacked Zionists—who had
control of the first two short-lived Yiddish weeklies in 1898, as well as other
journals before 1914—and promoted initiatives of interest for the lewish com
munities in Buenos Aires and the colonies. 33
During the first half of this pioneering period, that is, from 1898 until
1906, Zionists published journals propounding their ideas. They all were
short-lived, as were some satirical magazines that appeared in 1899 34
During the period 1908-14 a variety of ideological periodicals published
by the different parties—Zionist and non-Zionist alike—circulated in Buenos
Aires. They are described in chapter 5.
The First World War placed obstacles in the way of transatlantic trips. As
a consequence, publications in Yiddish from Europe and the United States did
not arrive in Buenos Aires with the assiduity and promptness of prewar years.
Moreover, the world war and the developments in Europe were a constant
concern in Argentina, lews, in particular, were eager to be properly informed,
especially about the manner the lewish communities in Europe fared through
out the period. Thus the need for a Yiddish daily that would handle these
requisites was strongly felt. In lanuary 1914 Der Jog published its first issue.
With few intermissions it survived for nearly three years. 35 Di Yiddishe Zeitung
had better fortune. Begun in November 1914, it soon conquered the lewish
street, in it were reflected the interests of the majority of the lewish population
in the country. It printed news about the developments in the local lewish
institutions, including mutual help organizations, religious societies, and Zi
onist centers, as well as reliable information about the events in Europe and
the lewish world in general. A few weeks after the revolution in Russia, on
lanuary 1, 1918, a new daily, Di Presse. was first issued in Buenos Aires, It repre
sented the views of the working masses inclined to secularism and to the
struggle for social justice by means of socialism and communism. Both latter
dailies constituted an important element in the day-to-day life of large sectors
of the lewish population not only in Buenos Aires but also in the rest of Argen
tina, as well as in the neighboring countries. They prompted and furthered
lewish culture in its many aspects, such as education, theater, and literature.
Classics of Yiddish literature were presented in installments in their columns,
and important works by Argentinian authors were translated into the language
of the Ashkenazi immigrants. In this way the press helped the immigrants fa
miliarize themselves with Argentinian literature and culture. Moreover, it
helped them to keep au courant with the political, social, and economic situa
tion of the country in which they now lived by devoting sections of their issues
to general local news that the cultural and ideological weeklies and monthlies
could not publish. 36
The Russian Revolution on the one hand and the Balfour Declaration on
the other deeply affected the lewish quarters in Buenos Aires. New centers
advocating revised ideologies in accordance with developments in Europe


171
Iewish Cultural Expressions
were formed. Loyalties among leftists were divided along the lines of the Sec
ond International or the Communist International. During the 1920s many
groups within the lewish population were active in promoting various ideolo
gies. Quite a number of them published journals. The facts that the member
ship in these centers or sections of parties was lewish (indeed, there was a
lewish section of the Communist party in Argentina), that the language spoken
there was Yiddish, and that their periodicals were in this language testify to
the existence of a lewish sentiment in the midst of this fringe groups of the
lewish community even if this sentiment was only manifest in the will of pre
serving a cultural or language minority.” This sentiment was more strongly felt
among those advocating a return to Soviet Russia and the establishment of a
lewish Autonomous Region in the Soviet Far East. 38 Labor Zionism, on the
other hand, was strengthened by the Balfour Declaration. Within it new cur
rents were developed, always in accordance to European developments. All
the new groups that formed as a result of the ideological division within exist
ing parties published their journals in Yiddish during the 1920s.”
Some independent cultural magazines appeared during the 1920s, but
most of them for only a short period. 40 The population was more inclined to
read the dailies in Yiddish and thus gave them their financial support Month
lies and weeklies suffered from lack of equal sponsorship. Moreover, the com
mercial sectors of the lewish community also published their journals, con
taining information about the state of business and various markets in the city
and the country in general. Special attention was given to those branches of
commerce where the lews were more prominent. 41
The Yiddish Theater
The soaring East European Jewish population of Buenos Aires provided
an audience large enough to maintain Yiddish theaters. The lews arriving with
the first wave of immigration at the end of the nineteenth century felt the need
for a Yiddish theater that would represent themes that were dear to their
hearts, be they drama or satirical productions. This strong desire for entertain
ment and spiritual rejoicing in their mother tongue was amply justified be
cause the Spanish theater could not satisfy the Yiddish-speaking immigrants,
due first to the language difficulties and second to the incomprehensibility of
the themes, which were new and foreign to them.
A group of dramatic art enthusiasts organized performances at the turn
of the century in Buenos Aires. The first production was Abraham Goldfaden s
satirical comedy Kuni Lemel at the Doria (later Marconi) theater at the initiative
of the actor Bernardo Weissman. 42 David Hassan, a West European oldtimer
lew in Buenos Aires, evaluating this first mise-en-scene in a letter to the I ewish
Chronicle, wrote the following: 43
I enclose a programme in Hebrew type which announces a comic operatta
called "Cuhere Lehmmele" |sic), The Stammerer, by A. Goldfaden. at the
Doria. This place is known as a theatre at popular prices, and a "Platea mit


172
]ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
entrada,” as you will see, costs 3s,—(stall with entrance 5s.)|sic| The piece
was nicely mounted and, of course, well acted. These people are born ac
tors. The music at times was "National," judging by the chorus of "ay, zai,
yei" and the rest "Copy." The house was in a constant roar of laughter the
whole time, and although I do not understand a word of "largon," I would
have been amused at this, to me a novelty, had I not felt depressed at the
sight of the audience.
The house was full, but I did not meet a single member of any of
our congregations 44 and much less their families. Certainly some not ov
ersensitive showy families were there with their daughters, sons, young
children, and even babies ..
These plays can hardly be defined as refined, but they need not be
the motive of a public scandal, and yet I am told the same thing can be
seen in some European cities.
The actors performed quite often. A year later, in 1902, the main Spanish
newspapers in the capital published notices of the "Compania Israelita" at the
Libertad Theater, as well as a copy of the program of Goidfaden's Shulamis ^
The Yiddish theater flourished with local actors and with some who
came from Europe and the United States. However, it matured at a very slow
pace, notwithstanding the constant growth of the number of people enjoying
the Yiddish plays through 1930. Some reasons for this are evident even in the
above-quoted description of the first steps of this artistic expression. Before
the First World War the public preferred "coarse burlesque actors to more re
fined artists, and the farce to serious drama." 46 The audience was to a large
extent controlled by lewish white slave dealers and their "merchandise." 47 This
was detrimental to the attendance of a considerable sector of the general lew
ish population, especially families. Before 1930 different groups rose to lead a
battle against the tmeyim ("impure," as the dealers were called by the rest of
the lewish population) and clean the lewish theater of their presence. How
ever, the problem was not simple, and only towards the end of the 1920s (and
more during the first years of the 1930s) was the "pure" community able to free
itself from the negative presence of the dealers. Official authorities in the city,
the theater managers, and even some of the actors had vested interests in the
presence of this abhored element of the lewish population. They all, in smaller
or larger measure, made a living from the Yiddish shows, and the white slave
dealers used this factor for their benefit. They were thus able to impose their
will in some aspects of the theaters' policy, such as banning specific plays from
the stage. 48
The popular character of the audiences and the conspicuous presence
of the basest element in the community during the performance kept the most
educated and intellectual lews from attending. Moreover, they were quite at
home with the Argentinian environment and could better enjoy a more pro
found play at the national theaters.
The Yiddish theater was not self-sufficient, not even at the peak of its
popularity in Buenos Aires during the late 1920s and 1930s. it had no organic
plan and no definite program. To a large extent it depended on what a guest
actor—mainly from the United States—could offer during two or three


173
lewish Cultural Expressions
months, while profiting from the summer months' intermission in his country,
and becoming a "star" in the Buenos Aires season.' 19 Moreover, except for a few
isolated cases, the works or plays written by local authors were not performed
on the stage. The most fortunate playwrights had their works published in the
local dailies and other Yiddish periodicals. 50
Besides presenting plays by the most popular playwrights in the Yiddish
world, such as Goldfaden, Zalman Libin, facob Gordon, Leon Kobrin, [oseph
Lateiner, Peretz Hirschbein, and Leon (Leib) Malach, some guest actors intro
duced to the Argentinian public drama from Dumas, Shakespeare, Leon Tol
stoy, Strindberg, Mirabeau, and other European authors. The local companies,
moreover, tried to introduce some of the most successful plays by Argentinian
authors, such as Florencio Sanchez and lose Gonzalez Castillo. 51
The Yiddish theater played a national role among the lews in Buenos
Aires. True that throughout the period ending in 1930 the theaters' policies
were, to a large extent, under the influence of the lewish white slave dealers.
Still, the theater grew more and more popular and was slowly evolving into
maturity during the late 1920s. As a cultural expression it constituted a pow
erful tie with the Yiddish language and lewish creativity in Eastern Europe,
which was later transplanted to New York and other American centers It
proved to be one of the few ties with lewish culture for many lews who were
removed from participation in the lewish community and were assimilated to
the cosmopolitan life of Buenos Aires. It has been affirmed that the Yiddish
theater was in the capital “a school of Yiddishkeit" and that "in Buenos Aires
more lewish children go to the [Yiddish | theaters than to the lewish schools" 52
The Yiddish theater groups were consolidated during the 1920s. Before
then, in 1916, there were already two companies working in Buenos Aires, per
forming twice weekly. 53 In 1926 one of the companies performed daily; by 1927
two did so; and by 1929 three theaters presented Yiddish plays daily in Buenos
Aires According to Rollansky, it was the guest actor Boris Tomashefsky who, in
1926, established the daily Yiddish theater on a stable basis. 54
Several actors' unions were formed during the period. They were mainly
concerned with the improvement of working conditions and increased salaries
for the actors, as well as in raising the level of the Yiddish theater in Buenos
Aires. Coinciding with the visit of Hersh D. Nomberg in Argentina in 1922, the
actors' organization just formed led an aggressive action to bring the Yiddish
theater to a higher cultural and artistic rank. The actors fought against man
agers and people who made commerce out of the theater and who sponsored
only low-level plays. They also launched a battle against the tmeyim, "those
lews' who have nothing to do with ludaism, nor with the lewish community
and its culture, and who became the defenders of the Yiddish theater, and are
opposed to the actors' organization.” 55
Amateur theater circles were also formed in various lewish social clubs
and cultural societies in Buenos Aires. They presented short sketches, mono
logues, and one-act comedies 56
Buenos Aires was a center of growing importance in the history of Yid
dish theater In the early 1930s it was placed among the four major areas for


174
}ewish Buenos Aires. 1890-1930
Yiddish performances together with the USSR, Poland, and the United States,
Being the only theatrical center in the Southern Hemisphere, Buenos Aires
profited from the opposite seasons, thus becoming host to visiting actors from
the North.”
The First Native Generation—lewish Culture in Spanish
Mundo Israelita, a lewish weekly in Spanish, dealt in an editorial with the
question of cultural work among youth, apropos of a debate concerning this
topic held at the Poale Zionist convention earlier in August 1924. Most speak
ers pointed out the lack of interest among the lewish youth in Argentina for
lewish life, culture, and literature, while a few participants spoke in more opti
mistic terms. The editor, on the other hand, observed that the lewish youth in
Argentina was removed from the main foci of lewry and ludaism and therefore
ignored their language and literature. He blamed the immigrant generation
because, to a large degree, it had opted for a religious instruction—when a
lewish education was given at all—that clashed openly with the secular at
mosphere in the country. While stating that the case was not one of complete
assimilation into another culture but an estrangement of the youth from its
people. Mundo israelita advocated the introduction of an Argentinian slant into
lewish literature. Furthermore, due to the language abyss, a major step in the
process of reconquering this "estranged" generation would be to promote lew
ish culture in their own language, in Spanish. 58
The issue of a "lewish" language could have remained unnoticed to the
careless observer of lewish society in Buenos Aires, for Yiddish dailies and
periodicals were being published and read, Yiddish plays were performed
more frequently, and the Yiddish language was spoken in many lewish soci
eties and in some sectors of metropolitan commerce. Moreover, during the
1920s the constant flow of new immigrants from Eastern Europe gave added
impetus to Yiddish. On the other hand, there was already a substantial num
ber of young men and students born in Argentina, or at least fully educated in
the country, whose main language was Spanish. What was their Jewish iden
tity? In what way did they participate in the life and destiny of the still young
and growing lewish community in Argentina? This was the topic of the debate
at the convention of Poale Zionists, and the concern of the editors of Mundo
Israelita. In the following pages we shall describe some of the activities within
the lewish realm of this youth and their attitudes regarding lewish culture, and
attempt to gauge the proportion of the lewish youth it involved.
The first cultural center of Spanish-speaking lewish young men in Bue
nos Aires was created on lanuary 6, 1909. During 1908 the activities of the
lewish white slave dealers had alarmed most sectors of the community, thus
inducing a general movement of protest among lews with the intention of
putting an end to this scourge. Many young lews also cooperated with the
general committee formed on the occasion. However, once they realized that
their obiective was similar to that of the whole community, as well as that of
an Argentinian society sponsored under official auspices (Comite Contra la


175
1 ewish Cultural Expressions
Trata de Blancas), they opted to found a cultural center with a wider though
not yet fully determined scope of activities,”
Most, though not all, of the founders and members of the Centro luven-
tud Israelita Argentina (CJIA) were sons of colonists from settlements spon
sored by Baron de Hirsch in various provinces. They migrated to Buenos Aires
to pursue university careers or engage in commercial occupations. Their main
reason for founding C|IA was the inborn necessity for intercommunication
with fellow lews, though they also manifested a strong desire both to defend
the interests of the community against some of its own most vicious elements
and to teach the language of the country to the new immigrants. 60
The constitution of C|IA clearly stated that its aim was to "assist in the
moral, physical, and intellectual development of its members and of the com
munity Icolectividad]" 6 ' However, there was no unanimous attitude towards
what the cultural aim of C]IA should be. Indeed, there was general agreement
in that the center was "to dispense with everything concerning systematic
creeds and lewish patriotism," in spite of the fact that some of the members of
the group, including Isaac Nissensohn, its first president, were active Zion
ists. 62 The crux of the matter was focused on whether this youth center should
promote cultural activities of a distinctive and peculiar Jewish character in
addition to their lectures, discussions, concerts, and theatrical performances
on general and universal subjects—or not.
Most of the members of C|IA had only a minimal knowledge of ludaism
and its place in the world. Their lewish education, at most, consisted of ele
mentary courses at the ICA schools in the colonies. Once in the metropolis
they could not pursue their interests in lewish subjects, due to the lack of
publications in Spanish on these themes. They had not experienced the lewish
life of Eastern Europe; moreover, the little knowledge they had about Herzl's
message did not stir their souls. Manuel Bronstein, one of the leaders of those
who advocated more lewish culture in the center, weighing the main factors
that formed the personalities of those young Argentinian lews, concluded that
"they very soon found themselves freely immersed in the national life of the
country and its concatenation with the world's ado. That is to say that when
they were acquiring a conscientiousness of their personality, they felt Argenti
nian before lewish. They lived their Argentinianism existentially, while their
ludaism was a tenuous palpitation about something they knew only vaguely,
but which was not felt sufficiently enough as to generate the need to proclaim
it and build a will to live it." 63
The monthly magazine Iuventud, which appeared during the period 1911-
17, clearly mirrored the different factions struggling within CIIA. A well-printed
and clearly written journal directed to an educated public and opening its
columns to all writers—lewish or not—who wanted to try their hand at Span
ish belle lettres, I uventud started out as a periodical of evident lewish orienta
tion. However, in its fifth issue it changed to a more assimiiationist posture.
Articles attacking lewish rituals and advocating the renouncement of lewish
particularism were published, while the amount of space devoted to lewish
concerns was reduced. 64 This provoked the reaction of the rest of the organized


176
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
(ewish community in Buenos Aires against C|IA and its magazine, notwith
standing the fact that the views were personal and did not characterize the
whole membership,
A crisis was precipitated by this negative attitude of the community, CJIA
was split in two groups ideologically irreconcilable. One sector, influenced by
the romantic socialism of the time, believed in a universal community without
class and without religious or national divisions that would, inter alia, put an
end to the persecutions and penury of the lewish people. The second group,
admitting as well the excellence of universal culture, was convinced that the
abdication of its Jewish conditon would prove sterile and believed that there
was no incompatibility between a social revolution and the persistence of the
lewish people. 65 The two groups clashed in an assembly of the CJIA on April 27,
1913 devoted to a new delineation of objectives. The "assimilationists" pro
posed that the center shorten its name to Centro luventud, thus making it void
of all national allegiances. They were willing to effect a complete transforma
tion of its character. They advocated an "ample ideal of culture, without blood
or race colorings; because we understand that there cannot be an accomodat
ing culture; because we want to bring to our brains the authoritative words of
Darwin, Spencer, and Ameghino, the philosophic truth of Montesquieu, Vol
taire, and Rousseau; because we want to destroy the religious sentiment, or
better, the religious instinct, which crystallizes our activities and kills our en
thusiasms." 66 The other group, which advocated a stronger emphasis on things
lewish, manifested its pride of being lewish and its will to be considered such.
Wolf Nijensohn, who, in later decades became a Zionist leader in Argentina,
synthesized their position stating "We, the young generation, are morally obli
gated to defend the community that gave us birth. Those who came to us did
so on account of the lewish name of our Center; if not, in my opinion, they
came to the wrong place." He further motioned the following new objectives
for the center be added to its constitution: (1) to defend "specific" interests of
the lews and (2) to foster lewish culture. 67
After more than five hours of debate it was voted to retain the name
C|IA. The supporters of the shortened name Centro luventud presented their res
ignation. When a motion of the chairman of the assembly asking for the rein
corporation of the dissenting members was approved, only one of them did
so. The rest left and soon afterwards founded Ariel, a center with an orienta
tion in accordance with their convictions, and published a journal under the
same name, both of ephemeral existence. 68 Two months later, in a general
assembly, the reform of the constitution of C11A according to Nijensohn's pro
posal was discussed and approved. Thus a new and definitive orientation was
given to the center. 69
During the early part of 1915 the C|IA merged with the Asociacion Israe
lita Argentina, of similar character, forming the Asociacion luventud Israelita
Argentina (AHA) As a result of this merger the magazine luventud began a new
era with a larger format, and A|IA initiated some new departments, including a
music conservatory. 70
A new cultural center, the Asociacion Hebraica, was formed on February


177
)ewish Cultural Expressions
5, 1923 as a result of a crisis at AJIA. This new organization had similar but
more ambitious goals. These included the promotion of lewish and genera!
culture; the advancement of the spirit of intellectual sociability; the creation
of a library for lewish studies and Argentinian works; and the strengthening of
the bonds of the Jewish community with cultural circles in the country Asocia
cion Hebraica further abstained from all participation in political and religious
issues. 71 Its formation immediately aroused the interest of a variety of individ
uals in the community, especially those completely at home with the language
and culture of the country, as opposed to the Yiddish-speaking immigrants. In
a few months its membership surpassed the 400 mark. 72
Asociacion Hebraica rapidly became the major cultural center of the
lewish community in Buenos Aires. Conferences and concerts attracted large
audiences. The library grew rapidly due to acquisitions and donations from
abroad Books of lewish interest such as two volumes dealing with the modern
period in lewish history from Simon Dubnow's World History of the lewish People
were translated and published in 1924 and 1928. In 1925 Albert Einstein was
brought by the Asociacion Hebraica to Buenos Aires for a series of lectures.
This event won sympathies for the institution from most corners of the (ewish
population in the country.
The high level of the cultural activities caused, soon afterwards, the dis
persion of many members who could not reach that level. The membership, of
quite heterogeneous cultural preparation, began to dwindle. A similar crisis
was reflected among officials of the institution, some of whom resigned. Al
most simultaneously, an analogous crisis was affecting A|IA. The leaders of
both groups considered merging into one society. From this union the Socie-
dad Hebraica Argentina (SHA) was created on May 11, 1926. Fifteen days later
the Ateneo Estudiantil Israelita, with its 200 members and library, was incor
porated to SHA. 73
Under the same lines as its original factions—though now in a stronger
way—SHA displayed a wide range of cultural, social, and sports activities dur
ing the rest of the decade. By 1928 its membership reached 1400. The topics
for the cultural gatherings were eminently lewish, and the library was enlarged
with the acquisition of many volumes of Jewish classics. 74 By the end of the
decade SHA had a growing influence in the lewish community. Its membership
was largely middle-class lews and students, in contrast to the lewish proletar
iat. Most had received an Argentinian education in Spanish, were quite re
moved from Judaism, and had never been confronted with the environment of
Eastern Europe, unlike the immigrants who arrived after World War 1. More
over, it was quasi-exclusively Ashkenazic. Sephardim had a social and cultural
society—Circulo Social Israelita—though its activities and level did not com
pare with those of SHA. 75
Many other groups were formed by the Jewish youth in several neighbor
hoods of Buenos Aires. However, they never attained the popularity and im
portance of luventud and SHA. Still, the activities of the Asociacion luventud
Cultural Sionista showed a deeper concern for lewish culture than most other
societies, which stressed their social activities. Besides a series of conferences,


178
\ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
the members of this Zionist youth group concerned themselves with making
Zionist classics available in Spanish. The first book. Herzl's The ]ewish State, ap
peared in Buenos Aires just before the end of our period, in 1929. Moreover, in
response to the idea of the Ateneo luvenil Israelita of Rosario of federating all
lewish cultural societies, the Asociacion luventud Cultural Sionista took the
lead in calling a congress of these societies for October 1930. The congress,
however, was limited to those "lewish cultural institutions in the country with
a national ideology. In other words, to those with activities leading to the ulti
mate objective of considering the lewish people as a national entity, with its
national culture, history, and traditions." F1CHA—Federacion de Instituciones
Culturales Hebreas Argentinas—which was formed at this congress, did not
have an important role in the life of the cultural societies. 76
The main difference between the lewish culture of the immigrant and
that of the native lew in Argentina was rooted in the language. Not only was
Yiddish an instrument of contemporary Jewish cultural creativity, but it also
served as the language that bound the lew to his community, in Eastern Eu
rope as well as in Buenos Aires. The lew educated in Argentina, basically in
Spanish, was not only limited in his access to lewish works because of the
language but also lacked a special language for lewish activities. Spanish was
for such a lew both the language of daily occupations and of lewish interests.
This "normalization" of lewish and more general activities—at least with re
spect to language—was a major factor for the dilution of such lews’ lewish
culture in the midst of the Argentinian and universal culture
This factor is evident when comparing the Yiddish press with the lewish
press in the vernacular in Argentina. The Spanish lewish press had a totally
different function in Buenos Aires than its Yiddish counterpart. The latter
played a role in daily life for a substantial number of lews. The Yiddish dailies
were the main source of information relating to world, national, and specifi
cally lewish events. They catered to an immigrant population used to the Yid
dish press in Eastern Europe. On the other hand, the Spanish press had to
create its market from among the young generation or those immigrants who
have been absorbed more rapidly into cultural expressions in Argentina's ver
nacular. The Sephardic population, furthermore, was a prospective group of
readers. All these latter groups read the regular daily press in the country, thus
making a daily lewish press superfluous. Curiously enough, the first attempt of
a daily in Spanish came from a Sephardic-sponsored periodical, Israel, in
1920. 77
The lack of Spanish-language journals with leftist ideologies sponsored
by lewish societies—as opposed to Yiddish-language journals—is not neces
sarily an indication that there were no Argentine-educated lews involved in
such political and social struggles. Indeed, it reveals that those who were ac
tive preferred to act in the general arena and not through a circle composed of
a national or cultural minority. They did not need a Yiddish-speaking group,
for they had full command of Spanish; moreover, they did not participate as
lews in those groups, for they considered themselves either Argentinian or
universalist. 78


179
I ewish Cultural Expressions
Only one of the publications in Spanish during the period terminating
in 1930 was directed by members of the Sephardic communities. In March
1917 Samuel de A Levy and lacob Levy published Israel, which appeared
monthly, then weekly, then (for six months in 1920) five times a week. Israel did
not have a definite line. Notes, interviews, illustrations, articles, and news
about the Sephardic communities in Buenos Aires—especially the Moroccan
one—as well as in the interior and abroad, were published without an organic
structure. Its leanings towards Zionism were quite atypical of Sephardim in
Buenos Aires up to 1930. Only in this last year did a new Sephardic journal, La
Luz, raise the level of Sephardic journalism in Buenos Aires.™
It would have been only natural that the periodicals in Spanish should
try to attract Sephardic readers, since Spanish was spoken also by many im
migrants. 80 However, this was not the general case. Of the nine Ashkenazic"
periodicals issued in Spanish before 1930—with varying fortunes: only one is
still published, one barely made it to 1930, and seven closed before that
date—only three, those with a Zionist orientation, made an effort to broaden
their scope to include Sephardic issues. El Sionista, with which the lewish press
in Spanish made its debut in Argentina on June 15, 1904, was devoted to Zi
onist issues. It was also concerned with the Moroccan lewish community in
Buenos Aires, of which, during those early years of the century, many members
were active in Zionist centers 8 ' Both El Macabeo, which appeared for a short
period of time in 1920, and El Semanario Hebreo, a weekly that appeared irregu
larly for nearly a decade starting in 1923, were definitely Zionist-oriented. The
latter, especially, wrote about developments in the Sephardic communities,
and about Zionist activities among Sephardim. 82
The most prestigious weekly in Spanish, Mundo Israelita, issued since
1923, was during the twenties a constant critic of the lewish community in
Argentina. At first it was considered the spokesman of Asociacion Hebraica.
though it became independent quite rapidly 88 It adopted a secularist position,
though opposed to extreme leftist groups; it defended all lewish cultural and
relief organizations and raised its voice against antisemitic outbursts or cases
of discrimination against lews. Lukewarm to Zionist aspirations at its most
early stage, by the end of the decade it adopted a much more positive attitude
in this respect. Its prime concern, as reflected in its columns during the twen
ties, was that of educating an Argentinian lewish generation and promoting
native leadership in the community. Fully conscious of the differences between
the "new" generation born in the country and their parents' generation, as well
as of the differences betwen the former and newly arrived immigrants, the
combatant editors of Mundo Israelita, Leon Kibrick and Salomon Resnick, saw
the future of the lewish community in a leadership conversant in Spanish. 84
They promoted translations of books from Yiddish and other languages into
Spanish, many of which were first published in installments in the weekly
There Mendele, Shalom Aleichem, Shalom Asch, Abraham Reisen, Haim Zhit-
lowsky, Israel Zangwill, Hermann Cohen, and Simon Dubnow. among others,
first appeared in Spanish during that decade. 85 Mundo Israelita was one of the
main forces struggling for the formation of a Kehilla—organized lewish com-


180
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
munity—in Buenos Aires. Opposing all other opinions favoring the formation
of an A Hama, or organization composed of delegates from all lewish societies
in the city, Mundo israelita advocated the transformation of the Chevra Keduscha
into the Kehilla. When other attempts failed, its thesis succeeded, though not
until two decades later, in 1949.
I uventud (1911-17), and the literary monthly Vida Nuestra (1917-23) pub
lished articles by the most distinguished Argentinian authors and works by
intellectual Argentinian lews, as well as translations from leading works by
European lewish writers. 86 Their impact—especially that of Vida Nuestra—was
powerful among the native lews. Even of greater importance was their impact
among Argentinian intellectuals and politicians. This was especially reflected
in an inquiry about their disposition towards lews and their immigration to
the country and their attitude toward the perpetrators of the disturbances of
the Semana Tragica in January 1919. 87
Three short-lived magazines in Spanish were published during the first
half of the 1910s. Israel (Organo de los israelitas en la Argentina) appeared five times
in 1911. It was the organ of the Club Israelita. founded on August 23, 1908, with
the purpose of fighting against the white slave dealers. Soon the Club Israelita
became a social center promoting the naturalization of lews, stressing their
civic and political responsibilities. However, it degenerated into a gambling
den, while its leaders profited from selling the votes of the members to the
political parties before elections. 88 El Israelita Argenlino, starting on July 1. 1913,
published news about lewish institutions in Buenos Aires and in the interior
of the country. It fought strongly for the formation of a federation of lewish
institutions in 1913, learning from the errors made by the first attempt at such
a federation in 1909—10. 89 The weekly Cronica Semanal, reporting mainly on so
cial events in the lewish community, was issued only during the first five
months of 1915.'’°
The Argentinizing aspects of the national culture proved to be effective
among a generation of lews, namely those who arrived as youngsters and were
educated in Argentina. The numbers of lews entering the universities and pro
fessions was forever growing. During the twenties lews were invited to teach in
many faculties at the national universities, including the University of Buenos
Aires. They profited from a new liberalized policy, which, undergoing processes
of reformation and counterreformation, especially since the Cordoba Reform
in 1918, had permitted sons of immigrants and non-Catholics to lecture at the
faculties. 91
The doors of the most important dailies in Argentina were also opened
to lews. The traditional and influential La Nacion included Alberto Gerchunoff
among its regular columnists and Gregorio Fingermann as its art critic. En
rique Lippschutz wrote for the equally influential La Prensa. In 1908 Gerchunoff
started publishing in La Nacion his first sketches about the life of the lews in
the Argentinian Pampas, colonists in the ICA settlements, which were col
lected in his Los gauchos judios.
Published in commemoration of Argentina's centenary in 1910, Los gau
chos judios marked the appearance of the lewish theme in the Argentine literary


181
lewish Cultural Expressions
scene. This work also represented the beginning of Gerchunoff's career as a
short story writer in Spanish, for which he received praise from the most ac
claimed writers in Spanish of the time 92 These short sketches comprise a va
riety of topics, such as a description of the meeting held by the rabbi and
elders of the small town of Tulchin, in Russia, when the first dealings were
made with representatives of Baron de Hirsch about the organization of lewish
colonies in Argentina ("Genesis"); the Sabbath in the colonies ("La siesta");
sentimental episodes ("El cantar de los cantares"); intermarriage ("El divor-
cio"); the lewish rural physician ("El medico milagroso"). Throughout the sto
ries, moreover, we read about the relations between lewish colonists and gau
chos of the area who worked in the colonies.
On occasion these relations were tragic, as when a gaucho killed a colo
nist because of a disagreement with respect to which horse to use for thrash
ing ("La muerte de Rabf Abraham"); or when a gaucho stole a silver candela
brum on a Sabbath, while the owner watched helplessly, unable to interrupt
his prayers ("El candelabra de plata"). However, in most of the stories relations
between gauchos and lews were excellent, even reaching, the mixed marriage
stage. 93 Not only was Argentina compared to Jerusalem by Gerchunoff, who
also illustrated this with quotations from medieval Jewish poets in Spain who
thought identically of their native Spanish soil. 94 but he also described how
lews had adopted most customs of the gauchos, including eating habits, sing
ing, and the manner of speaking. The author, completely identified with his
adoptive country—Gerchunoff was born in Proskurow, Kamenetz-Podolsk, in
Russia—emphasized his total integration with the spirit and atmosphere of
Argentina and attempted to dispell all prejudices held against lews for being
unassimilable. 95 The symbiosis of Jewish and creole values is so tightly knit
that the book, while being unanimously praised for its literary value, received
contrasting criticisms from different sectors of the Argentinian population.
Some lewish sectors reviewed Los gauchos judios as assimilationist, while anti-
lewish sectarians considered it Judaizing.
For the period ending in 1930 the interest of Argentine Jewish writers in
Spanish did not rest in Jewish topics. Most wrote about universal themes and
about particular problems of Argentine society. Only the exception of the most
acclaimed were interested in describing Jewish traditions or values. Samuel
Eichelbaum (1894-1967), an outstanding figure in Argentine letters as a play
wright and short-story writer who received the Buenos Aires Municipal prize
for his Tormenta de Dios (1930), only indulged in Jewish themes in E! judio Aaron
(1942) and later in La buena cosecha. Samuel Glusberg (1898-)—whose pseudo
nym Enrique Espinoza was a combination of the names of his two literary
heroes, Heinrich Heine and Baruch Spinoza—one of the founders of the Ar
gentine Association of Writers, collected a series of reminiscences of Jewish
life in the Buenos Aires ghetto in La levita gris (1924). In " Mate amargo" and in
"Ruth y Noemf" Glusberg deals with the contrasts between Jewish immigrants
in Buenos Aires and the assimilationist tendencies of the latter. Cesar Tiempo
(pseudonym for Israel Zeitiin, I906-), poet and playwright, was nearer to Jew
ish themes, though his publications before 1930 were obviously limited In


182
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
1930 his collection of poems on lewish values and life in Buenos Aires, Libro
para la pausa del Sabado, appeared.
During the first three decades of the century there were many lews who
influenced the cultural life of Argentina, lews contributed individually, mainly
as Argentinians, to the cultural creativity in the country. The [ewish aspect of
their personalities was not, by and large, a conspicuous element in their writ
ings. A distinct lewish influence is far from discernable in Argentine literature
of the time. Moreover, definite Jewish activities on the part of lewish intellec
tuals in Spanish were only sporadic 96
Two decades after 1930 the trend continued along similar lines, though
works with a particular lewish character were produced in a somewhat larger
proportion. Louis Nesbit, commenting on lewish contributions to Argentine
literature, expressed in no uncertain terms the imposing influence of Argen
tina on lewish writers: "Certainly in no part of the world has lewish intellectual
life become permeated with the native atmosphere as rapidly as in Argentina.
From the very beginning the lewish writer has identified himself with Argen
tine national aspirations." 97
lewish intellectuals in Argentina who were not educated in Eastern Eu
rope quite often did not show a clear understanding of ludaism and the role
of the lewish people in world history. Even Gerchunoff had contradictory ideas
and views. In 1906 he wrote that "the lews do not need to return to Zion. What
is urgent is to grant them a place in the universe where they will not be mas
sacred. For that, even Chubut is better than the twenty metres of land of the
Sultan, sterile and sad." 98 After the Balfour Declaration he changed his atti
tude. In September 1918 he wrote about 'Jerusalem, a vision of peace," singing
to its revival. 99 He also spoke at special celebrations for the departure of the
lewish Legionaries from Buenos Aires (1918) and the foundation of the He
brew University (1925). 100
Gerchunoff, in his El cristianismo precrisliano (Pre-Christian Christianity), 1924,
showed a partial understanding of ludaism as a religion by asserting that "Ca
tholicism is an organized ludaism.” 101 The Christian concept of the fulfillment
of the promises in the Old Testament in the Gospels, widespread, of course, in
Argentine Catholic society, influenced some secularized and assimilated lews.
However, it changed the life of lulio Fingerit. a contributor to luventud, Vida
Nuestra, Mundo Israelita, and director of Semanario Hehreo during the early 1920s.
A young man in search of God, Fingerit believed in the promise made to Israel,
while he accepted Jesus as Messiah and Son of God. However, he asserted
himself as a lew by race. In a letter sent both to Mundo Israelita and to Criterio,
the main Catholic weekly in Buenos Aires, Fingerit wrote "One cannot give up
being lewish, as one cannot give up being German, or Latin, or Slav; but one
can give up the Mosaic or Lutheran creed and become Mohammedan or Bud
dhist. And when one knows the Truth, one becomes Catholic.” 102
The first generation of Argentinian lews, which flourished during the
early decades of the twentieth century, was far removed from lewish traditions.
On the one hand, those young lews had not experienced the lewish life of
Eastern Europe or of the Sephardic centers; while on the other hand, in Argen-


183
lewish Cultural Expressions
tina there was no substantial amount of literature dealing with lewish subjects
in the vernacular. Religious, cultural, and even Zionist leaders in Buenos Aires
did not appeal to the native-born lews. These leaders, also immigrants, ap
pealed mainly to lews of their own generation who had a similar European
background. Thus the Argentinian lew remained ignorant of lewish culture and
values while they entered head-on into the cultural, economic, and profes
sional life of Argentina. Even the most acute differences betwen ludaism and
Christianity were polished in their secular minds. Important efforts were made,
nonetheless, by some individuals who founded centers like CIIA. SHA, and
other social associations. They published periodicals, which, during the years
1911-23 represented a valuable contribution to the Spanish-speaking lews.
Their goals—as can be seen from collections of luventud and Vida Nuestra—
included publishing works by Argentinian authors as well as by lewish authors
on general topics, along with translations of Jewish classics. In 1923 a change
occurred with the foundation of Asociacion Hebraica and Mundo Israelita. It was
mainly the weekly that made an impact upon the lewish community of Buenos
Aires, for it established the first links between the main lewish institutions in
the city and the lewish world abroad on the one hand and the Spanish
speaking lews in Argentina on the other. Still, during the rest of that decade
lewish culture in Spanish was in its embryonic period. Publications of books
and journals in Spanish, as well as lewish cultural activities in that language,
were intensified as a result of an increase of native-born lews and world events
which had a direct influence on lewish life during the 1930s and 1940s.


184
Spirit of
Solidarity:
The light against
Poverty and Evil
The assistance and protection of fellow lews in
need has been a constant characteristic of lewish life throughout the centu
ries. The spirit of unity and interdependence of lews all over the world proved
to be a major source of strength for individual lews in distress, as well as for
entire lewish communities confronted with a sad reality of indigence and per
secution. This spirit of responsibility for fellow lews crystallized in different
ways in each lewish community, depending on the factors demanding aid or
relief and on the predisposition and means of the lewish leadership to help
those in distress. In particular, the early lewish community in Argentina re
sponded in three different levels to the situations created by poverty and in
tolerance. First, it remained linked to the rest of the lewish people by respond
ing to needs in some of the communities in the Old World. Second, possessed
of a deep sense of historic responsibility as pioneer in Argentinian lewry, it
developed a series of mutual help, relief, and charitable institutions that by
1930 had become pillars of lewish life there. Finally, it responded energetically
to a problem affecting the whole lewish people but that had touched upon
lews in Buenos Aires much more profoundly: white slave trafficking.
Relief Work for Jews in the Old World
The established lews in Argentina did not cut themselves off from their
old communities or remain aloof from world events and their influence upon


185
Spirit of Solidarity
fellow lews abroad. Those who crossed the Atlantic by themselves had either
spouses and children or parents and siblings to support or help immigrate to
Argentina. Many did not forget their communities of old, and provided for their
fellow townsmen in Europe through the tens of landsmanschaften associations
founded in Buenos Aires and some cities of the interior. Their link to the lewish
people was fortified by the numerous relief campaigns organized to help lew
ish victims of World War I and of pogroms both before and after the war in
Europe, Asia, and Africa. Relief for lewish communities in the Old World con
stituted, right from the inception of organized (ewish life in Argentina, a major
preoccupation.
Concern with the deteriorating fate of Russian lewry was evidenced dur
ing the early stages of lewish life in Buenos Aires. The few hundred West Eu
ropean lews there in 1881 demonstrated their strong kinship with their Rus
sian brethren not only by raising funds to help their coreligionists escape from
Russia and other countries but through the influence of some English lews—
probably Henry Joseph among them—managed to enlist the aid of many
Christian Englishmen in Buenos Aires in a relief campaign.' The Congregacion
Israelita (CIRA) continued, through World War 1, setting the pace for campaigns
of relief for lews abroad. It was especially suited for this, for its members were
among the wealthiest lews in town and had, through many trips to Europe,
established sound contacts with organizations directly involved in relief cam
paigns, such as the Alliance Israelite Universelle (A1U). When the pogroms in
Russia reached their climax in October 1905, immediately after Tsar Nicholas
11 had been forced to grant a constitution to the Russian people, a Comite de
Socorros para las Vlctimas lsraelitas en Rusia was opened at CIRA. During
November and December of that year there was an intensive campaign, with
the local Spanish newspapers publishing details of it. Even non-lews spoke at
public protests, including Reverend W. P. McLaughlin of the Methodist church.
Moreover, due to business ties many Christians also contributed heavily to the
funds sent to Russia from Buenos Aires. 2
When the Sephardic communities in the Old World suffered from po
groms or particular calamities, CIRA took the initiative in relief work. This was
the case when the French Protectorate was established in Morocco in 1912,
thus provoking a pogrom in Fez claiming over 100 victims. 3 In 1917 a great fire
destroyed most of Salonika leaving some 50,000 lews homeless. The A1U im
mediately approached Rabbi S. Halphon of CIRA for help. With the help of
Sephardim in Buenos Aires, Halphon led a campaign that gathered 6,890 pe
sos (18,050 francs), which were mailed to AIU. 4
The concern for lewish victims in Europe reached a climax during the
war years. Early in 1915, sponsored by leading Zionists in Buenos Aires, the
Comite Central Pro-Vfctimas lsraelitas de la Guerra (Zentral Komite far Yid
dishe Milhome Leidnde)—hereafter CC—was formed. 5 This nationwide orga
nization—with over seventy branches in the interior of Argentina and in Uru
guay, Paraguay, Brazil, and Chile—by means of monthly payments, sales of
"pro-victimas" stamps, concerts, dancing parties, and raffles and by such means


186
I ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
as donations of wheat by the lewish colonists in Entre Rios and special collec
tions during a week instituted as "Di'a de la Flor" was able to forward over
500,000 pesos to the American lewish loint Distribution Committee (IDC) 6
Relief work continued after the war. The great number of displaced per
sons, and especially the postwar pogroms in Poland, kept the lewish popula
tion in Argentina active in sending relief and in organizing protest demonstra
tions. On July 29, 1919, barely half a year after the assaults against lews during
the Semana Tragica, the lews in the country filled the streets with billboards
denouncing those "barbarian acts" in Poland, hoping that the Argentine public
opinion would also repudiate them: "All lewish stores, factories, workshops,
and everything that has something to do with material life of our community
shall be closed after 12 noon ” 7
In 1919, especially with the Poale Zionists' unconditional adherence to
the CC, 8 a radical turn took place in the policy of this relief organization. The
labor forces challenged the "conservative and Igeneral] Zionist elements" and
decided to send the money to )DC but earmarked it to the account of the
People's Relief Committee 9 The reason for this new policy, the CC leaders ar
gued, was five years of frustrating experiences with |DC. The latter did not send
the CC in Argentina official receipts but only letters of acknowledgment; they
also did not inform the CC about the relief work and the way the funds were
distributed in Eastern Europe. The complaint was that |DC "ignored us and did
not help us enhance our prestige in order to add new dimensions to our
work." 10
The People's Relief Committee was opposed to the "philanthropic char
acter of IDC's work," which only encouraged the proliferation of "mendicants
and schnorers." It thus advised the CC to decide in its forthcoming convention
to adhere to its own policy of “constructive" help. Considering the possibilities
of a complete parting of the People's Relief Committee from IDC in case relief
work was to pass to private hands, the former wrote that CC's support "would
give us more strength to fight from within if we remain in the IDC,... and if we
are obligated to work independently, we would need your help even more." 11
At a CC convention of May 16-18, 1920 a long debate ensued, lacobo
loselevich, a general Zionist, and president of CC, argued that monies should
be sent through IDC, which represents all United States lews, just as CC rep
resents all lews of Argentina, and asserted that relief work required immediate
and effective help without interference of "utopic plans for reconstruction and
class struggles, as is the desire of the lewish Socialists." Other speakers quoted
from a letter sent by Dr. Max (Moshe) Soloveitchik, the Lithuanian minister for
lewish Affairs and Dr. Shimshon Rosenbaum, president of the National Com
mittee (Lithuania), in which they expressed their need not of philanthropy but
of means to be able to help themselves. Regalsky (P. Z.) finally described the
situation in the United States, stating that the Yahudim of IDC were antidemo
cratic and assimilationist, while the People's Relief adhered to national dem
ocratic help and was supported not only by Poale Zion and Bund but also by
the lewish masses. Regalsky's proposal that CC work with People's Relief was
approved. 12 By 53 votes to 31 its name was changed to Zentral Komite fun


187
Spirit of Solidarity
Yiddisher Folks-Hilf far di Milhome un Pogrom Gelitene (lit., "Central Commit
tee of lewish People's Relief for War and Pogrom Victims "). Moreover, the res
olutions of the convention indicate a total identification with People's Relief
Committee's principles. 15
The policy of CC was a matter of constant debates during the following
eighteen months. The “conservative” elements did not agree with the changes
made at the convention. Arguments on both sides were voiced in the lewish
press in Buenos Aires and were reflected in the correspondence of CC with the
People's Relief Committee in New York During this period four shipments
were made to New York, whence they were forwarded to Russia. Fifty per cent
of the goods—clothes, shoes, soap, sugar, foodstuffs, and medicine, the first
shipment alone valued at 100,000 dollars—were earmarked for the Ukraine,
and the rest for other countries in Eastern Europe Besides, 30,000 pesos
(about 12,000 dollars) was cabled to Paris for the Ukrainian refugees in Bess
arabia, and private packages and monies were mailed directly to Eastern Eu
rope. 14 When Soprotimis, founded by the conservative lewish elements in
1922, started work on behalf of lewish immigrants, some activities overlapped.
Later during that decade both institutions agreed to collaborate in some spe
cific areas.
The continuous stream of support for family and communities in the
Old World sent through CC, Soprotimis, and the various resident institutions,
both Sephardic and Ashkenazic, were responsible for the maintenance of ties
with stronger lewish communities than those in Argentina. In 1930 these ties
were still stronger than Zionism among lews in Argentina, in spite of the fact
that Zionism was, as we have seen, conquering larger sectors of Jewry there.
Protection of Immigrants and Mutual Help
The lewish population in Argentina grew from about 1,500 in 1888 to
nearly 220,000 in 1930. More than half of the latter lived in the capital city
During the period 1890-1930 at least two-thirds of the lewish population in
Buenos Aires was foreign-born. 15 Most of these lewish immigrants did not,
when arriving in Argentina, possess economic means with which to subsist
and progress there. Many left their native cities and towns without a profes
sion, and with few personal belongings. Moreover, the fact that they did not
speak Spanish proved to be a handicap for the East European lews searching
for jobs vis-a-vis their fellow immigrants from Spain and Italy. Thus, a large
proportion of the Ashkenazim who settled in the cities were employed as un
skilled workers at first. Some progressed by acquiring personal skills, others
advanced in commerce and industry. But still, many did not. They and their
families constituted the bulk of indigent lews in the country, for they were the
most vulnerable during seasons of unemployment or in cases when the main
supporter of the family fell sick or died. To assist them, the organized commu
nity developed mutual help associations, popular kitchens, job bureaus, and
various medical services, including a lewish hospital and several clinics.
In 1872 the lews of CIRA formed a Sociedad Israelita de Beneficencia in


188
]ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
order to aid members unable to work due to sickness, as well as to provide for
burials in cases of death.' 6 With the arrival of immigrants from Eastern Europe,
however, new institutions were founded. During the period 1894-1900, the
three main institutions providing mutual help and medical aid continuing to
our days were founded. The Chevra Keduscha was started at the initiative of
CIRA, CIL, Poale Zedek, and Mahzikei Emuna in 1894 with the purpose of car
ing for burials according to lewish rites. Three years later, in 1897, most of the
Moroccan members joined in their own Gemilat Hassadim, and soon after
wards the most veteran institution was renamed Chevra Keduscha Ashkenasi.
As we shall see below, this institution became, during the twenties, the central
organization for Ashkenazi (ewry in Buenos Aires, with a mutual aid and phil
anthropic character.
A group of young lewish workers founded, in 1896, the Union Obrera
Israelita (UOI), a mutual aid society with the purpose of helping immigrants
find jobs. Due to their ignorance of the language, many of the latter were ex
ploited by their bosses. The UOI thus started a night school, where Spanish
was taught, and a library. At the beginning it was strictly a mutual aid society
for lewish workers. However, five years later, in view of the still small number
of lewish workers in Buenos Aires, the UOI also opened its doors to profes
sionals, excluding those who were not wage earners. In 1903, moreover, all
lews could become members, though the particular workers' character of the
institution was maintained. 17 Finally, in 1905, a new change permitted the en
trance of socios protectores, or members who were not interested in receiving ben
efits from the society but desired to strengthen its philanthropic work. In 1907
the name was enlarged to UOI Bikur Joilim as result of the addition of a section
to provide for the sick. This latter section rapidly became the main concern of
Bikur Joilim Its membership rose from 900 in 1908 to 1,800 in 1916." During
1929, over 3,200 members were examined at Bikur Joilim's clinics—927 at their
homes—and 6,058 prescriptions were filled.' 9
On December 25, 1900, the Sociedad Israelita de Beneficencia "Ezrah"
(Ezrah) was founded by members of CIRA and East European lews. Its purpose
was "to aid and protect the poor, sick, helpless, and needy coreligionists " 20
This was accomplished by donations of money, clothing, and food. From its
inception Ezrah contemplated the erection of a hospital and thus set aside 25
percent of all income for this end. 21 However, the indigence in many sectors of
the lewish population in Argentina during the first decade of the century
proved to be a great obstacle not only for the rapid construction of a lewish
hospital but also of a home for the aged and orphans. Long debates at the
board of Ezrah were held about the question of whether to utilize parts of the
reserve funds earmarked for the hospital in order to solve more immediate
problems of needy lews at the waiting room of the institution. 22
A lewish hospital, nonetheless, was urgently needed even at an early
stage of the century. Many lews were not well cared for at the municipal hos
pitals due to their different customs and because of their difficulties in ex
plaining their needs and maladies in Spanish. Therefore, a special committee
"Pro-Hospital "was formed in 1907, which was also supported by Bikur Joilim. 2 *


189
Spirit of Solidarity
During the following year it was agreed that such a big enterprise should be
sponsored by the entire lewish community, not only by Ezrah. The Federacion
Israelita Argentina (FIA), formed late in 1908 and comprised of the main Ash
kenazic Jewish societies in Buenos Aires—CIRA, Chevra Keduscha, Ezrah,
Bikur Joilim, and Talmud Torah—took over from Ezrah the initiative of building
the lewish hospital.
The representatives of FIA made important contacts, during 1909, with
the mayor of Buenos Aires and with the president of the Municipal Council
(Concejo Deliberante), Dr. Coll, hoping to obtain from the municipality the
donation of a tract of land for the hospital in the Parque Centenario neighbor
hood. 24 The municipal promise was not fulfilled because of a series of events
transpiring in Buenos Aires at the end of 1909 and the beginnings of 1910. In
November 1909 a Russian Jew, Simon Radowitzky, had killed the chief of police,
Ramon Falcon, creating a hostile atmosphere towards other "Russians." 25
Moreover, a group of lews with political ambitions had presented a petition
similar to FIA's to the municipality in the name of the Club Israelita. 20 Further
more, the director of the Public Health Department (Asistencia Publica), Dr
lose Penna, presented an unfavorable report, considering that the lewish hos
pital should be built in a private terrain belonging to the lewish community, as
was the case with all other hospitals sponsored by foreign residents in the
city. 27 Penna advised the mayor that the site in Parque Centenario was better
suited for an asylum than for a hospital. 28 In view of these difficulties, and the
imperious need of a hospital to care for the growing number of indigent lews
in need of medical assistance, as well as for demonstrating the lewish spirit of
friendship and gratitude to Argentina by building such a medical institution, a
general assembly of Ezrah decided that Ezrah itself would buy a lot in the
Flores section of Buenos Aires in July, 1910. 29
The first pavillion of the Hospital Israelita was inaugurated in May 1921,
nearly eleven years after the decision to buy the land. Over 400,000 pesos was
spent on the terrain and building expenses. The second pavillion was inaugu
rated in 1928. The number of beds was raised from 65 to 189, and the yearly
number of patients assisted rose from 15,000 in 1922 to 22,000 in 1925, and to
48,000 in 1930. 30 During the early 1920s there were 11 paid and 21 volunteer
physicians. In 1929, due to the severe economic crisis, the physicians were
asked to donate their salaries for the next two years. However, they continued
serving free of charge until 1943. 31
A lewish old age home and an orphan asylum were strongly needed in
Buenos Aires at the turn of the century. In spite of many projects before the
world war, the actual foundation of such institutions was prompted by a series
of fortuitous events, which brought the founders face to face with human trag
edy. The painful supplications of some old lews, sick and defenseless, found in
a Christian old age home, were decisive. During 1915 a group of lews met at
the precincts of the Chevra Keduscha and decided upon creating a lewish old
age home (Asilo de Ancianos, or Moshav Zkeinim), which opened on lune 18,
1916. Shortly afterwards police officials of the twenty-first district called to the
attention of some lews three abandoned orphans almost dead from hunger


190
Iewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
and cold. This gave the final impetus to add a male orphan section to the old
age home. 32 Furthermore, during 1916 the Sociedad de Socorros de Damas
Israelitas, which had been founded eight years earlier at the initiative of Rabbi
Halphon and under the auspices of CIRA, was able to inaugurate its first build
ing for an asylum for orphan girls. By 1923, 110 girls were housed here Their
number reached 170 in 1928, after their new premises in the Arevalo street
were inaugurated. 33 In the meantime the Asilo Israelita Argentino, formed by
the old age home and the male orphan asylum, housed 78 elders and 204 boys
in 1928 34 Both orphan asylums provided the boys and girls, respectively, with
secular and [ewish education, as well as professional instruction. 35
Before proper vaccinations to build the body's resistance to tuberculo
sis were discovered, this malady constituted a serious threat to the world pop
ulation. By 1930, more than 20,000 people died of TB in Argentina yearly. More
over, most of the estimated 200,000 sick with TB at the time were not carefully
treated in a country with about 3,000 beds for this purpose. 36 During the
twelve-year period 1917-28 about 11.6 percent of lewish deaths in Buenos
Aires were caused by tuberculosis. 37 Alert to this threat, a group of young lews
got together during lanuary 1916 in order to get funds and cooperate in the
treatment of the sick, founding the Liga de Socorro a los Tuberculosos Israeli
tas, soon afterwards called Liga Israelita Argentina Contra la Tuberculosis
(Yiddish-Argentinishe Lige Kegn Tuberculozis). For the period 1916-25 their
activities were reduced to medical assistance in private clinics and the provi
sion of food. In 1925 a clinic was installed in the new headquarters of the
institution (Sarmiento number 2153, in Once), thus initiating a new stage of
fruitful work against the malady. Intense prophylaxis campaigns were carried
on during the next few years. Tens of thousands of copies of a booklet, Tuber
culosis, in Yiddish and Spanish, were distributed; conferences were given in
various lewish institutions and broadcasted over the radio; and articles were
printed in the main periodicals of the community. A special arrangement was
made with the Sanatorio Nacional of Santa Marla, in the Cordoba moun
tains—where the climate is convenient for the treatment of TB—by which the
institution agreed to place 30 of the Liga s patients yearly. 38 The number of
patients treated rose from 1,020 in 1925 to 11,342 in 1930. 39
Of great concern was the absorption of immigrants in the country. Dur
ing the first years of mass immigration from Eastern Europe immigrants ap
pealed to all lewish institutions or to the more veteran lews in Buenos Aires
for assistance in finding jobs and other necessities. But this was not sufficient.
Thus in 1904 a group of lews, mainly from CIRA, and headed by Luis H. Brie,
president of CIRA, founded the Asociacion Protectora de Inmigrantes Israeli
tas Schomer Israel. During its two-year existence this society ran a kitchen for
immigrants, where meals were served either at token prices or gratis. Over 310
meals a day, on the average, were served. Moreover, Schomer Israel tried to
place some of the immigrants in the interior of the country, for which it came
into direct contact with Juan Alsina, director of the Immigration Department. 40
During the 1920s the activities of Soprotimis and the Comite Central (see
above and ch. 1) were more successful in placing immigrants. For the period


191
Spirit of Solidarity
1922-30 Soprotimis found jobs for about 6,700 immigrants of the total of
13,459 who were inscribed at their offices. Most of them were sent to the |CA
colonies. 41
During 1922 the Cocina Popular Israelita (Yiddisher Folks Kich un
Ajnoses Orjim)—CPI—was founded. It provided meals daily, gratis, to immi
grants for ten days. Moreover, for nonimmigrants or those who had been in the
country for some time, the CPi furnished meals at very inexpensive rates. By
1930 it served 300 meals daily, half gratis. 42
All these lewish philanthropic institutions—with the exclusion of the
Chevra Keduscha—had similar patterns of fund raising. They organized
dances, raffles, and special week campaigns, as well as such artistic events as
concerts, Yiddish theater performances, and motion pictures. However, the
bulk of the budget was covered by membership dues paid by lews all over the
country and special campaigns led in all lewish communities in Argentina.
Ezrah had 4,500 members in 1921 and 10,795 in 1932, of which 2,000 were from
the interior. From 1,550 members in Buenos Aires and none in the provinces
in 1925, membership at the Liga Israelita Argentina contra la Tuberculosis rose
to 3,650 in the capital and 2,950 in the interior in 1929. On the other hand, all
these charitable institutions provided services that benefited lews in the inte
rior as well, who often traveled to Buenos Aires in order to get medical treat
ment at Ezrah or the Liga or to enter one of the orphanages or the old age
home. The medical institutions, moreover, were not limited to the treatment
of lewish patients. 43
The Chevra Keduscha Aschkenasi grew speedily after large numbers of
lews from Eastern Europe settled in Argentina starting in 1906. With the acqui
sition of the cemetery in Liniers during 1910 the burial society attracted larger
numbers of lews in Buenos Aires who now relied more on the benefits the
Chevra Keduscha could grant From then until the 1950s this institution—later
under the name of Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina, or AM1A—continued
to grow. Table 5 reflects the membership movement.
Once the cemetery in Liniers had been paid for, the officials at the
Chevra Keduscha realized that the income from monthly dues, burial rights,
gravestones permits, and rights for and upkeeping of marble stones—even if
many of these services were completely gratis—far surpassed the expenses in
charity and in mutual aid to widows and orphans. Thus, the economic power
of the Chevra Keduscha permitted it to display a positive role in other areas of
lewish life in Buenos Aires. During the last half of the twenties this was clearly
evident in the welfare area. Grants and subsidies went in growing proportions
not only to widows and orphans—the original target of this mutual aid soci
ety—but also to the needy coreligionists in the country and to charitable and
educational institutions in Argentina and outside of it.
The membership at the Chevra Keduscha was mainly Ashkenazic,
though a small number of Sephardim were members, and on occasion a Se
phardi was even included in the electoral lists to the Chevra Keduscha's
board. 44 This membership, however, was a composite of people of the most
diverse political inclinations. Both religious and secular lews, Zionists of vari-


192
]ewish Buenos Aires. 1890-1930
Table 5
Membership at the Chevra Keduscha Aschkenasi (founded 18941
Year
Number of Members
1906
140
1907
300 plus
1908
800 plus
1910
1.000
1916
4,200
1923
11,000
1928
14,000
Source: Minutes of Chevra Keduscha. Iuventud 6. no. 49 (luly 1916);
and Memoria y Balance. Chevra Keduscha.
ous ideological standings as well as anti-Zionists, communists, and capital
ists, all wanted the Chevra Keduscha to support the institutions and parties of
their preference. Moreover, the democratic structure of the Chevra Keduscha
imposed that it support opposing goals such as Keren Hayesod (for the sup
port of a lewish National Home in Palestine) and Procor (which advocated the
return of the Jews to the Soviet Far East). Table 6 illustrates the growing influ
ence of the Chevra Keduscha among lewish institutions in Argentina and over
seas.
After 1928 the Chevra Keduscha began sponsoring the lewish schools in
Buenos Aires in a more consistent way. Only during the mid-1930s however,
did it consolidate its position as main provider of many of the Talmud Torahs
and other lewish schools. Similarly, during the 1920s, its role among welfare
institutions in the lewish community was constantly growing. Due to its sup
port the CPI was able to survive the crisis in 1929, and Ezrah and the asy
lums were bolstered by the large donations granted them by the Chevra Kedu
scha
During the eight-year period before World War I a large number of lewish
workers arrived in Buenos Aires from Russia. Settling in the lewish quarters—
around Corrientes Avenue to the east and especially west of Callao Avenue—
they soon formed small mutual aid societies. Leon Chazanovich, the Poale
Zionist activist who arrived in Argentina in 1909, succeeded in uniting various
sectors of the lewish working force in Buenos Aires under one mutual help
organization, Union Obrera Israelita de Socorros Mutuos y Ensehanza (Alge-
meiner Yiddisher Arbeter Varband in Argentine) on September 19, 1909 It im
mediately became the most important workers' organization in the lewish
street. It combined mutual help services with cultural ends and provided infor
mation about work in the country and abroad. By 1914 the number of sick
treated reached 750. Its members numbered 746 at the beginning of that year.
However, by the end of 1914 the activities at the Union Obrera were paralyzed
due to the general crisis in the country. 45 Other mutual aid workers' societies


Table 6
Subsidies and Donations Made by the Chevra Keduscha Aschkenasi
(in pesos)
Year"
Orphans,
widows
Help
needy
Ezrah
Asilo
Israelita
Argentino
Girls'
Asylum
Cocina
Popular
Israelita
Liga Israelita
Argentina Contra
la Tuberculosis
Ezras
Noschim
Keren
Hayesod
Palestine
Workers'
Fund
Procor
1925/26
15,700
13,616
7,000
500
5,000
500
1,000
1926/27
21,700
18,469
10,000
13,000



1,800
5,000
500

1927/28
20,325
21,808

500

7,500

2,200
5,000


1928/29
29,650
32,657
10,200

5,000


2,400
20,000 b
2,000
3,000
1929/30
22,400
31,457
3,000
275

823

2,600
5,000


1930/31
19,675
31,965
5,000
400

23,954

2,000
5,000
500

a The yearly periods start on October 1 and end on September
30.
b 15,000 pesos were given to the Emergency Fund for Palestine
due to the riots that took place there during 1929.
Sources: Chevra Keduscha, Memoria y Balance, corresponding to the
respective periods.


194
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
were founded in later periods, but after more or less success all closed before
1930 49
Not only did the various Sephardic groups in Buenos Aires organize
their mutual help and welfare societies separately from the Ashkenazim, but,
indeed, each one of them—Damascene, Aleppine, Turkish (Ladino-speaking),
and Moroccan—established its own institutions, thus accentuating its sepa
rateness, Each of these communities developed its welfare institutions along
very similar lines to the others. The one digression was in the organization of
the Turkish lews, concentrated by and large in Comunidad Israelita Sefaradi
(CIS). CIS—which was given the character of Kehilla, or community, for Se
phardim of Turkish origin when the two sectors of these lews, in Villa Crespo
and in Centro, united in March 1919—concentrated in one institution their
educational, religious, and welfare activities. 47 In 1920 CIS added to its chari
table activities, providing the poor with money and essentials for the lewish
Holy Days and medical services for its members, 48
The Damascene, Aleppine, and Moroccan Jews had burial societies in
dependent from their synagogues and schools, though the members and even
officials of their respective institutions overlapped to a large extent. The burial
societies had a mutual aid character and provided for widows and orphans
with a fixed stipend upon the death of the head of the family. Besides, many
hebrot were created in their specific neighborhoods, to provide for the poor
members in need. 49
While the distance between Ashkenazic and Sephardic immigrants in
Buenos Aires is easily explainable due to their different background, language,
traditions, and attitudes, the factors that caused the separateness of the vari
ous Sephardic groups from each other are more subtle. There were language
differences among the Sephardim themselves Traditions differed even within
these language groups. Between the two Syrian communities there existed a
separateness even before coming to Argentina, in their own towns of origin. 50
Their attachment to religion varied from one community to the other, the Syr
ians being the most fervent believers, while the Moroccans were the most lib
eral. Furthermore, each group settled in different areas of the city, and most of
their members worked in their respective neighborhoods. Their societies,
quite understandably, were founded in their specific neighborhoods, thus lim
iting the possibilities of socializing with members of other Sephardic groups.
Finally, the strong localism of these lews was evident in their Argentine envi
ronment. Due to their strong emotional ties with their mother communities
they did not consider the benefits of stronger all-Sephardic societies even if
they would be limited to mutual help organization around a common burial
association with a common cemetery. 51
The membership characteristics of the Sephardic societies have some
resemblance to the so-called landsmanschaften, or associations of immigrants
from the same town or area However, their differences outweigh their similar
ities. The landsmanschaften. which rose by the tens in Buenos Aires during the
World War I period and the twenties built a social atmosphere for the immi
grants from the particular area of origin in Poland, Galitzia, Roumania and


195
Spirit of Solidarity
Bessarabia, promoting cultural activities. But their main object was to facili
tate the economic absorption of the immigrant. The latter could obtain from
their landsmanschaft loans with which to begin their activities in the country.
Moreover, due to their mutual help structure, the members of the landsman
schaften and their families were backed in cases of sickness, death, or unem
ployment. These funds, as well as others established in many areas of the
Jewish neighborhoods, paved the way for the formation of hundreds of credit
cooperatives. This expansion started during the twenties and continued dur
ing the following four decades. While the Sephardic organizations were built
around religious and charitable concerns, the Ashkenazic landsmanschaften had
a secular orientation, were concerned with lewish culture, and aided their
members along lines of loans that could establish them on firm ground, in
opposition to charity. 52
By 1930 the lews in Argentina could proudly contemplate the fruits of
their efforts in the area of welfare institutions for their indigent and defense
less coreligionists. The Ashkenazim, as well as each of the Sephardic groups,
had their burial societies that provided a subsidy to widows and orphans of
dead members. Two orphanages and an old age home were functioning for
nearly fifteen years and had moved to bigger premises. The Hospital Israelita,
as well as other institutions offering medical assistance, provided the sick pa
tients with physicians who understood their language and their specific needs
The Liga Israelita Argentina contra la Tuberculosis was doing an important
prophylactic work, as well as treating the tuberculous. Immigrants and indi
gent could receive meals either free of charge or at low prices at the Cocina
Popular Israelita, and were aided in getting jobs by Soprotimis, the landsman
schaften, and many other organizations. Many of these institutions also had a
special section providing the poor with money and clothing and occasionally
with a working tool or machine. Even those who died poor and without family
or means of support were the object of posthumous acts of charity when the
society Hesed Shel Emeth (Ashkenazic) took care of placing a gravestone on
their tombs. 53
While the accomplishments during the forty-year period (1890-1930)
were of weight in the welfare field, Argentine Jewry could have achieved higher
goals. Endless disputes between organizations or between factions in a spe
cific institution were forever distracting many of the most dedicated officials.
Elections for the boards of most of these societies—especially during the
1920s and in later decades—gave occasion for strongly fought campaigns in
the lewish press and street. Even the annual assemblies at times were scenes
of fist fights and scandals. These attitudes on the part of officials willing to
work but also wanting to receive the due respect and credit for it prevented
many other potential officials from participating in the direction of the soci
eties. Moreover, while the assistance given at the medical centers, orphanages,
and old age home was meritorious, the attitude with respect to the disabled
and indigent left a lot to be desired. First, there was no interinstitutional con
trol of amounts allocated to the same individual; second, the type of assist
ance was not constructive. Only at the end of the twenties did some of the


196
]ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
institutions adopt the services of a social worker in order to study the individ
ual cases and be able to grant help that would allow the beneficiary to become
self-supporting afterwards. M At any rate, the basic organizational structure had
been built, and the services given were varied and numerous. The number of
Jews who were associated with these welfare societies—many contributed to
as much as ten or twelve institutions annually—are a clear reflection of the
significant role played by the latter for the identification of lews in Argentina
with their fellow lew.


197
$
The Jewish
Community
Fights White
Slavery
During the first months of 1930 Raquel Lieber-
man filed a complaint against Salomon lose Korn to the police in Buenos
Aires. Lieberman, who had been forcibly introduced into a brothel on her ar
rival in Argentina in 1924 and kept as a prostitute for about four years, had
made up her mind to leave that profession as soon as possible. With the
money she saved, Lieberman started a business in objets dart, and by the late
1920s she had accumulated about 90,000 pesos ($33,000 dollars). It was in her
store on Callao Avenue number 515 where she met Korn, who—unbeknowst
to her—was a leading trafficker in women in Buenos Aires. They started an
intimate relationship, and though Lieberman confided her past history to
Korn, the latter promised to marry her in a civil ceremony. Korn opted to have
a religious ceremony instead, waiving the civil document required by Argen
tine law. 1 Lieberman denounced her so-called husband for threatening her
with violence, for taking away all her money and belongings, and for forcing
her to return to a life of prostitution.
The subsequent investigation by the police led to the discovery that
Korn was exploiting other prostitutes. Depositions against Korn brought to
light the activities of a net of lewish white slave dealers. These activities were
widely known, but the traffickers had managed to secure impunity by bribing
key officials. Now, for the first time in almost half a century, the attempts to
denounce and effectively destroy the well-knit organization of lewish traffick
ers met with at least partial success. The lews in Buenos Aires, strongly embar
rassed by the bad name the traffickers had given their community, welcomed


198
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
the process, for it finally removed the unfortunate impression that "dealers"
Polacos (Poles), and lews were synonymous terms. This scourge of the lews of
Buenos Aires was not removed immediately. Nevertheless, as we shall see, the
derivations of the Lieberman-versus-Korn case, together with the political and
social changes in Argentine society during the early 1930s, proved to be a
mortal blow to Jewish white slavery in the country. 2
Studies made at the turn of the century about the rising index of crimi
nality in Buenos Aires, showed demographic growth as the main factor respon
sible for the rise in crime. It was said to be a "growth sickness." The positivist
sociologists following Cesare Lombroso said that it was caused by a "biologi
cal degeneration." Others, from a Marxist point of view, asserted that crime was
not itself a sickness but was a symptom of capitalistic growth. In a country
with few industries and a limited job market those who remained on the
fringes of organized society formed a proletariat—or better a lumpenprolelar-
iat—whence vagabonds, prostitutes, white slave dealers, murderers, and other
such types rose. Be it a consequence of immigration, a biological degenera
tion, or a symptom of the social and economic structure of society, the fact is
that crime was reaching alarming proportions. 3
The Jewish immigrant community in Argentina did not lack its criminal
offenders, though in a much lower ratio than other immigrant groups. Few lews
were convicted for crimes of violence such as murder or rape. They became
conspicuous, however, in what was termed the "social" evil of prostitution and
in the traffic of women for this purpose. In this descriptive analysis we devote
particular attention to the reaction of the immigrant lewish community to this
"corrupted" element in its midst and to the way it deal with the fact of the
existence of such a lewish element. Moreover, lewish participation in white
slavery is placed in its appropriate context within the total traffic in Argentina.
The lewish establishment in Argentina has kept as concealed as pos
sible any reference to lewish participation in white slavery and prostitution.
There are no dispassionate studies of this activity not even apologetic articles.
The reason is obvious: the lews dreaded being singled out for crime because
of possible antisemitic repercussions, albeit by avoiding the subject they were
also concealing what may be described as one of the major attainments of the
lews in Argentina: their unremitting struggle against evil. 4
Buenos Aires Attains a Reputation
Throughout the half century between 1880 and 1930 Argentina, espe
cially Buenos Aires, was considered in Europe to be the greatest center for the
commerce in women. Belisario Montero. Argentine ambassador in Brussels at
the turn of the century, repeatedly protested against what he thought was un
deserved criticism of his country's moral standing: "Here in Europe they re
proach that our Republic, and especially Buenos Aires, is the most open and
lucrative market for the sale of European women. They add that the traffickers,
once in our capital city with their human merchandise, can consider them
selves safe, enjoying the impunity of their crime." 5 Charges continued to be


199
Community Fights White Slavery
made and not without basis. The English crusader against white slavery, Sir
William Alexander Coote, voiced them at an international conference against
white slavery in 1913 in London, while books and articles in the main periodi
cals in Buenos Aires repeated them quite often 6 Enrique Feinman, in an im
portant article published in Atlantida in 1913, asserted that Argentine law pro
vided no defense against white slavery and that "our capital | Buenos Aires] is
known as the world center for this type of import and commerce." 7
A report of the Special Body of Experts in Traffic in Women and Children
of the League of Nations stated that in the mid-1920s there was 8
a constant flow of foreign prostitutes from every corner of Europe to the
Argentine around all barriers devised to check it. This is the opinion of
souteneurs and prostitutes in every capital of Europe from Paris to Cairo.
The Argentine, and particularly Buenos Aires, is considered by such people
everywhere as a sort of Golconda. As one of the owners of several houses
of prostitution in Europe expressed it: "They keep on going as if they ex
pected to find gold in the streets. Out of my house alone I lost 15 girls in
four months. It must be as good as they say because they do not come
back."
Throughout these five decades Buenos Aires—even while changing at a
very speedy pace—retained the doubtful privilege of being considered one the
world's main centers for traffic in prostitutes. Insufficient legislation was un
doubtedly a reason But the rapid growth of the city from about 180,000 inhab
itants in 1890 to 950,891 in 1904, to 1,231,698 in 1909, and to 2,415,142 in 1936
was a major factor. Table 7 shows the high ratios of males in the total and
foreign populations of Argentina. Buenos Aires, the main port of entry to the
country as well as its largest city, retained most of the foreign population with
its very high male ratio. Quite naturally, this immense disparity between men
and women created a market for prostitutes from overseas to satisfy the de
sires of new immigrants who did not possess the means to marry and raise a
family.
The social structure of Buenos Aires at the turn of the century had two
main divisions: gente decente (the upper class composed of those who by ances
try education and wealth retained influence and power in city and national
life) and gente de pueblo (the working masses). The rapid increase in population
and the substantial urban changes did not alter this structure until World War
I and the access to political power by the middle class in 1916 9 The male was
the principal provider and thus established the family status. Among the gente
decente the woman would remain at home, engage in cultural endeavors or
charities, and manage the household and servants. In general, women in late-
nineteenth-century porteho society did not work outside their homes unless the
family's financial position absolutely required it Working women thus came
from the lowest classes and were employed as maids, cooks, washerwomen,
and seamstresses.' 0
The dominant role of men and the subordinate position of women in
this traditional society had definite implications concerning relations and


200
]ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
Table 7
Ratio of Males in the Total and Foreign Populations of Argentina
Year
Total Population
Foreign Population
1869
106
251
1895
112
173
1914
116
171
1947
105
138
Source. Gino Germani, Politico y sociedad en urn epoca de transition
(Buenos Aires, 1968), 252
morals between the sexes The sexual double-standard and taboos of the time
did not allow premarital sex for women, thus encouraging young men to visit
prostitutes. Moreover, once married, men continued to attend houses of pros
titution for less-restrained sexual contacts. 11 While women had few opportu
nities for social contacts, men, in addition to their business appointments,
would patronize the social and political clubs It was not uncommon for men
to "slip out in the evening for a game of cards or dice at the cafe around the
corner," while "houses of prostitution that catered to a wealthy clientele sup
plemented their standard offerings with elegant drawing rooms where men
could converse and smoke.'' 12 In addition, the social pressures upon men al
most demanded that they visit prostitutes as a sign of virility and masculinity,
lames Scobie, in a profound analysis of porteho society, pointed out that "in
urban surroundings there was the expectation that men, in addition to being
good fathers and providers, should demonstrate virility by pursuing unat
tached females, visiting prostitutes, and deprecating love as a deep, emotional
feeling ’ 13 It is therefore not surprising that an observer of manners and morals
in South America attributed the growth in the white slave traffic to the "rigor
ous seclusion of women, alluring, provocative but inaccessible, in communi
ties where polygamous instincts are undeniably strong ' 14
The lews in International Traffic
Jewish women were recruited from impoverished families in Eastern Eu
rope The extreme poverty of many of the lewish communities in the Russian
Pale of Settlement at the end of the nineteenth century, constantly deteriorat
ing due to the increase in population and to the lack of jobs or productive
means, was worsened even more by the effects of the Russo-Japanese War and
World War I on the one hand and the successive pogroms on the other. Hun
dreds of thousands of families remained in the most pitiful indigence, while
many others were deprived of their salary-earning heads, leaving the orphans
to the protection of charitable societies or, even worse, to their own fate This
situation became the source of wealth for unscrupulous lewish white slave


201
Community Fights White Slavery
traffickers, maquereaux, procurers, and brothel owners, who supplied the mar
kets in almost worldwide scales. At the turn of the century the traffic in lewish
women, mainly from Russia and Roumania, had reached, among others, Jo
hannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, the Phillipine Islands, Alexandria, Cairo,
Constantinople, Damascus, Bombay, Rio de laneiro, and Buenos Aires,
Although some of the women sold themselves in order to survive, fully
aware of what they were doing, most were not knowledgeable. Many strate-
gems were devised by the suppliers in order to convince their prospective
"merchandise" to leave their home towns. The most usual way was to seduce
lewish young women and even girls to travel under their tutelage to distant
parts of the world, where they would receive good salaries in businesses they
personally owned or managed. They would then pass them on to other traffick
ers in England—or other West European countries—or travel directly with
them to Buenos Aires. Others, richly dressed and arriving with presents in the
shtetls, proposed marriage to such girls and then traveled with them to their
destination. Others tried simpler tricks, soliciting young women traveling by
themselves and without relatives and friends in the city, at the time of the
arrival of the transatlantic vessels in the port of Buenos Aires. After a short
period of friendly association the women would be subtly induced to cooper
ate, submitting themselves to living in a brothel. At times relatives induced
their own kin to prostitution, inviting them to come from Eastern Europe to
Argentina. A few months after the ship ticket was mailed to her, the young
woman was received in the home of her relatives. Some weeks later, first
through gentle suggestions and then by more forceful means of persuasion—
which even included raping the woman so she would acquiesce once her vir
ginity was destroyed—her life became doomed to the brothel. 15
False marriage was a way of entanglement also practiced in Buenos
Aires, where the traffickers had formed a tightly knit organization, including
their own cemetery and synagogue. Here stille hupas (religious wedding cere
monies without the previous civil one as required in many countries, including
Argentina), were performed. Women knowing that in Russia there was neither
civil marriage nor civil divorce were convinced that in other countries the same
law prevailed and thus were drawn into a miserable existence of near slavery
The international traffic in lewish women had grown to such consider
able proportions that many lewish communities became alerted. In 1885 the
lewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women (IAPGW) was
founded in London in order to combat the expanding involvement of East
European lews in white slavery and to help their victims. Later on, other com
munities also established lewish committees to combat white slavery, and a
lewish International Conference on the Suppression of the Traffic in Girls and
Women was held in London in 1910
A prominent aspect of the work of these committees and conferences
was to alert the lewish leadership in Eastern Europe to the existence of the
traffic—its ramifications and its perils—and to stir them from their apathy on
the subject. In 1898 the chief rabbi of the British Empire, Dr. Hermann Adler,
wrote a letter cosigned by the chief rabbis of France, Berlin, Hamburg, Frank-


202
Jewisfi Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
furt, Vienna, and Rome and addressed to the rabbis and officers of the towns
in Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Galicia, and Roumania: 16
The sad tidings have come to us that evil men and women go about in your
countries from town to town and village to village and induce young maid
ens, by false representations, to leave their native land and to go, by their
advice, to distant countries, telling them that they will find there good and
remunerative situations in business houses.
In some instances these wicked men add to their iniquity by going
through the form of religious marriage with the girls. They then take them
on board ship to India, Brazil, Argentina or other countries in South Amer
ica and then sell them there to keepers of houses of evil repute.
We cannot adequately describe their bitter fate and terrible suffer
ing in a strange country, the language of which they do not know. They turn
to the right and there is no one to help them, to the left and there is no
one to save them from utter ruin. Woe to the ears that hear this! Shall we
allow our dear sisters to become harlots?
|We implore parents to| make strict enquiries as to the character of
the man who wishes to marry their daughter and not to listen to those who
would entice girls to leave their parental home, for their intentions are evil
and the life of their daughters is at stake.
The aforementioned lewish International Conference of 1910 voted to notify
the leaders of the lewish communities in Eastern Europe anew by mailing to
them a copy of the 1898 letter
lewish Traffickers in Buenos Aires
It is generally held that lewish prostitution had not been a disturbing
factor before 1880. Its sources are traced to the recrudescence of persecutions
in Russia after the pogroms of 1881, which resulted in economic hardships
and massive emigration. 17 Buenos Aires became a major city for the "selling"
of lewish prostitutes quite early. Procurers, traffickers, and brothel owners re
alized that enormous profits could be made in Argentina and thus an exten
sive part of their efforts in Eastern Europe were directed to that distant land.
The first mention of lewish traffic in Buenos Aires that I have found dates from
1879, almost two years before the pogroms of 1881 in Russia, lews had started
to migrate westward from Russia somewhat before the pogroms of 1881,
though after that date the numbers multiplied quickly. Thus we find a corro
boration of the link between migration and the rise of white slave traffic among
lews during the last decades of the nineteenth century, both stemming from
their impoverishment and their desire to improve their economic situations.
On November 4, 1879 some of the daily newspapers in Buenos Aires
announced the arrival of a group of nine lewish traffickers in prostitution, giv
ing their names, ages, and nationality. 18 Upon their landing in Buenos Aires,
the port authorities detained them. However, their detention did not last long
The Buenos Aires Herald commented with sarcasm on November 13, 1879 that
they had "received carte blanche to pursue their honorable traffic in this coun-


203
Community Fights White Slavery
try. Our colleague La Patria Argentina expects to hear of one of them running for
the Presidency of the Republic soon." 19
A few months later, during April 1880, a waiter at the Hotel du Midi
denounced to the police chief of the first section that a group of eight women
were held prisoners at the said hotel "by two Russian men, who were selling
them as merchandise." All the women were under twenty years of age, and had
been brought from Galicia, Austria. They, as well as their captors, were lews. 20
The incipient activities of the lewish caftens around 1880 soon constituted a
plague for the few lews living in the city. 21 The traffickers also attempted to
recruit women from among the newly arrived immigrants at the port of Buenos
Aires. Marcos (Mordechai) Alpersohn, who arrived in Buenos Aires in 1891
with a group of 300 immigrants destined for the Mauricio Colony of the lewish
Colonization Association, described how they were met by well-dressed men
who tried to speak to the newly arrived women through the gates. They also
gave sweets and chocolates to the children. The newcomers then learned from
the representative of the |CA that these were Jewish traffickers and were ad
vised not to speak to them nor "let your wives or daughters go out into the
streets." 22
During the following year, 1892, a correspondent in Buenos Aires de
scribed the situation in a letter to the Jewish Chronicle in London: 23 "A vile traffic
has been long the curse of the city, and many a poor lewess has been inveigled
here by these beasts in human form. The pity is one cannot write in a news
paper of these horrible doings. In a city so permeated with vice it can be easily
be understood how difficult it is to make headway after the methods of Colo
nel |Albert E. W.| Goldsmid." Colonel Goldsmid, who had gone to Argentina to
supervise the Jewish Colonization Association's colonies, reported early in
1893 about his experience there to his fellows at the Order of the Ancient
Maccabeans in London: 24 "In Buenos Aires there are lews who are a disgrace
to (udaism, and when I think of them, I am an anti-Semite of the most bigoted
description. 1 was shadowed by these people all the way to Moisesville”
Women came chiefly from Russia and Roumania (and Poland after World War
1). Some did so via Egypt, Constantinople, and North America, and many
passed through England, though the majority had embarked at a German or
French port. Some were picked up among the lewish immigrants in England. 25
In 1903 a rough estimate in England stated that "during the last twelve years
65 English girls had gone to Buenos Aires, as against 1,211 from Russia." 26
The fate of these prostitutes was most dramatic. In 1901 one of them,
after being seduced in London, was taken to Buenos Aires and Montevideo to
houses of ill fame. When she was rescued by IAPGW, assisted by Scotland Yard,
the Home Office, and the British consulate at Montevideo, she reported that
"most girls brought to Buenos Aires come induced by false pretences and have
no idea of their fate. They show much sympathy towards one another, many
being illiterate and ignorant. They do not know how to act in order to gain
their freedom." 27
Though the figures for 1909 show an extremely high proportion of


204
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
women from Eastern Europe (about 50 percent), the norm was much lower. In
1909, out of 199 licensed brothels in Buenos Aires, 102 (51 percent) were su
pervised by Jewesses—wives or mistresses of dealers—and of the 537 autho
rized prostitutes, 265 (49 percent) were lewish. of whom 213 came from Russia.
Of the newly registered women, 96 did not live in brothels, making it quite
clear that the amount of clandestine prostitution was very great, consisting,
most probably, of women who were under the age limit, too young to be in
scribed for licensed brothels. 28 In 1922 there were 497 houses licensed and
recognized by the municipality with 1,152 women, of whom 349 were newcom
ers that year. Of the latter, 89 were lewish. 25 Many women, however, disem
barked in Rio or Montevideo—regular stops of the vessels with final destina
tion in Buenos Aires—and were then smuggled into Argentina either by rail or
by coasting vessels. 30 A large number of them were placed in clandestine
houses in direct violation of the laws regulating prostitution. According to the
Health Department at Buenos Aires there were only 1,200 registered women in
1924, while the number of clandestine prostitutes was estimated by qualified
persons to be anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000. 31
Table 8 shows that out of a total of 8,486 newly registered prostitutes in
Buenos Aires for the years 1910-23, only 1,916 (22 percent) were Argentine,
1,743 (20 percent) were French, and 1,733 (20 percent) came from Eastern Eu
rope (Russia, Austria-Hungary, Poland, Roumania, and the Ukraine); while
1,063 (12.5 percent) came from Spain, 844 (10 percent) from Italy, and 805 (9.5
percent) from Uruguay. If one assumes that the totality of the East European
women were lewish—and this estimate seems to be quite plausible—and
again if one assumes that the percentages would hold also for the much larger
numbers of clandestine prostitutes, one would conclude that lewish women
constituted about 20 percent of the total in Buenos Aires.
Even if the numbers of lewish prostitutes were far too large for their
presence to be ignored, they still were a minority in the profession. Most con
spicuous of all were the French prostitutes in Buenos Aires and all over the
country. Albert Londres, a French journalist in a report to the League of Na
tions about prostitution in Buenos Aires during the mid-1920s confirmed that
'the French were the aristocracy: five pesos. The Polish were the first estate:
two pesos." 32 Moreover, Londres observed that in Argentina 33 "Iron, machinery,
the sharp ends of the helmets, were German. Railroads, suits, and the gherkins
in mustard were English. The cars, the shaving blades, and bad behaviour were
Yankee. The sweeper was Italian. The waiter Spanish. And the polisher was
Syrian. The women were French! Franchutai" The most modest group was
formed by the creole pimps who first exploited only one woman each and then
formed bands devoted to stealing women from each other and to exploiting
clandestine gambling. 34
Owing to their economic power, the lewish traffickers managed to influ
ence areas of the cultural and economic life of the lewish community. A report
of the turn of the century described their life-style: 35 "They dress with ostenta
tious elegance, wear huge diamonds, go to the theater or opera daily; they
have their own clubs and organizations where the "wares" are sorted, auc-


205
Community Fights White Slavery
Table 8
Nationality of the Newly Registered Prostitutes in Buenos Aires, 1910-23
Argentina
1,916
America exc. Argentina
Brazil
12
Chile
16
North America
37
Paraguay
36
Uruguay
805
Total
906
Europe
Austria-Hungry 4
199
Belgium
76
England
25
France
1,743
Germany
40
Italy
844
Poland 4
155
Portugal
26
Roumania
48
Russia 4
1,325
Spain
1,063
Ukraine
6
Total
5,550
Other
Turkey
59
Egypt
1
Other
54
Grand total
8,486
a Up to 1921 the Poles were counted as Russians and in some
instances as Austro-Hungarians.
Source: Records of the Buenos Aires Municipal Health Department.
tioned and sold. ... They have their own secret wireless code, are well-
organized, and—heavens, in South America everything is possible!—shortly
they may send a delegate to the Argentinian congress!"
They felt comfortable in the lewish street, knowing that many lews—
tailors, dressmakers, grocers, furniture and jewelry dealers—depended on
them as customers. They also conspicuously patronized the Yiddish theater,
not only because their wealth permitted them to do so but also to display their
women among the crowds. On the other hand, they never succeeded in what
was probably their major ambition: becoming an accepted part of the orga
nized lewish community in the country. The traffickers were repeatedly banned
from all lewish institutions except their own
While the French were the aristocracy in the white slavery business in


206
\ewish Buenos Aires. 1890-1930
Buenos Aires, the lews were the only ones organized in a sort of guild. Being
expelled from all synagogues and societies, and especially from the Chevra
Keduscha Aschkenasi, which administered the Ashkenazic cemeteries and de
nied them burial rights, the lewish traffickers united around their own society
and established synagogues and a cemetery. These institutions were limited
to traffickers. In their mutual aid society a strong monopoly was held by the
board, in the best interest of the members. The leaders thus controlled the
buying and selling of women and the exchange of the latter to different broth
els. Moreover, a mutual help society compensated the members who had been
left without women. The leaders further greased the appropriate palms for all
the membership. 36 Their women were almost exclusively lewish. 37 Their own
synagogue and cemetery—two fundamental aspects of lewish religion—and
their mutual contact in their societies provided the lewish maquereaux the pos
sibility of surviving in the hostile atmosphere created around them by the rest
of the lewish community. Many of them, however, dissimulated their criminal
acts by adopting licit professions as a cover. 38
The traffickers' insistence on identifying as lews greatly annoyed the rest
of the lews in Buenos Aires. Their congregating around lewish institutions of
their own and outwardly participating in lewish ritual ceremonies lent them a
touch of legitimacy in the eyes of naive observers. The other lews feared com
parisons and confusions and dreaded possible antisemitic eruptions as a re
sult of them. The fight against the tmeyim was long and not easy but was carried
on until this scourge of the Jews of Buenos Aires became a thing of the past.
We shall describe it, highlighting the different emphases during the various
periods.
Fighting the White Slave Trade
Early Period, 1890-1914
Around the turn of the century the tmeyim gave the still small and rela
tively poor lewish population in Buenos Aires an "infamous" reputation. Some
individuals, however, took it upon themselves to rectify the honor of the rest
of the lews and to protect their coreligionists in Europe and at home from
falling into the hands of the traffickers. During this early period their efforts
were directed to various areas of concern. They issued warnings about lewish
white slavery in Europe; they prevented the tmeyim from joining and participat
ing in the burgeoning lewish institutions in Buenos Aires; they started a soci
ety to protect and help women victims of white slavery, and finally they used
their influence to promote legislation to regulate prostitution.
The first measure taken was warning potential victims of the traffic by
describing their intentions and their ways of operating. During the 1890s Abra
ham Vermont, one of the pioneers in Yiddish journalism in Argentina, wrote
about the lewish involvement in the traffic of women in numerous articles he
contributed to Hamelitz of Petersbury and Hayefiudi of London. 39 Moreover, the


207
Community Fights White Slavery
famed editor of Hamelitz, Alexander Zederbaum, who was opposed to lewish
colonization in Argentina, advocating the resettlement of Palestine instead,
mentioned the fact that lews had opened houses of shame in Argentina as an
argument against migrating there in a special supplement to his newspaper in
1893 40
It was not long before this reputation caught the ears of Sholem Alei-
chem, the popular Yiddish story writer In 1909 he published in one of the
literary weeklies in Eastern Europe a short sketch entitled "The Man from Bue
nos Aires." He presented an ostentatiously dressed lew from Buenos Aires hav
ing a dialogue with a coreligionist while traveling in a train in Eastern Europe.
During the conversation the former explained that "he had the police of the
whole world in his pocket" and that he gave big donations to houses of Jewish
learning in lerusalem, for which he received beautiful laudatory letters with
seals and signatures of great rabbis. The common lew, intrigued, wanted to
know the nature of his fellow traveler's business in Argentina and finally re
ceived an answer at the end of the sketch: "What is my business, my friend?
Ha, ha. It is not with etrogim, my friend; my business is not with etrogim 1 ." 41
Though enhancing the bad reputation of Buenos Aires, stories like this
one by Sholem Aleichem made more people aware of the viciousness of the
traffic in women.
The organized lewish community suffered most from the presence of
this malefic element in its midst. Every society carefully investigated the an
tecedents and acquaintances of all applicants for membership. Numerous ap
plicants were refused membership due to their involvement in white slavery.
The Chevra Keduscha Aschkenasi was the principal goal of the dealers, though
they also applied to the Congregacion Israelita, the Ezrah Society controlling
the Hospital Israelita, and others. These institutions were always prepared to
investigate their own membership to eradicate all traces of white slavery
within them and did not hesitate to expel members proven to have some type
of connection, even if secondary, with the dealers. 42
The lewish community in Argentina not only wanted to ban the entrance
of the tmeyim to their institutions; they also succeeded in extending the anath
ema to other areas. Their main battles were fought in order to deny them
burial in all cemeteries of the "pure" community and to eradicate them from
the Yiddish theater performances, where they managed to exert considerable
influence.
When the Chevra Keduscha tried to bring together different sectors of
the lewish population in Buenos Aires to make arrangements for a private plot
for a cemetery, the tmeyim availed themselves of the opportunity to join forces.
On May 4, 1898, Rodolfo Ornstein, president of the Chevra Keduscha, informed
the board "that a group of people have offered to contribute 5,000 to 6,000
pesos, without becoming members.” 43 Indeed, the sum was a considerably
large one taking into account that there were just over one hundred members
paying one peso monthly at the time. The offer, made with the assertion that
the donors had no pretension of becoming members of the society, evidently
came from the white slave dealers, who knew perfectly well that they would


208
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
not be accepted as full members. In line with their religious inclinations, they
wanted to be assured of a lewish funeral and considered that such a donation
would pave a way for the Chevra Keduscha to agree to it, without their becom
ing members. 44
The minutes of the Chevra Keduscha do not mention further contacts
with the tmeyim concerning the acquisition of the burial place. The aforemen
tioned proposal of the latter was not considered, which denotes that most
probably it was turned down without further ado. There is, however, the testi
mony of an activist in lewish life of the time, who described what transpired at
a meeting held in 1899: 45
Meetings were held at the premises of Poale Zedek at Talcahuano 606, at
the Temple of the Congregacion, and at private homes, all with the same
purpose of gathering means to buy a cemetery. ... Finally a meeting took
place in 1899, at the antechamber of the Libertad 785 Temple ICongrega-
cion|, which was really the most tragic one I can think of. The group of the
then Zionist and national lews had tried to clear the atmosphere. They
demanded that the "tmeyim" be excluded, not to receive their dead, and in
general, that no dealings be had with them, so that no "hire of a harlot" be
accepted in the purchase of a "sacred field." 46 The Sephardim, all Moroc
can, a certain number of "Occidental" |West European! lews, had sup
ported the tendency of de mortuis nil nisi bonum 47 Besides this, they argued,
that the lewish community was small in number and poor moneywise, that
the few contemporary rich lews had completely assimilated, and that if the
"tmeyim" would not participate with their money, it would be impossible
to gather the amount necessary to buy the "field."
We. the group of the "Liga Dr. Theodor Herzl," fought against these
claims with the main argument that precisely because of the wealth and
the great numbers of the "tmeyim," the board of the Chevra Keduscha
could very quickly fall into their hands, and that would be a terrible dis
grace.
Ornstein took the side of the Sephardim. He also had doubts about
the economic competence of the honorable families. He was afraid that
they would never be able to gather such a large amount of money among
the respectable lews alone, and he was ready to compromise.
The delegates of the "tmeyim" .. assured that they would not take
a place on the board, but wanted to be entitled to become members....
Long and impulsively did we discuss and argue. We triumphed. The
separation between purity and impurity was extended even to the dead.
The delegates of the "tmeyim" left the meeting, and the Moroccans too.
Both immediately showed what they were capable of.
The "tmeyim" bought a cemetery in Barracas al Sud, the present day
Avellaneda,... And the Moroccans bought from them a piece of land, leav
ing a one meter wide separation so that the impurity would not, God for
bid, enter into their cemetery.
The writer of these memoires, lacobo S. Liachovitzky, was a very active but
controversial figure in the lewish community of Buenos Aires. His testimony
might be biased and tended to harm some of his enemies, as well as to justify
his own activities and those of the Zionist organization he sponsored. For this


209
Community Fights White Slavery
reason, his report, undeniably based on actual events, should be seriously
qualified. 48
The general lewish population in the capital in 1899 was not affluent
and might have considered that the contribution of the tmeyim might ease the
situation. However, Liachovitzky did not mention the conditions of those ad
vocating a compromise with the tmeyim, whether the compromise would mean
that all Jews would have the right to be buried in the one and only Jewish
cemetery or that part of the field would be allocated to the former and the rest
would constitute the burial ground for the clean Jews, be it in a common cem
etery or divided according to their origin. Moreover, most of the delegates
present at the famous meeting were against the compromise, as is evident
from the final decision. Furthermore, both the Congregacion and the Chevra
Keduscha had many times before 1899 been involved in cases of possible infil
tration of tmeyim in their midst and had conducted thorough investigations to
determine the veracity of accusations against members. When these accusa
tions were confirmed, they did not hesitate to expel the undesired members 49
The Moroccan Jews, on the other hand, adopted a policy that might have
aroused the indignation of some sectors of the Jewish population, in any case,
no condemnation was heard, either from the Chevra Keduscha or from the
Congregacion. Moreover, as the Sephardim had had their differences with the
Ashkenazim with respect to a Joint cemetery and represented a small commu
nity of Jews, the possibility of buying a section of an existing Jewish cemetery
in 1900 solved their burial problems.
Liachovitzky's Zionist group was not the only voice that decried the pos
sibility of a common cemetery for all Jews, including the tmeyim. Rabbi Reuben
Hacohen Sinai, who had originally settled in Moisesville but by 1897 had
moved permanently to Buenos Aires, strove to sway the general opinion
against the acceptance of the collaboration of the tmeyim His son remembered
that in one of his protest sermons Rabbi Sinai announced that "in case the
tmeyim were accepted into the sacred field, he would write in his testament
that after his death he should be interred in the municipal cemetery, i prefer—
he said—to lie among honorable gentiles than among our tmeyim.' " 50
These voices of condemnation against those willing to compromise and
accept contributions from tmeyim were the first signs of a growing sense of
responsibility among Jewish leaders in Buenos Aires vis-a-vis their relation to
the impure sector in their midst. The cemetery question was the first one that
tempted the lewish community in the capital to accept the collaboration of
those elements because of its financial advantages. Nevertheless, the result
was a complete separation in this area
The fight was then extended to the Yiddish theater representations. The
audiences, from the very beginnings of Yiddish theater in Buenos Aires, was to
a large extent controlled by the white slave dealers. The first production, in
1901, was Abraham Goldfaden s satirical comedy Kuni lemel. An oldtimer Jew in
Buenos Aires described the audience to the readers of the Jewish Chronicle in the
following way: 51 "A very large number of flashy, coarse-looking men that I can


210
Iewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
'point at/ and the boxes were mostly filled with beautiful women, very extrav
agantly dressed and loaded with jewellery At every 'Yiddish' joke or salley, the
shrieks of laughter were loudest and longest from these painted lips. It was
painful to hear, yet 1 stood it out; I had come to see and to enquire into this."
Their presence was detrimental to the attendance of a considerable sec
tor of the general lewish population, especially families Throughout the years
different groups rose to lead a battle against the tmeyim and clean the lewish
theater of their presence. Still, the problem was not simple, and only toward
the end of the 1920s and more during the first years of the 1930s was the "pure"
community able to free itself from the negative presence of the dealers. Official
authorities in the city, the theater managers, and even some of the actors had
vested interests in the presence of this abhorred element of the lewish popu
lation. They all, in smaller or larger measure, made a living from the Yiddish
shows, and the white slave dealers used this factor to their benefit. They were
thus able to impose their will in some aspects of the theater's policy, such as
banning specific plays from the stage.
A direct confrontation took place at the premises of the Yiddish theater
on October 5, 1908, during the performance of the fourth act of Peretz Hirsch-
bein's Miriam. Witnessing the miseries of the heroine at a brothel, the white
slave dealers present, uncomfortable at being exposed at a public gathering,
walked out of the theater, followed by their women. Now the dealers were at
odds with the Yiddish theater and the actors. The Poale Zionist group im
mediately exhorted the lewish public to take measures. Though the dealers
supported the Yiddish theater, Poale Zion considered the time was ripe to
cleanse the atmosphere. They formed a special group, Yugent, which met for
the first time on October 25, 1908 and carried out an intensive activity for
about half a year. They organized mass meetings with speeches delivered both
in Yiddish and in Spanish, decrying the activities of the lewish dealers, espe
cially their influence in the theater. A special Pro-Boycott Committee identi
fied lews who had secondary dealing with the tmeyim and launched boycotts
against them in the lewish quarters.”
Another small group gathered around a Club Israelita in 1908 with the
goal of fighting white slave traffic. The program included the petitioning of the
appropriate authorities to "deport all white slave traffickers, if they are foreign
ers, and to imprison them if they are Argentine born or naturalized." Mass
meetings and public demonstrations petitioning the government to approve
of new laws that would limit white slavery and prostitution were organized.
After May 1909, events concerning the workers' movement, which had a direct
repercussion in the local lewish community, diverted the attention of these
two groups—as well as that of Centro luventud, a group of Spanish-speaking
lewish young men formed with the same purposes in mind—to other matters.
Club Israelita participated in local political activities, while Yugent suffered
from police persecution because of its overall socialist ideology. Centro luven
tud devoted all its efforts to cultural endeavors. 53
lews still were active in their fight against white slavery through nonsec
tarian associations. The main activist was Rabbi Samuel Halphon, of the Con-


211
Community Fights White Slavery
gregacion Israelita, who had a leading role in the Argentine Asociacion Na-
cional Contra la Trata de Blancas. But the fight against dealers in the theater
was not won in 1908. The lewish community was still small, the theater had
limited resources and repertoires, and there was a dearth of talented artists.
Thus the tmeyim remained strong in the Yiddish theater. Even in 1910, when
Avangard, a Bundist group in Buenos Aires, called for the formation of a the
ater committee with representatives of both progressive (Poale Zion, Bund)
and established (Congregacion, Chevra Keduscha, etc;) societies to take the
theater from private companies in order to prevent tmeyim from exerting pres
sure, it failed.” The undesirable elements continued to patronize the Yiddish
theater and indeed to be the main supporters of it up to the mid-1920s, occu
pying the boxes and choicest seats.
The traffickers' insistence in identifying as lews continued to affect the
lews of Buenos Aires, who feared that the decent institutions might be con
fused with those of the tmeyim. In 1905 when both the Congregacion Israelita
and the traffickers' place of prayer were located on Libertad Street and the
daily El Censor confused the cantor of the Congregacion with that of the tmeyim,
the leaders of the former protested vehemently.” Similarly, when the Sociedad
Israelita de Socorros Mutuos, the society in charge of the aforementioned traf
fickers' cemetery in Avellaneda, moved its premises to the capital in 1909, the
board of Chevra Keduscha Aschkenasi was most irritated because the similar
ity in names might cause people to confuse their institution with that of the
white slavers. 56
Parallel to the warnings issued in Europe, and lewish societies' denial of
membership to the caftens. refusal to cooperate with them in the acquisition of
private land for a Jewish cemetery, and attempts to cleanse the Yiddish theater,
individual lews realized that the fight had to be worldwide. First contacts were
made with the [APGW in London during the early 1890s notifying them of the
extent of lewish traffic in South America—Buenos Aires, Rio, Montevideo 57
Concerned individuals from Buenos Aires, when in Europe for business pur
poses, approached influential lews involved in the fight against white slavery,
including Leopold Rothschild and officers of the Gentlemen's Committee of
JAPGW. 58
These contacts led—through the instrumentality of Mr. F Perugia,
brother of Mrs. Leopold Rothschild—to the founding in 1901 in Buenos Aires
of a committee headed by Rabbi Henry Joseph, assisted by Mr. Alfredo Gelpi.
Gelpi used his influence and ability to trace missing women and met immi
grants at the port, loseph, who besides being the rabbi was an established and
well-connected businessman in Buenos Aires, succeeded in alerting the local
police and port authorities and attempted to gain the sympathy of some
judges. He also joined the nonsectarian societies engaged in the suppression
of the traffic and worked harmoniously with the Argentine National Associa
tion against White Slavery. 59 The Buenos Aires branch not only intervened in
cases referred to it by (APGW in London but also established contacts with
societies in Europe and other South American cities. Inquiries about specific
cases came from the large lewish centers in Eastern Europe such as Warsaw,


212
]ewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
Lodz, and Petersburg, as well as from Central Europe. The Buenos Aires office
also centralized inquiries involving cities and towns in the interior including
Rosario, Bahia Blanca, Tucuman, Carlos Casares, Medanos, and Palacios, to
name a few. 60
There were enormous difficulties in establishing permanent relations
with the port and police authorities, which underscores the ability of the caf-
tens, both lewish and non-lewish, to divert the attention of the authorities from
their own activities. Undoubtedly they knew who to bribe in order to continue
their clandestine operations. This is reflected in the ongoing struggle of the
branch of IAPGW in Buenos Aires, latter called Ezras Noschim (EN), to secure
permits to board the incoming ships before the passengers disembarked. By
1903 Gelpi was allowed to visit all steamers on their arrival in Buenos Aires,
just as in England practically every ship leaving for South America, as well as
every connecting train, was watched by agents of IAPGW. By 1906, however,
difficulties arose, and the authorities ruled that vessels could not be boarded
immediately upon arrival. Agents were allowed only at the port premises but
not on board, thus complicating the detection of women traveling alone who
were met by procurers or brothel owners at the port of Buenos Aires. Efforts to
revoke this rule failed for almost a decade, until finally in 1916 permission was
obtained for the inspector of IAPGW in Buenos Aires to visit the ships on
arrival. Even in later periods difficulties arose, and the lewish leaders could
renew their permits only with enormous efforts. 6 ' In later years Rabbi Samuel
Halphon, who headed the committee in Buenos Aires, was able to obtain per
mits for the inspector to board ship, thanks to his invaluable connections and
influence. 62 Inspection at the ports was an enormous undertaking. In 1908 a
total of 454 ocean liners arrived in Buenos Aires, with 232,821 passengers. In
addition, there were 1,192 arrivals of local boats from Montevideo. These had
to be closely watched because in order to divert the attention of officials, the
caftens would change vessels in Montevideo to enter the country in local boats.
In 1912, 464 ocean liners with 263,166 passengers plus 1,393 local boats en
tered the port of Buenos Aires. 63
The dimensions of the traffic in lewish women to South America contin
ued to worry the leadership of IAPGW in London. In 1913 the secretary of its
Gentlemen's Committee, Mr S. Cohen, traveled to Buenos Aires in order to
bolster the organization against the traffic there and to bring a full report to
London. The same year Rabbi Joseph died, and Rabbi Halphon, who had been
playing a growing role during the preceding years, took over as head of the
committee. Both Cohen's visit and Halphon's leadership gave new impetus to
the work. Though the committee established under Halphon was independent,
it closely cooperated with IAPGW in London, which continued to give an an
nual grant Halphon also kept in close touch with the Sociedad de Damas
Israelitas (lewish Women's Society), which did valuable work. 64
The lews of Buenos Aires fully endorsed the efforts of Socialist congress
man Alfredo L. Palacios to enact legislation that would repress procurement
for immoral purposes. There were some abolitionists in Argentina at the time
who argued against regulation as being arbitrary and immoral and demanded


213
Community Fights White Slavery
one moral code for both men and women. They maintained that regulation of
prostitution meant sanctioning it.
While it was held that abolition would represent an ideal stage for pri
vate and public health, it was widely accepted that it was unthinkable in the
still traditional Argentine society 65 Thus regulation through municipal and po
lice action was the step to take Before and during 1913 when the issue was
debated in Parliament, most lewish groups endorsed the passing of laws that
would repress the traffic. Public debates and conferences were convened, and
nonsectarian committees formed, in order to inform the public and press for
legislation As witnesses of the time confirm, the lews were very visible among
the organizing leadership. 66 When Law number 9143 (Ley Palacios) was finally
passed, a delegation of representatives of the major lewish organizations in
Buenos Aires visited Dr. Palacios at his residence to thank him for his efforts
publicly.
Ley Palacios made procurement for immoral purposes a criminal of
fense, and those guilty could be sentenced to up to fifteen years in jail, de
pending on the age of the victim and whether the criminal was a relative of the
victim or her guardian The law, moreover, established that no woman under
twenty-two years of age could register as a prostitute An optimistic report
sent to the IAPGW stated that respectable women could now walk unaccom
panied about the streets. It further maintained that about 2,000 men and
women left the country because of the new regulations. Though this last num
ber may appear exaggerated, it is evidence that the new law had at least some
impact upon traffic in Buenos Aires. 67
The lewish traffickers who left Argentina went back to Europe. Cohen,
who as secretary of IAPGW in London was aware of developments in the trade
worldwide, wrote to Halphon early in 1914 68 "Many of the men who were
driven out from Buenos Aires are at the present moment in Paris, although a
large number have gone to Russia, and a few are in England. I believe many
have gone to the East, and 1 hope shortly to be going to Constantinople where
a great deal needs to be done."
World War I considerably reduced the number of passenger steamers
entering Buenos Aires and therefore reduced the work of Halphon's committee
proportionately. Halphon himself was able to exert leadership also in the Ar
gentine. National Association against White Slavery, to which he was ap
pointed honorary secretary in 1914 and vice-president in 1917. Reports contin
ued to be sent on a monthly basis to London
After World War I
The reopening of normal transatlantic routes after the war aggravated
anew the problem posed by the existence of the traffic in Argentina. Rabbi
Halphon and his coworkers at Ezras Noschim realized that European geopolit
ical developments were in many ways responsible for the recrudescence of
white slave traffic between Eastern Europe and South America and in particu
lar between Poland and Argentina.


214
Jewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
As a result of the war Poland was reconstituted as a sovereign state. The
rebirth of Poland, which its Jews had hoped for, was not peaceful, as Lithu
anian, Ukrainian, and Bolshevik armies clashed with the Polish army, lews were
often caught between these warring nations, and were frequently victims of
pogroms. Even after the boundary questions were settled lews suffered greatly
from discrimination at all levels, which caused the economic decline of Polish
lewry and accelerated its demographic decline through emigration. During the
1920s, moreover, the United States imposed progressively stricter immigration
quotas, thus forcing larger numbers of Polish lews to opt for other countries
to settle in Argentina—mainly Buenos Aires—was chosen by most.
Among the many Polish immigrants there were also lewish traffickers
and prostitutes to be placed in licensed or clandestine brothels in the country.
The fact that many of the women were from Poland brought the Polish govern
ment and its representative in Buenos Aires into the picture. In 1925 a Polish
senator asked Halphon whether anything could be done regarding the women
in the licensed brothels in Buenos Aires. He stated that his government had
requested the consul in Buenos Aires to make an inquiry among the women of
Polish nationality to determine whether they would be prepared to return to
Poland. The reply he received was that all the women were lewish and that
they refused to be repatriated because "economic conditions in Poland are
bad," and "anti-semitism is even worse." No matter how bad their fate was in
Buenos Aires, for these women to return to Poland was out of the question
They would rather assert they had come to Argentina as prostitutes of their
own free will. 69 This type of response by a white slave undoubtedly made pros
ecution of traffickers more difficult. On the other hand, the response was not
unexpected. It linked prostitution to economic privation and physical perse
cution and provided a vivid description of the wretched existence of a segment
of Polish Jewry.
In contrast, the display of wealth by the tmeyim did not go unnoticed by
newly arrived Polish lews, inducing some to join them at their trade. Halphon
observed, "Many Jewish homes have been ruined by the influence of the traf
fickers. We reckon that a great many heads of family having been married only
a few years, and having migrated from Poland to our country with the only
purpose of working to bring their families to Argentina, have started here, for
a variety of reasons, to deal with their tmeyim fellow-countrymen, who, unfor
tunately are in abundance, and whose permissive life-style they envy. Advised
by the latter, they have sent for their wives to exploit them in this vile trade." 70
The rest of Buenos Aires' Jewry maintained its ban on white slave deal
ers in all its societies The dealers were forced to organize their own commu
nity life, their own synagogues, schools, and cultural and social institutions.
Their two main guilds were Varsovia (of Poles, the largest), and Asquenasum
(of Russians and Roumanians). The former, located in Avellaneda, a suburb of
the capital, was operating as a mutual aid society under a charter issued by
the government of the Province of Buenos Aires in 1906. During the mid-1920s
it moved its headquarters and synagogue to 3280 Cordoba Avenue in Buenos
Aires. A visiting Yiddish writer described the scene: 71


215
Community Fights White Slavery
The "excommunicated” have been forced to organize a community life of
their own. They have their own synagogue—each with the requisite rabbi,
chazan, shammes. "vessels of the Holy House," their own schools, their own
social and cultural institutions. One of their congregations recently moved
to a new building. There wended through the street the ceremonial proces
sion customary in lewish communities.
But on this occasion what a mockery! At the head, the rabbi of the
panderers, concerning whose smichas not too great an examination had
been made. Followed in order the gabbai, the shammes, the chazan, the shut
officers and holy men, all bearing the Scrolls of the Law, the shut fixtures,
the decorations and ornamentations. And behind them their flock, the
pimps, the brothel keepers, the prostitutes.
The organized lewish community in Buenos Aires was to respond more
energetically. After the world war and throughout the 1920s the lewish popu
lation of Argentina had grown considerably, numbering over 200,000 Many
lewish immigrants had improved their economic conditions, and the commu
nity as a whole had become progressively more established. Developments
during the war and right afterward had impressed upon the lewish leadership
in Buenos Aires the need to confront its problems with maturity and respon
sibility. Some antisemitic uprisings—including the first major incident against
lews in Buenos Aires, the so-called Semana Tragica of lanuary 1919—had
brought lews of different background and ideology together in order to peti
tion the authorities and to restore order and dignity to the community. More
over, the Zionist leadership had on several occasions approached President
Hipolito Yrigoyen seeking support for the Balfour Declaration and for the Brit
ish Mandate in Palestine. The mostly positive responses no doubt embold
ened many lews to pursue the internal war against the local tmeyim with
greater energy.
The archives of Ezras Noschim for the postwar period contain large
quantities of communications from all parts of the world—the Middle East,
Turkey, Eastern Europe, England, the United States, and Canada. Nonetheless,
at this juncture, the lews in Buenos Aires felt the need to wage war against the
tmeyim in the streets, at the theater, and also by denouncing their illegal activ
ities to the police. Under the leadership of Rabbi Halphon, Ezras Noschim was
reorganized in 1926, allowing the main societies of the community to send
delegates to its executive committee. Thus, the Chevra Keduscha, the Congre-
gacion Israelita, Ezrah Society, Sociedad de Damas Israelitas, and Soprotimis
bolstered the image of Ezras Noschim The campaign in the lewish press and
in the various societies helped make everyone aware that the leadership of
Buenos Aires Jewry was quite adamant. Through these means they explained
their work against white slave traffic to the entire community, highlighting the
need that every lew should contribute to the cause, because only a joint effort
could succeed in effectively destroying the plague that was ruining the repu
tation of the Argentine lewish community. 72
The Yiddish theater was one of the main areas of concern. Earlier at
tempts by the respectable elements to close the theaters' doors to the tmeyim
were met with the resistance of the dealers themselves, and that of some of


216
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
the theaters managers. Events took a drastic turn in April 1926 when Leon
Malach's play Wergus (Transfusion) was rejected by the manager of a theater be
cause its theme—prostitution in Rio de Janeiro—would not be to the liking of
the "audience." Di Presse attacked the manager and his theater for compromis
ing with the dealers, while Di Yiddishe Zeitung defended the right of the manager
to select the plays. The argument between both newspapers continued in a
fiery manner for a few months and divided even the respectable community,
who took sides on the issue Di Presse argued that its colleague sided with the
dealers, which was obviously far from the truth. However, Di Presse continued
with its crusade against the vicious social elements, and in its quasi-religious
frenzy managed to affect some of the positive institutions in the community,
such as two of the Yiddish theater companies and the Society of lewish Actors,
decrying them as nests of ruffianism and vice. Nonetheless, a positive turn was
made. The pressure of some lewish institutions, and of the public began to be
felt once it had the backing of some of the lewish guilds and the press. First
one theater surrendered and posted the announcement Entrance Forbidden to
Tmeyim. Other theaters followed suit with similar signs.”
In 1927 Ezras Noschim denounced to the authorities in Avellaneda that
most members of Varsovia had criminal antecedents. However, after some
months of investigation, the answer given was that "all members of the society
were respectable people" and honorable merchants. 74 Notwithstanding the
help and cooperation of such important factions as various judges; the Argen
tine National Association against White Slavery; the German Pastor Dr. Buss-
mann; and the British, French, German, Austrian, and Polish consuls—no end
could be put to this delinquency.
Julio L. Alsogaray, commissar of the seventh section of the federal police
and active in the disentanglement of the net the traffickers had knitted around
them to protect themselves and their business, uncovered the main reasons
for the perseverance of the trade in Argentina. In what he described as the
"trilogy of white slavery"—composed of municipal authorities, including some
judges; the police, especially commissars and personnel at the investigation
department there; and the traffickers—the road was paved for the criminal
activities to remain unchecked. The traffickers provided the money, while some
municipal authorities and police officials made sure they remained safe and
protected, their brothels and women unraided and untouched. 75
Halphon nevertheless tried to bring as much pressure as possible on all
three parties of the "trilogy" by courting the responsible municipal authorities,
judges, and officials at the Police Department He also got the minister of
Poland in Argentina, Ladislao Mazurkiewicz, to help in the work, because most
of the women were Polish. Mazurkiewicz visited the offices of Ezras Noschim
and had access to its archives and promised to propose to his own govern
ment that it issue more stringent emigration laws for women leaving the coun
try by themselves.
Women under twenty-five years of age who desired to emigrate were
required by Polish law to obtain an affidavit certified by the Polish consul at
the country of emigration, testifying to the honorability of the person issuing


217
Community Fights White Slavery
the affidavit. Frequently women under twenty-five who could not obtain this
certificate would try to appear older. Cases were reported of women who ob
tained affidavits through so-called "agents" who appeared honest but did so
only to facilitate the emigration of women destined to the brothels. Both Hal-
phon and Selig Ganopol, who headed the office of Ezras Noschim as adminis
trator and inspector, repeatedly impressed upon the Polish representative the
need for stronger supervision in Poland before issuing passports to single
women. It was noted that some women disembarked in Montevideo even with
out an affidavit certified by the local Polish consul and later entered Argentina
illegally. 76
Moreover, at the meeting of Ezras Noschim on August 30, 1927 Mazur
kiewicz said that the Varsovia society was an "offense to Polish national honor,
because it has taken the name of the Capital of the Republic of Poland." 77 He
promised the Jewish leaders to complain to the Argentine Foreign Ministry,
calling their attention to the opprobrium Varsovia represented to the reputa
tion of the Polish nation and indicating that Ezras Noshim had enough data
to document the immoral activities of that society. Ezras Noschim, in turn,
when it denounced the members of Varsovia, included the words of the Polish
representative in its statement. As a result of this combined action between
the Polish consulate and Ezras Noschim, the Varsovia society was compelled
to change its name and remove its notice boards and name plates from its
doors. After August 20, 1929, it was called Zwi Migdal, after the name of one of
its presidents. 78
The beginning of the end of Zwi Migdal occurred in 1930, when Raquei
Lieberman, with the backing of Ezras Noschim, denounced Salombn lose
Korn. Judge Manuel Rodriguez Ocampo led an investigation that reached the
headquarters of Zwi Migdal. Ganopol was personally invited by the judge to
be present at the time the search of the premises in Cordoba Avenue took
place Warrants were issued against its 424 members, men and women, for
their arrest. Of these, 108 were actually arrested, 70 were already dead, and the
rest had fled to Europe, to other South American countries, or to the Argentine
hinterland Though Zwi Migdal functioned under the guise of a mutual aid
society, regularly chartered as a limited stock corporation by the Province of
Buenos Aires, the investigation showed that its members had been carrying
an international traffic in women for decades. Testimonies revealed that con
tracts for the sale and purchase of women were executed before Zwi Migdal
officials, as were agreements regarding the shipment of women to the interior.
However, a legal technicality prevented their being held on that charge. The
court order said that as long as the repugnant activity in which they were en
gaged was tolerated by Argentine law, nobody could be punished for engaging
in it. It could not be proved that any one under arrest was exploiting girls
under age or using force or intimidation to control the women working for
them. They were, therefore, technically not guilty of violating any law. When
formally charged with "illicit association," the traffickers appealed, and through
valuable contacts in the police department and at different levels of the Min
istry of Justice, they were set free. 79


218
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
The traffickers release from prison provoked a strong reaction by the
press and public opinion. Editorials demanded the provisional government—
which had taken over on September 6, 1930, through a military coup—to de
port the dealers under the suspension of constitutional guarantees accompa
nying martial law, as it had deported other undesirables. When the Argentine
government started deporting them, over one hundred members of Zwi Migdal
sought to remain in Uruguay, whence, in spite of the expensive legal talent
they had engaged, they were also deported.
Brothels were closed, and campaigns against prostitution, clandestine
gambling, and drug traffic were launched. During the first half of the 1930s
police repression, the modification of the social and economic structures in
Buenos Aires with industrial development, and the raid at Zwi Migdal caused
the disbandment of Jewish traffickers Many willingly left the country around
that time, while most others were deported by the government in small groups
as undesirable aliens. Several of the latter started habeas corpus proceedings,
but a criminal court ruled in September 1934 that the law makes the executive
branch of the government the sole judge of a foreigner's desirability as a resi
dent. Thus, foreigners ordered to be deported had no recourse to habeas cor
pus proceedings. That particular ruling was considered an important victory
for the IAPGW, which brought the original charges against the dealers 80
During the following years Ezras Noschim's original aims—protection
of women and fight against white slavery—were not actual any more, though
it still advised the Polish consulate in order to make it difficult for tmeyim to
obtain migration certificates. Its major areas of concern now were control of
weddings to protect women against bigamists, search for men who had aban
doned their families in the Old World, help to minors and the aged, and the
like. By 1937 the IAPGW headquarters in London, considering that Ezras Nos
chim did not play the role of previous years any more, decided to stop its
financial support. Though the monies for Ezras Noschim came almost exclu
sively from local institutions and individuals, the decision of IAPGW denoted
that the fight against the vicious elements in the midst of the Argentine lewish
community had at long last been won 81
Conclusion
For over four decades the immigrant lews in Argentina, while striving for
a better economic situation and building their national, religious, social, and
welfare institutions, were confronted with a sector in their midst dealing in
white slavery. Their first response consisted of two simultaneous measures, to
maintain a thorough separation between the white slave dealers and the rest
of the lews, and to try to provide protection to victims or prospective victims
of the traffickers. Thus, while tmeyim were kept out of their synagogues, ceme
teries, and later also theaters and were avoided in commercial relations, the
Jewish institutions cared for the girls and women who were alone in the coun
try or who had been seduced into prostitution. At the moment when the Jewish
community felt it was large and powerful enough to combat the tmeyim and


219
Community Fights White Slavery
considered the social and political moment ripe in Argentina, it participated
in the fight that brought about the final annihilation of organized lewish white
slavery.
The following questions arise: Why such a thorough separation? Wasn't
it normal for every group or community to have its own complement of crimi
nals? Why didn't other immigrant groups, especially the French, the Spanish,
and the Italians, fight their conationals involved in traffic in the same way lews
did? And why didn't the lewish organizations eradicate other criminals or of
fenders, who obviously were among them as they were among all other groups
and institutions?
Apparently both within the lewish minority, as well as in Argentine soci
ety at large, crimes where restitution could be effected were not considered as
serious as those impairing the free will of persons or as those where use was
made of the victims' bodies to the advantage of the criminals. Offenses against
morality and offenses against the person were held to be much more serious
than offenses against property.
lews had a long history of expulsions and resettlements. When they
settled in Argentina, they desired above all to meet with the approval of the
majority group. Their impulse to be segregated arose from a fear of being iden
tified with, and of being absorbed by, a relatively large number of lewish traf
fickers. Once ousted from societies, the tmeyim organized seemingly honorable
institutions with an outward appearance of respectability. Witnessing their
synagogues, their mutual aid and burial societies, and their own parochial
cemeteries, one could readily believe that they were a regular lewish commu
nity. Therefore the lewish leadership contended that the traffickers' tight and
exclusively lewish organization was most injurious to the rest of the lews. The
identification by the host society of the whole lewish population with this
infamous part was not only a remote possibility but an actual fact even during
the late nineteenth century. Thus when the lews felt there was enough backing
to push a razzia of the tmeyim, they willingly joined.
The work of Ezras Noschim succeeded in spite of a number of negative
factors in Argentina. One of these factors was Argentina's nonadherence to the
Geneva Convention of 1921 of the League of Nations, which had set up an
international advisory committee on traffic and urged governments to make
annual reports on conditions. At the same time IAPGW in London was ap
pointed assessor for all lewish committees around the world, which helped set
the traffic to Argentina in its international perspective. In spite of Argentina's
not having signed the Geneva Convention, Halphon considered that the vari
ous laws, decrees, and ordinances issued in Argentina were proof of the gov
ernment's intentions to limit the infamous trade in women He also praised
the help from different officials at the Immigration and Police departments, as
well as various ministries. This help, however, was only partial, because apathy
was prevalent, and the traffickers' money could at times be more powerful than
the good intentions of others. 82
Another negative factor was the disbandment of the Argentine National
Association against White Slavery in 1928. The causes were "lack of funds and


220
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
interest, and mainly lack of people of good will to collaborate." Halphon attrib
uted it to the general indifference of the members of the national association
to the work. He wrote that "here in America, the great affliction of all collective
societies—and this is common to all foreign groups in the country—is the
lack of people prepared to sacrifice part of their time for matters other than
their own. To this effect, the lewish community here often gives the best ex
ample of the spirit of sacrifice and noble altruism." 83 The dissolution of the
national association was a blow to the general work of Ezras Noschim. Buenos
Aires was at the time a major import center for women. The laws on traffic were
not duly executed, and execution became even weaker when public opinion
remained aloof and would not make demands upon members of Parliament.
Ezras Noschim thus stood up as the strongest voice against the traffic Hal-
pon's praise for the local lewish community was not undeserved, even reckon
ing that some sectors remained apathetic while others feared antisemitic re
percussions. 84
Other communities with a high index of prostitutes in Buenos Aires
were the French, the Spanish, and Italian. These communities were many
times larger than the Jewish one; their Romance languages were related to
Spanish; they were Catholic; and their countries of origin were familiar in Ar
gentina. Though concerned about the bad reputation criminals might give to
the whole group, the leaders of the French, Spanish, and Italian institutions
were not as adamant as the lewish ones, for they had much less at stake.
The deportation of most members of Zwi Migdal during the 1930s did
not cause the Jews to feel totally integrated into the country, although it was a
great step in that direction During that decade the lews raised their voices
and demonstrated against Nazi atrocities in Europe and against the racist and
antisemitic repercussions in Argentina. At the same time, however, they made
every possible attempt to conceal what in their eyes was a black spot in the
history of the community, namely the existence of a net of Jewish traffickers in
flesh, though it was now a thing of the past. In the context of the rising anti
semitism of the 1930s it was to their best interest and safety not to tempt the
devil and to keep whatever argument that might lead to anti-lewish activity as
inconspicuous as possible. In our own days, with half a century of perspective,
we cannot but emphasize the other side of the same coin Whether due to
humane, moral, or protective reasons, the immigrant marginal Jewish com
munity in Buenos Aires took an attitude, bold enough to emasculate an eco
nomically powerful and influential sector of coreligionists because of its im
moral commerce.


221
#.
A Kchilla in the
Making:
Centralization
and Rivalries
The Congregacion Israelita (CIRA) was the only
lewish institution in Buenos Aries until 1890. The few hundred lews there had
been gathering at CIRA for almost three decades, where they could enjoy the
services it performed. These were mainly circumscribed to religious duties
such as prayers, weddings, circumcisions, and burials. Though most of the
lews had arrived from Germany, France, England, and other West European
countries, differences in origin were disregarded, and a few Sephardim from
Morocco, as well as some East European lews, had entered CIRA before 1890.
However, this year became a turning point in the history of the lews in Argen
tina. During 1891 the lewish Colonization Association opened its offices in the
capital, the Jews from Morocco opened their first synagogue—Congregacion
Israelita Latina—and the Russian lews founded their first hebra Poale Zedek.
There was a proliferation of lewish societies with the arrival of lewish immi
grants who settled in Buenos Aires after 1890. During the following four dec
ades various institutions were initiated in the city, including religious, Zionist,
cultural, welfare, and defense organizations. Some of these were discontinued
after more or less short periods of existence; others merged with each other in
order to strengthen their activities; while still others divided themselves due
to internal strifes.
In 1930 there were over 120 lewish institutions functioning in the Argen
tine capital. It was therefore justified that numerous attempts were made to
centralize lewish institutional life in order to join forces for the accomplish
ment of the major needs of the entire lewish community, and to represent it to
the Argentine officialdom as well as to the rest of the lewish world


222
lernsfi Buenos Aires. 1890-1930
In most institutions there was a powerful group of leaders, some of
whom were real caudillos. a fact that caused profound divisions among institu
tions that often had overlapping goals and activities. Thus cooperation be
tween institutions did not reach a desirable level, and great efforts were lost
due to personal rifts and aspirations. Individual concerns and the desire for
recognition among officials for their own work and for the goals of the institu
tions they led worked to the detriment of the general progress and consolida
tion of the growing lewish community The important achievements we have
described in previous chapters could have been made with less effort had
there been more cooperation among leaders.
These achievements, moreover, could easily have been surpassed, and a
description of Jewish life in Buenos Aires in 1930 could have shown a much
more progressive communal development. The reasons for the poor spiritual,
religious, and cultural accomplishments of Argentine Jewry of later decades
are linked to the foundations laid during the settlement and early periods or
organized lewish life there. The main concerns were centered, during the early
decades of the century, in building welfare and social institutions and in secur
ing the physical survival and economic advancement of individual lews. Cul
tural and religious initiatives were relegated, as we have shown, to a secondary
place.
A centralization of Jewish institutional life, especially of the welfare in
stitutions, would have spared many efforts that could have been utilized in the
development of cultural, national, and religious ideals within the lewish
framework. Indeed, most lewish immigrants in Argentina had experienced in
their countries of origin a control by the central Jewish organizations of reli
gious behavior and of the economic and social life of the individual. There, the
judiciary was in the hands of these organizations, and rarely did Jews resort to
non-Jewish courts. However, the full freedom and equality Jews enjoyed in Ar
gentina allowed them to slacken their ties with the lewish organizations. A
united community structure was not imperative because of the openness of
the general society. Still, Jewish officials in Buenos Aires repeatedly attempted
to federate or merge their societies in order to create a representative body for
Argentine Jewry. The various attempts at centralization and the reasons for the
failures clearly reflect the limited number of organizational personalities ac
tive in Arentine Jewry at its period of inception and the feebleness of their
endeavors to transcend the primordial welfare phase and propound a program
for higher concerns.
The first concrete initiative of a federation of lewish societies in Buenos
Aires was launched at the end of 1908 when a group of observant Jews was
disturbed by the conduct of the ritual slaughters and kosher butchers in Ar
gentina. Besides charging exorbitant prices for the meat, it was confirmed that
the latter did not prepare it according too the prescribed lewish ritual There
fore, at an assembly held at the Talmud Torah Harischono, it was decided that
the ''community" should be in control of ritual slaughtering and sale of kosher


223
A Kehilia in the Making
meat "without raising the price, and [thus] creating a source of income for all
collective needs." 1 Representatives of the major lewish institutions were there
fore invited to discuss the formation of a federation
The delegates of the lewish societies discussed an elaborate Constitu
tion for the future Federacion Israelita Argentina (FIA) during three meetings
at the beginning of 1909. 2 Among the objectives and attributes of the FIA were
the following: 3
a. To represent the lewish Community |Colectividad Israelital, .. to pro
tect its rights, and to promote its moral and social progress.
b. To further the well-being of the lewish societies.
c. To acquire properties for the creation of new religious and welfare insti
tutions, and for schools to propagate the lewish spirit and the Argentine
patriotic sentiments among the children.
d. To tighten the bonds of union and solidarity among the lewish societies.
e. To contribute ... both morally and financially ... to the development of
the confederated societies.
f. To endow the lewish community of Argentina with a Chief Rabbi who
shall be the official representative of the lewish cult.
During the following months, up to July of that year, various organizations
discussed in separate general assemblies whether or not to participate in the
FIA. The Chevra Keduscha was interested in participating, for in this way the
acquisition of a permanent field for a cemetery could be eased. 4 Analogously.
Ezrah, where the idea of a Jewish hospital was born, was anxious to have the
rest of the lewish population participate in this major enterprise. 5 The Talmud
Torah, moreover, was the initiating body. It was interested in the creation of a
federation that would regulate the slaughtering and selling of kosher meat. At
CIRA, however, the decision was not unanimous. It was the oldest lewish or
ganization, and its leaders were economically among the most powerful lews
in the country. Therefore, many of its members considered that CIRA should
continue being the de facto representative body of the lews in Argentina How
ever, when the trend to participate in the FIA was also felt at CIRA, its officials
tried to avoid an infringement of their independence, for CIRA constituted a
small numerical minority. They therefore voted to introduce two additions to
FlA’s Constitution in order to enter the federation First, to the abovemen-
tioned Article 4, clause f, they desired to add that "CIRA has the right to ap
point its Rabbi directly, according to its own Constitution, and the latter shall
not be subject to the Chief Rabbi by a dependence tie, except in the case an
assembly of its members, especially called for this purpose, should so de
cide." 6 Moreover, CIRA desired to "retain the right of leaving the FIA in case of
any modification of this Constitution, or when she [CIRA| considers it conve
nient." 7
At the first official meeting of the FIA, on August 5, 1909, the changes
proposed by CIRA were discussed. Henry loseph, representing CIRA, openly
stated that the addenda were proposed in order to "protect the interests of the


224
Icwisfi BuenosAires, 1890-1930
English, French, and German lews of CIRA." 8 It was clear that CIRA represented
a minority but a minority that considered itself representative of the whole
and that it was afraid of being overrun by the East European majority. Gustavo
Weil, also representing CIRA, who was proclaimed president, said that "here
there are no German, or French, or Russian, or English lews. There are only
lews, or if you prefer, Argentine lews, because even if we are not Argentine, all
our sons are and will be Argentine lews.' 9 Eventually, CIRA desisted from her
special conditions.
The delegates of the four institutions constituting the FIA met assidu
ously during the second half of 1909. They were possessed by a feeling of his
toric mission in setting the basis for future generations of Argentine lews by
establishing a community that they were convinced would grow in numbers
and prestige.' 0
The first program of action presented to the delegates was many-sided
and embraced all facts of communal life It included the erection of a lewish
hospital, the surveillance of kosher meat, the establishment of a bureau of
information for Jewish immigrants, the organization of lewish schools for chil
dren, the acquisition of a plot for a cemetery, the foundation of an orphanage
and a home for the aged, and the sponsorship of a daily newspaper and an
official organ of FIA." By the end of 1909 some headway was made in organiz
ing kosher slaughtering. However, when the FIA was finally disbanded in Oc
tober 1910, it had accomplished nothing
The failure of FIA was due to a variety of reasons. First, those who saw in
its existence a danger to their own interests—the ritual slaughters and butch
ers—did everything possible to destroy it. They entered into agreements with
FIA in order to weaken it from within They relied on their customers' leniency
concerning kosher meat, for most of whom the "kosher" sign was enough; they
did not demand full control. 12 Thus the main goal of the Talmud Torah was
defeated. Furthermore, as we have seen (ch. 8), FIA was not able to make pro
gress regarding the Jewish hospital. Ezrah thus decided to go on indepen
dently with this project Analogously, the Chevra Keduscha made separate ar
rangements at the end of 1909 to buy the definite plot of land for the cemetery.
Therefore, both the Ezrah and the Chevra Keduscha pursued their main goals
independently of FIA CIRA, which was more interested in promoting religious
values and in establishing a representative body for local Jewry, remained the
main force within FIA. It was the only partner that fully contributed its monthly
dues to FIA
The fact that both Ezrah and Chevra Keduscha decided to pursue their
original endeavors separately and not through the logical FIA channels is a
telling example of the spirit of individuality and the atmosphere of petty rival
ries among officials and among institutions at the time Moreover, among the
East European officials in both these institutions there was a feeling of mis
trust for the West European Jews of CIRA, who were depicted as assimilation-
ists. In 1910 they felt that the French and German lews would dominate the
Russian ones, in spite of all the nice words expressed at the inception of FIA.' 3
The main factor, however, for the failure of FIA was that its leaders did


225
A Kehilla in the Making
not try to make it as universal as possible for the lews living in Buenos Aires.
It only included Ashkenazic Jews, this being a positive attitude, for in 1910
there was practically no common language—of either words or ideas—be
tween Ashkenazic and Sephardic immigrants in Buenos Aires. However, it was
also limiting to many sectors of Ashkenazic )ewry, for it concentrated mainly
on religious questions such as kashrut, rabbis, and so on, thus excluding the
secular lews. Moreover, Rabbi Samuel Halphon was the "soul of the FIA.” His
studies at the Ecole Rabinnique in Paris had estranged him from East Euro
pean orthodoxy, a fact that was accentuated by Halphon's ministration at CIRA,
where semiorthodox services were held for traditional but nonobservant lews.
Furthermore, due to its ambivalent position vis-a-vis Zionism, the Zionist
group active during the preliminary sessions did not enter FIA when it was
officially formed. 14
Finally, FIA did not deal with problems that affected the entire popula
tion at the time, thus failing to avail itself of the possibility of gaining support
from larger sectors. In their second meeting the delegates of FIA decided "not
to engage themselves in the fight against white slavery." 15 This fight should
have concerned FIA, for white slavery constituted the greatest threat from
within to normal lewish life. On the other hand, FIA never even dealt with the
situation of lewish education in Argentina When Halphon, who had held the
FIA together during its last months of life, left for a year in Europe, the federa
tion faded out.
At the end of 1913 and during 1914 another attempt was made to feder
ate the lewish organizations in Buenos Aires. Representatives of the Chevra
Keduscha, Ezrah, Centro [uventud Israelita Argentina, and Federacion Sionista
Argentina entered this federation. According to its constitution, it would rep
resent the lewish population in Argentina as a civil body to the country's au
thorities and would promote all types of initiatives within the lewish commu
nity. 16 In spite of the dissidence of some organizations, the majority enabled
the federation to intervene in religious questions. 17 Though it managed to rep
resent the lewish population for a short time, 18 this Federacion Israelita failed
after about one year of existence, due to divergent positions regarding religion
and Zionism. 19
During the first Argentine lewish Congress of February 26-29, 1916, a
committee of thirty-six delegates was appointed to study ways to establish a
representative body of the community. Though the committee included Zion
ists, religious, and Sephardic representatives, as well as delegates from com
munities in the interior of the country, it never produced concrete results. 20
In response to the events of the Semana Tragica, a Comite de la Colec-
tividad was convened by the leaders of the Federacion Sionista Argentina with
the participation of CIRA, especially its rabbi, Samuel Halphon. In spite of all
the efforts for maintaining this comite after the emergency was over, a repre
sentative body of Argentine Jewry was still not organized. As we have seen, the
enormous rivalry between CIRA and the Zionists concerning the representa
tion of the community was again the main factor working against a unified
front. 21


226
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
The proliferation of institutions continued worrying the lewish leaders
in Buenos Aires. In May 1920 the spokesman for a group of individuals inter
ested in forming an Alianza (Alliance) "because of the great number of soci
eties functioning, and to their precarious life due to the lack of official protec
tion" approached the largest lewish institutions in Buenos Aires. 22 The Chevra
Keduscha immediately accepted this proposal and decided to constitute itself
the chief promoter of the enterprise. 23 During the rest of the year little progress
was made in this direction. Various meetings were held with delegates from all
lewish societies except "international political centers," that is, Bundists, com
munists, and anarchists. 24 The year 1921 was spent in deliberations about the
way of organizing the Alianza, but no effective work was done.
At the end of 1921 the initiating group led by Bernardo Savransky, Nata-
lio Frankel, and Felipe Gamberg, noticing that the Chevra Keduscha had not
paid sufficient attention to the Alianza project, founded a Comite Pro Alianza
Israelite Argentina (CPAIA). The underlying rationale was to "conquer" the
institutions with officials convinced of the practical value of the Alianza. Their
first aim was to propagandize among lews the list that this comite proposed for
the elections at the largest lewish society, the Chevra Keduscha. 25 At the same
time, the candidates of CPAIA's list contributed funds to it, thus establishing a
strong bond of interdependence between the Chevra Keduscha and CPAIA
after March 1922, when this list won the elections
The new board of Chevra Keduscha again took in its own hands the
organization of the Alianza. Under the presidency of Miguel Zabotinsky a proj
ect was formalized with the following goals:
a. To unite all philanthropic, cultural, and educational institutions in one
central entity.
b. To represent the interests of the lewish community in Argentina.
c. To watch over the progress of the institutions and to exert a strict control
over their development, both moral and material.
d. To found new institutions,. . . or expand those already in existence.
e. The Alianza ... shall not participate in political struggles.
From this initiative a new committee was formed, called lunta Organi-
zadora de la Alianza o Federacion Israelita (JOA). 26 Due to clause a above, the
)OA excluded representatives from all synagogues, notably from CIRA. More
over, there were long debates about the Talmud Torahs Many delegates con
sidered that the latter reflected a religious outlook and were thus antidemo
cratic. The opinion favoring the admittance of the Talmud Torahs prevailed due
to their positive work in preserving Judaism. 27 CPAIA continued functioning as
a propaganda branch and was allowed to send three representatives to |OA. 28
Nonetheless, all delegates at 10A, except those from the Talmud Torahs, rep
resented philanthropic institutions in Buenos Aires. Therefore, the main ef
forts were geared to a centralization of the philanthropic activities, in spite of
the fact that the delegates of IOA were fully aware of the neglected state of
lewish education and culture in the country. 29


227
A Kehilla in the Making
The aim of the IOA was "the fusion of welfare, cultural, and educational
societies in one entity ... which would represent the |Jewish) community." 30
Recognizing that the accomplishment of this fusion would not be immediate,
it was decided that during the transition period the final organization would
be planned, and propaganda would be made at the various institutions. At this
stage of the process the goal was to economize in the administration of the
welfare institutions and to divide the burden of supporting the institutions
more equitably For that purpose a census of all voluntary contributions and
monthly dues was to be arranged. Moreover, the financial situation of every
institution, their budgets, and projected expansions were to be studied. When
these studies would be completed, the centralization of all collections would
be effected by the Alianza, which would assign a monthly sum to each member
society The latter would not be allowed to organize their own separate or
additional fund raising. This plan was to be implemented during one year, as a
trial, during which all the member institutions would retain complete auton
omy and their social properties. 31
The enthusiasts of the Alianza were encouraged by this accomplish
ment. 32 However, some of the institutions involved in previous deliberations
immediately departed, fearing that they would not be able to met their bud
gets in this way. The Sociedad de Socorros de Damas Israelites, which sup
ported the girls' orphanage, left the IOA for this reason. The Liga Israelita Ar
gentina contra la Tuberculosis decided to enter only after the actual formation
of the Alianza. The Comite Central Pro-Victimas de la Guerra y Pogroms did
not participate because its funds went to help lews abroad. Soprotimis and
Cursos Religiosos, which were in close contact with CIRA, also left IOA. The
Cocina Popular did not enter either. 33 The IOA was reduced to the delegations
of Chevra Keduscha, Ezrah, Asilo Israelita Argentino, Bikur loilim, and the Tal
mud Torahs.
The Ashkenazic community in Buenos Aires was then divided into two
sectors: those supporting the Alianza and those against it. The former consid
ered that most of the institutions that left the |OA were "aristocratic," or re
lated to CIRA and its rich membership. This was partially true of Soprotimis,
Cursos Religiosos, and Sociedad de Socorros de Damas Israelitas but not of
the rest of the list. Notwithstanding the departure of these societies, the alian-
cistas considered that the "lewish street"—the masses—were supporting the
Alianza However, this was not altogether correct. Soon an electoral scandal at
the Ezrah resulted in this institution's retirement from IOA. The work for the
Alianza was thus interrupted for about a year. 34
When the activities in favor of an Alianza were resumed at the end of
1924 some active leaders of the various Zionist centers became involved. 35
They most probably not only considered that the Alianza was a good instru
ment for organizing the local community but hoped that its constitution would
allow more freedom and less competition for Zionist propaganda and cam
paigns.
By April 1925 the Alianza had made some progress and had about 3,500


228
Iewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
individual supporters. It felt strong enough to launch its platform, including
all their principles adopted after 1921. Besides considering itself the highest
authority and representative body of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires,
embracing all Jewish institutions of a philanthropic, educational, or cultural
character, it was to have special departments for mutual aid, social support,
education, and culture, and an additional one for elections at the various lew
ish institutions, in order to help maintain its control over them. 36
The deathblow for the Alianza was felt when the candidates it favored at
the elections of Chevra Keduscha (lanuary 1926) lost. With lack of support from
the largest institution the Alianza only effected symbolic work for another year.
With the participation of Ezrah—which had been "reconquered" for the Al
ianza—the Asilo Israelita Argentino, Bikur loilim, the Talmud Torahs, and
CPAIA to which were incorporated Wolf Nijensohn of the Federacion Sionista
Argentina and Mordechai Regalsky of Poale Zion, an elaborate Project of Con
stitution was prepared, printed, and distributed. This project—which con
sisted of sixty-five articles—clearly defined the goals and methods of the Al
ianza, in agreement with its previous postures. Nonetheless, the indifference
of the Chevra Keduscha was decisive. Though the Chevra Keduscha was not
yet strong enough to become the representative body of Argentine lewry by
itself, it was proven that any such body would necessarily have to include the
Chevra Keduscha as an integral part of it.
With over half a century of historic perspective, we can see more clearly
why the Alianza, along the lines it had set for itself, could not prosper in Bue
nos Aires during the 1920s. First, the Ashkenazic lews in Buenos Aires were an
amorphous group of immigrants from different areas in Europe. During the
twenties, as also during the thirties, the majority of the Jewish population in
Argentina was composed of proletarians. As we have seen, only a small portion
of them possessed some knowledge of the spiritual and cultural sources of the
lewish people. The leadership therefore rose from among those who had been
most successful in building a good economic situation for themselves. How
ever, this leadership was limited in the scope of its influence. While leaders
managed to exert their power over the membership of one society, they could
not do so for the conglomerate of institutions that sprouted in Buenos Aires.
In the second place, leadership of a large institution represented a
source of honor for its bearers. The establishment of the Alianza would not
have put an end to president or general secretary chairs at the various soci
eties, for it contemplated allowing a certain degree of autonomy to each of the
member societies However, the very existence of the Alianza with its own ex
ecutive board would have created posts of greater weight than those at the
regular societies. The president of the Alianza would be, with respect to the
presidents of the other lewish institutions, a prim inter pares. Thus personal
rivalries, as well as rivalries between institutions themselves, dominated over
the collective interests of the community at large. 37
In the third place, the ruling against independent fund-raising caused
great concern among officials. Fund-raising was one of the most—if not the
most—important concerns of all the organizations, especially the welfare in-


229
A Kehilla in the Making
stitutions, which were the main partners of the Alianza project Except for the
Chevra Keduscha, which had a permanent income from monthly dues and
burial services, all other societies depended heavily on special campaigns in
the capital and interior, theater charity performances, balls, and raffles. The
Alianza project contemplated the economic fusion of the societies, thus caus
ing justified apprehension among officials who feared that the share of the
budget allocated to their institution would not be sufficient.
The way of achieving the Alianza was not realistic. Its proponents con
sidered that by "conquering" the boards of the societies, they could guarantee
ultimate union. This method is appropriate when a common ideology can
unite the various institutions. In the case of the Alianza there was no such
ideology. The goal consisted in merging the societies and establishing a rep
resentative body, but there was no underlying ideology here. There was not
even a common purpose, such as building an effective defense machinery
against a consistent philosophy or organization threatening the lewish com
munity. On the contrary, the officials included in the electoral lists proposed
by the Alianza committees who eventually "conquered" the board of a society
were faced with a dilemma, for they were supposed to encourage a fusion that
would relegate their own personal standing to a secondary position. Moreover,
not all institutions joined simultaneously. By the time the last merged the first
might be lost, as indeed happened several times, and ultimately caused the
defeat of the Alianza. Finally, the meddling of the Alianza committee in the
internal life of each institution, especially in elections, an event of great im
portance for the contending groups, produced the animadversion of some sec
tors of the institution's membership to the Alianza
During the mid and late 1920s some Jewish officials radically opposed
the Alianza project and suggested—notably in the columns of Mundo Israelita—
a different way of achieving representation of the community and centraliza
tion of its activities. In their view the Chevra Keduscha should change its con
stitution and declare itself the Kehilla, or community The Chevra Keduscha
had the essential quality of a community, for it grouped most Ashkenazic lews
in Buenos Aires, including not only the religiously oriented but also the Zion
ist, freethinkers, and leftist lews. The original function of the Chevra Kedus
cha—Jewish burials—had transcended its purely religious character. Practi
cally all the Jews retained some type of sentimental link with the Jewish
people, which was expressed in their desire of a burial at the lewish graveyard.
Thus the Chevra Keduscha constituted the lowest common denominator of
most Ashkenazic Jews in Buenos Aires.
The cardinal basis, however, for the Chevra Keduscha's growing ascend
ancy among Jews in Buenos Aires was that it had a monopoly—not formally
but indeed in practice—over the burial services it offered, in Argentina it was
not compulsory for a Jew to belong to any type of Jewish society. His attach
ment to religious, welfare, educational, or Zionist institutions was purely vol
untary. He could choose to become a member or not. Accordingly, all Jewish
institutions prepared their budgets on the basis of estimates of income from
dues or special campaigns, all given willingly by the individual Jews. The


230
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
Chevra Keduscha was a voluntary association as well. Nonetheless, an Ashken
azic lew could only be buried in their cemetery or resort to the municipal ones.
Appropriate agreements had been signed with all the smaller Sephardic com
munities in Buenos Aires, forbidding burials of Ashkenazim in their grave
yards, and vice-versa, thus establishing a de facto monopoly in the hands of
the Chevra Keduscha.
This circumstance, together with the disproportion between the income
of the Chevra Keduscha with its relatively small monetary investment, explains
its enormous material power. Its leaders, with the acquiescence of the mem
bership, spread their activities to areas of lewish concern beyond burial ser
vices. The Chevra Keduscha contributed largely to Zionist campaigns, welfare
causes, and finally to educational institutions (cf. ch. 8). The lews of Buenos
Aires accepted the expansion of the range of activities of the Chevra Keduscha.
They, moreover, got used to the idea of considering it the axis of lewish orga
nization in the capital.
The Chevra Keduscha Aschkenasi, because of its peculiar development,
was, by the end of the 1920s, fulfilling de facto functions of a Kehilla, or com
munity, in Buenos Aires. Active propaganda was carried in Di Yiddishe Zeitung
and Mundo Israelita in order to transform it de jure into the Kehilla. Di Yiddishe
Zeitung interviewed the past presidents of the Chevra Keduscha and other offi
cials of numerous lewish societies and illustrated that the general consensus
was in favor of changing the character of the Chevra Keduscha and expanding
its functions to the representation of the lewish community 38 On the other
hand, Mundo Israelita had been battling against the Alianza and suggesting the
transformation of the Chevra Keduscha into a Kehilla ever since 1923.”
A group formed by Leon Kibrick, codirector of Mundo Israelita, Dr. laime
Favelukes, leader at the Hospital Israelita and the Liga Israelita Argentina con
tra la Tuberculosis; A. L. Schusheim, one of the main columnists of Di Yiddishe
Zeitung; and members of the board of Chevra Keduscha presented to this insti
tution a project of a new Constitution in 1931. The principal reason for this
project was "to legalize the activities which the Chevra Keduscha in fact al
ready performs, and which are not included in its present Constitution, i.e , to
represent legally all the lews, thus preventing that anyone speak in their name,
and to intensify and practice systematically social welfare and lewish instruc
tion." 40 Though the final steps to form the Kehilla took nearly two more dec
ades, the Chevra Keduscha performed many of these functions much earlier.
Antisemitism became strongly felt in Argentina with the rise of nazism
in Germany, which influenced nationalist circles in Argentina. Unlike earlier
anti-lewish feelings in Argentina, which were manifest at times with certain
strength but did not create a consistent and substantial ideology with the
backing of power elements, during the 1930s an extensive organization was
established in Argentina by German Nazis, which threatened the spiritual and
territorial integrity of Argentina. Moreover, the September 1930 revolution,
which deposed the Radicates from power, initiated a period of military control
of Argentine political life led by people deeply imbued with a strong national
ist ideology that was spread by the communications media and educational


231
A Kehilla in the Making
programs, lews were constantly molested, menaced, and attacked. Anti-Iewish
feelings had taken root in Argentina and were felt among large sectors of the
country’s population.
This element—ideologically consistent antisemitism—was what finally
provoked the definite formation of a representative body of lews in Argentina.
What started in 1933 as a Comite contra el Antisemitismo y las Persecuciones
[udfas en Alemania was transformed two years later into the Delegacion de
Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas (DAIA), composed of representatives of all
sectors of Argentine Jewry, including Sephardim. As in many other opportuni
ties throughout the history of the Jewish people, antisemitism became a rele
vant factor for unity and identification among lews in Argentina. This took
place in the 1930s. Up to that date this factor had been present with recurrent
outbursts in the local daily press and periodical journals and in the thinking
of some writers and men of influence, but actual violent demonstrations were
isolated, and there was little connection, one with the other. The Jewish re
sponse had correspondingly been isolated. Unity among institutions and in
dividuals had been temporary and fragile. When the danger seemed to have
evaporated, so did the representative body of the lews. 41
The efforts to centralize Jewish life in Argentina made during the first
three decades of the twentieth century did not remain without an effect. In
deed, they failed at their time, as we have described. But centralization contin
ued being a permanent goal for lewish officials. When it was finally achieved,
it took forms not altogether conceived by leaders before 1930. The latter had
thought of one body, either a federation of institutions—FIA and Alianza proj
ects—or the transformation of one society, namely, the Chevra Keduscha, to
constitute a representative body of Argentine Jewry towards the Argentine na
tion and the lewish people at large, as well as to constitute the Ashkenazic com
munity of Buenos Aires to deal with its internal life. The historical juncture,
however, precipitated the formation of separate bodies. DAIA, the "foreign of
fice" of Argentine Jewry was formed as a response to external perils. On the
other hand, the Chevra Keduscha grew into its later role of Ashkenazic com
munity of Buenos Aires. Some of the burial societies of the Sephardic groups
grew into central roles in their respective communities as well. 42


232
Conclusion: The
Jewish Panorama
in 1930
The Young lewish community in Buenos Aires,
most of which was composed of immigrants, had attained fundamental and
lasting achievements by 1930. It had busied itself mainly in providing for the
essential and most immediate necessities of the lewish population. Thus, a
lew could be assisted in cases of sickness, unemployment, or financial difficul
ties by institutions in which people spoke his own language and better under
stood his problems. In his old age a Jew could resort to the old age home;
orphans were taken care of in appropriate asylums. A new immigrant could
apply to societies which would provide for his needs during his first weeks in
Argentina and would help him settle and find work either in Buenos Aires,
other urban centers, or in the agricultural colonies throughout the country. He
could profit from courses in the Spanish language and from orientation for
bringing his family, still on the other side of the Atlantic, to join him there.
The tens of Ashkenazic landsmanschaften associations, as well as the vari
ous Sephardic communities, provided for the lews in Buenos Aires a micro
cosm of the lewish environment they had left behind when sailing to Argen
tina. Besides furnishing a familiar atmosphere for the immigrant, these
residents' societies were deeply concerned with the Jewish problem in their
old communities and contributed with whatever means they had to ease the


233
Conclusion
situation of family and fellow townsmen still there. All groups, each with its
particular intensity, shared as a vicarious experience the troubles, aspirations,
and fates of Eastern lewries.
Popular cultural centers with a library or an amateur theater group, op
erated in various areas of lewish settlement in Buenos Aires. Most of them had
a political ideology, such as Labor Zionism, Bundism, anarchism, or commu
nism. There, many young lewish workers found a place to discuss their politi
cal and social views, listen to a lecture, or read a good book or Yiddish news
paper from Eastern Europe, England, or the United States. A large number of
the members were bachelors who enjoyed the opportunity for socializing with
Yiddish as a common language
By the end of the 1920s, the Jewish community in Buenos Aires, with few
exceptions, was secular. The bulk of immigrants from Eastern Europe rid them
selves of religious practices before their arrival in Argentina, or soon after
wards. Lack of a respected religious leadership only accentuated this trend
Among Sephardim, who by and large were much more observant of lewish
ritual law at the time of settlement in Argentina, a slow but indeed noticeable
trend of relaxation took place, even among the extremist immigrants from
Aleppo. The death of Hachum Shaul Setton Dabbah in 1930, who for nearly
two decades kept rigorous control over religious observance among his group,
loosened ritual practices even more. The departure of Rabbi Samuel Halphon
to Europe during this same year, after a quarter of a century of service at CIRA,
deprived Buenos Aires lewry of a strong spiritual leader and of one of its most
prominent communal workers and spokesmen. Both CIRA and the Aleppine
community would remain without rabbinic leadership until the eve of World
Warll.
While there were some leftist groups that ridiculed religious practices of
their fellow lews, the majority of the lews were indifferent to them. The latter
might have required or tolerated religious ceremonies for circumcisions or
burials and might have participated in religious services during the Jewish
Holy Days, but religion played a meaningful role in daily life for only a very
small sector of Buenos Aires' (ewry.
Jewish education, both at the secular schools and at the Talmud Torahs,
was deficient in two aspects. First, it only reached a small number of the Jewish
population of school age; second, the programs and the general framework of
lewish schools did not compete favorably with the programs of national
schools in Argentina. However, by the end of the twenties efforts were initiated
to remedy the situation. The first procedures for the modernization and cen
tralization of the various Jewish school systems were made. Moreover, at this
time the Chevra Keduscha became involved in educational matters and subsi
dized all types of lewish education. The bolstering of the Chevra Keduscha and
the persistence of duly alarmed officials resulted in a redefinition of lewish
education after 1930
The major contact the individual Ashkenazi had with something lewish
was the lewish street and the Yiddish language. Still in 1930 lews were concen
trated in specific quarters in Buenos Aires, where they constituted either the


234
lewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930
majority or a conspicuous part of the population Here Yiddish was spoken
freely. Workshops, small factories, and stores were located in these areas, thus
facilitating personal contacts among lews during the day. At night the various
Yiddish theaters opened their doors. Other Jews met at the libraries, at the
cafes, or at the board meetings of tens of lewish societies, be they cultural,
political, social, religious, or commercial.
In the lewish street the two Yiddish dailies were avidly read, as were the
various weeklies and monthlies in this language and the well-written and com
batant Mundo Israelita in Spanish. The influence of Di Yiddishe Zeitung and Di
Presse was paramount. They constituted the "Bible" for a large audience, and
their main articles and editorials were fervently discussed. Moreover, they pro
moted the education of their readers with extensive library sections. Their fun
damental contribution, however, was in the preservation of the Yiddish lan
guage and the lewish culture built around it among a large number of lewish
immigrants and some of their children, who had learned the language at home
and occasionally borrowed the Yiddish dailies from their parents
While Sephardim had a similar type of "neighborhood" life, they lacked
a lewish press in their own language and promoted by their own communities.
With the exception of Israel which appeared irregularly and was of low literary
standard, Sephardim read Mundo Israelita and the general local press. Their lack
of a daily and of a periodical of high standards gives evidence to the type of
lewish life in their neighborhoods. They lacked the ebulliency present at the
Ashkenazic quarters, where participation in political and social movements
within and without the lewish community were the order of the day. More
over, the absence of a solid journal witnesses especially their apathy vis-a-vis
Zionism.
One area of Jewish concern was having a growing influence among lews
in Argentina. Large numbers of lews had been affected by years of propaganda
from Zionist circles. Zionist activities, which at the turn of the century and
even before the Balfour Declaration were displayed mainly by the better-off
sector of East European lews, by 1930 had a more popular character. Zionism
had won the sympathy and merited the efforts of some important individuals
from the Sephardic communities, the West European lews of CIRA, and lews in
Argentine political and cultural life, who were of influence in their own circles.
It had also spread among the numerous working Jewish population where var
ious Labor Zionist ideologies had taken shape.
On the eve of the European Jewish holocaust, Argentine lewry was con
solidating itself It had been preoccupied with all manner of material and cor
poreal necessities of the lews. However, it had conspicuously neglected one
aspect of its growth. It had not seriously faced the question of its spiritual and
cultural continuity and had no leadership in these areas. This negligence was
reflected in the attitude of the first generation of Ashkenazim educated or born
in Argentina. Most received a deficient lewish education or none at all. The
Argentine schools reinforced their assimilation to Argentine values and na
tionalism. Moreover, they felt the need to assert their Argentinism and thus
sought to shed most of their foreign traits. Many had entered, and graduated


235
Conclusion
from, the Argentine universities and were imbued with the spirit of participa
tion in the growth and destiny of the Argentine nation. Definitely estranged
from religion, their attitude towards Zionism was ambivalent. They only
vaguely understood the lewish experience in Eastern Europe; and while they
understood Yiddish, and even spoke it at times, they preferred their mother
tongue, Spanish. From among them rose a group of cultural secularists who
initiated a program of social and cultural activities within a lewish framework.
The various centers that constituted the Sociedad Hebraica Argentina in the
twenties had laid the cornerstone for lewish life within the context of the gen
eral current of Argentine life.
The lack of religious and, to a large extent, also of educational leader
ship implied that no such leadership had formed in the country. When re
quired, it had to be imported from the Old World. Each community or group
therefore reverted to its own place of origin for this purpose, thus accentuating
Argentine lewry's dependence on the lewish centers in Eastern Europe, the
Balkans, Syria, and North Africa, lewish centers that were much more vital than
the one being formed in Argentina, such as those in the United States and
England, played no role in South America. Consequently, the beginning of the
end of European lewry, the progressive weakening of Sephardic communities
east of the Atlantic, and the enforcement of immigration restrictions in Argen
tina after 1930, deprived Argentine lewry of new blood from lewish communi
ties with a stronger lewish identification
The 1930s presented new problems for Argentine lewry. The fate of Eu
ropean lewry and of the lewish National Home were a constant theme on the
international arena, and lews in far-away Argentina were closely following
these issues. Local issues were also affecting Jews in Argentina There was the
growing peril of antisemitism menacing Jewish security; the lewish community
was becoming more Argentine, both in the percentage of locally born lews and
in the time distance of immigrants from the old home. The lews in Argentina
were faced, at that juncture, with two sides of the same coin: they needed to
live vicariously the lewish tragedy in Europe and to respond sympathetically
and forcefully to it, while, simultaneously, they had to provide for the internal
growth of their own lewish community. Their success or failure at that goes
beyond the limits of this essay.



237
Abbreviations
AJA
A1A
A1B
AIU
AIHSA
All A
A|YB
AMIA
CC
CIL
CIRA
CIS
CIIA
CK
CPAIA
CPI
DAIA
EN
ENAM
FIA
FIAC
FICHA
FORA
FSA
HIAS
HICEM
HSE
IWO
IAPGW
1C
ICA
ICA Rapport
[DC
INF
Anglo-Iewish Association
Alianza Israelita Argentina
Asociacion Israelita de Beneficencia
Alliance Israelite Universelle
American lewish Historical Society Archives
Asociacion Juventud Israelita Argentina
American Iewish Yearbook
Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina
Comite Central (Pro-Victimas Israelitas de la Guerra)
Congregacion Israelita Latina
Congregacion Israelita de la Republica Argentina
Comunidad Israelita Sefaradi
Centro luventud Israelita Argentina
Chevra Keduscha Ashkenasi
Comite Pro Alianza Israelita Argentina
Cocina Popular Israelita
Delegacion de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas
Ezras Noschim
Ezras Noschim Archival Material
Federacion Israelita Argentina
Federacion Israelita Argentina de Cultura
Federacion de Instituciones Culturales Hebreas Argentinas
Federacion Obrera Regional Argentina
Federacion Sionista Argentina
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
HIAS-ICA-Emigdirect
Hesed Shel Emeth
Yiddisher Wisnshaftlecher Institut
Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women
lewish Chronicle
lewish Colonization Association
ICA. Rapport de l'Administration Centrale au conseil d’Administration
(American lewish) Joint Distribution Committee
lewish National Fund


238
Abbreviations
IOA
Junta Organizadora de la Alianza Israelita Argentina
KH
Keren Hayesod
Liga
Liga Israelita Argentina Contra la Tuberculosis
OSFA
Organizacion Sionista Femenina de la Argentina
PAF
Palestine Workers' Fund
PZ
Poale Zion
SHA
Sociedad Hebraica Argentina
Soprotimis
Sociedad de Proteccion a los Immigrantes Israelitas
UOI
Union Obrera Israelita (Bikur Joilim)
WUSI
World Union of Sephardic lews
YZ
Y iddishe Zeitung
ZA
Central Zionist Archives
ZO
Zionist Organization
ZZ
Zeire Zion


239
Notes
Introduction
1. Cf. Simon Weill, Poblation israelita en la Republica Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1936), p. 28.
2. Cf. Victor A. Mirelman, "A Note on lewish Settlement in Argentina (1881-1892),"
lewish Social Studies 33 (Ian 1971): 3-12; idem, "lewish Life in Buenos Aires before
the East European Immigration (1860-1890),” American lewish Historical Quarterly, 67,
no. 3 (Mar. 1978). 195-207.
3. On the beginnings of the ICA project in Argentina, cf. Haim Avni, Argentina, the
Promised Land, Baron de Hirsch's Colonization Project in the Argentine Republic (Hebrew) (Je
rusalem, 1973).
4. East European lews presided over CIRA at quite early stages: Rodolfo Ornstein,
1898-99, and Menashe Sigal, 1900-1902.
5. Weill, op. cit. 12.
6. Avni, op. cit. covers the history of the Baron de Hirsch project in Argentina until
the death of the Baron in 1896.
7. Sephardic lews are the lewish descendants of Spanish and Portuguese lews of the
fifteenth century, who have preserved distinctive customs and traditions even after
the expulsion from the Iberian peninsula However, the word is used popularly to
include Arabic-speaking lews as well, in opposition to Ashkenazic lews, i.e., East
European and Germanic lews and their descendants. We shall include, when speak
ing in general about Sephardim, the Spanish-speaking North African lews; the
Ladino-speaking Jews from Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia, Rhodes, and Bulgaria; and
the Arabic-speaking Jews from Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Palestine.
8. Yorbuch 5714 fun der Yiddisher Kehila in Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires, 1953); Yorbuch 5715
fun der Yiddisher Kehila in Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires, 1954); Pinkasfun der Kehila in Buenos
Aires (Buenos Aires, 1963); Pinfcis fun der Kehila in Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires, 1969).
9. Yoblbuch Yiddishe Zeitung (Buenos Aires, 1940); Argentine, Futzig Yor Yiddisher Ishev (Bue
nos Aires, 1938); 50 ahos de colonization judia en la Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1939).
10. Argentiner IWO Shriftn (published by IWO Buenos Aires), vols. 1-11 (1941-69).


240
Notes
1. The lewish Immigration Flow to Argentina
1. There is a very extensive bibliography dealing with the Argentine policy of immigra
tion up to 1930. Some of the most pertinent items are the following: Carl Solberg.
Immigration and Nationalism, Argentina and Chile, 1890-1914 (Austin and London, 1970);
Gino Germani, Politica y sociedad en una epoca de transicion (Buenos Aires, 1968); Nicolds
Sanchez Albornoz and lose Luis Moreno, La poblacion de America Latina (Buenos Aires,
1968); Adolfo Dorfman, Historia de la industria argentina (Buenos Aires, 1970); Enrique
Dickmann, Poblacion e inmigracion (Buenos Aires, 1946); Dardo Cuneo, lulio Mafud,
Amalia Sanchez Sfvori, and L5zaro Schaliman, Inmigracion y nacionalidad (Buenos
Aires, 1967); Gladys S. Onega, La inmigracion en la literatura argentina (1880-1910)
(Santa Fe, 1965); A |. Perez Amuchastegui, Mentalidades argentinas (1860-1930) (Bue
nos Aires, 1965),
2. Cf, Onega, op, cit., 78ff.
3. Censo de la Capital Federal del 18 de Setiembre de 1904 (Buenos Aires, 1906), 70; Censo
general de la ciudad de Buenos Aires, Octubre 16-24, 1909 (Buenos Aires, 1910), 88-93;
Samuel Halphon, "Enquete sur la Population Israelite en Argentine." in 1CA. Rapport
de L'Administration Centrale au Conseil D'Administration pour \Annie 1909 (hereafter |CA
Rapport) (Paris, 1910), 302-6. The fact that many lews did not declare their religion
or considered themselves to have no religion is amply documented. See ch. 2 and
Ira Rosenswaike, "The lewish Population of Argentina; Census and Estimates, 1887—
1947," lewish Social Studies 22, no. 4 (Oct. 1960). 200-14.
4. Cf. Rosenswaike (op. cit., 200), who concluded that by 1914 the number of lews in
the capital approached 50,000. The figure given by Harry O. Sandberg ("The lews of
Latin America," American lewish Yearbook, 1917/18, pp. 45ff) of 65,000 lews in Buenos
Aires for 1917 appears exaggerated
5 Cf Informe de la Comision Nacional de Inmigracion, 1896, 56. "45 families abandoned the
colonies to return to Russia or to go to the United States, and 230 persons to
change residence and work within the country." Many protested against the ICA
administration, ibid., 63-67, 199-210. Woskhod published strongly worded leading
articles in which it called upon the St. Petersburg Central Committee of ICA to tell
the public the truth about what occured in its Argentine colonies. Cf. lewish Chronicle
(hereafter |C), )une 3, 1898, p. 14. Some returned via Constantinople, where they
were stranded under great hardships. Cf. 1C, Sept. 18, 1896; ibid, Mar. 19, 1897, p.
11 tells about twenty families who left Argentina and were in Constantinople; ibid ,
Sept 30, 1892, p. 8, reported that about 120 families returned; ibid. May 27, 1898,
p. 14, reported 136 lews returning.
6. |C. July 24, 1908, p. 10.
7. ICA, Rapport. 1908, p. 15 and 1909, p. 12.
8. Ibid, 1924, pp 300f
9. During ]an. 1925, ten lews were killed while attempting to enter Argentina illegally.
Cf. )CA Rapport, 1925, p 292. During Aug 1928, two lewish couples were arrested by
the police They had disembarked in Montevideo because they did not possess all
the necessary documentation to land in Buenos Aires. They were taken by an agent
to Colonia (Uruguay) and later to Palmira, from where they were brought to the
Argentine coast of the Rio de la Plata at Punta Chica in a small boat From there
they walked to Tigre, where they took the train to Retiro Station in Buenos Aires.
Here they were arrested by the secret police. Cf. Yiddishe Zeitung Aug. 23, 1928, pp.
5f
10 Cf. Municipalidad de la ciudad de Buenos Aires, Cuarto censo general (Oct. 22, 1936) (Buenos
Aires, 1939), vol 3, pp 242f Rosenswaike (op.cit, 213) explains in detail his method
for estimating the number of lews in those categories Weill (op cit., 30) estimated
131,000 lews in Buenos Aires in 1935, in line with these numbers.
11 The figures for urban and rural distribution of foreigners in 1914 are the following:


241
Notes
Origin
Rural Pop
Total Pop.
% of Rural Pop
Spain
219,669
829,701
265
France
24,911
79,491
31.3
Italy
292,658
929,863
31.5
Russia
39,996
93,634
42.7
Source: Repiiblica Argentina, Tercer censo nacional, levantado el l°delu-
niode 1914 (Buenos Aires. 1916), vol, 2. pp. 395f.
12. Pamphlets on Argentina were printed in Yiddish and distributed in Eastern Europe.
Cf. also Miron Kreinin, Di Einwanderungs Meglichkeitn kein Dorem Amerike un di Dortige
Yiddishe Ishuvim (Berlin, 1928). Max Glucksman, president of both C1RA and Sopro-
timis, had been present at the Berlin Conference on lewish immigration in 1928
The conference on the same issue organized in Buenos Aires later that year was a
response to the urgent need of new horizons for lewish settlement after the closing
of the doors in the United States. Cf. Yiddishe Zeilung. May 7, 1928, p 4
13 Soprotimis, Minutes, May 20, 1922.
14. Ibid., July 1 and 8, 1922. Cf. )CA Rapport, 1921, pp. 122f.; Theodore Bar-Shalom,
Hairgun Soprotimis veKlitatam she! Mehagrim Yehudim beArgentina beShanim 1922-1930,
M.A. thesis, Hebrew University, lerusalem, 1971; and Yiddisher Imigranten Shuts-Farain
un Tsentral Komilefun Folks-Hilf, 1922-1927 (Buenos Aires. 1928)
13. |CA Rapport. 1922, pp. I44ff
16. During the period May 1922—July 31, 1923 a total of 4,663 "llamadas" were obtained,
but from Aug. 1, 1923 to Mar. 31, 1924 only 122. Cf. Marcos Satanowsky, "La emigra-
cion judfa y la politica emigratoria," Mundo Israelite, May 3, 1924. The printed bulletin
of Soprotimis, Yiddisher Imigranten .... p. 45, however, does not report a diminution
in the number of llamadas.
17. In two months, May 16-Iune 14, 1923, the |CA offices sent 903 Roumanian lews to
Argentina. Since then and up to the end of 1924, “as a consequence of the restric
tion to immigration in Argentina," only 131 emigrated from Roumania through |CA.
Cf. JCA Rapport, 1924, p. 292.
18. According to A M. Carr Saunders (World Population |Oxford, 1936|), the following
countries absorbed most immigrants during the period 1821-1932:
United States 32,244,000
Argentina (since 1856) 6,405,000
Canada 5,206,000
Brazil 4,431,000
Australia 2,913,000
Source: German;. op. cit., 264.
19 |CA Rapport, 1925, p. 291
20 Ibid., pp 29If
21 Cf. Ramos's cables of Aug 8 and Sept. 8, 1924 and ICA's response in Mundo Israelite,
Oct 11, 1924. p 1.
22 |CA Rapport, 1925, p. 292
23 Ibid , 1926, p. 313.
24. Ibid , 1930, p 230.
25. Ibid., 1924, p. 300. This distrustfulness could be due to the existence of a consid
erable number of lewish white slave dealers in Argentina and to the fact that the
economic possibilities were, in their eyes, much better in the U S. In any case two-
thirds or more of the lewish immigrants in Argentina during the last half of the
1920s were Polish Of 7,816 immigrants who solicited help at Soprotimis during


242
Notes
1922-27, 4,757 (61%) were Polish; cf. Yiddisher Imigranten , p. 17; the Polish lews
entered in the following numbers:
Year
Total lewish
Immigration
Polish lewish
Immigration
Percentage
1926
7,534
5,884
78
1927
5,584
3,742
67
1928
6,812
4,410
65
1929
5,986
4,264
71
1930
7,805
6,032
77
Total
33,721
24,332
72
Sources: |CA Rapport, 1926, 1930; Four Years of lewish Immigration, Report of Activities of
the Association for Emigration HIAS, |CA. Emigdirect (Paris, 1931).
26. |CA Rapport, 1930, p 231
27. Cf. Marcos Regalsky's speech in Yiddishe Zeitung, Aug. 28, 1928. p. 4; and Louis
Oungre's speech, ibid., Aug. 29, 1928, p 6
28. HIAS board meeting of July 24, 1928, as cited by Mark Wischnitzer, Visas to Freedom.
The History of HIAS (Cleveland and New York, 1956), pp. I28f.
29. lose M. Bustos's project and the Argentine decree have been dealt with more thor
oughly in Victor Mirelman, "A Note on lewish Settlement in Argentina (1881-1892),"
lewish Social Studies, 33, no. 1 (Ian. 1971): 3-12.
30. Cf. Lazaro Schallman. "Proceso historico de la colonizacion agricola en la Argen
tina," in Inmigracion y nacionalidad (Buenos Aires, 1967), 166; also luan Schobinger,
Emigration y colonization suizas en la Republica Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1957), 40ff.
31. The decree, issued on Aug. 6, 1881, was published in Re^istra National, Buenos Aires,
Department of Interior, 1881, decree No. 12011 It was also reported in the press.
Cf. La Prensa, Aug. 20, 1831, p. 1 and La Naciott, Aug. 20, 1881, p. 1.
32. Cf Mirelman, op. cit., 5f
33. Informe de la Comision General de Emigration (for 1881) (Buenos Aires, 1882). The letter
to Bustos was reprinted in Anexo A, pp. 63f.
34. "The lews in Russia." !C, Sept. 23, 1881, p. 7 and Sept. 30, 1881, p. 11; Archives Israelites.
Sept. 29, 1881, p. 326.
35. "Emigracion Israelita,” El Diario, Dec. 20, 1881, p.2.
36. Cf. Mirelman, op. cit., 6-9. The subscription for lews persecuted in Russia was
announced by the Standard and River Plate News (Buenos Aires), Iuly 28, 1882.
37. Hazefirah, May 22, 1888.
38. David Vinas, De los montoneros a los anarguistas (Buenos Aires, 1971), 160-74; A. |. Perez
Amuchastegui. Menlalidades argentinas (1860-1930) (Buenos Aires, 1965), 393ff. 427ff.
Ezequiel Martinez Estrada, Radiografia de la pampa, 5th ed (Buenos Aires, 1965), 57f.;
Gaston Gori, Emigration y colonization en la Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1964), 83f, 98ff.
39. Excerpts of Hassaris letter, as well as the resolutions of the A|A are found in |C, Ian.
10, 1890, p 8
40 Cf Salo W. Baron, The Russian lew under Tsars and Soviets (New York, 1964). 51-118; Elias
Tcherikower, ed.. The Early lewish Labor Movement in the United States, translated and
revised by Aaron Antonovsky (New York, 1961), 3-74; Lloyd P. Gartner, The lewish
Immigrant in England, 1870-1914 (Detroit, 1960), 21 f; and Recueil de Maleriaux sur la
Situation Economigue des Israelites de Russie d'Apres I'Enguete de la lewish Colonization Associa
tion (Paris, 1906)
41. Celia S. Heller, On the Edge of Destruction, lews of Poland between the Two World Wars (New
York. 1977), 11, 133-39; Yehuda Bauer, My Brother's Keeper. A History of the American
lewisk loint Distribution Committee, 1929-1939 (Philadelphia, 1974), 180-209; American
lewish Yearbook (1923-24) 25: 352f. and ibid. (1937-38) 39:430.


243
Notes
42. Hazefirah, Aug. 1 (13), 1888.
43. S. Kogan, “Alexander Zederbaum's Ongrif Oif der Yiddisher Kolonizatsie in Argen
tine," Argentiner IWO Shriftn 5(1952): 83f.
44. Kogan, op cit, 96-100. Abraham Vermont founded in 1898 Di Folks Shtime, a weekly
that endured until 1914, when the first Yiddish daily appeared in Buenos Aires.
Abraham Vermont was a controvertible personality, who had few scruples and a
tendency towards sensationalism. Cf. Lazaro Schallman, “Historia del periodismo
judio en la Argentina," in Comunidades ludias de Latinoamerica (Buenos Aires. 1970), p,
151, Pinie Katz, Tsu der Geshichte fun der Yiddisher Journalistik in Argentina (Buenos Aires,
1929), 41-60; Samuel Rollansky, Dos Yiddishe Gedrukte Wort un Teater in Argentine (Bue
nos Aires, 1941), 46-48.
45. Alexander Zederbaum, Arba Mamarim (Petersburg, 1893), passim. The only antise-
mitic case recorded is an article that appeared in the Courier de la Plata, Feb. 2, 1893
This paper appeared in Buenos Aires, and reflected many of the antisemitic senti
ments at the time rampant in France.
46. Zederbaum, op. cit., p. 9.
47. Alex Bein, Theodore Herzl (Philadelphia, 1941), 120-33.
48. Zederbaum, op. cit., 10.
49. Kogan, op. cit., 86.
50. Some of the more conspicuous correspondents of Hazefirah were Abraham Rosen-
feld of Mauricio, Province of Buenos Aires; Abraham Horowitz, Moisesville, Santa
Fe; Israel Fingerman, Clara, Entre Rios; lacobo Kahansky, San Antonio, Entre Rios.
51. lacob ledvabski and Isidore Heilman, Di Reise Nadi Argentina (Warsaw, 1891).
52. Propaganda for the country was carried on not only by lews but also by Argentine
immigration agents. The main center for this propaganda in Eastern Europe was
Warsaw, where a large amount of material was distributed. Among the latter we find
Argentina, the Way Thither, the Land, Commerce, Agriculture and Industry (Yiddish) (Warsaw,
1891) and Wilhem Kreuth, A ms des La Plata Staaten, translated into Hebrew by Eleazar
Finkel (Warsaw, 1891), which say no word about lews but, due to the languages they
were presented in, were evidently meant for lews in Eastern Europe.
53. |C, May 13, 1887, p. 6.
54. Ibid., Aug. 5, 1887, p. 7.
55. Cf. Oscar E. Cornblit, Ezequiel Gallo(h ), and Alfredo A. O'Connell, "La Generacion
del 80 y su proyecto: antecedentes y consecuencias,” in Argentina, sociedad de masas
(Buenos Aires, 1965), 18-58.
56. Cf. the letter dated Sept. 4, 1889 sent by Oscar Levy, a French lew living in Buenos
Aires, to Isidor Loeb, secretary of the A1U, Archives of A1U at the American lewish
Archives, microfilm No. 758; David Hassans letter to his father (IC, Oct. 11, 1889, p.
6); Pedro Palacios, in a letter to the AIU, on Aug. 18, 1890, writes in French the
following: “As you shall see, we have signed two documents with the Russian col
onists. The first one on August 28, 1889, with the intervention of Rabbi Henry Jo
seph and Mr. (Simon) Kramer." In a letter to the IC loseph asserted that the ladies
asked among friends for clothes and assistance. Monetary assistance was given by
lews and gentile friends of leading lewish officials (IC Dec. 20, 1889, p. 8).
57. 1C, Dec. 20, 1889, p. 8.
58. 1C, Ian. 10, 1890, p. 8
59. 1C, Feb. 7, 1890, p. 14.
60. Cf. the attitude of the IC, Ian 17, 1890, p. 11
61. CIRA, Minutes, Nov, 22, 1891.
62. The Congregacion Israelita Latina, founded in 1891 by some of the Moroccan lews
in Buenos Aires, was not the only society of lews of Moroccan origin at the time.
They had a few places of gathering, mainly for prayer, in the area called “Barrio Sud,"
where most of these immigrants resided, especially in Venezuela street.
63. Chevrah Society, presided by Rodolfo Ornstein, is only mentioned in CIRA, Minutes,
Nov. 19 and 22, 1891. It is most probably the Sociedad Obrera Israelita (Poale Ze-
dek). Cf. ch. 2.


244
Notes
64. For more on Sephardic immigration to Argentina see Victor A. Mirelman, "Sephardic
Immigration to Argentina Prior to the Nazi Period," in ludith Laikin Elkin and Gilbert
W Merkx (eds.) The Iewish Presence in Latin America (Boston, 1987), 13-32.
65. Isaac Benchimol, "La Langue Espagnole au Maroc," Revue des Ecoles de I'Alliance Israelite
(Paris) no. 2 (luly-Sept. 1901): 127 and Robert Ricard, "Notes sur I'Emigration des
Israelites Marocaines en Amerique Espagnole et au Bresil,” Revue Africaine (Algiers)
88, nos. 1 and 2 (1944). 84f.
66. Ricard, op. cit., 84. For Larachecf. Eugene Aubin, Le Maroc d'Aujourd'hui, 6th ed. (Paris,
1910), 91, where he asserts, "Parmi les luifs, quelques negociants et beaucoup d'ar-
tisans; un movement d'emigration vers I'Ambrique du Sud commence a se dessiner
dans la communaute qui est pauvre et peu organisee."
67 Cf. Association desAnciens E/eves de I'All), Bulletin Annuel (Tangiers) no. 8 (1900): 13-17
68. Ricard, op. cit., 84-86.
69. "Le Circoncisione a Buenos Aires," Vessillo Israelitico (Casale Monferrato, Italy). 1883,
p. 352. The Benjetrit (maybe Benchetrit, V M.) family moved to Buenos Aires. Their
second son was born there and circumcised after ten days.
70. Interview with his son, Samuel de A. Levy, Mar 1972 The latter was born in Buenos
Aires in 1886, was active in all Sephardic institutions in the city, and by means of
his journal Israel, founded 1917, kept in contact with the communities in the interior
of Argentina and other South American countries, as well as with lewish institutions
in Morocco itself
71. Informes de los Consejeros Legates del Poder Efecutivo (Buenos Aires. 1890-1902) vol. 8, p.
224 For the marriage question in Argentina and how it affected the lews, cf. Victor
A Mirelman, "lewish Life in Buenos Aires before the East European Immigration
(1860-1890)," American lewish Historical Quarterly 67, no. 3 (Mar 1978): 197-202.
72. Benchimol, op. cit., 128. Manuel L. Ortega (Los hebreos en Marruecos IMadrid, 19191),
30If. quotes the same.
73 Bulletin de lAIV 19(1894): 66
74 As quoted in Bulletin de 1'AIU 24(1899): 118
75. Ibid., 119.
76. Ibid , 175-86: ibid. 26(1901): 96-99; ibid. 27( 1902): 66: "Les eleves originaires de la
Turquie et ceux du Maroc septentional ou Ton parle egalement Tespagnol—etaient
done tous designes pour les ecoles de TArgentine ou Tespagnol est la langue den-
seignement."
77. Benchimol, op. cit., 133.
78. Benchimol, op. cit., 133.
79 Angel Pulido Fernandez, Espaholes sin patria y la raw sefardi (Madrid, 1905), 643f.
80 Samuel Flalphon, "Enquete sur la Population Israelite en Argentine," |CA Rapport
1909, pp. 251-310. Cf. also the Minutes of the Congregacion Israelita Latina of Bue
nos Aires and those of the Ets Ajaim in Rosario, both of Moroccan lews. During
1926 the director of Israel visited numerous cities and towns in the interior of Argen
tina and reported in the journal about the lewish communities there, giving details,
especially about lews of Moroccan origin.
81. Cf. Ricard, op. cit., 86. where, based on data obtained from the French consulate in
1929, the following numbers for emigrants from Morocco to Argentina are given:
1924, 50; 1925, 43; 1926, 36; 1927, 45, indicating that most of them were lewish.
82. Ricard, op. cit., 87.
83. Ibid.
84. Cf. Isaac Laredo, Memorias de un viejo tangerine (Madrid, 1935), 434. Other cases of lews
from Tangiers who moved to Buenos Aires are found on pp. 279 and 461 Bibas had
been on the board of the Banco Comercial Israelita in Rosario, and president of the
Bene Kedem, a Sephardic Zionist organization founded by the Keren Hayesod del
egate, Ariel Bension, in 1927.
85. Abraham Galante, Histoire des luifs de Rhodes, Chio, Cos. etc. (Istanbul, 1935), 81; idem,
Historre des luifs d'Anatolie: Les luifs d'lzmir [Smyrne), vol 1 (Istanbul, 1937), 161 f; idem,
Hisoire des luifs dTstambul, vol 2 (Istanbul, 1942), 119; David de Sola Pool, "The Lev-


245
Notes
antine lews in the United States," American lewish Yearbook, 1913/14, p, 209. Walter
Paul Zenner, (Syrian lewish Identification in Israel, Ph D. dissertation, Columbia Univer
sity, 1965, pp. 1-98) describes the economic, social, political, and religious situation
of the lews in Aleppo and Damascus in the later decades of the nineteenth century
and the first of the twentieth. Cf. also Philip K. Hitti, The Syrians in America (New York,
1924), 48-52.
86. |C, May 13, 1887, p. 6 luan Bialet-Masse (El estado de las clases obreras argentinas a
comienzos del siglo |C6rdoba, 1968; first printed 19041) mentioned turcos and lews as
peddlers in the Chaco (p. 135), and turcos in La Rioja (p 178), Mendoza (p 562),
and San luan (p. 595) also as peddlers or petty merchants. The word turcos is utilized
to designate anyone coming from the Near or Middle East, be it present-day Syria,
Egypt, or Turkey Sephardic lews are also generically called turcos. whatever their
country of origin.
87 Cf. Habima Haivrit 1, no 6 (1921): 11-12; Behor Issaev, “La Colectividad Sefardi Bon-
aerense en el Quinquenio 1958-1962," in Pinfcas fun der Kehila (Buenos Aires, 1963),
Spanish Section, p. 46; Minutes from Hessed Shel Emet (organization formed around
the synagogue Es Ajaim, in Calle 25 de Mayo St., no 696), Aug. 19, 1927.
88 Nissim Teubal, El inmigrante, deAlepoa Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires, 1953), pp 68f, 79f
89 Alberto Massri, president of Asociacion Union Israelita Sefaradi “Luz Eterna," in a
speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the institution (1970).
90. Sola Pool, op, cit., 209; Zenner, op. cit., 53f; Hitti, op cit., 51. During the First World
War many lews served in the Turkish Army. By the end of the war some of them
deserted the army and fled. Zenner, p. 54, tells us of a Syrian lew who fled to lebl-
el-Druze and later to Argentina
91. Teubal, op. cit., 68.
92. Interview with Jacques Mizrahi, Buenos Aires, Apr. 7, 1972.
93. Robert Foerster, The Italian Migration of our Times (Cambridge, Mass., 1924), 261 f
94 Teubal, op cit., p. 83.
95. Ibid., p 75.
96. Cf. L Zitnitzky, “Yiddn in Buenos Aires Loit Der Munitsipaler Tseilung Fun 1936,"
Argentiner 1WO Shriftn 3(1945): 16. This article, however, is full of errors based on a
poor transcription of the census figures and should not be consulted for those
purposes.
97. For example, from among the 4,857 men and 1,960 women who requested the help
of Soprotimis to find jobs during the years 1922-27, fully 3,292 were without a
profession Of those with skills 1,012 were agriculturists, 336 seamstresses, 242
tailors, 233 shoemakers, 148 mechanics, 141 bakers, 130 butchers, 112 carpenters,
and 106 locksmiths. Cf. Yiddisher Imigranten Shuts-Farain un Tsentral Komitefun Folis-Hilf,
1922-1927 (Buenos Aires, 1928), 18f.
98. |C, Sept. 9, 1898, p. 20.
99. Der Yiddisher Soicher 1, no. 5 (May 1910): Ilf
100. The first lews who arrived in Buenos Aires from Aleppo at the turn of the century
sold "cotton cloths and fabrics—a line of business which they had practiced in the
Orient—, but they had no shops. They were travelling salesmen" Cf. Teubal, op cit.,
69 Similarly the Damascene lews were engaged in peddling. Out of 568 persons
inscribed in the first members book of their main institution, Sociedad Israelita
Sefaradi Benb Emeth, over 70 percent were peddlers or small merchants Cf. their
Primer libro de socios, 1915-1919 Moreover, in the book sent by the Zionists in Argen
tina to Herzl in 1903, it is mentioned that among Moroccan lews a large percentage
are peddlers
101. El Sionista 1, no. 4 (Aug. 1, 1904): If; Pinie Katz, Yiddn in Argentina (Buenos Aires,
1946), 48f.
102. IC, Nov. 3, 1905, p. 26.
103. Halphon, op. cit., 303-7.
104. Arturo Bab, “Die berufliche und soziale Schichtung der luden in Argentinien," Der
Morgen 4 (Apr 1928); 89-92 Cf also M Benario, “Di Geshichtliche Antwiklung fun


246
Notes
Yiddishen Handel un Industrie in Buenos Aires," in Yoblbuch Yiddishe Zeitung (Buenos
Aires, 1940), 267-90
105. Halphon, op. cit., 306; Bab, op. cit., 84-90.
106. Simon Weill, Poblation israelita en la Republica Argentina (Buenos Aires. 1936), 16.
107. Bab, op. cit., 92.
108. Benario, op. cit., 286.
109. On March 10, 1910, the Liga de Defensa Comercial Israelita Argentina was founded
with the purpose of bettering the economic condition of its members. The Liga had
in mind the formation of a cooperative of production, consumption, and loans
when its membership would reach the 500 mark. Cf. Article 2 of Estatutos de la Liga de
Defensa Comercial Israelita Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1910), IWO Archives; and Broil un
Ehre no. 3 (May 1, 1910): 9. The union was limited to "lews residing in the capital,
who sell merchandise on their own, in weekly or monthly installments, without
having an established store" (Art. 3). To its constitution was added an article in
tended to protect the Liga against the intrusion of the wholesalers denying all
rights to those members who established themselves with a wholesale store, es
pecially one selling to peddlers (Art. 15). At the same time a group of peddlers
residing in the Boca-Barracas district founded Cooperativa Israelita, later called
Tesoro Israelita Argentino, with analogous purposes. Cf. Estatutos del Tesoro Israelita
Argentino, IWO archives. During 1911 they had their headquarters in Magallanes 420,
in the Boca-Barracas area; by 1913 they had moved to Lavalle 1059, in Centro (Cf.
IWO archives).
110. Art. 13 of Estatutos de la Union Ambulantes Israelitas. IWO Archives.
111. Cf. Almanachfun Yiddishn Ambulantn Farain (1915-1930) (Buenos Aires, 1930), 3-11.
112. An economic history of the lews in Argentina would reveal important insights that
could help us understand some of the processes in community life. Documentation,
however, is scant. Some material had been collected at the IWO archives in Buenos
Aires. A wealth of information, both as advertisement and as notes, appeared in
the daily Yiddish press or in special publications of the various commercial soci
eties. The above paragraphs are based on this documentation. Nonetheless, the
sources at hand do not allow more profound conclusions, which could be made
only after a much more thorough study of commercial institutions.
113. Cf. M. Smilg, "Dos Yiddishe Bank-Wezen in Buenos Aires," Yoblbuch Yiddishe Zeitung
(Buenos Aires, 1940), 291-308; Yiddishe Folks-Bank. lohlbuch 1921-1951 (Buenos Aires,
1951); Banco Comercial de Buenos Aires, 1917-1950 (Buenos Aires, 1950); Banco Popular
Israelita, Memoria g Balance (1933). For the Banco Comercial Israelita, founded in 1921
in Rosario, which opened a branch in Moises Ville in 1925, see 50 Alios Creciendo con
la Ciudad (Rosario, 1971).
2. Jew and Gentile in Argentina
I Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot (Cambridge,
Mass., 1963), 139.
2. Moises Goldman, "Der Antisemitism in Argentine," in Yoblbuch Yiddishe Zeitung (Bue
nos Aires, 1940), 583-85; Silvia Schenkolewsky, "Di Zionistische Bavegung in Argen
tine fun 1897-1917," in Pinkasfun der Kehila (Buenos Aires, 1969), 102f.
3. A more detailed analysis of the 1881 decree and the response of the lewish com
munity in Buenos Aires to attacks of some groups is found in Victor Mirelman, "A
Note on lewish Settlement in Argentina (1881-1892),” lewish Social Studies, 33, no. 1
(Ian. 1971): 3-12
4. "L immigration luive,” L'Union Fran^aise, Aug. 22, 1881, p. 1.
5. La Nation, Aug. 26, 1881, p. 1.
6. "Las calumnias de L'Union Franchise." El National, Aug. 25, 1881, p. 2.


247
Notes
7. Cf. El National, Aug. 26, 1881, p. 2; IC, Oct. 28, 1881, p. 11; Archives Israelites, 1881, p
421; and La Nacion. Aug. 28, 1881, p. 2.
8. Chevra Keduscha, Minutes, Dec. 21, 1895.
9. Pinie Katz, Tsu der Geshichte fun der Yiddisher lournalistik in Argentine (Buenos Aires, 1929),
37.
10. Ibid . 38; |C, Oct. 28, 1898, p. 15.
11. Simon Ostwald, Sion!, speech at the Zionist society Liga Dr. Theodor Herzl, on Dec.
25, 1901, p. 6.
12. CIRA, Minutes, May 16, 1927.
13. Cf. Oscar E Cornblit, Ezequiel Gallo (h ), and Alfredo A. O'Connel, "La Generacion
del 80 y su proyecto: Antecedentes y consecuencias," in Argentina, sociedad de masas.
ed. Torcuato di Telia, Gino Germani, and lorge Graciarena (Buenos Aires, 1965), 52-
57; Emilio Herrera, "Los prejuicios raciales en la Argentina del 80; lulian Martel y
su novela La Bolsa'," indice 1 (Apr. 1968): 110-16.
14. lose Luis Romero, A History of Argentine Political Thought (Stanford, 1963), 194.
15.1. M. Miro, La Bolsa (Buenos Aires, Editorial Huemul, 1965), 53
16. A. |. Perez Amuchastegui. Mentalidades argentinas, 1860-1930 (Buenos Aires. 1965),
36ff.
17. lose Luis Romero, El desarrollo de las ideas en la sociedad argenlina del siglo XX (Mexico,
1965). 17,
18. Perez Amuchastegui, op cit., 36-42.
19. Robert F. Byrnes (Antisemitism in Modern France |New Brunswick, 19501, 8-9) says
"French history has shown that an area can be antisemitic even though it has no
lews."
20. Edouard Drumont, La France luive, 2d. ed. (Paris, 1886). Cf. the above-quoted passage
of La Bolsa with Drumont's description of Gambetta; "avec son nez d une courbe si
prononcee. se rattachait a la tribu d'Ephraim" (vol. 1, p. 34) and that of Henry Aron:
"avec ses yeux stries de filaments rouges, se reclamait de la tribu de Zabulon" (p.
35).
21. Miro, op cit., 120ff. Throughout the argument Granulillo interrupts Glow in an at
tempt to defend the lews.
22. Ibid., 45.
23. Ibid., 123ff. Cf. Drumont, vol. 2, esp. pp. 54-67.
24. Miro, op. cit., 54
25. Ibid., 124. Rothschild is a common theme in Drumont's work. Cf. Byrnes, op cit. pp.
119, 202. The House of Rothschild is also mentioned in antisemitic literature in the
United States. Cf. Richard Hofstadter. The Age of Reform (New York, 1955), 77-81 and
sourcenotes thereto.
26. Cf. Memoria del Departamento General de inmigracidn correspondienle al aho 1891 (Buenos
Aires, 1892), 15; ibid., 1895 (Buenos Aires, 1896), 214.
27. ]C. July 12, 1901, p. 11
28. luan A. Alsina, La inmigracidn en el primer siglo de la independencia (Buenos Aires, 1910).
7-11.
29. Cf. Carl Solberg, Immigration and Nationalism. Argentina and Chile, 1890-1914 (Austin,
1970), 135f.
30. Arturo Reynal O'Connor, "Por las colonias," Revista Nacional 33(]an. 1902): 48f.
31. Cf. Gino Germani, Politico y sociedad en una epoca de transicion (Buenos Aires, 1968), 249
(table 6), 251 (table 7).
32. Cf. lose Luis Romero, El desarrollo de las ideas en la sociedad argentina del siglo XX (Mexico,
1965), 32f.; Sebastian Marotta, El movimiento sindical argentino, su genesis y desarrollo, vol
1 (Buenos Aires, 1960), 107f; Enrique Dickmann, Recuerdos de un militante socialista
(Buenos Aires, 1949), 68f.
33. Cf. Carl Solberg, op. cit., 109ff, Diego Abad de Santillan, La FO R A., ideologia y tray-
ecloria del movimiento ohrero revolucionario en la Argentina, 2d. rev. ed. (Buenos Aires, 1971),
97-99; Marotta, op. cit., 147.
34. Cf. Solberg. op. cit., 111.


248
Notes
35 Cf. the classification of strikes for the period 1907-30 in Adolfo Dorfman, Historia de
la industria argentina (Buenos Aires, 1970), 262-67.
36. Santillan, op. cit., 125-42.
37. Ibid., 175-80; Dickmann, op. cit., 158-83.
38. La Nation, Nov. 16, 1909, p. 6; La Prensa, Nov. 15, 1909, p. 8.
39. Cf. Marotta, op. cit., vol. 2, pp. 69-76; Santillan, op. cit.. pp. 189-98, Dickmann, op.
cit., 183—88 Attacks on the lewish quarter are mentioned by Marotta, p. 75, based
on the testimonies of the victims published in the Bolotin de la C O R A. (Confedera
tion Obrera Regional Argentina).
40. The lists of deportees are published in Santillan, op. cit., 198f. and Marotta, op. cit.,
vol. 2, p. 85.
41. Marotta, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 81.
42. Ibid., 81-84.
43. Broil un Ehre no. 2 (Apr. 15, 1910): 1
44. Haolam 4, nos. 21-22 (lune 9, 1910); 24.
45. Cf. Pinie Wald, "Yiddishe Sotsialistishe Arbeter-Bavegung in Argentine biz 1910,"
Argentiner IWO Shriftn 2(1942): 101-6.
46. Ernesto A. Bavio, "Las escuelas extranjeras en Entre Rios,” E! Monitor de la Education
Comun 27(Nov. 30, 1908); 597-604 and 28(|an. 31, 1909): 3-44.
47. Manuel P. Antequeda, Breve exposition sobre las escuelas ruso-alemanas e israelitas. escuelas
nacionales (ley Lainez) de la provincia de Entre Rios (Buenos Aires, 1909), 25f.
48. Ibid., 9.
49. La Nation, Dec. 11, 1908, p. 11
50. La Nation, Dec. 14, 1908, p. 6. This article ended with the following remark: "What
the Marques de Santillana said in the fifteenth century is still valid today: A1 judlo
datle un palmo e tomara quatro. ” Other articles in this daily are found at Dec 12,
1908, p 7 and Dec. 19, 1908, p 6.
51 La Prensa, Nov 30, 1908, p 8. Other articles in the same newspaper dealing with the
lewish schools, ail in 1908, are Nov. 25, p. 10; Dec. 3, p. 12; Dec. 7, p. 5; Dec. 8, p. 9;
Dec. 11, p. 9; Dec. 12, pp. 9, 10; Dec. 15, p. 9; Dec. 16, p. 11; Dec. 20, p. 9; Dec, 26, p.
8; and Dec. 28, p. 9.
52. Published in 1909, we shall quote from Ricardo Rojas, La restauracion nacionalista, 3d.
edition (Buenos Aires, 1971), 127f.
53. Ibid., 128.
54. Ibid., 128,
55. Cf. Sarmiento, Apr. 4, 1910, pp 1, 3; ibid., Apr. 20, 1910, p. 1; La Razon, Apr. 9, 1910, p.
7.
56. Sarmiento, Apr. 4, 1910, pp. 1, 3; Der Avangard 3, no. 3 (Mar. 1910), pp. 23f.
57. Cf., for example, A. Aiberman, "Kinder Ertziung" (Children Education!, Di Yiddishe
Hofnung 2, no. 7 (July 1909): 4f
58. Cf Pinie Katz, Tsu der Geshichte fun der Yiddisher lournalistik in Argentine (Buenos Aires,
1929), 127ff.
59. Avangard 3, no. 3 (Mar. 1910): 23f.; cf. ibid., 1, no. 5 (Dec. 1908): 32.
60. Broil un Ehre no. 2(Apr. 15, 1910): If.
61. Cf. Di Yiddishe Hofnung 2, no. 7 (luly 1909): 4f; ibid., 3, no. 1 (Mar. 1910), Spanish
Section, article by lacobo Ben-loseph ||oselevich|; ibid., 3, nos 14-15 (Oct I, 1910)
1 Of; ibid., 3, nos. 16-17 (Nov. 1, 1910): 14f.
62 Federation israelita Argentina, Minutes, Nov 15 and 22, 1909.
63. Cf Rabbi Halphon's reports to the ICA headquarters in Paris, dated lune 24, 1910
and Sept 16, 1910, ICA (London) Archives, 432 III
64 Lugones wrote,
Pasaba por el canino el ruso Ellas
Con su qabdn eslavo y con sus botas
Manso vecino que fielmenle quanta
El Sabado y sus raras ceremonias


249
Notes
Con sencillez y sumisa que todos respetan
Porque e$ trabajador y q nadie estorba.
Dario sang,
Canlqd, judios de La Pampa,
Mocolones de rudq estampa,
Rubenes de largas guedejas.
dukes Rebecas de ojos francos,
patriarcas de cabellos blancos
y espesos como hipicqs ernes,
cqnlqd, cantqd, Saras viejas,
y adolescentes Benjamines.
con voz devueslro corazon ■
iHcmos encontrado a Sion!
65. Alberto Gerchunoff, Los gauchos judios (Buenos Aires, 1910) and many later editions.
We shall quote the 1957 edition of Editorial Sudamericana. For a portrayal of Ger
chunoff see Manuel Kantor, Alberto Gerchunoff (Buenos Aires, 1969). The above quo
tations are taken from Kantor, pp 9 and 10, who took them from Gerchunoff s auto
biography written in 1914 and published posthumously as an introduction to his
Entre Rios, mi pais (Buenos Aires, 1950). For other examples of comparison of Argen
tina with lerusalem or the Promised Land, cf. Los gauchos judios, pp 32, 49f, 52f Also
lose Liebermann. Tierra sohada (Buenos Aires, 1959), 125-31; Nicolas Rapoport, Desde
lejos hasla ayer (Buenos Aires, 1957), 43, 88; Enrique Dickmann, op. cit., 35
66. Sarmiento, lune 16, 1910, p. 1.
67. “Israel en la Tierra Prometida," La Nation, lune 19, 1914, p. 11. Cf. quite similar attacks
in La Prensa, Sept. 27, 1913, p. 9.
68. luventud 4, no. 37 (July 1914): 54f.
69. Berichtfun'm Yuddishen Kongress in Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1916), 3Iff.
70. Ibid., 33-45.
71. Francisco Stach, “La defensa social y la inmigracidn," Boletin Mensual del Museo Social
Argentino 5, nos. 55-56 (|uly-Aug. 1916), 361-89; Manuel Bronstein, "La inmigracion
israelita," Boletin Mensual .5, nos. 59-60 (Nov-Dec. 1916); 550-67; Natan Gesang,
“Los judios," Revista Argentina de Ciencias Politicos, Derecho Administrate, Economia Politico,
Sociologia, Historia. y Educacion 13( 1916) :225—47
72. Stach, op. cit., 384ff.
73. Cf. Bronstein, op. cit., passim.
74. Cf. Gesang, op. cit., passim.
75. Cf. Dorfman (op. cit., 262), who gives the following absolute figures of strikes and
strikers:
Year
Strikes
Strikers
1915
65
12,077
1916
80
24,321
1917
138
136,062
1918
196
133,042
1919
367
308,967
1920
206
134,015
76. Maximalista was a term used to identify anarchists, anarchosyndicalists, and com
munists in Argentina at the time All historians dealing with the period analyze the
Semana Tragica according to their own views of history. The latest work is Julio
Godio, La Semana Tragica de Enerode 1919 (Buenos Aires, 1972). The main articles that
deal with its impact among lews are Pedro Wald, "Yiddn in der Tragisher Woch,"


250
Notes
Argentiner IWO Shriftn 4(1947): 5-55 and Nahum Solominsky, La Semana Tragica (Bue
nos Aires, 1971).
77. Cf. Godlo, op. cit., 17-22.
78. Ibid., 179-86.
79. luan E. Carulla, Alfilodel medio siglo (Parana, 1945), 156.
80. luan lose de Soiza Reilly, "El Martirio de los lnocentes," Revista Popular 2, no. 42 (Feb.
1919): 1-4.
81. Cf. Pedro (Pinie) Wald, Koshmar (Buenos Aires, 1929).
82. These three reasons were given respectively by La Raion, lan. 16, 1919, p. 3; Vanguar-
dia, lan. 16, 1919, p. 1; and La Razon, lan. 17, 1919, p. 3.
83. In 1936 in Buenos Aires, out of a total of 31,368 Russians. 23,171 (75%) were lews.
However, 4,137 had no religion or unknown religion. Most of the latter were also
lews. For Poles, the respective numbers were 46,519, 31,172 (67%), and 3,052; and
for Roumanians 8,483, 5,175 (61%), and 1,089. See Municipalidad de la Ciudad de Buenos
Aires. Cuarto Censo General (Oct. 22, 1936) (Buenos Aires, 1939), vol. 3, p. 316f.
84. Cf. "Encuesta sobre la inmigracidn," Boletin Mensual del Masco Social Argentino
8(1919): 36.
85. Ibid., 54.
86. Carlos Ibarguren, La historia que he vivido (Buenos Aires, 1955), 343.
87. Cf., for example, L aVanguardia, lan. 14, 1919, p. 2
88. Frederick lessup Stimson, Mi* United States (New York, 1931), 418-21.
89 Katherine S. Dreier, Five Months in the Argentine, From a Woman's Point of View. 1918 to 1919
(New York, 19201, 183-84. For this national panic there was, however, some degree
of justification. Toward the end of the war the labor movement had been progres
sively gaining momentum, strength, and prestige. The number of strikes and strikers
per annum was steadily increasing due to rising prices and the desire of the workers
for a higher standard of living. The labor strikes and manifestations were bolstered
to a large extent by the presence of a large proportion of foreign workers. Many had
arrived in Argentina after fleeing persecution in their home countries, especially
from Spain after the bloody repression of the revolution in Catalonia (1901-20, in
particular during 1909) and to a minor degree from Russia when the failure of the
1905 revolution caused many labor leaders and agitators to flee. See Gerald Brenan,
Tke Spanish Labyrinth (Cambridge, 1967), 17-77 and Salo Baron, The Russian lew under
Tsars and Soviets (New York, 1964), 69-71. During the Semana Tragica many voiced
the opinion that immigration from Spain and Russia had been prejudicial because
of the above mentioned factors. See, for example, La Razrin. lanuary 13, 1919, p. 3;
moreover, the weekly Caras y Caretas devoted a full issue to these events, concluding
that the riots were due to undesirable immigrants, who were men without a father-
land, and that the immigration policy should therefore be revised. Cf. Caras y Caretas
22, no. 1059 (Ian. 18, 1919),
90. Interview with Gregorio Fingermann, Aug 1972, Buenos Aires.
91 Cf. Avangard 1, no. 5 (Dec. 1908): 32.
92. The text of Rabbi Halphon's letter to Beiro, dated in Buenos Aires lune 25, 1917, is
found in CIRA, Minutes of the same date. Israel, lan. 1919 (pp. 769ff) reproduced it.
The above-quoted line is from a note in La Argentina, p. 149, where it brings other
antisemitic paragraphs from Francisco Latzina, Diccionario geografico argentino. (various
editions) and from Colombo y Urien, La Republica Argentina en 1910 (Buenos Aires,
1910). For the protests in 1926, cf. Semanario Hebreo, lune 11, 1926. p. I and the
editorials in Yiddishe Zeitung, lune 3, 1926, p. 6 and lune 8. 1926, p. 6.
93. Cf. Hobart Spalding, La clase trabajadora argentina (Documents para su historia 1890-1912)
(Buenos Aires, 1970), 497-549 ("Movimiento Social Catolico"); and Godio, op cit.,
179f
94 Francisco P. Sagasti, M onsehor de Andrea y el Arzobispado de Buenos A ires (Buenos Aires,
1924), 29. Cf. also Pensamiento Cristiano y Democratic de Monsehor de Andrea, 2d. edition,
Senado de la Nacion (Presidencia) (Buenos Aires, 1965), 290-94 for the prelate's
antianarchist and anticommunist activities in Argentina.


251
Notes
95. Cf. Di Presse. Dec 28, 1918, p 1; )an, 6, 1919, p 3; and |an. 7, 1919, p. 3. See also
Sagasti, op. cit., 30.
96. Boletin Mensual del Museo Social Argentino 8(1919): 32.
97 Vida Nuestra 2, no. 8 (Feb 1919).
98. Cf. the responses of Enrique Barros and Carlos N. Caminos to the questionnaires
submitted by Vida Nueslra 2, no. 9 (Mar. 1919) and 2, no. 10 (Apr 1919), respectively,
and Leopoldo Lugones, "Los falsos problemas,” Vida Nuestra 2, no. 2 (Aug. 1918):
25f.
99. Critica. lan. 22. 1919, p. 1 Cf. also Soiza Reilly, op. cit., 1-4
100 lusto's speech at the 1896 Congress is reproduced in Dickmann, op cit., 84 On pp
80-100 Dickmann gives his own account of the Congress and its aftermath.
101. Pedro |Pinie| Wald, "Yiddishe Sotsialistishe Arbeter-Bavegung in Argentine biz
1910,” Argentina IWO Shriftn 2(1942): 109f.
102. Enrique Dickmann, “Sionismo y Socialismo,” Vida Nuestra 2. no. 4 (Oct. 1918): 73f.
Reprinted in his Recuerdosdeun mililantesocialista (Buenos Aires, 1949), pp. 442ff.
103. Di NeieZeit, Nov. 2, 1919, pp. 2f.
104. Di NeieZeit, Apr. 9, 1927, p. 5.
105. Palacios wrote many articles praising the lewish people, Cf. his "La Redencion de
Israel,” Vida Nuestra 1, no. 6 (Dec. 1917): 125-8. He was a welcome guest at the
Argentine lewish Congress of 1916, at the reception for the Argentine legionaries
(1918), and at many other lewish gatherings. The lewish community expressed its
gratitude to the congressman for the law that carried the latter's name, Ley Pala
cios, against corruption of women Cf luventud 3, no 29 (Nov. 1913): 30.
106. Bilboard at IWO Archives, Buenos Aires.
107 In 1911 Beilis was accused by the Black Hundreds in Kiev of ritual murder. He was
acquitted in 1913.
108. Shtraln 3 (Dec. 1913). Cf. luventud 3, no. 31 (lan. 1914): 51, and Rapoport, op. cit.,
105.
109. Di NeieZeit 2, no. 36 (luly 29, 1919): 6.
110. luan B. lusto, "Por que no me gusta escribir para una ho)a que se dice israelita,”
Vida Nuestra 6, no. 9 (Mar. 1923): 193-97. It was reprinted in Nosotros, Apr. 1923 and
in luan lose Sebreli, La cuestion judia en la Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1968), 86-90.
111. Cf. Versiones Taguigraficas del Honorable Concejo Deliberante (Buenos Aires), Dec. 30, 1921,
Feb 21, 1922; Nov. 24, 1924; Sept. 22, 1925; Dec 16, 1925; Dec 30, 1925; April 16
and 23, 1926; and May 4, 11, and 28, 1926. The Versiones Taguigraficas are published
yearly by the Concejo Deliberante. We quote here the dates of the particular ses
sions.
112. Ibid., May 4, 1926.
113. Ibid., Apr. 23, 1926.
114. Chevra Keduscha [hereafter CK| Copiador, letter from David Calles to Halphon, May 18,
1926.
115. Versiones Taguigraficas.... Dec. 16, 1926.
116 Cf. Israel, 1919, pp. 765ff
117. Cf. memorandum presented by the Comite de la Colectividad in Diario de Sesiones de la
Camara de Diputados. Ian. 28, 1919, pp. 312ff.
118. Ibid. The memorandum includes the names of 69 lews either killed or wounded by
the police or Guardia Blanca, as well as descriptions of the incidents.
119. See CK, Minutes, Apr. 27, 1919, and May 4, 1919. Also CK Copiador no. 3, letters from
its president Israel Muller to Simon Ostwald, who was able to obtain a hearing with
President Yrigoyen for the lewish delegation, dated Apr. 29 and May 6, 1919.
120. Cf. ch. 5 on Zionist activities for the quarrel between CIRA and FSA.
121. Pamphlet of Partido Israelita Argentino, IWO Archives. Buenos Aires. Gebit 36.
122. Cf. Pamphlet of Partido Israelita Argentino, IWO Archives, ]. S. Liachovitzky file. At
IWO, Gebit 89, there are copies of pamphlets distributed by this party in both lan
guages.
123. According to various persons interviewed, most lews voted Socialist during the


252
Notes
1910s. There are, however, reasons to believe that many voted Radical. Cf. El Israelita
Argentino, July 1, 1913, p 6.
124. Most of the lewish press—except the journals put out by the lewish parties—
advocated this posture
125. Cf. Godio, op. cit., 184f. for the main ideas of the Liga Patriotica Argentina and the
leading members of it A more detailed description is found in La Razon, Jan 20,
1919, p. 2.
126 Cf. Vida Nuestra 3, no. 1 duly 1919) for the ad of the Liga Israelita Pro-Argentinidad
and for the reaction on p. 24
127. The Liga Patridtica Argentina, founded during the Semana Tragica events was the
main civic organization that fought, utilizing violence when deemed necessary,
against workers' organizations, attempting to drown its leftist leadership As result
of many class struggles between the Liga and workers, lews were often accused and
attacked by the forces of order. One of the strongest attacks against lews took place
in Villaguay, an urban center in the heart of the ICA colonies of the province of
Entre Rios having a large number of lews among its inhabitants, in February 1921.
The bourgeois press of the area wrote antisemitic charges with titles such as "La
judiada se amotina" |The lewish mob rebeis| "La judiada se acerca" |The lewish
mob is approaching], etc. Cf La Vanguardia, Feb 15-24, 1921; and Vida Nuestra 4, no
9 (Mar. 1921): 193-209 for the lewish response.
128. Lucas Ayarragaray, "Inmigracidn judfa en Argentina," in his Cuestiones y problemas ar-
gentinos contemporaneos (Buenos Aires, 1930), 422-30. Cf. also p. 234
129. Ayarragaray, op. cit., 427.
130. Luis Abascal, "El Teatro" ("Israel" de Henri Bernstein en el Odeon), Criteria 1, no. 19
duly 12, 1928): 57.
131. Luis Barrantes Molina, "La Apostasia Moderna," Criterio 3, no. Ill (Apr. 17, 1930):
508f. Cf. Silvio Torre, "Los Prfncipes de los judios y La Prensa," pp 512f. in the same
issue and Guillermo Saenz. "Temas Internacionales, El problema arabe-sionista en
Palestina,” Criterio 3, no. 139 (Oct 30, 1930).
132 Russian Jews encountered several difficulties in being helped in municipal hospi
tals. Cf. Ezraft, Minutes, luly 2, 1910. This was one of the main reasons for building
the Hospital Israelita. For additional cases of antisemitism in hospitals and in the
school of medicine at the University of Buenos Aires, cf. Vida Nuestra 3, no. 9 (Mar.
1920): 216 and Semanario Hebreo. May 23, 1930, p. 2. Moreover, the appointment of
Dr. Alejandro Zabotinsky as professor in the school of odontology was contested
because of religious and national reasons. Cf. CIRA, Minutes, luly 26, 1926 With
respect to antisemitism in the workers' unions, some incidents have been reported
Cf. Di Neie Zeit, Apr 12, 1918, p. 2
3. Religious Institutions and Observances
1. A. L Schusheim, "Letoldot Haishuv Hayehudi be-Argentina," Sefer Argentina (Buenos
Aries, 1954), 32. Cf also David Goldman, Di )uden in Argentine, in der Vergangenheit un in
der Gegenmrt, in Wort un in Bild (Buenos Aires, 1914), 100.
2. The leaders of Machzikei Emunah are listed in Goldman, op. cit., 100.
3. Schusheim, op cit., 37.
4 The first Hebrew (and Yiddish) Linotype arrived in Buenos Aires at the end of 1898.
For that reason the statutes of Sociedad "Zion." a Zionist society founded in 1897,
were printed in New York in 1898 A copy of these statutes is found at the IWO
Archives, Buenos Aires, Gebit 34-35.
5. IC, Apr. 27, 1894, p 9.
6 CIRA, Minutes, Dec 26, 1894. The issue first arose on Dec. 13, 1894, and on Feb 3,


253
Notes
1895 a general assembly accepted responsibility for the school, which at the begin
ning had twenty students and now sixty-five. Cf., Minutes up to Dec. 7, 1895.
7. Goldman, op. cit., 101; cf. La Prensa, lune 24, 1893.
8. Hazefirah, 1896, no. 264, p. 1286. Cf. also ibid. 1897, no. 275, pp. 1354f„ where the
existence of Mikveh Israel synagogue is mentioned.
9 IC, Oct, 28, 1898, p. 15.
10. 1C, Oct. 25, 1901, p. 27.
11. Cf. Luis F. Nunez, AImario de Buenos Aires Los cementerios (Buenos Aires, 1970), 47f.
According to Shalom Rosenberg and Daniel Rubinstein-Novick ("Instituciones y
tendencias de la vida religiosa judfa en la Argentina," in Pinkos fun der Kehila, 1963—
1968 |Buenos Aires, 1969), p. 134), some lewish oldtimers in Buenos Aires forbade
their grandchildren to play in that plaza for this reason.
12. CK, Minutes, Feb. 11, 1894.
13. CK, Preliminary Minutes, Sept. 26, 1893.
14. Ibid., Oct. 3, 1893.
15. Cf. CIRA, Minutes, Sept. 4-17, 1893.
16. Ibid., Sept. 5, 1894,
17. Ibid , Oct. 31, 1893.
18. A somewhat different interpretation is given by Ldzaro Schallman, "Antecedentes
histbricos y sociales de la fundacion de la A.M.I.A.," in Pinkas fun der Kehila (Buenos
Aires, 1969), 22-24.
19. CK, Minutes, Ian. 12, 1895.
20. Ibid., Dec. 21, 1895.
21. Ibid., Feb. 18, 1897.
22. lacobo Simon Liachovitzky, Zamlbuch (Yiddish) (Buenos Aires, 1938), 87ff.
23. JC, Oct, 30, 1874, 491.
24. CIRA, Minutes, passim, especially Nov. 28, 1875; luly 29, 1886; Sept, 7, 1890; and Nov.
1, 1891.
25. CK, Minutes, lan 19, 1896 and Feb 28, 1897
26. Ibid , Mar 20, 1898
27. Ibid., Apr. 26, 1900, states that the "Dissidents' Cemetery had decided not to permit
the burial of Israelites in that cemetery any more."
28. Ibid., May 1, 1900.
29. Ibid , Mar 20, 1898 and May 4, 1898
30 Ibid., lune 12, 1898.
31. Cf, Hazefira, 1897, no. 275, pp. 1354f.
32. Ibid., May 4, 1898.
33. Nonmembers were also buried by the CK, though the tariff was of course higher.
34.1. S. Liachovitzky, op. cit., 89f.
35. )C, Oct. 28, 1898, p. 15
36 |C, Oct. 25, 1901, p 27
37. ElSionista, Nov. 8, 1905, p. 7.
38. Di Yiddishe Hofnung, Sept. 1, 1912, pp. 6-8.
39 Boris Garfunkel, Narro mi vida (Buenos Aires, 1960), 178
40. Marcos Alpersohn, Kolonie Mauricio, Dreisig-iehrige ICA Kolonizatzie in Argentina (Buenos
Aires, 1922), 60
41. Walter Paul Zenner, Syrian lewish Identification in Israel, Ph D. dissertation, Columbia
University, 1965, pp 69-74,
42. For an Aleppine immigrant's experience in Argentina in 1906 see Nissim Teubal, El
inmigrante (Buenos Aires, 1953), esp. 81. The above data was obtained in an inter
view with lacques Mizrahi, Nellm Yacar, and Ellas Teubal, Apr. 7, 1972, Buenos Aires
43. Cf. OrTorah, Minutes, Mar. 10, 17, and 24, 1923; Apr. 21, 1923; and Mar 18, 1926; and
Yesod Hadath, Minutes. Aug 9, 1925,
44. OrTorah, Minutes, Mar. 24, 1923; Apr. 21, 1923.
45. The decree, Exp 10177-12/925 of the Consejo Nacional de Educacion was pub-


254
Notes
lished in La Nation. Oct. 31, 1925. Israel reprinted it on Apr. 9-16, 1926, p. 76. Hacham
Shaul Setton Dabbah reprinted it in his Dibber Shaul (|Hebrew| (lerusalem, 1928],
57b) in ludeo-Arabic translation.
46. David de Sola Pool, "The Levantine lews in the US.” American lewish Yearbook, 1913/
14, p. 216,
47. In 1907 two members of the Moroccan community took an oath at the synagogue,
over the Scroll of the Torah, in an inheritance case. This was accepted by the judge
when the inheritors of lacobo Benoliel alleged that being of the lewish faith, "they
could only take an oath according to their rites." La Prensa, Aug 31, 1907, p. 8
48. Habima Haivrit 1, no. 5 (1921): 5.
49. In a letter from the Federacion Sionista Argentina (Buenos Aires) to Keren Hayesod
(lerusalem) (Hebrew), Dec 20, 1926, at Central Zionist Archives, lerusalem, Z4,
35791.
50. Benjamin Benzaquen, La colectividad israelita sefaradi de Buenos Aires no debe permitir que se
exploten mas sus sentimientos religiosos (Buenos Aires, 1929), 2.
51. Jacobo Kraviez ("Desde el antiguo carpintero hasta el moderno fabricante," El Indus
trial Maderero 5, 44 |]uly 1944]: 47-54) makes references to this situation from per
sonal experience.
52. |C, Aug. 2, 1907, p 16
53. luventud 1, no. 1 (luly 1, 1911): 10.
54. Ibid., 3 , no. 26 (Aug. 1913): 5-8.
55. Ibid., 3, no. 36 (lune 1914): 45-48.
56. Vida Nuestra, Apr. 1918, p. 242.
57. loseph Aharon Taran, Zichron lose/(lerusalem, 1924), contains the legal discussions
about the wild ducks' controversy. It was written in 1918, though the actual contro
versy took place at the beginning of the century.
58. Cf. David Goldman, Di Iuden in Argentine, in der Vergangenheit un in der Gegenwart, in Wort
un in BiId (Buenos Aires, 1914), ch. 5.
59. Several times the Asociacion Israelita de Beneficencia in Rosario consulted Rabbi
Goldman in Moisesville due to the links many lews in that city had with that colony.
60. Rabbi Goldman arrived with the first group of East European lews in 1889, even
before the formation of the ICA. In 1891 however, the bulk of the group was colo
nized by ICA. Cf. “Nomina de los inmigrantes llegados en el vapor Weser' el 14 de
agosto de 1889/’ in 50 ahos de colonization judia en la Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1939),
Documents section. Rabbi Taran settled in the Horace Gunzburg colony in 1894 and
later in Zonnenfeld.
61. Hazefirah, 1894, no. 238. A biography of Rabbi Sinai (1850-1918) was written by his
son Michl Hacohen Sinai, "Harav Reuben Hacohen Sinai," Argentiner IWO Shriftn
3(1945): 171-82.
62. Hazefirah, 1896, no. 264.
63. Different views with respect to the motivations of Sinai's departure from Moisesville
are given by Michl Hacohen Sinai, op. cit. and Noe Cociovich |Katsovich|, Mosesviler
Breishis (Yiddish) (Buenos Aires, 1947), 153-61.
64. Preaching was not a regular event. In the 1920s ads announcing them were sporadic
and emphasized the character of a special occasion. Cf. for example, Yiddishe Zeitung,
May 18, 1927, p. 5; lune 28, 1927, p. 4.
65. CIRA, Minutes, Nov 22, 1882-|an. 9, 1883
66 CIRA, Minutes, Oct 20 and 28, 1894
67 Ibid., lan 3, 1895; Nov. 9, 1895
68 Ibid., Feb. 3 and 18, 1895.
69 loseph wrongly maintained, for example, that wedding ceremonies at night "were
contrary to lewish law" (CIRA, Minutes, lan. 18, 1904).
70. Ibid., luly 13, 1903.
71. A committee was formed to study a financial project that would enable CIRA to
keep a rabbi. Minutes, Dec. 21 and 24, 1903; Ian. 18, 1904. Conditions stipulated that
the candidate be between the ages of 30 and 35, married with no more than two


255
Notes
children, and fluent in French and German and have served as rabbi previously
(Ibid., lan. 18, 1904). Cf. also ibid., Sept. 24, 1905.
72. ICA, Rapport de lAdministration Centraleau Conseil d'Administration, pourl'Annee 1905 (Paris,
1906), 49, On Rabbi Halphon, see I. Bauer, L'Ecole Rabbinique de France (1830-1930)
(Paris, 1931). Halphon was born in 1877.
73. CIRA, Minutes, May 3 and 13, 1906; ICA Rapport, 1907, p. 37,
74. When in 1926 the Chevra Keduscha was having problems in the habilitation of a
new plot for cemetery, it turned to Halphon to "intercede before the President of
the Republic so that he indicate who is empowered to veto the order and the ha
bilitation of the cemetery" CK, Copiador de Cartas, May 18, 1926. The case was lost,
and CK sold the field. Cf. ch. 2.
75. From Callao uptown was located the main lewish quarter in Buenos Aires, limited
approximately by Cuyo (today Sarmiento) and Viamonte.
76. Cf. IC, May 13, 1904, p. 29; Boris Garfunkel, op. cit., 349-58. Ostwald was respected
at CIRA, where he was given the honor of delivering the inauguration speech at the
opening of their new synagogue in 1897 He was also active in Zionist activities at
the beginning of the century and in 1903 was suggested by the Zionist Organization
in Europe for the unifying head of all Zionists in Argentina.
77. El Sionista, Oct. 7, 1904, p. 8.
78. La Prensa (Sept. 22, 1903, p. 8; Mar. 15. 1904, p. 8; Mar. 30, 1904. p. 7; Oct. 27, 1904,
p. 8; Dec. 7, 1904, p. 8; Apr. 9, 1905, p. 8; lune 4, 1905, p 8; Dec. 2, 1905. p. 8, Feb. 2,
1906, p. 9; Oct. 15, 1907, p. 10; lune 16, 1908, p 10; |une 23. 1908, p. 8) published
short news about the activities of Hoffmann.
79. In 1905 he solicited help from Ezrah (cf. Ezrafi Minutes, Feb 10, 1905). His father-in-
law helped him in starting a bookshop with his brother-in-law. which utterly failed.
Also the project led by Ostwald to build a new synagogue for the Union Israelita
Argentina in 1905 was dropped in spite of its being in an advanced stage. Hoffmann
also was involved in the Talmud Torah Harischono in Buenos Aires and was arbiter
in divorce cases. Cf. Ezrafi. Minutes, Oct. 10, 1907; CIRA, Minutes, Mar. 19. 1908
80. Dated Hamburg, lan. 7, 1908. Cf. CIRA. Minutes, Feb. 13, 1908.
81. Ibid., Feb. 13. 1908.
82. La Prensa, lune 16, 1908, p. 10 and lune 23, 1908, p. 8; El Pals, lune 13, 1908. p. 13;
lune 14, 1908, p. 4; June 15, 1908, p. 4; lune 24, 1908, p. 3.
83. He wrote Babel Bibel Fabel (Buenos Aires. 1903) and an introduction to a commentary
on the Pentateuch of Cabbalistic orientation by Menachem Mendl Hirshorn. Cf.
Rosenberg and Rubinstein-Novick, op. cit., 139—41
84. Cf. the letter by lacobo loselevich to the Zionist Organization in Cologne, dated in
Buenos Aires between lune 18 and 24, 1908, Zionist Archives, Z.B. Koln B. ig 123
fasc. I.
85. La Prensa (lune 23, 1908, p. 8) printed a Spanish translation of Hoffmann's last letter
in German.
86. interview with Gregorio Fingermann, August 1971, Buenos Aires. Fingermann as
serted that Hoffmann was a cultured person "of a fine, delicate spirit." Moreover, he
stated that there were two groups at CIRA, one supporting Halphon and the other
Hoffmann, and concluded that "Halphon was responsible for his (Hoffmanns) sui
cide"
87. CK, Minutes, lan. 22, 1930.
88. Cf. files "Get'n" by Rabbi David Maler at the Superior Rabinato de la Comunidad
Israelita de Buenos Aires. D. Glasserman advertized in the lewish newspapers that
he granted divorces. CK Copiador, wrote to him on Oct 10, 1929, asking for "a detailed
list of all the divorces you have performed until now."
89. CK, Minutes, lune 30, 1929.
90. Ezras Noschim, Informe General, for the year 1931 (Buenos Aires. 1932). 8—10
91. CK, Minutes, Oct. 25 and Nov. 8, 1925
92. Cf AIB, Minutes, Dec. 31, 1922; Feb. 3 and 22, 1923; lan. 24. 1924; Apr. 25, 1929
93. On Gottlieb in Rosario cf. AIB, Minutes, May 2. Aug. 8, Oct. 16, and Nov. 17, 1926;


256
Notes
Aug. 15, Sept. 7, and Dec. 15, 1927; and lan. 16, 1928. Upon returning to Buenos
Aires, Gottlieb was associated with Hebra Mishnaies Shomrei Shabbes. Cf. Yiddishe
Zeitung, lan. 10, 1928, p. 5.
94. Cf. Yiddishe Zeitung, Mar. 30, 1927, p. 5; Apr. 18, 1928, p. 4.
95 David Goldman, op. cit., 100.
96 Cf., for example, ]C, Oct. 28, 1898, p. 25.
97. CIRA, Minutes, Oct. 26, 1903.
98. IC, Aug. 2, 1907, p. 16.
99. CK, Minutes, Nov. 3 and Dec. 11, 1908; Ezrafi, Minutes, Nov. 5 and Dec. 2, 1908; CIRA,
Minutes, Nov 2 and 9 and Dec 3, 1908
100 FIA, Minutes, Aug. 5 and 9, 1909.
101. FIA, Minutes, Aug. 16, 1909.
102. Cf. "Schecheta Board,” IC, luly 29, 1910, p. 20; the kosher-meat-from-Argentina ad
appeared in ibid., Aug. 19, 1910, p. 3 and was repeated in several issues after that.
For reactions in the East End, cf. Aug. 19, 1910, pp. 6 and 23. About the success of
the project, see Sept. 9, 1910, p 11.
103. FIA, Minutes, Aug. 23, 1909.
104. Ibid., Sept. 13, 1909.
105. Ibid., Sept -Oct, 1910. See also El israelita Argentine I, no. 3 (Aug. 1913); 1-4 and Di
Yiddishe Hofnung. Mar. 15, 1910, pp. 1-3.
106. Yiddishe Zeitung, luly 10, 1925, p. 5.
107. Rabbi David Giasserman, in Yiddishe Zeitung, Aug. 10, 1925, p. 5.
108. Ibid., Nov. 22, 1925, p. 7.
109. Ibid., Dec 28, 1925, p. 7.
110. Ibid., Feb. 17, 1927, p. 5; Mar. 10, 1927, p. 5.
111. Ibid., Mar. 25, 1927, p. 6.
112. Ibid., Apr. 12, 1927, p. 5.
113. Ibid., Apr. 14, 1927, p. 5.
114. Hebra Mishnaies Shomrei Shabbes supported the Waisman group (Yiddishe Zeitung,
Apr. 15, 1927, p. 3); on the other hand, small groups of Machzikei HaDath supporters
were formed in various sectors of the city, i.e , Hebra Machzikei HaDath De Boca-
Barracas (ibid., May 18, 1927, p. 3 and lune 14, 1927, p. 3) and even in Montevideo
by Kitaygorodsky personally.
115. Ibid., luly 7, 1927, p. 3.
116. For several days Agudat Israel de Buenos Aires printed an ad declaring the meat of
D Yarusky nonkosher and recommended the lews to look for their seal in the shops.
The Permanent Beit Din published their approval of the same shechila. Cf. Yiddishe
Zeitung, Sept. 19, 1927, p. 4; Sept. 21, p. 4; Sept. 23, p. 6.
117. Yiddishe Zeitung. Nov. 8, 1927, p. 4; Nov. 9, 1927, p. 5; CK Minutes, Nov. 13 and Dec. 18,
1927
118. Yiddishe Zeitung, Nov. 29. 1927, p. 3.
119. Ibid., lan. 11, 1928, p. 4,
120. Ibid., Feb. 20, 1928, p, 3 Cf. also Feb 17, 1928, p 5.
121. Ibid., Feb. 28, 1928, p. 4.
122. Ibid., Apr. 15, 1928, p. 3 Those that left were Waisman, Men, Maler, and Ehrlich
123. Such was the position of Mundo Israelita since it first appeared in lune 1923.
124. Cf. Yiddishe Zeitung, lan 1, 1928, p 5.
125. Mundo Israelita, "La desunibn de los rabinos,” Apr. 21, 1928, p. 2.
126 CIL, Minutes, Mar 4, 1917; Oct. 12, 1920, and Nov. 9, 1921.
127. Comunidad Israelita Sefaradi (CIS), Minutes, Asamblea General, Oct. 29, 1922.
128 CIL, Minutes, Sept 19, 1901.
129 Cf., for example, Minutes from Sociedad Kahal Kadosh La Hermandad Sefaradi (later,
in 1919, Comunidad Israelita Sefaradi), Sept. 29 and Oct. 19, 1918; Feb. 8, 1920.
130 Ibid , Dec. 22, 1918; Ian. 19, July 29, and Aug-Sept. 1919; when in Mar 1920, the
board decided to consult a rabbi about a conversion, Rabbi Halphon was con-


257
Notes
suited; while Hacham Shaul Setton, though his name came up in the meeting, was
not approached. Cf. Minutes, Mar. 18 and May 2, 1920.
131. CIL, Minutes. Aug. 12 and Sept. 4, 1923.
132. Ibid., May 22 and lune 9 and 16, 1927. Among the institutions that invited Djaen
were the following: Club Social Alianza, Centro Sionista Sefaradi, Comunidad Israe
lita Sefaradi, Circulo Social Israelita, Legion de Voluntaries Kanfe Yona (Sefardi),
CIL, and Revista Israel. Cf. the letter signed by officials of all these institutions to
the Confederation Universelle des luifs Sepharadim on lune 29, 1927, Sephardic
Community Committee Archives, lerusalem (Vaad Ha'eda HaSepharadit).
133. Letters at the above-mentioned archive.
134. Djaen to Confederation, Ian. 15, 1929 same archive.
135. Copy of this circular in CIL, Minutes, Oct. 12, 1928.
136. Cf., for example, Shebet Ajim. Minutes (Rosario), lune 25, 1929; Ets Ajaim, Minutes (Ro
sario), May 19, 1929.
137. CIL kept Djaen until lune 1930, cf. Minutes, Mar. 4, 1931. Cf. CIS, Minutes, Nov. 9, 1930.
138. CIL, Minutes, Mar. 3, 1929.
139. Benjamin Benzaquen, La colectividad israelita sefaradi de Buenos Aires no debe permitir que se
exploten mas sus sentimientos religiosos (Buenos Aires, 1929). Cf. CIL, Minutes, Aug. 1929—
lan. 1930
140. CIS, Minutes, Aug. 10 and 24, 1929; Oct. 19, 1930. Cf. "La Actuacion del gran rabino
D. Sabetay |. Djaen," Mundo Israelita, lan. 24, 1931, p 1.
141. Interview Yacar, Teubal, and Mizrahi (cf. n. 42).
142. Cf. Yesod Hadath, Minutes, Feb. 22 and 27, 1928; Apr. 14, May 13, luly 1, and Aug. 19
and 23, 1928; and Mar. 16, 1930. Yesod Hadath, General Assemblies, Mar. 25, 1928; Mar.
10, 1929.
143. OrTorah, Minutes, Mar. 26, 1928; Israel, Mar. 22, 1929, p. 12.
144. For a Responsa prohibiting conversions to ludaism in Argentina from 1928 to "eter
nity," which we shall analyze in ch. 4, Setton consulted Rabbi Goldman of Moises
ville. the only Ashkenazic rabbi who merited his approval at the time. Other inter
esting questions dealt with in his collection of Responsa refer to mikvaot in Rosario
and to the problem of a lew giving a job to a contractor knowing that the latter
would work on Sabbaths and lewish Holy Days. The permissive answer is based on
the fact that the lew acquires the building, when finished, from the gentile contrac
tor, thus neither himself trespassing—nor making other trespass—the Sabbath
laws. Cf. Shaul Setton Dabbah, DibberShaul (lerusalem, 1928).
145. Another Syrian rabbi in Buenos Aires was Isaac Laniado, who was born in Aleppo
and left for the Holy Land and later went to New York, where the First World War
prevented him from returning home. In 1916 he arrived in Buenos Aires, where he
died in 1918. He was a learned rabbi, and in Buenos Aires he taught a group of
advanced students in rabbinical texts at Agudat Ahim, one of the Aleppine syn
agogues there. Cf. David Zion Laniado, Lakedoshim Asher BeAra'z (Aram Zoba, i.e..
Aleppo) (lerusalem, 1952), 11 If. One of Rabbi Laniados sermons in Buenos Aires
was reprinted in his posthumous work, Valzara \zhak, (Aleppo, 1928), pp. 122-35.
146. Cf. lose Luis Romero, El desarrollo de las ideas en la sociedad argentina del siglo XX (Mexico,
1965), 9-46; and Esteban F. Rondanina, Liberalismo, masoneria, g socialismo en la evolucion
nacional (Buenos Aires, 1965), 223-58.
147. Seymour Martin Lipset ("The Study of lewish Communities in a Comparative Con
text," lewish |ournal of Sociology 5 |Dec 1963|: 158) makes this argument to explain
French lewry's irreligiosity.
148. Joaquin Aduriz, S. |„ "Religion," in lorge A. Paita, ed. Argentina, 1930-1960 (Buenos
Aires, 1961), 424.
149. loseph H. Fichter, S I. "The Marginal Catholic; An Institutional Approach." Social
Forces, 32, no 2 (Dec. 1953): 169. Cf lames Scobie, Argentina A City and a Nation (New
York, 1964), 153f.


258
Notes
4. Mixed Marriages
1. AIB, Minutes, luly 28, 1927.
2. Habima Haivrii 1, no. 4 (1921): 1-2.
3. Yiddishe Zeitung, lan. 1, 1933, p. 3.
4 Cf Moshe Davis, "Mixed Marriage in Western lewry: Historical Background to the
lewish Response," lewish Journal of Sociology 10, no. 2 (Dec. 1968): 177-79.
5 On Mar. 5, 1922, a member was expelled because he married a Christian (CK, Min
utes) At ibid , lune 28, 1925, the Religious Committee decided that "whoever marries
a Christian woman cannot be a member, but in case of death, burial must be
granted him." At ibid., July 20, 1930, it was noted that there were many members
married to Christians, and the issue was reopened.
6 Cf. n. 5.
7 Luis H Brie, president of CIRA and for some time also of CK (1894-97), was buried
at the CK's cemetery in Liniers in 1917. On Feb 2, 1922, however, we read the
following in CK, Minutes: “Mr Rubin declares that Mr. A (married to a Catholic)
cannot be a member of the institution, taking into account the Statutes which allow
a subsidy to the widow and children and because the Cemetery is designed for
lewish members Mr. Kopiloff observes that there was a previous occasion on which
a lewess married to someone of Christian origin was buried. Mr. Rubin answers that
according to the documents presented he was a free-thinker." From these minutes
it is evident that the policy then followed was that of burying only lews who were
not married to gentiles. Furthermore, on Sept. 11, 1924 Moises Yivoff (president of
CK) wrote to B Kornblum in the Province of Corrientes, answering a question in
volving this issue: "This society, according to our rites, does not admit him (an
intermarried lew) as member, and neither does it bury him in our Cemetery after
his death” (CK Copiador no. 2, p. 89).
8 CK, Minutes, Aug 29, 1926, where it is stated that the reason for no uniform policy
was "the fact that not all cases come up in the same form and in the same social
spheres, and in the light of the correlation which they have with certain and specific
families in our Society."
9 CK, Minutes, |uly 20, 1930.
10. CIS, Minutes, Dec. 18, 1930; Nov. 11 and Dec. 18, 1932. The latter case refers to a
case in Posadas, Province of Misiones. Yesod Hadath, Minutes, Aug. 31, 1928: CIL,
Minutes, lan. 23, 1936; AIB (Rosario), Minutes, luly 28, 1927; Apr 25, 1928; July 30, 1929;
SchebetAjim (Rosario), Minutes, lune 25, 1929.
11. Cf. Registro de Matrimonios, Nacimientos y Defunciones de la CIRA, pp. 1-3.
12. Cf. ibid., 183f, 238f, 241 for texts of letters written by converts stating their reasons
for taking this step and also a record of the conversion ceremonies and weddings
that took place right after. For the different reactions at the board of CIRA, cf. Min
utes, Nov. 4, 1907; luly 17 and Aug. 7, 1912; Ian. 14, 1917; and Oct. 27 and Dec. 15,
1924.
13. Shaul Setton Dabbah, Dibber Shaul (lerusalem, 1928), lOa-b.
14 Ibid., I la.
15. A General Assembly of Yesod Hadath approved the following on lune 21, 1925: “To
be an active member it is required: To be a Sephardi lew of 18 years of age" (Art.
5a). On Mar. 13, 1927, a General Assembly approved unanimously to add, among
other particulars, the requirement of being "a descendant of lewish parents." More
over, at the above-mentioned General Assembly of Yesod Hadath (Mar 13, 1927) it
was decided to include in Art 11, which listed the causes for expulsion from the
society, "those that do not practice the lewish religion any more," evidently having
in mind those who married gentiles.
16. CIS, Minutes, Dec. 18, 1930
17. Ibid.. Nov. 27, 1932.


259
Notes
18. Hiskia Shabetay, Divrei Hiskiahu, vol. 2 (lerusalem, 1952), section Yore Deah, p 34
19. Ascamoth Nesiei Harabanut Harashit Leeretz Israel, Balei-Din-Zedek Shel Edot Ashkenazim,
Sepharadim, veHalabim Deir Hakodesh lerushalaim, B.D Z veRabanei Aram Zobah, lekaiem ule-
hazek ascamat haRav Shaul Setton, z. 1 , leesor kabalat gerim beArgenlina hanidpest besifro "Dibber
Shaul" (Buenos Aires, 1938).
20. CIL, Minutes, Ian. 23 and 28, 1936.
5. National and Political Challenges
1. See Al Galah (Arabic; Hagolah in Hebrew) 1, nos. 13-14 (Dec. 28, 1917).
2. Enrique Dickmann, Recuerdosde un militante socialista (Buenos Aires, 1949), 3 If.
3 Enrique Dickmann, "Sionismo y Socialismo,” Vida Nuestra 2, no. 4 (Oct, 1918), 73f.
4. For a resume of literature on the Zionist movement (1897-1917) cf. Silvia Schen-
kolewski, “Di Zionistishe Bavegung in Argentine fun 1897-1917,” in Pinkas fun der
Kehila (Buenos Aires, 1969), 100-130.
5. Cf. Mendl Meiern-Lazar, "Di Sorkin epoche,” in Pi nkas fun der Kehila (Buenos Aires,
1969), 131-50.
6. Cf ch I.
7. Centra] Zionist Archives, lerusalem (hereafter ZA), Z4 1658, letter from FSA, lune
14, 1921 (Yiddish).
8. Ibid, and other documents in the same file Cf also Bericht fun'm Yiddishen Kongres in
Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1916).
9. Bericht, pp. 2f Argentine lewry mobilized itself quite early for this Congress The FSA
held the first meeting of delegates to plan the Congress on Aug. 30, 1915. Cf. CK,
Minutes, Aug. 28, 1915.
10. Benefit pp. 13f.
11. ZA, Z4 1999, letter from FSA to Zionist Organization (ZO) (London), Feb 19, 1922
(Hebrew). Cf. ZA, Z4 1868, FSA. Report of Activities, presented at the Fifth Land Confer
ence (Argentina), Nov. 1-6, 1919 (Yiddish), p. 5.
12 ZA, Z4 1658, from FSA, lune 14, 1921 According to this report the following were
represented at the Land Conferences of Zionists in Argentina; the Fourth Land
Conference, Feb. 1918 had 40 branches with 50 delegates; the Fifth Land Confer
ence, Nov. 1919 had 110 branches with 140 delegates; and the Sixth Land Confer
ence, Nov. 1920 had even higher numbers. The amount of shekalim sold were the
following: 445 in 1915; 666 in 1916; 5,544 in 1917; 10,858 in 1918, and circa 14,000
in 1919. The figures indicate with extreme clarity the turning point that occured in
1917. Cf. also ZA, L6 34111, letter from FSA (loselevich and Nahman Gesang) to ZO
(Copenhagen), Mar. 20, 1918 (English); and FSA to lewish National Fund (INF)
(Haag), Aug. 12, 1918, in which Epstein's work for the Redemption (Geulah) Fund
Campaign is described. Cf. also Di Yiddishe Welt (Buenos Aires) I, no. I (Sept. 2,
1917): 2f„ 7-13.
13. Tower was invited to the Fourth Zionist Land Conference held in Buenos Aires, Feb
23-26, 1918, at the Teatro Coliseo and was cheered by the participants and spec
tators. At that conference it was decided to cable the British government for the
Balfour Declaration. Cf. ZA, L6 34111, letter from FSA to ZO (Copenhagen), Mar 20,
1918. Tower was a special guest and participant in central events of lewish institu
tions in the country. See, for example, his participation in Tucuman (Israel Blum-
enfeld, Historia de la comunidad israelita de Tucuman |Tucuman, 19711, 77f).
14. Marcos Regalsky, "Politishe Shtremungen un Partaien in Argentiner Ishuv,” Yoblbuch
Yufdisfte Zdtuug (Buenos Aires, 1940), 550-56; Report of the Executive of the Zionist Organi
zation Submitted to the XIVth Zionist Congress at Vienna (London, 1925), 386
15. Regalsky, op. cit., 552-54.
16. Cf. DiPresse, Dec. 24, 1918, p. 3; Dec. 27, 1918, p. 3.


260
Notes
17. Cf. lewish tabor Yearbook and Almanack (PZ Almanach) (New York, 1927), 241.
18. Regalsky, op. cit., 561, Among the delegates for the PAF were A. luris and Eliahu
Golomb.
19. Di Nei« Z«it, Apr. 2, 1922, p. 7; Mar. 15, 1928, p. 1.
20. Di NeieZeit, Aug. 5, 1927, pp. If.
21. Regalsky, op. cit., 548-50.
22. Proclamation of May 1, 1918 is found in ZA, L6 34III
23. Cf. ibid.
24.1. L. Gorelik, Be'eretzNod (Hebrew) (Buenos Aires, 1943), 155ff.
25. Ibid., 32.
26. ZA, L6 32III, letter from FSA to INF (Haag), Aug. 12, 1918 (Yiddish).
27. ZA, L6 34111, letter from ZO (Copenhagen) to Zeire Zion (Buenos Aires), Oct 8, 1918.
The letter was reprinted in Di Presse, Nov. 29, 1918. FSA protested on the same day.
28. ZA, L6 34111, Zeire Zion to ZO (Copenhagen), Apr. 18, 1919 (Yiddish).
29. Cf. ZA, Z4 1868, FSA to ZO (London), Apr. 18, 1919 (Yiddish).
30. H. H. Ben-Sasson ("The Volunteer Movement among American lews." in The lewish
Legion, Fiftieth Anniversary of the lewish Batallions, 1917-1967, llerusalem, 1967|, p 17)
concludes, "This volunteers movement ... was doomed by history not to see the
fulfillment of its wish.... They ... were enthusiastic, ,.. longed for a fight and for
creativity, and ,,. were doomed to emptiness and a search for their lives, for their
external and lewish image, and for their very existence."
31 ZA, L6 34111, Zeire Zion (Buenos Aires) to Poale Zion, Dec. 26, 1919 (Yiddish). The
letter quotes an article by Regalsky, the Poale Zion envoy, in Di Neie Zeit no. 23, in
which the latter wrote, "The lewish people must now join around the Zionist dele
gation in Versailles.” Zeire Zion concurred with such a position. A declaration was
sent to the press accordingly.
32. ZA, Z4 34111, FSA to ZO (London), Dec. 1, 1919 (Yiddish).
33. Hitachdut was a Social-Zionist party formed by the union of the Palestine Workers'
party, Hapoel Hatzair, with the majority of the Zeire Zion groups in the Diaspora.
34. Cf. M. Koifman, “El Sionismo y los Problemas Societarios ludios en Sud America,"
La Segunda Convention Sirmista Sudamericana (Buenos Aires, 1950), 171, Habima Haivrit
4, no. 2 (Sept. 1924): 15: Report of the Executive of the Zionist Organization Submitted to the
XIVth Zionist Congress (London, 1925), pp. 381 ff. confirms the fruitful results of Hech-
alutz propaganda in Argentina: “The first group of Halutzim from Argentina, who
have had agricultural training on lewish farms, have already arrived in Palestine
and begun their agricultural work." A second group of 8 persons from Hechalutz left
Argentina on Aug. 5, 1925, to settle in Palestine, among them three carpenters,
three farmers, one baker, and one locksmith, cf, Yiddishe Zeitung, Aug. 5, 1925, p. 6.
For the period Oct. I, 1921—Apr. I, 1923, twelve immigrants from Argentina arrived
in Palestine (cf. Report of the Executive of the Zionist Organization Submitted to the Xllltk
Zionist Congress, p. 196), and for the period April 1923—April 1925. 31 immigrants (cf.
Report of the Executive of the Zionist Organization Submitted to the XIVtft Zionist Congress, p.
232).
35. Koifman, op. cit., 172: Regalsky, op. cit., 562, The Hug Eretzisraeli is also mentioned
by lacob (Akiva) Ettinger in his conversation with Solomon Pazi, lerusalem, lan. 21,
1929 (cf. ZA, KH4 4531). According to this report the group consisted of about 60 to
70 young people who came from Israel, most of them with the intention of returning
there after having assembled enough capital to establish themselves there. Their
occupations were by and large cuenteniks (door-to-door salesmen, who sold on in
stallments) and peddlers.
36. ZA, Z4 3659. Several letters from FSA to ZO (London) confirm the creation of the
joint committee for INF during the 1927-30 period (cf. Apr. 5, 1927; lune 15, 1928;
luly 22, 1930). In a report to the ZO (London) about the work of the parties in
placing shekalim, lan. 30, 1931, we find the following:


261
Notes
5688 5689 5690 5691
(1927/28) (1928/29) (1929/30) (1930/31)
Shekalim
PZ ZZ
PZ
ZZ
PZ ZZ
PZ
ZZ
Shekalim received
— 200
1.000
600
900 —
500
150
Shekalim returned
399
139
500 —


Shekalim paid
392
173


Shekalim to return
— 200
209
288
400 —
500
150
37. ZA. KH4 4531. Hitachdut (Zeire Zion) in Argentina to Keren Hayesod (lerusalem).
Dec. 20, 1928, includes the former's answer of Dec. 10, 1928, to FSA's invitation of
Nov. 30, 1928, to participate in the committee for Keren Hayesod
38. ZA, KH4 4541, Pazi (Buenos Aires) to Keren Hayesod (lerusalem), May 15. 1929. Only
in the 1930s did the parties enter Keren Hayesod
39. ZA, Z4 3659, ZO (London) to Ettinger (Buenos Aires), lan. 16, 1928.
40. Di NeieZeit, lune 1, 1927, pp. 2, 6.
41. During the early 1920s Habima Huivrit appeared irregularly. Hechalutz appeared for
about a year, starting in 1922. Similarly Atidenu, in 1926
42. ZA, L6 34III, report of the Ministry of information, Norfolk St., Strand, W.C.2, Aug.
30, 1918
43. ZA, Z4 1868. Foreign Office to N. Sokolow, no. 133423/W/44, Aug. 5, 1918. The Lon
don Office of the ZO informed FSA in a letter dated Aug. 13, 1918. Cf. also ZO
(London) to FSA, lune 24, 1918.
44. M. Podolsky, ed., Los Voluntaries Israelitas. album dedicated to the first group of young
men departing for the lewish Legion in Palestine. (Mostly in Yiddish, also some
Russian and Spanish) (Buenos Aires, 1918), 24 for details on German; see pp 11-
15 for the beginnings of the legionaries movement in Argentina. The FSA, on the
other hand, claimed the opposite. According to their Report of Activities (Yiddish),
presented at the Fifth Land Conference (Nov. 1-6, 1919), 7, the president of FSA,
joselevich, introduced on Apr. 9, 1918 V German and loseph Katz to the English
ambassador, taking the responsibility for their earnestness and honorability.
45. Vida Nuestra, 2, no. 3 (Sept. 1918), 71, under the heading "Partida de los Voluntaries."
The editor affirmed, "We, who have not based our highest aspirations in the triumph
of Zionism, are happy that it is so, especially if one takes into account that that
triumph—we have clearly said it before—more than a party issue, signifies the
acknowledgement by the civilized powers, of the revindication of our race, which in
twenty centuries has not lost its will to persist."
46. Cf. Podolsky, op. cit., 13ff„ 20. See also "Legionarios Israelitas," in CIRA, Memoria
(1919); ZA, L6 341II, Zeire Zion to ZO (Copenhagen), Apr. 18, 1919; and Regalsky, op
cit., 548f.
47. Cf. CIRA, Memoria (1917). For Nordau's letter to Halphon see CIRA, Minutes, Oct. 16,
1917. Cf. also Abraham S. Yahuda, Hahagana al Haishuv bemilhemet haolam barishona.
Zicbronot meiemei shauti bisfarad (lerusalem, 1952), passim.
48. CIRA, Minutes, Oct. 7, 1918; and "FSA" in CIRA, Memoria (1918).
49. Halphon was a graduate of the Ecole Rabbinique in Paris and had important con
nections with ICA and AIU. CIRA was constantly in connection with the French
Consistoire.
50. From the text of the invitations to the act, at ClRAs archive
51. Cf. Podolsky, op cit, 23-35. Cf H H Ben-Sasson, op cit. 8-17.
52. Cf. Arturo Capdevilla, “Primera Presidencia de Yrigoyen," in Historia Argentina Contem-
pordnea, vol. 1. sec. 2 (Buenos Aires, 1963), 252f. See also “La CIRA," Critica, luly 8,
1916, where it is written, “In a poll among Israelites, all except a few are favoring


262
Notes
the allies." At CIRA there were some members who sided with the Central Powers,
and some incidents took place (Cf. CIRA, Minutes, lune 20. 1915; lune 25, 1917),
53. See, for example, ZA, Z4 1868, FSA to ZO (London), Apr 18, 1919.
54.Ibid.
55. FSA, Report of Activities, presented to the Fifth Land Conference (Nov. 1-6, 1919), 6.
56. See ch. 2 for more details.
57 DiPresse, lan, 15, 1919.
58 Di Yiddishe Zeitung, ]an 14, 1919; DiPresse, lan. 15, 1919; Di Yiddishe Welt, lan. 16, 1919.
59. LaVanguardia, Ian. 14, 1919, p. 2; LaRazon, lan. 14, 1919, p. 4.
60. The full document is photographed in Wald, op. cit., 27 and Solominsky, op. cit. 29
(see ch. 2, n. 76).
61. Cf. Wald, op cit., 26-30; ZA, L6 34III, FSA to ZO (Copenhagen), lan 31, 1919. Of
course, the role of FSA was quite exaggerated in their report to headquarters
Nevertheless, FSA was the main activist at the time For CIRA's attitude and partic
ipation see CIRA, Minutes, lan. 27, 1919.
62. ZA, Z1 405, Enrique Rubinsky and Esteban Crenovich to Vienna, May 5, 1904. Ben-
zaquen was vice-president of CIL in 1903, and Benchetrit was vice-president in 1899,
secretary in 1905, and later president of CIL.
63. ElSiouista (Buenos Aires) I, no 12 (Dec. I, 1904): 6.
64. ZA, Z.B. Koln B. Ig 123, fasc. 1.
65. ZA, Z.B. Koln B. Ig 123, fasc. 3, ) L. Liachovitzky, A. Crenovich, G. Dabin, and G.
Zeitlin, "Report on the History of Zionism in Argentina," Mar. 14, 1907.
66. CIL, Minutes, Oct 30, 1918.
67. Ibid. Aug. 3, 1924.
68. La Luz 12, no. 8 (Apr. 17, 1942): 184-86.
69. Habima Haivrit 1, no. 6 (Sept.-Oct 1921); 11-12
70. The Third Zionist Conference in Argentina tried to encourage Sephardim (cf. Schen-
kolewski, op. cit., 118), as did the Twelfth Conference (cf. Semanario Hebreo, May 23,
1930, p. 3), in 1921 Moises Senderey (Habima Haivrit, I, no. 7 |Dec. 19211: 11) sug
gested that the World Zionist Organization in London should concern itself with
sending a Sephardic delegate to work within those communities.
71. Cf summary of report of the World Union of Sephardic levs for the period lyar 5684-
Elul 5686 (approx. Apr 1924-Sept. 1926) at ZA. Z4 35791
72. Cf. ZA, Z4 2412, letters from Bension to the ZO (London), dated Mendoza Sept. 22,
1926 and Buenos Aires Sept. 29, 1926, respectively; also S25 519, Bension to Dr.
Leo Hermann (Keren Hayesod, lerusalem), Nov. 9, 1926.
73. ZA, Z4 35791, FSA to Keren Hayesod (lerusalem), Dec. 12, 1926.
74 Quotations are from the letters mentioned in nn 72 and 75. For Hacham Shaul
Setton's participation in Agudat Israel see both the letter of n 73 and ZA, KH4 4531,
notes on Ettinger's conversation with Shmuel Pazi and Schwartz, lerusalem, lan. 21,
1929. Agudat Israel was founded in Argentina in 1920 at a meeting in the synagogue
of Hevra Mishnaies, by Orthodox lews. The event did not merit publication in the
lewish press. Probably Setton joined this group in some capacity. Cf. Habima Haivrit
1, no. 6 (Sept.-Oct. 1921). 14. In his collection of Responsa, Dibber Shaul (lerusalem,
1928), Hacham Setton deals with the question whether in Argentina, which has
opposite seasons to Eretz Israel, lews should insert the petition for wind and rain
in their prayers—which is done during the winter season in the Northern Hemi
sphere—according to the climate of Israel or during the actual winter in Argentina.
His answer is that lews should follow the seasons of the place The Aleppine con
gregation has continued this practice in Buenos Aires, contrary to the custom ac
cepted in all other synagogues in the country. For Setton's views on lewish educa
tion, see Yesod Hadath. Minutes. Feb. 22, 1928; also Yesod Hadath, Minutes of the General
Assemblies, Mar. 25, 1928 and Mar. 10, 1929.
75. ZA, Z4 35791, ZO (lerusalem) to all Zionist Federations and Organizations in the
Diaspora, Dec. 7, 1926.


263
Notes
76 ZA, Z4 35791, Bension to Zionist Organization, Sept. 21, 1927, quotes Cadoche's
words.
77. ZA, Z4 3579111, interview with Dr. Moises Cadoche of Buenos Aires, president of
Bene Kedem of Argentina, Mar. 20, 1928. The interview was published in New ludea
(London) 4, no. 12 (Apr 1928).
78. Among the goals of WUS1, according to Israel magazine, Feb. 3, 1928, were "to coor
dinate, to strengthen, and to unite our forces in the Diaspora, in order to present a
single front in Palestine, capable of representing before the proper authorities, our
claims and the vindication of our brothers. Besides, we feel the urgent necessity to
propagate amongst the Sephardim of the whole world the Zionist ideal, and influ
ence them to take part in the common task:'
79. Djaen was learned in secular subjects also. Differences in traditions and customs
caused a negative response among Moroccan lews. Cf. Benjamin Benzaquen, La
colectividad israelita sefaradi de Buenos Aires no debe permitir que se exploten mas sus sentimientos
religiosos (Buenos Aires, 1929); CIL, Minutes, Oct. 12, 1928; Oct. 21, 1928; Mar. 3, 1929;
Aug. 11, 1929; Dec 7, 1929; Mar 4, 1931. Contacts with Keren Hayesod in lerusalem
(cf. ZA, KH4 4531, Ettinger (Buenos Aires| to Keren Hayesod, Sept. 27, 1928) and
lerusalem's answer In his conversation with Pazi (ZA, same file), lan. 21, 1929, Et
tinger confirmed that Djaen worked for Keren Hayesod and WUS1. though he had
put some pressure on Cadoche and other activists of Bene Kedem against contrib
uting to Keren Hayesod.
80. Cf. Los Sefaradim y el Sionismo (Buenos Aires, 1926).
81. See Ettinger's conversation with Pazi (ZA, KH4 4531, lan. 21, 1929); Pazi's letter to
ZO (London) (May 15, 1929, ZA, Z4 3659); and interview with Cadoche (see n. 77).
82. Cf. Report of Activities presented to the 12th Land Conference (FSA), May 1930 (Yid
dish), p. 9. Also ZA, KH4 4541, Nissensohn (FSA) to Weizmann, Sept. 23, 1929 and
Pazi to Keren Hayesod (lerusalem), Sept. 17, 1929.
83. Cf. Hesed Shel Emeth Sefaradit, Minutes. Sept. 4, 1929; Yesod Hadath, Minutes, Sept. 4,
1929, and Nov. 5, 1929.
84. Cf. Nissensohn to Weizmann, Sept. 23, 1929, ZA, KH4 4541. Also Allgemeine Tetigkeit
Barickt, Oct. 1928-May 1930 (Yiddish), ZA, KH4 4561.
85. Los Sefaradim y el Sionismo, 66-71
86. Cf. Regalsky, op. cit., 543f.; ZA, Z4 1999, cable from FSA to ZO (London), Aug. 8, 1922.
loselevich’s speech and the memorandum presented to Yrigoyen are found in Nah-
man Gesang, "A Kapitel Argentiner Zionistishe Politik," Yoblbuch Yiddishe Zeitung (Bue
nos Aires, 1940), 615-18
87. Gesang, op. cit., 618.
88 The Portuguese text of Toledo's cable to his government is dated May 12, 1922; it
is found in ZA, Z4 1999.
89. ZA, Z4 1658, FSA to ZO (London), May 29, 1922; and answer of luly 6, 1922. Thanks
to Wilensky's influence, the governments of Brazil and Chile recognized the British
Mandate in Palestine. Uruguay followed their steps. The Chilean Government, to
demonstrate its sympathy for the Zionist idea, appointed Wilensky honorary consul
of Chile to lerusalem.
90. Rufino Marin, Lt> que piensa America del problema judio (Buenos Aires. 1944), 14 If.
91. Report of the Executive of the Zionist Organization Submitted to the Xlllk Zionist Congress, 10,64,
I26f.
92. ZA, KH4 4531,
93. Gorelik (op. cit., 83ff.) described the community in 1914 and asserted that most
lews knew nothing about Zionism and that education is terrible In speaking with
loselevich, the latter told him, "The basis, the fundamental, upon which all national
work is based there, in Russia, that is, national education, is lacking |here|."
94. For laffe's personal letters written during his stay in Argentina in 1923 cf. his Beshli-
chutAm (lerusalem, 1968), 75-103; and his Tekufot (Tel Aviv, 1948), 186-89.
95. Idem, Tekufot, 188f.


264
No les
96. The following are the totals of the Keren Hayesod campaigns:
1922/23 (with participation of Leib laffe)
1924
176,421.22 pesos
147,927.80 pesos
163,645.65 pesos
143,719.34 pesos
141,271.30 pesos
138.943 30 pesos
1925 (with participation of Mossensohn)
1926
1927 (with participation of Wilensky)
1928 (with participation of Ettinger)
Source Report of Activities presented to the 12th Land Conference, May
1930 (Yiddish) Cf. the tables of receipts at Keren Hayesod during
the eight-year period ending in March 1929 in Report of the Executive of
the Zionist Organization Submitted to the XVIth Zionist Congress. 1929 (Lon
don, 1929), 140 Some institutions in Buenos Aires, which received
contributions also from the interior, had the following approximate
yearly income:
Ezrah (lewish Hospital) 331.027.54 pesos (1928/29)
Liga Israelita Argentina contra la TB 55,765.65 pesos (1928/29)
Chevra Keduscha Ashkenasi 390.679.51 pesos (1926/27)
97. In August 1922, the FSA had requested the coming of Mossensohn or Vladimir
labotinsky, among others. Benjamin laffe says that the FSA also requested Haim
Weizmann or Nahum Sokolow. In November of the same year, when all other can
didates were crossed out, FSA finally accepted laffe. Cf. ZA, Z4 1999, various cables.
Also laffe, Beshlichut Am, 75.
98. Cf. Gino Germani, Polftica y sociedad en me epoca de transicion (Buenos Aires, 1968), 238-
88; and Carl Solberg, immigration and Nationalism, Argentina and Chile, 1890-1914 (Aus
tin, 1970), passim.
99. ZA, Z4 2412, FSA to ZO (London), lan. 1. 1926.
100. ZA, KH4 4531, Schwartz (lerusalem) to laffe (Warsaw), lan. 21, 1929.
101. Various letters in ZA. KH4 4551.
102. Cf. Regalsky, op. cit., 550-56.
103. ZA, Z4 3659, Zeire Zion (Hitachdut) to ZO (London), August 15. 1928, wrote, "How
ever, the lack of special shlichim from the columns of Hapoel Hazair' and Hitachdut'
is strongly felt, and it is clear that if someone of the leaders of the world | move
ment! 'Hitachdut' will come here, he will win many of the opponents .... and will
also strengthen Zionist loyalties within our camp"
104. For the delegates at the Zionist Congresses, cf the respective Protokoll des Zionisten
Kongresses, Gesang's speech is found in the Protokoll to the 14th Zionist Congress in
Vienna (London, 1926), 269-72. For the resolutions of the Ninth Land Conference
in Argentina, cf. ZA. Z4 1999. An excellent treatment of the conflict of ideologies in
the establishment of the lewish Agency is found in Ben Halpern. Tfie Idea of the lewish
State (Cambridge, Mass.. 1961), 188-98.
105. ZA, KH4 4551, Gesang to Leib laffe, Oct. 4, 1929 and Nissensohn to Weizmann. Dec.
31, 1929.
106. ZA, KH4 4551, Sokolow (Warsaw) to laffe, Feb. 11, 1930. Cf. also laffes letter to Keren
Hayesod (lerusalem), Feb. 2, 1930.
107. ZA, KH4 4551, Gesang to Keren Hayesod (lerusalem), Feb. 12. 1930.
108. ZA, KH4 4571, Leo Hermann to Pazi (Buenos Aires), Sept. 10, 1930 and laffes cable
to Gesang. Nov. 10, 1930. Gesang replied calling off Sokolows trip both by cable
(Nov. 17, 1930) and in a letter to laffe, Nov. 20, 1930.
109. ZA, KH4 4571, cable from Actions Committee to FSA, lan. 19, 1931. Gesang answered
positively to this appeal in a cable to London, lan. 21, 1931.
110. Cf. ZA, KH4 4571, laffe to Gesang, Dec. 11, 1930. laffe told Gesang, after the latter's
decision to cancel Sokolow's trip, that precisely now Sokolow had to go because of
the economic crisis, for only he could start a successful campaign for Keren Haye
sod.


265
Notes
111. Cf. laffe's letter of Feb. 2, 1930 at ZA, KH4 4551. See also the collection of letters
from his trip in 1923 in Beshlichut Am, 75-103 and Tekufot, 186-89.
112. Cf. the articles by Guillermo Saenz in Criterio (Buenos Aires): "La actualidad de
Palestina,” Criterio 2, no. 79 (Sept 5, 1929): 13; "La legislacion y la religion en Pales
tine,” Criterio 2, no. 83 (Oct. 3, 1929): 147f. ; and "Polemica de familias y razas," Criterio
3, no. 110 (Apr. 10, 1930): 475
113. The resolution is found in ZA KH4 4541
114. Report of Activities (Yiddish), presented to the Twelfth Land Conference (FSA), May
1930, p. 9 gives the following sums for the emergency fund:
Capital (Buenos Aires)
Several
Societies
Sephardim
Y Mis fie Zeitung
Total Capital (Buenos Aires)
Province Buenos Aires
Province Entre Rios
Province Santa Fe
Total
86.128 69 pesos
29,690 00 pesos
35,661 00 pesos
42,920.00 pesos
194,399.69 pesos
18,453.20 pesos
35,400 15 pesos
37,650.75 pesos
313,377 04 pesos
Cf. also in ZA, KH4 4541, letter from Nissensohn (president, FSA) to Weizmann (Lon
don), Sept. 23, 1929; and from Pazi to Keren Hayesod (lerusalem), Sept. 17, 1929.
115. Various articles in the collection of ]uventud, a monthly put out by the organization
of the same name during 1911-17. Cf., for example, 1, no. 2 (Aug. 1911): 3; and 2,
no. 12 (lune 1912): 9-10.
116. Cf. Minutes from SHA, corresponding to Aug. 27 and 28, 1929, and Sept. 4, 11. and
20, 1929. The weekly Mundo 1 sraelita was edited by mainly the same group that led
SHA during the first years and represented the view of that institution. In the 1920s
Mundo I sraelita was non-Zionist, and on several opportunities criticized FSA and em
phasized the Argentine idiosyncrasy of most lews in the country. On lune 21, 1924
(p. i), the editor wrote, "In Argentina, for example, the lewish youth, which has no
reason to hide a vague sympathy towards Zionism, has followed, however, a differ
ent road ... it has searched for a way to express its national sentiments, and has
ended, by and large, in the field of culture." On the other hand, occasionally, Mundo
israelita expressed certain sympathy to the lewish national movement; cf. "La Cam-
pana pro Eretz Israel," lune 12, 1926, p. 1. Around the time of the Palestine assaults,
Mundo I sraelita underwent a change in its position with respect to Zionism. Cf. its
position against SHA because the latter did not take a more positive stand to help
the lewish victims in Palestine, editorials of their issues of Sept, and Oct., 1929.
117. Hebrew education was criticized several times by Habima Haivrit. cf. 1, no. 2 (1921):
1-2 and 3, no. 2 (1923): 5-8. In the same periodical, every issue brought some news
of various Tarbut groups, (which had the intention of maintaining the Hebrew lan
guage) in all corners of the country. Already in 1923 leaders of FSA were seriously
thinking about commerce with Palestine. Cf. Wolf Nijensohn, "Our Effective Work
for Eretz Israel," Habima Haivrit. 3, no. 2 (1923): 3-4. In 1929 the Argentina-Palestina
Society, which had been trading with Palestine for some time, organized an expo
sition of Palestinian products (cf. Mundo Isaelita. Apr. 13, 1929, p. 1). in a letter from
Buenos Aires, M. Graiver informs laffe that due to the economic crisis, business
with Palestine was maintained at a low level (cf. ZA, KH4 4571, Dec. 1, 1930). Among
the articles imported from Palestine were biscuits, wines (Carmel Mizrachi), cocoa,
halva, marmelade, chocolate, almonds, oil, preserved fruits, and artistic objects.
The head of the Sociedad de Comercio Argentina-Palestina was Dr. Isaac Nissen
sohn, and the directors were Michael Graiver and loseph Galili.
118. Cf. Germani, op. cit., passim ; Solberg, op. cit., passim.
119. laffe, Bishlichut Am, 80.


266
Notes
120. Cf. Mordechai Maidanik, "Al Hatnua Haivrit be-Argentina," in Sefer Argentina (He
brew), edited by Maidanik (Buenos Aires, 1954), 158.
121. Cf. Der Avangard, 2d. epoch, 1, no. 1 (Ian. 1916): 1-5.
122. Cf. Der Avangard, 2d. epoch, 2, no. 13 (Ian. 1917): 39ff.
123. Oifgang 1, no. 6 (Aug. 1927): 13f.
124. Jorge Abelardo Ramos. El partido comunista en la politica Argentina, su historia y su critica
(Buenos Aires, 1962), 28; Mundo Israelita, Nov. 22, 1924, If.
125 ibid., 30f.
126. Der Roiter Shtern, Mar. 1, 1924, p. 1.
127 Rolte Hilf, Aug. 1930, p. 6; cf. also Nodi Arbeter 1, no 1 (Aug. 1922), 5f.
128. Yiddisher Proletarisher Hil/s Aktsiefur Soviet Russland in Argentine, Memorial 1921-23, pas
sim.
129. On the Birobidzhan project see Salo Baron, The Russian lew under Tsars and Soviets (New
York, 1964), 230-36. Procor was thoroughly discussed by the local lewish press. Cf
also the report published by the delegation from Argentina visiting the USSR in
1929, Baricht fun der Procor Delegatzie (Buenos Aires, n d.)
130. Procor, Bulletin no. 2 (Aug. 1927), Spanish section, pp 41-38.
131. Mundo Israelita, July 7, 1928, p. 1
132. Pinie Katz, Yidden in Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1946), 173-75.
133. DerYiddisherPoier started publication in 1929.
134. Cf. Yiddishe Zeitung, Apr. 13, 1925, p. 7; CK. Minutes, luly 14 and Aug 8 and 15, 1926;
and Mundo Israelita, Sept. 22, 1928, p 3.
135 Semanario Hebreo, Oct. 4, 1929, p 1
136. UnzerGedank (Zeire Zion-Hitachdut), Ian. 1930, p. 4,
137 Mundo I sraelita, Apr 19, 1930, p 1 and May 3, 1930, p I
138 UnzerShul 4, no. 1 (June 1932): 3.
139. Samuel Rollansky, Dos Yiddishe Gedrukte Wort un Teater in Argentine (Buenos Aires, 1941),
lOOff.
6. Concern for Jewish Education
1 Cf the many requests of colonists in Santa F6 and Entre Rios for establishing
schools in the ICA colonies during the 1890's in Hazefirah of Warsaw, esp no. 84
(1894): 369; no. 255 (1894): 110lf. ; no. 61 (1895); 282f;: and no. 93 (1895): 429. See
also Haim Avni, Argentina, the Promised Land Baron de Hirsch's Colonization Project in the
Argentine Republic (Hebrew) (lerusalem, 1973), 174-177.
2. Cf. Gregorio Weinberg, ed , Dehate Parliamentario sobre la Ley 1420 (1883-84) (Buenos
Aires, 1956); and Carlos Alberto Campobassi, La ensehanza privada en la America Latina
y en la Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1965) According to Art. 4 of the Ley de Educacion
Comun, the school obligations could be fulfilled in private schools as well.
3. Cf Walter P Zenner, Syrian lewish Identification in Israel. Ph D. dissertation, Columbia
University, 1965, pp 73-76; Nissim Teubal, El inmigrante, De Alepo a Buenos Aires (Bue
nos Aires, 1953), 50-54; Andrb Chouraqui, Cent ans d'histoire. L'Alliance Israelite Univer-
selle et la renaissance juive contemporaine (1860-1960) (Paris, 1965), 161-200. On p. 161
Chouraqui describes the rapid growth of the alliances educational work in the Ori
ent: "De 1860 6 1880.1'Alliance fondd 14 ecoles; de 1880 6 1890, 11 ecoles. En 1900,
100 ecoles de 1'Alliance Israelite Universelle scolarisent 26,000 enfants. A la veilie
de la premiere guerre mondiale, 1'Alliance possede 188 ecoles qui scolarisent
48,000 eleves, avec une budget superieur a 2,000,000 de francs-or.”
4 For the school situation in the colonies, cf. Jedidia Efrbn, "La obra escolar en las
colonias judias," in 50 ahos de colonizacion judla en la Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1939),
239-62; Maxico Yagupsky, "Di Yiddishe Dertsiung in di Kolonies un Provintsen," in
Yoblbuch Yiddishe Zeitung (Buenos Aires, 1940), 445-58; and M Meiern Laser, Dos Yiif-
dishe Shulvezn in Argentine (Buenos Aires, 1948), 15-34.


267
Notes
5. Cf. Laser, op. cit., 41.
6 Cf. Talmud Torah Harischono, Minutes, July 12, 1903.
7. Cf Clippings from newspapers in Spanish in file |. S. Liachovitzky, 1WO Archives,
Buenos Aires; Di Yiddishe Hofnung, nos. 14-15 (Oct. 1, 1910): I Of; and Laser, op. cit.,
43.
8 T T Dr Herzl, Minutes, Oct. 12, 1915. Laser, op. cit., 41 says wrongly that there were
220 students in 1914
9. Ibid , Apr 25, 1922; Ian. 3, 1924
10 Ibid , July 28, 1925; Nov. 16, 1926.
11 T. T. Harischono. Minutes. Nov 14, 1927.
12. T. T. Harischono, General Assemblies Minutes, Dec. 27, 1928; T. T. Harischono, Minutes, Feb
19, 1928.
13. Cf. Halphon, op. cit. and Efrbn, op. cit., 249f.
14. Cf. the Comunicado del Directorio General de la ICAa la Colectividad Israelita de la
Argentina, signed by Louis Oungre, director general, in Semanario Hebreo, Mar 14,
1930, p 3
15. Cf. |CA Rapport (Paris, for the period). In general the number of schools do not differ
notably. On the other hand, the number of students is sometimes 20% and even
30% lower than that which appears in table 4. Laser, (op cit., 58, 60) makes this
observation.
16. Cf. Di Presse, Feb. 5, 1920, p. 3 and May 25, 1920, pp. 4f; Hechalutz no. 9 (1923): 17f.
17. DiPresse, Feb 5, 1920, p.3.
18. Di Presse. May 25, 1920, pp. 4f: July 5, 1920, p. 2; and luly 7, 1920, pp. 4f, Cf. also
Laser, op. cit, 62.
19 Di Presse, luly 21, 1920, p. 5. Other lewish professional organizations adopted similar
positions Cultural organizations of lewish workers likewise sided with the striking
teachers. Cf., for example, the position of solidarity of Kultur Verein I. L. Peretz (Di
Presse. luly 28, 1920, p 5).
20 Cf. Programa analitico de la ensehanza hebrea en la Republica Argentina (JCA); T T Harischono,
Minutes, Nov. 14, 1927; Yiddishe Zeitung, Nov. 7, 1927, p. 6; and Haolam, Dec. 30, 1920,
pp 7f., letter from I. L. Gorelik from Argentina.
21. A Aiberman, “Kinder Erziung," Di Yiddishe Hofnung 2, 7 (luly 1909): 4f.
22. Ricardo Rojas, La restauracion nacionalista, 1st edition (Buenos Aires, 1909) We quote
the 3d edition (1971). Cf. especially ch. 3, "Bases para un renacimiento nacional
ista," (pp. 139-238).
23. Robert F. Foerster, The Italian Migration of Our Times (Cambridge, Mass., 1924), 272.
24. Congregation Israelita Latina (C1L), Minutes, lune 24, 1917.
25. T. T. (CIL), Minutes, Apr. 16, 1922; luly 31, and Oct. 27, 1923.
26. CIL, Minutes, May 13, 1928; Nov 17, 1929; T.T (CIL), Minutes, luly 25, 1925.
27. Laser, op. cit., 194.
28. Boletin del Comite Central de Education 1 sraelita en la Republica Argentina no 1 (1916-1917):
4; Laser, (op. cit., 194) wrongly dated it 1919.
29. Habima Haivrit, I. no. 6 (Sept—Oct. 1921) 11/.
30. Yesod Hadath, Minutes, Feb. 22 and 27 and Apr 14, 1928; Yesod Hadath, General Assemblies,
Mar. 25, 1928; Mar. 10, 1929; Mar. 26. 1930. Cf. also Habima Haivrit 6, no. 3 (Mar.
1929): 19.
31. OrTorah, Minutes, Nov. 10, 1921; Yesod Hadath, Minutes, May 13, 1928; Apr. 22, 1930.
32. OrTorak, Memoria Y Balance 1921/22, and 1929/30; cf. Minutes, Mar. 19, 1924 Laser, (op.
cit., 189) wrongly says 100 for 1929.
33 Habima Haivrit 1, no 5 (1921): 6f; ibid., 3, no. 5 (1924): 15; Yesod Hadath, General Assem
blies. Mar 2. 1932.
34. Habima Haivrit, 6, nos 5-6 (May-Iune 1929): 17.
35. Cf., for example, Or Torah, Minutes, Feb 20, 1922; May 26, 1923; and Yesod Hadath,
Minutes, Sept. 5 and 12, 1926
36 Zenner, op. cit, 72
37. Boletin del Comite Clentral de Education Israelita en la Republica Argentina, no. 2 (1917-18); 8


268
Notes
38. Efron, op. cit., 257f.
39. CK, Minutes, Dec. 26, 1926; Ian. 9, 1927; Ian 15, 1928; Ian. 13 and 20, Feb. 10, lune 2,
Sept 29, 1929; Ian, 19 and 26. 1930.
40 Such was the case, for example, of the T. T. of Parque Patricios in Buenos Aires. Cf.
CK, Minutes. Ian. 15, 1928
41. Bolettn del Comite Central de Education Israelita en la Republica Argentina, no. 2 (1917-18),
11.
42. lunta Organizadora de la Alianza Israellita Argentina, Minutes, Feb. 5, 1923.
43. Cf., the Statutes of the lewish Workers Federation in Der Avangard, 3, no. 3 (Mar.
1910); pp. 24ff. Article 2 mentions among the goals o