Location:Buenos Aires, Argentina
Name of implementing organization:Asociación Religiosa y Cultural Israelita Lamroth Hakol
Date of initial project approval:February 2006
According to the estimates of Professor Della Pergola, published in the American Jewish Yearbook (2006), there are 184,000 Jews in Argentina. Approximately 80% live in the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires, whereas most of the remaining 20% are in Córdoba, Rosario, Tucumán and smaller cities in the inland provinces. Medium-size Jewish populations can be found in Bahia Blanca, La Plata and Paraná. Few Jews live in the colonies founded by the Baron Hirsch through the JCA.
80-85% of the Jews living in Argentina are of Ashkenazi origin. More than 95% of those under 50 were born in Argentina.
Argentine Jewry is deeply integrated within the mainstream society, both socially and economically. The level of education of the Jewish Argentine population is very high. More than 50% of the men and 60% of the women under 40 years have university or college degrees. Jews play an important role in industry, business, liberal professions, education, art and culture.
In the last 15 years the rate of intermarriage has grown substantially. The younger generations of Jewish Argentineans are less affiliated with Jewish organizations than the older generations.
Local Jewish organizations
After the Second World War, Zionist organizations played a very important role in the development of Jewish community life, particularly through the AMIA, the Jewish Community (Kehila) of Buenos Aires. AMIA, together with the DAIA (Delegación de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas), are perceived by the mainstream society as the two most representative Jewish institutions, especially after the 1994 terrorist attack against the AMIA building.
In 1960, Rabbi Marshal Meyer from the Conservative Movement in the United States arrived in Argentina. He participated in the founding of Bet El Congregation and the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano, which aimed to develop a cadre of young rabbis to develop the Conservative Movement in Argentina and in other Jewish communities in Latin America. This new type of congregation attracted many young families.
Since the 1980's, several orthodox constituencies in Argentina have become stronger. Chabad has become much more active, and a number of Sephardic communities have expanded their activities over the last years. The opening of kosher minimarkets and restaurants in several neighborhoods of Buenos Aires is an indicator of this renaissance.
Informal Jewish Education
A distinctive trait of the Argentine Jewry – especially since the 1950’s - was development of a large network of informal educational frameworks, including Zionist youth movements (tnuot) which were very active and successful, especially between 1945 and 1967. One consequence of these activities was the “aliyah” of thousands of youngsters and the founding of several kibbutzim in Israel (including Mefalsim, Gaash, Mishmar Haneguev and Ein Hashlosha). From the mid-1970's onward, Jewish clubs became community centers and together with the Conservative congregations replaced the Zionist youth movements as meeting points for Jewish children and adolescents in the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires. This was not the case of the main Jewish communities in the provinces, where Jewish Zionist youth movements still play an important role as frames for informal Jewish and Zionist education.
During recent years – especially after the economic crisis of 2001, the JAFI Educational Department developed the “Lomdim” project in several Jewish communities in the provinces, in order to provide informal Jewish education to hundreds of youngsters.
Formal Jewish Education
One of the main characteristics of the Jewish schools through the 1950's, was their supplementary character. This structure began to change in the 1960’s. At present, all Jewish educational frames in the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires, are day schools. At the start of the 2008 school year, the Vaad Hachinuch reported that 16,300 children and adolescents were enrolled in the Argentine Jewish educational network.
In Buenos Aires there are 29 kindergartens; 26 elementary schools and 11 high schools. In addition, there are 10 Yeshivot.
There are 5 day schools in the inland provinces. All of them include kindergarten, elementary and high school .There also are 3 supplementary schools in medium-size communities, with a small number of students, especially in the high school level. Besides these 8 educational frameworks, there are 10 additional places with a small number of students at the kindergarten and elementary school level.
One of the challenges facing the Jewish community during the next years is the development of a new generation of Jewish teachers, especially for the non-orthodox Jewish schools.
To create study groups for Jewish adults interested in deepening their knowledge of Jewish History, Jewish Thought and Jewish Culture.
The project aims to strengthen Jewish continuity by providing Jewish Thought and Jewish History, and themes related to Israel, to young and middle-aged Jewish adults with high levels of general education but no intensive formal Jewish education.
The project is sponsored by the Lamroth Hakol Congregation and Community Center, in Florida, a suburban area near Buenos Aires. It includes 5 study groups which meet regularly from March through November. The Center is also linked to CEMA University. This relationship allows it to run a special course devoted to the study of the Torah once a week, at noon, for community members who work in the city.
The project also included a very productive learning Shabbaton during a long weekend in June 2007.
One objective of the project is to serve Jewish communities in the provinces. One study group is sponsored by the Jewish Community in Bahia Blanca (in the south of the country) and another is under the auspices of the Jewish community in Tucuman (in the north of the country).
Enrollment in the courses during 2007, was highly satisfactory. Furthermore, a high percentage of enrolled participants continued to participate through the end of each course. Within the frame of the CEMA University, the project also organized a special seminar devoted to the Arab-Israeli conflict, with lecturers from the Hebrew University.
In cooperation with the Israeli Embassy in Argentina and the Foreign Ministry of Israel, the project organized a study seminary at CEMA University, devoted to the November 1947 UN resolution about the partition of Palestine and the establishment of the State of Israel. This seminar included lay leaders and professionals from local Jewish organizations, and 25 consuls from Israel in Latin American countries.
The main expenditures of the project are:
All the courses which were started finished according to schedule. The only exception was one course in Tucuman which could not finish properly, as a consequence of the cancellation of some flights.
We cannot report about special difficulties encountered along the way.