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The Jews of Argentina
By Mike Martin - April 12, 2009


Memories of Jewish Life :
Augusto Segre
The first Jews in Argentina arrived in the country after fleeing from persecution during the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. They were called “converses” or secret Jews who practiced their Jewish faith in private. After many years of living away from a traditional community most of them were assimilated into the general Argentine population. It wasn’t until the mid 1800’s that were joined by other European Jews from Western Europe who came seeking to establish business and trading enterprises.

The first Jewish community in Buenos Aires was established in 1862 and the first Jewish wedding was recorded in 1868. In the late 1880’s another wave of Jewish immigrants arrived, this time Russian Jews who wanted to set up farms and agricultural enterprises. They bought land and founded a community in the northern province of Entre Ríos called Moisés Ville but quickly ran into financial trouble in their new land.

They appealed to Baron Maurice de Hirsch, a French philanthropist who not only assisted the Moisés Ville settlers but founded the Jewish Colonization Association to help Russian and Polish Jews facing pogroms in their home country to come to Argentina as independent agricultural settlers.

The Jewish Colonization Association ended up owning over 600,000 hectares of land and agricultural settlements and cooperatives were established all over Argentina with the largest being in Entre Ríos and Santa Fe provinces. Jews from all over Europe came to Argentina in the early 1900’s as well as Jewish immigrants from the Ottoman Empire and Morocco. By 1919 it was estimated that there were over 200,000 Jews in Argentina.

They began to build a real Jewish community that featured Jewish social and cultural activities, a Jewish hospital, a Yiddish press, and even a Jewish theater in Buenos Aires.
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