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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Argentina 04: 1890-1918

Further immigration from Eastern Europe - Jewish agricultural colonies - almost no anti-Semitism - Jewish organizations - Zionists and anti-Zionists - fund raising since 1915 for Jews in Eastern Europe and in Palestine - Jewish Argentinian congress

from: Argentina; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 3

presented by Michael Palomino (2007)

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[Immigration from Eastern Europe and from the Ottoman Empire]

[[History]]. <1890-1918. Large-scale Jewish immigration to Argentina began only in the late 1880s, when echoes of Argentina's prodigious efforts to attract immigration reached Eastern Europe. Arriving singly at first, Jews later came in groups, the largest of which (arriving on the S.S. Weser on Aug. 14, 1889) laid the foundation for agricultural settlements (see *Agricultural Settlement). Immigration increased after the *Jewish Colonization Association (ICA) was established, reaching a peak of over 13,000 persons per year in 1906 and 1912. Most of these immigrants were Ashkenazim, but a small minority of Sephardim came from the Ottoman Empire and North Africa.

The official attitude of Argentinian Authorities toward Jewish immigration was based solely on the pertinent clauses of the national constitution. Thus, the committee responsible for immigration overruled the immigration officer's opposition to the admission of the Jews who had arrived on the Weser. It was argued even then, however, that immigration restrictions should be imposed to ensure the cultural homogeneity of Argentina, a view that was supported by the director of the Immigration Department.

Public opinion and the authorities expected the immigrants to assimilate, and this feeling prompted a federal inquiry in 1908 into the cultural orientation of the schools in the Jewish colonies of Entre Ríos [[province "Between the Rivers"]]. Jewish schools in Buenos Aires were closed for a short period in March 1910 because it was believed that they were remiss in encouraging cultural integration. Nevertheless, the Jews in Argentina were living in an ethnically and culturally heterogeneous society, as demonstrated by the fact that in 1914 the country contained 2,358,000 immigrants in a total population of 7,885,000.

[[The natives are never mentioned in the Encyclopaedia Judaica]].

[Jewish agricultural colonies - Jews seen as Russians or Turks - different Jewish organizations]

The one exception to this situation was the agricultural colonies, where Jews formed an almost exclusively Jewish society. But in all other situations, the fact that Argentinian society was immigrant-based is testified to by the fact that Jews were referred to as "Russians" or "Turks" by their neighbours, rather than "Judíos".

Despite the small size of their community, their feeling of transience (expressed by a certain degree of emigration back to Europe), and their poverty, by 1914 Argentinian Jewry had founded many organizations in order to fulfill religious and material needs and dispel a sense of cultural alienation in a strange land. Ashkenazim and Sephardim acted separately, according  to the organizational and ideological experience they had brought with them. The Sephardim were content to establish small individual groups, organized on the basis of their geographical origin and designed to fulfill only limited religious and educational needs.

Thus Jews from Morocco (1891), Damascus (1913), Aleppo (1913), and of Spanish-speaking origin (1914) established their respective organizations. The Ashkenazim, on the other hand, founded a network of religious, social, educational, cultural, and political organizations.

The most prominent Ashkenazi religious and charitable organizations were the Burial Society (Chevra Keduscha (col. 413)

Aschkenazi, see *Buenos Aires Kehilla [[Buenos Aires community]]) founded in 1894, Bikkur Holim (1896), and Ezrah (1900) - which provided medical aid - orphanages, homes for the aged, etc.

[Zionists and non-Zionists in Argentina]

The dominant political organizations were the various Zionist groups, founded as early as 1897 in the agricultural colonies and the capital, which eventually imparted a strong Zionist orientation to the entire Jewish population of Argentina.

Counteracting the Zionist organizations, including the *Po'alei Zion Party formed in 1909, were Bundist, anarchist, and communist groups. The Bund members tried to establish linguistically autonomous "Yiddish" sections within some of the general trade unions. All organizations had varied cultural programs, which, except among the religious Zionists, emphasized a secular nationalist and cultural orientation toward Judaism. These activities included establishing libraries, encouraging the development of a native literature, and experiments in theatrical production.

[since 1915: Fund raising for Jews in Eastern Europe and Palestine]

The polarization of class and political opinion, the wide social and cultural gap between immigrants from Eastern and Western Europe, and personal ambition prevented the establishment of centralized organizations in Argentina during this period. But in 1915, when news of the fate of the Jews in war-stricken areas of Russia and in Palestine began to arrive, the Central Committee for the Jewish Victims of the War was established as the fund-raising organ of the Argentinian Jewish community.

[Zionist Jewish Argentinian congress since 1916]

In February 1916 the Congress of Argentinian Jewry was convened through the initiative of the Zionists and with the participation of all Jewish organizations, except those of the extreme left wing. The Congress declared the prime postwar demands of the Jewish nation to be equal rights for the Jews of the Diaspora and Jewish independence in Erez Israel, and resolved to ask the Argentinian government to support these demands.

[[The program for an independent Israel was connected with Herzl's idea that all Arabs could be driven away. The First Mose chapter 15 phrase 18 defines the frontier of a "Greater Israel" between Nile river and the Euphrates. So, the Herzl program provoked an anti-Semitism in Christianity, and in whole Arab culture]].

When the *Jewish Legion was formed in 1917, several dozen young Jews volunteered and the enterprise was widely publicized by the Zionists.

Anti-Semitism was rare throughout this period. When a Jewish anarchist, Simon Radowitzky, tried to assassinate the chief of police, Ramón Falcón (May 1, 1909), there were no repercussions against the Jewish population as such. Murders of Jewish settlers in the agricultural colonies resembled incidents between gauchos and settlers of other origins.> (col. 414)

[[The extermination of the natives and native culture in Argentina is never mentioned in the Encyclopaedia Judaica]].

[Population figures]

Table. Jewish population, 1895 census
Jewish population
Percent distribution
Federal Capital
Province of Buenos Aires
670xxxxxxxxxxxx 11.0%xxxxxxxxxxxx
Entre Ríos
3,880xxxxxxxxxxxx 64.0%xxxxxxxxxxxx
Santa Fé
721xxxxxxxxxxxx 11.7%xxxxxxxxxxxx
Other provinces
61xxxxxxxxxxxx 1.0%xxxxxxxxxxxx
from: Argentina; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 3, col. 419

<The 1895 census revealed that 64% of the 6,085 Argentinian Jews lived in the province of Entre Ríos, while only 12.3% (753 persons) lived in the city of Buenos Aires. Since then there has been a steady movement of Jews to the urban centers (Rosario, Córdoba, Santa Fé, etc.) and particularly to the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires.> (col. 419)

[Jewish economy and Social Stratification up to 1914: farmers - artisans - peddlers - shopkeepers]

<During the first stage of Jewish settlement in Argentina up to 1914, there were four main sectors in Jewish society:

(1) farmers - Jewish Colonization Association (ICA) settlers and permanently hired or seasonal laborers

(2) artisans in all branches - either self-employed, employed, or apprenticed

(3) peddlers selling goods on the installment plan (and therefore called "Cuenteniks")

and (4) shopkeepers dealing in supplying goods to meet daily needs.

In addition to these groups were individuals who were among the first industrialists (in textiles, furniture, and in the extraction of tannin from the quebracho tree  [[chestnut]]) and high officials, including managing directors, of large grain-export companies. In 1909 there were 90 Jews in Buenos Aires belonging to the liberal (col. 419)

professions. Most of them were in the field of medicine, and of the 60 students attending the university, 41 studied medicine or pharmacy.> (col. 420)

[Jewish agricultural settlement in Argentina with Russian Jews - Argentinian parliament stops mass immigration]

<In November 1890, Loewenthal was sent by Baron de Hirsch to Argentina at the head of an exploratory mission, and on April 28, 1891, the Baron appointed him director of his settlement project. Soon afterward, Baron de Hirsch decided that his plan [[to bring 5,000 Jews every year]] would be the cornerstone of a comprehensive territorial project, which, within a relatively short period, would be a solution to the worsening condition of Russian Jewry. As a result, the first immigrants were sent to Argentina in July 1891.

Negotiations were held with private individuals and with the Argentinian government for concessions and the acquisition of up to 9,266,250 acres (3,750,000 hectares) of land in Chaco [[in Chaco province where probably natives should be expelled or killed before]]. Negotiations were also held with the Russian government to allow the emigration of Jews and secure a permit to establish emigration agencies. The Russian government agreed to the request on May 20, 1892, assuming that in the ensuing 25 years 3,250,000 Jews would leave Russia.

However, this grandiose scheme did not materialize. The Argentinian parliament did not approve the sale of large tracts of land, and Baron de Hirsch was persuaded that the climate and soil in the areas under consideration were unsuitable for Jewish colonization.

[The life of the Jewish settlers - Jewish ranchers]

The settlement of the first immigrants was beset by serious administrative and social difficulties, which Baron de Hirsch was unable to overcome even after Loewenthal was removed from his post and replaced by Colonel Albert E.W. *Goldsmid. Baron de Hirsch continued to hope that he would find suitable locations and carry out a large and geographically concentrated project.

In 1895 he admitted that his plans were unrealistic and tried to change the main objective of his activities from emigration and agricultural settlement to productive support of needy Jews in Europe and the Americas. On April 21, 1896, he died while in the midst of implementing the revised plan, which continued on a minor scale.

Instead of the mass project and the vast and concentrated territories, at the time of the Baron's death the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA) owned a total of only 731,713 acres (302,736 hectares) in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Entre Ríos, and Santa Fé with a total of 910 families (6,757 persons). Jewish colonization developed primarily in the 20 years after the Baron's death (see diagram). The land area rose to 1,441,175 acres (586,473 hectares) on the eve of World War I, and from then on until ICA ceased its activity, it rose to only 1,525,764 acres (617,468 hectares).

[[Primary nations driven out of their land or even exterminated primary nations are never mentioned in Encyclopaedia Judaica]].

The number of persons settled on the land reached 18,900 during this period, a figure only 1,428 short of the peak figure for 1925 (20,382 persons) [[because after 1918 Palestine was the main goal of racist Jewish Zionist migration]]. Also during this period most of the cooperatives were formed in the colonies, and Alberto *Gerchunoff wrote his classic work, Los Gauchos Judíos [[The Jewish ranchers]].> (col. 428)


[Agricultural settlements: Difficult conditions on the agricultural settlements - the attractiveness of the municipal conditions]

The disintegration of ICA's farming project in Argentina can be attributed to a series of factors. One factor was the unfavorable location of a large proportion of the colonies on the margins of the "Wet Pampa", influenced mostly by droughts from the south and by almost annual invasions of locusts from the north. One of the colonies, Dora, was even located in an arid region, dependent on irrigation.

Another basic factor was the extreme dependence on foreign markets and the inability of the Argentinian farmer to influence marketing conditions. In search of greater income, the settlers kept shifting from grain crops to cattle raising. Jewish agriculture, based on mono culture, was therefore extremely sensitive to the fluctuations of the markets and lacked stability.

A third general factor was the extensive cultivation in Argentina, which necessitated large units of land, thus creating a low population density. This type of settlement, in which the farmer lives at the center of his property and far from his neighbours, was rejected by Jewish settlers from the outset because it obstructed the fulfillment of their religious, social, educational, and (col. 429)

medical needs. Attempts to establish concentrated villages failed, however, and had to be abandoned.

The fourth decisive factor was the attraction of the town as an easy and more secure source of employment, providing opportunities for rapid advancement for those with initiative. The town also provided a social center with well-developed educational, religious, and cultural services. Since the Perón government (1946-55) encouraged urbanization and the Jewish settler came from an urban background (some of his children had already left for the town, either to study or to engage in trade), the attraction of the town became especially strong. The overall increase in land values enabled him to sell his lands at a profit and arrive in the town with a large sum of money.

[Agricultural settlements: Maneuvers by ICA to keep the Jewish settlers on the farms without success]

ICA tried to counteract some of these disintegrating factors. For a long period it tried to prevent settlers from leaving the colonies by delaying absolving them of their debts. ICA exerted pressure on the settlers to diversify their farming, helped them to develop dairy herds and chicken farms, and experimented with new crops and modern methods of cultivation. It established an integral school system in the colonies that was financed by charging the settlers.

ICA even tried to recruit settlers with previous agricultural experience from southern Russia and later from among agricultural labourers in her own colonies. However, the lack of flexibility in policy and the bureaucratic administrative structure, requiring the obedience and submission of the settlers, caused continual undermining of good relations in the colonies and the diminution of the moral influence of ICA on the settlers. ICA's bitter and prolonged refusal to recognize that the colony Narcisse Levin and part of Barón Hirsch, Montefiore, and Dora, located on the edge of the fertile regions, required larger areas of land resulted in bitter and prolonged disputes.

Moreover, ICA's prolonged opposition to facilitating the settlement of children near their parents' farms made it difficult for the younger generation to settle in the colonies. It was for the same reason, as well as to promote intensified farming of their own plots, that ICA refused to lease its vacant land to the settlers. All these factors led to the strengthening of the second central force in the colonies, the settlers' cooperatives (see below). Established and run with ICA's support, the cooperatives fought disintegration, but also became the settlers' chief weapon in fighting ICA. The steep decline in agricultural settlement brought about a concerted action by the two forces to preserve the existing state of affairs.> (col. 430)

[Agricultural settlements: Agricultural cooperatives]


The first agricultural cooperative in Argentina was established in the Jewish colony of Lucienville in the Entre Ríos Province. It was founded on Aug. 12, 1900, on the initiative of Leon Nemirovsky, agronomist and administrator of ICA under the name of Primera Sociedad Agrícola Israelita (First Israelite Agricultural Society), and still exists under the name Sociedad Agrícola Lucienville. The cooperatives activities began with the purchase of seeds and supplies necessary for harvest, thus freeing its members from exploitation by merchants. Thereafter the following cooperatives were established with ICA's moral and financial support: Fondo Comunal (Communal Fund), in the Clara and San Antonio colonies (1904); Mutua Agrícola (Agricultural Mutual Fund) in Moisésville (1908); Barón Hirsch in Rivera (1910); and Unión Cooperative Agrícola (Agricultural Cooperative Union) in Narcisse Levin (1910).

In the course of time, all of these cooperative developed many programs to protect the material interests of their members, satisfy their cultural and social needs, and represent them in (col. 431)

struggles against ICA. In 1910 a congress of the cooperatives' representatives was held in Buenos Aires. The congress laid the foundations of the Conferderación Agrícola Israelita Argentina (Argentinian Israelite Agricultural Confederation). [[...]]

Eminent among the leaders of the agrarian cooperative movement in Argentina, together with Miguel Sajaroff - unquestionably the precursor and the mentor - are Adolfo Leibovich, Isaac Kaplan, Marcos Wortman, Miguel Kipen, Elias Efron, and Francisco Loewy. The official organ of the Fraternidad Agraria (Agriculture fraternity), Colono Cooperador ("Cooperative Colonist"), first appeared in 1917 and continues to be published monthly in Spanish and in Yiddish (see its Memoria y Balance in the 1967 volume).

[Independent Jewish agricultural settlements]


Tensions between the settlers and the administration often resulted in large groups leaving the found independent settlements. In June 1901 about 40 families settled in Villa Alba (now called General San Martín) in the central Pampas after leaving the colonies of Entre Ríos. In 1906 about 20 families that left Moisésville, founded Médanos in the south of Buenos Aires province. [[...]] The idealism and initiative of Isaac Losow brought about the settlement of 40 families in 1906 in General Roca in the heart of the uninhabited Río Negro territory [[From these territories with Rio Negro, Mapuche natives had been driven out about 20 years before, by Argentinian military]]. In 1941, despite its isolated location, 28 families were still living in the settlement.> (col. 430)

<Agricultural settlement outside the control of ICA, with the exception of Julio Levin, was even more geographically marginal than that of the ICA colonies. This was, of course, dictated by both the limited financial means at the disposal of the settlers and their strong idealism.> (col. 431)

<Religious life.

The years 1860-1914 mark the period of initial immigration to the cities and the establishment of the agricultural colonies. The immigrant colonists were accompanied by their shohatim [[ritual slaughterers]] and rabbis, the first of whom was Rabbi Aaron Goldman of Moisésville. Religious life in the colonies at first followed traditional patterns, as exemplified by the foundation of a short-lived yeshivah in Colonia Belez (1907-08). However, isolation and lack of Jewish education combined with other factors to cause a decline in religious life.

In Buenos Aires, where the Congregación Israelita de la República Argentina already existed, additional minyanim [[communal religious service]] were organized: Po'alei Zedek, which established the first talmud torah; Mahazikei Emunah, which brought the first official shohet [[ritual slaughter]] to Buenos Aires in 1892 and built the first mikveh [[ritual bath basin]] in 1893; and the Congregación Latina of the Jews of Morocco.

Until 1897 the Jewish dead were buried in the Protestant cemetery; later, tombs had to be rented in a Catholic cemetery. It was only in 1910 that the Jews were able to overcome economic and legal difficulties and acquire their own cemetery. Although the white-slave traders already had a cemetery, none of the respectable Jews agreed to be buried in it.> (col. 421)

<Cultural Life.

[Yiddish libraries - Yiddish theaters - Yiddish newspapers]

At the beginning of the 20th century the cultural life of the Jewish community in Argentina was centered around the Jewish political parties, much as it had been in Eastern Europe. Thus, the founders of the first two Jewish libraries in Buenos Aires in 1905 - Biblioteca Rusa, and Herut - had belonged to socialist organizations in czarist Russia. In addition to these libraries, cultural activities were sponsored by the [[racist anti-Muslim]] Zionist organization Tiferet Sión, the anarchist group Arbayter Fraynd, and the Avangard.

Another aspect of cultural life was the Yiddish theater, whose first performance was given in 1901. From that time onward, and especially after World War I, the Jewish theater became one of the central forces in Argentinian Jewish life. Its repertoire was mainly in Yiddish and the most outstanding actors in the Jewish dramatic world appeared on its stage. Individual actors and companies from Argentina visited Brazil, Uruguay, and other Latin American countries.

In 1898 the first three periodicals published in Yiddish in Argentina were: Der Vider-Kol ("The Echo"), edited by Mikhal Ha-Cohen Sinai; Der Yidisher Fonograf, edited by Fabian S. Halevi; and Di Yidishe Folkshtime [["The Yiddish Voice of the People"]] edited by Abraham Vermont. The first two publications were designed to serve as a forum for educated Jews, whereas Di Yidishe Folkshtime sought to serve the masses of Jewish immigrants and outlasted the former two by continued publication for 16 years.

A host of short-lived periodicals also appeared during this period. At its end, in 1914, no less than 40 Jewish periodicals existed in Argentina. A fundamental change took place when the first daily, Di Yidishe Tsaytung [["The Yiddish Newspapter"]], was published. The paper succeeded in overcoming its initial difficulties and is still published. In 1918, a second daily newspaper, Di Prese, made its appearance.> (col. 423)

<Weeklies and monthlies in Spanish made their first appearance as early as 1911. Juventud [["Youth"]] was the first, followed by El Israelita Argentino (1913), [["The Israelite from Argentina"]] published by the Instituto Judío Argentino de Cultura e Información. In 1917 the Spanish-language monthly Israel was established. It is still in existence and serves mainly Sephardim.> (col. 424)

[Central Jewish libraries]

<In 1913 the first attempt was made at organizing cultural activities in Argentina, and in 1915 the first conference of representatives of 25 libraries and other cultural institutions throughout the country was convened in La Plata without important results. World War I caused a number of changes in the structure of the Jewish community of Argentina that were further augmented by a later wave of immigration. Many and varied cultural organizations, such as the Argentinian branch of *YIVO (1929), which established a central Jewish library and archives (dedicated mainly to the history of the community), were founded. A specific type of cultural activity was evidenced by the foundation of Landsmannschaften (organizations of immigrants established according to countries of origin) to aid the newcomers in their initial integration.

The outstanding characteristic of cultural life was that it was a microcosmic continuation of East European culture. Numerous organizations built mainly around the Yiddish language and culture (such as the society of Jewish writers and journalists named after H. D. Nomberg, the Kultur Kongres, A. Zygielbojm Gezelshaft far Kultur un Hilf [[Culture and Help Society]], Ringelblum Kultur-Tsenter, and Ratsionalistishe Gezelshaft [[Rationalist Society]]) continue to exist. Cultural activity was also supported (col. 423)

by circles that identified themselves with Bolshevism. On the other hand, activities in Hebrew were very limited. The first attempts to hold activities in Hebrew were in 1911, when the organization Doverei Sefat-Ever was founded.> (col. 424)

<Education and Youth.

The first Jewish school in Buenos Aires was the talmud torah founded in 1891 by the Unión Po'alei Zedek. It had three teachers, who taught only religious subjects in Yiddish. One year later, at the start of agricultural settlement, the farmers set up hadarim [[Jewish primary school]] for their sons, continuing to maintain them on a part-time basis even after ICA decided to establish its own school system in 1894. ICA schools followed the government syllabus with the addition of Hebrew and Jewish studies. They grew and multiplied as the number of settlers increased, with 50 schools attended by 3,538 pupils and a teaching staff of 155 in 1910. In 1914, as a result of a diminishing budget, ICA handed over its schools in the settlements to the local and national educational authorities.

Jewish education was transferred to the Va'ad ha-Hinnukh ha-Rashi (Head Office of Education), founded on the initiative of ICA by the Congregación Israelita de la república Argentina in 1917; this body also ran the Cursos Religiosos [[Religious courses]], which had been founded in the towns in 1911 on the initiative of ICA. All these schools had a syllabus of Jewish studies that suppressed Jewish national values.> (col. 425)

[[Well, Jewry is a religion and not a nation, but racist Zionists don't want to see that until today (2011)]].

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Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3,
                        col. 409-410
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3, col. 409-410
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3,
                          col. 413-414
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3, col. 413-414
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3,
                          col. 419-420
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3, col. 419-420
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3,
                          col. 421-422
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3, col. 421-422
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3,
                          col. 423-424
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3, col. 423-424
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3,
                          col. 425-426
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3, col. 425-426
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3,
                          col. 427-428
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3, col. 427-428
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3,
                          col. 429-430
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3, col. 429-430
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3,
                          col. 431-432
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Argentina, vol. 3, col. 431-432

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