(Page 3 of 3)
Buenos Aires — The community has been strengthened in part by Jewish immigrants from Venezuela and even Argentina and Uruguay, says Gustavo Kraselnik, the rabbi of Kol Shearith Israel.
“We are very optimistic about our future,” he said.
Argentina, with 285,000 Jews, is home to the region’s largest Jewish community. The growth in preschool children there has been matched by a rise in Jewish high school and college students. In Buenos Aires alone the number has risen from 15,593 to 19,162 in the past seven years.
In the capital city, the economic recovery allowed real estate developments such as Nordelta, a gated community with artificial lakes, to erect a new Jewish center two years ago. Last Chanukah, about 150 people came out for a celebration.
“We started from zero,” Rabbi Diego Elman of Judaica Fundation, the Nordelta temple, told JTA. “This year we started a monthly Shabbat with an average of 60 people; most of them are children.”
The growth also has brought the need for more Jewish teachers. In 2006, a new training center to prepare Jewish teachers was opened in Buenos Aires. It’s had 35 graduates.
“It’s a good start, but there is a scarcity of teachers in every main city of the region,” said Leticia Baran, the supervisor of Argentina’s Department of Jewish Education. “We’re starting to export Jewish teachers to other countries.”
International Jewish organizations are noticing the increased Jewish activities. Last November the ROI Community, which convenes creative Jewish social entrepreneurs, celebrated an Ibero-American gathering in Buenos Aires to “propel the Latin American Jewish spring” and to spotlight the region’s “dynamic Jewish social entrepreneurs.”
The same month, the Jewish Agency’s board of governors met in Argentina – the first time in 15 years that its summit was held outside of Israel. The following month, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky announced a $1 million fund to strengthen the connection between young South American Jews to Israel and the global Jewish community. And last December, Bnai B’rith International held its International Policy Conference in Montevideo, Uruguay – the first time the international event was held in Latin America.
“This region has a vibrant reality and an incredible production of knowledge and Jewish life,” Shai Pinto, the vice president and COO of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, told JTA. “In our movement Latin America is the fastest growing region.”
Fabian Triskier, the JDC’s Latin America director, says, “Our conclusion is clear: The Jewish community of Latin America is moving forward.”