Buenos Aires (Aug. 6)
(By our Buenos Aires Correspondent)
Jewish communal life in the Argentine, as in South America in general, strongly resembles, to all intents and purposes, the characteristics of Jewish life on the North American continent.
The Jewish population in the Argentine numbers about 200,000. Half of this number live in Buenos Aires, the rest are scattered throughout the country, creating at some points larger communities. The mode of the Jewish communal activities in these newly created settlements has the strong impress of East European origin. None the less, it would be a profound mistake to assume that Argentine Jews are continuing the traditions of East European ghettos. There is no ghetto in the Argentine Even in Buenos Aires, where the number of Jewish population is the largest, the Jews are scattered throughout the city, only some of the quarters being more densely populated by Jews.
The organizational form of Jewish life in the Argentine is also similar to that in the United States. The community as such is not organized. Instead, various groups center around an activity which is in accordance with their own inclinations or preferences. For instance, you will find at work various landsman-schaft societies, culture centers, school associations, Talmud Torahs, social, philanthropic and humanitarian societies, such as Hachnasath Orchim, Bikkor Cholim, society for aiding and visiting the sick; Immigrant protection, league to combat tuberculosis orphan homes, old age homes, home for orphan girls; Ezra, society which maintains the Jewish hospital, and last but not least the financially strongest and most influential of all societies, the traditional Chevrah Kaddisha, the burial society.
Of a Kehillah there is no trace. True an attempt was made some time ago to create the so-called Alliance of all societies. This Alliance would also, it was projected, have the name of Kehillah, but the attempt failed. Those societies, groups and Talmud Torahs which at first decided to affiliate themselves with this alliance later withdrew. To-day the Alliance exists only on paper.
The strongest and the richest of all the societies, as stated before, is the Chevrah Kaddisha. This society has not only the functions traditionally associated with such a society. From the surplus of its income it maintains various institutions. For instance, the Chevrah Kaddisha makes its annual subscription to the Keren Hayesod, and for the Jewish colonization work in Russia. It gives money to the Jewish National Fund and to the Palestine Workmen’s Fund. Death is non-partisan and the leaders of the Chevrah Kaddisha apparently believe that the income of death must be distributed equally. The Chevrah Kaddisha supports both the Orthodox religious Talmud Torahs and the secular schools where Yiddish is taught. When the Jewish colonists voice their grievances against mother Ica, the Chevrah Kaddisha, is not infrequently appealed to to assume the role of arbiter. The trouble, however, is that this arbiter is not recognized by the other party.
Sometimes, in important moments, when public opinion reaches its climax, stirred by an unusual event, the separate members of the community come together and express Jewish sentiment in the Argentine in their resolution or in their action. So, for instance, when the outcry of Roumanian Jews reached the shores of the Argentine, 150 Jewish societies in the country joined to protest against Roumania. Unity to a certain degree also comes to the surface when a drive is begun. For a number of years these drives have achieved considerable success here.
Yes, the drive is not a purely North American instrument. It has also been accepted by the Jewish communities in South America. However, the difference must be accentuated. The Jewish community here is incomparably, smaller than the Jewish community of the United States. The Jews here are much poorer economically than North American Jews. However, when a drive comes along, social interest rises and activity is stimulated just as in North America. The drive has a stimulating effect also on the Jewish communities in the distant towns and villages of the colonies.
During a recent drive for the Yiddish schools in Poland the question of preserving Yiddish in the Argentine was raised by the drive propaganda. It was claimed that the drive is intended not only to aid the Yiddish schools in Poland but also to help create the Yiddish schools in the Argentine. The opinion of the average Argentine Jew however, is that this would be a hopeless undertaking. The influence of Spanish on the life of the Jewish immigrant here is too strong for any one group to segregate itself from the surrounding Latin American culture and inclose itself, within the walls of a Yiddish school. The children would simply refuse to go through such an experiment. The children–one must see how quickly the children of the immigrants acquire the Spanish language. Children of new arrivals begin to speak and write Spanish soon after they come and in the course of one year, the parents must put forward every effort and speak Spanish to their children whom they brought from the old home. In this respect the Jewish community in the Argentine goes through a similar process to that of the immigrant Jewish population in the United States. That is why the question of Jewish education here, and the securing of the Jewish future of the new generation is as acute as anywhere.
The Jewish Welfare Board has published the seventh issue of its “Jewish Calendar for Soldiers and Sailors.” It covers the period of the approaching Jewish New Year beginning on the evening of September 26th.
The Board, which is the national organization for work with Jewish men in the military and naval service of the United States as well as for Jewish Community Center work, has prepared the calendar primarily for the use of Jewish men in the service and for disabled veterans, the copies being distributed gratis to them.
The calendar contains corresponding dates in the English and Hebrew calendars: statements describing the various Jewish holidays through the years a sketch of the participation of Jews in the wars of the United States: and a directory of Y. M. H. A’s. Y. W. H. A’s. and Jewish Centers, which are constituent societies of the Jewish Welfare Board.