Issue of Anti-semitism Raised by the Resignation of the Argentine Minister of Culture

The resignation of Argentina’s Minister of Culture, Dr. Raul Crespo Montes, shortly after praising Jewish contributions to that nation’s cultural life has raised the Issue of anti-Semitism, according to an Argentina Jewish weekly newspaper.

The newspaper, Mundo Israelita, noting rumors that Crespo Montes was forced to step down “because of an anti-Semitic action,” demanded “immediate clarification” from the authorities. “If silence persists,” Mundo Israelita added, “we take it for granted that the rumors will prove to be true.”

Crespo Montes resigned earlier this month after speaking or the Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires to mark the publication in Argentina of the 300th work in a series dealing with the participation of Jews in the nation’s cultural activities. According to his superior, Dr. Juan Rafael Lierena Amadeo, who heads the Ministry of Culture and Education, the resignation was for “personal reasons.” Lierena Amadeo refused to elaborate when questioned at a press conference in Buenos Aires.

Argentine Jewish organizations criticized the departure of Crespo Montes and the controversy has been given wide publicity in the Argentine press.

The Sociedod Hebraica Argentina (SHA), which sponsored Crespo Montes speech, issued a statement expressing “profound consternation” over his resignation. Pointing out that those who have spoken on its platform include Albert Einstein, Jacques Morito in and Jorge Luis Borges, the SHA said it “could not accept or believe that at this stage of Argentine social and intellectual development there are persons or circles who consider the delivery of a speech at the SHA incompatible with a high level ministry official’s public function.”

MAY BE THE LATEST VICTIM

Asked to comment in New York on the case, Rabbi Morton Rosenthal, director of the Latin American Affairs Department of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said “Dr. Crespo Montes may be the latest victim in a struggle within Argentina over the principle of cultural pluralism. I share the concern of the SHA in Argentina.”

In his speech, Crespo Montes said, “The contribution which Jewish culture has made and can continue to make to our common Argentine culture is of unquestionable worth. “He further pointed out that many Jews have contributed their brilliance, inspiration and tenacity to Argentina culture and to enhancing Argentina’s image abroad in the fields of letters, the arts, the sciences and education.”

In connection with the issue of cultural pluralism in Argentina, informed sources said Llerena Amadeo was the principal architect of a course in moral and civil development that was introduced into the nation’s schools last March. Members of the Jewish community have raised objections to the Catholic ideological content of the course, which is mandatory for all first year high school students in public and private schools. Next year the course will also be required for high school sophomores.

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