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Rabbi Says Anti-semitism in Argentina Could Be Curtailed Under New Alfonsin Government

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Organized anti-Semitism in Argentina could be drastically curtailed under the new government of President Raul Alfonsin, according to Rabbi Moshe Tumauer, a visiting professor of Bible at the Seminario Rabinico Latino Americano in Buenos Aires.

Tutnauer told members of the Rabbinical Assembly, who gathered here this week for “A Day of Social Concern,” that “the current President has a good record on human rights and should the new regime be a success, we can see a diminution of organized anti-Semitism in the country.” He cautioned, however, that the real elimination of anti-Semitism within Argentina will be a much harder goal to achieve since the “roots are deeper in such places as the church and within the Peronist Party.”

1983 WAS A BAD YEAR FOR NATION’S JEWS

The Conservative rabbi, who now makes his home in Israel, is spending a year in Argentina on a special teaching assignment. He emphasized that the new Alfonsin government faces an uphill battle. It is confronted with a $42 billion deficit, therefore making its future highly dependent upon the West, especially the United States.

Tutnauer reported that 1983 was one of the worst years for Argentine Jews because of the extremely difficult economic conditions and an exacerbation of anti-Semitism. He said that anti-Semitic periodicals can be freely found on newsstands and that the recent election produced numerous anti-Semitic slurs against candidate Alforsin by elements of the Peronist Party.

The mood among the community’s 225,000 Jews in Buenos Aires is tense Tutnauer reported. He said he was asked not to wear his yarmulka in the sheet and fellow Jews preferred introducing him as an American rather than as an Israeli.

Comparing life in Israel and Argentina, Tutnauer said, “In Israel everyone is effected by the war in Buenos Aires. There is hardly a family who doesn’t have some association with those missing from the terrorist campaign.” He estimated that 30,000 Argentinians have disappeared at the hands of these terrorists of which about 1,500 are Jews. “Everyone thinks these people are dead.”

He told his colleagues that if the Peronist Party had won the election, many Jews had their bags packed and were ready to leave the country since they feared an even greater wave of anti-Semitism could develop than already exists. Therefore, he added the threat of any future economic crisis or a return by the military “causes grave concern to the Jewish community.”

The Conservative spiritual leader stated that at the present time a burgeoning Jewish religious community flourishes in Buenos Aires, thanks to the dedication of Rabbi Marshall Meyer who has been in the country for the past 25 years. At present, there exists a teachers training college, a rabbinical training school with about 500 students. At Meyer’s congregation of 1,000 families, every Friday between 1,200-1,500 people attend services.

SITUATION OF SOVIET JEWRY

In a report to the gathering on Soviet Jewry, Ambassador Max Kampelman, chairman of the U.S. delegation to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe which has been meeting in Madrid, said that Soviet Jews “are very much on the agenda of the U.S.-USSR relations.”

He said he believed that Soviet leaders will only respond to protests when it suits their interest. “They feel they have a valuable jewel and they want something for it. When they are ready to sell, they’ll ask for what they want.”

Asked about the effectiveness of the Jackson-Vanick amendment curtailing USSR-U.S. exports and imports, Kampelman said that he believed in this legislation, citing the results of 59,000 Jews that were permitted to emigrate at the time the bill was adopted by Congress. However, “I do not agree with those that felt the bill embarrassed the USSR. They are not embarrassed, only effected by self-interest.”

Kampelman said he regretted the current emigration figures, now at the low monthly mark of 150 persons. He noted, however, that West Germany, which believes only in quiet diplomacy, in 1979 achieved an emigration of 50,000 Germans from the USSR (the same as for Soviet Jews that year) while at the present time only 150 Germans are permitted exit visas.

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