With New Grant, Argentina’s Jews Hope for Jobs to Help Reeling Country

A grant to Argentina’s main Jewish community center is aimed at helping the country recover from a devastating economic collapse.

The $1.73 million grant from the Inter-American Development Bank to the AMIA center, made Oct. 11 in Washington, will strengthen and expand AMIA’s job placement services in a country suffering from unemployment ranging between 30 percent and 33 percent.

Founded 107 years ago, AMIA was devastated by a 1994 bombing that destroyed the community center. The AMIA attack claimed the lives of 85 people and wounded some 300 others. A trial for 20 people accused of playing a role in the still-unsolved bombing began late last month in Buenos Aires.

Since the 1994 attack, the AMIA has rebuilt its center in a new location and resumed its social and community action activities.

But with Argentina suffering from an economic collapse, and widespread hardship that was heightened by the failure of two Jewish-owned banks, AMIA’s job placement services were deemed to be in need of support.

The resources from the Multilateral Investment Fund, a fund administered by the Development Bank, will go toward AMIA’s job training and placement center. Officials hope to expand the center’s activities within metropolitan Buenos Aires and to employ the model in the cities of Cordoba, Rosario, Tucuman and Bahia Blanca.

The grant will enable the center to acquire modern computer and management tools and improve its capabilities for employment counseling, vocational guidance and job placement. AMIA plans to match the bank’s grant.

AMIA’s employment program is open to the general public. In 1999, Argentina’s Labor Ministry recognized AMIA as a leading employment agency in the nation.

In 2000, more than 1,000 people found jobs through AMIA, according to Ana Weinstein, director of the Jewish community federation.

Even with the high levels of unemployment across Argentina, the Jewish community suffers disproportionately, according to Weinstein.

The middle class has been hit particularly hard, and Jews in the textile, leather and fur industries, as well as in the medical and accounting professions, need basic assistance, Weinstein told JTA.

Referring to the 1994 terror attack on the AMIA center, Weinstein said the community is hopeful that any new understanding of the effects of terrorism will encourage other international organizations to help Argentine Jews.

Israel Singer, president of the World Jewish Congress, said the rebuilding of the AMIA center gives hope to many Argentine Jews — even as people elsewhere are experiencing a similar fear after last month’s terror attacks in the United States.

“Today it’s not just about AMIA,” he said. “It’s about changing the world.”

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