Argentine Expats in Australia Reach out to Those Left Behind

Argentine expatriates living in Australia are hoping to help Argentina’s Jews.

The expatriate community last month formed the Australian Jewish Friends of Argentina to offer relief to those suffering from the country’s crippling economic crisis.

Of Australia’s 120,000 Jews, some 500 — at most — emigrated from Argentina.

Pepe Bekinschtein, 59, the Melbourne-based chairman of AJFA’s steering committee, arrived from Buenos Aires in 1984 with his wife, Juanita, and their two children, Devora and Diego.

“We know that for most of those desperate to leave Argentina, Israel should be the first choice,” he told JTA. “But there are members of the community who would prefer to come to Australia. At this point in time, they are not considered refugees, so we are trying to establish within our organization facilities to help them overcome immigration difficulties.”

His group is hoping to get the help of the broader Australian Jewish community, Bekinschtein added.

Next week, Eva Fischl, president of Jewish Care Australia, and Steve Denenberg, its executive officer, will meet in Melbourne with the AJFA committee to formulate a plan to provide Australian assistance.

Their primary role will be to help would-be immigrants find work and sponsors in Australia, Denenberg said.

“The Australian immigration laws are very tight and they will need all the help we can give them. We want them to know that there are people here who care about them,” he said.

Bekinschtein said he found it “hard to believe that there Argentinian Jews living today in shanty towns.”

“My family settled in Argentina in 1895. In all the years I lived there, I do not remember there ever being a need for Jewish welfare to accommodate dire poverty,” he said. “I realize that the elderly may never want to leave, but there is no future there for the younger members of the community.”

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