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Rabbi Disputes Timerman’s Claim About the Situation in Argentina

December 9, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A leading Brazilian rabbi has disputed Jacobo Timerman’s claim that anti-Semitism in Argentina is comparable to that in pre-war Germany, calling it “an exaggeration that has already destroyed his credibility.”

Rabbi Henry Sobel of Congregacao Israelita Paulista in Sao Paulo told a meeting of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Sunday that while there were “serious anti-Semitic trends in Argentina, the Jews are free to leave the country whenever they wish and to take all their property with them. The fact that relatively few have done so speaks for itself.”

The WUPJ, which is the international branch of Reform Judaism, met here in conjunction with the biennial assemblies of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods.

Calling Timerman “a self-proclaimed Zionist who never participated in Argentinian Jewish life,” Sobel accused Timerman of “applying his rediscovered ardor for Jewishness retroactively for the purpose of self-promotion.” He said Timerman was “an embarrassment to Argentinian Jews in particular and to Latin American Jewry in general.”

While the basic issue, according to Sobel, is “the blatant violation of human rights in Latin America,” the most serious threat facing Latin American Jewry is “not from outside but from within — the danger of inner erosion, disintegration and assimilation.”


The Sao Paulo rabbi praised WUPJ president Gerald Daniel for his successful effort earlier this year in founding the new Federation of Latin-American Liberal Congregations, composed of synagogues in Argentina, Brazil and Chile.

Sobel predicted that the new Federation would have “a positive impact on the growth of Reform Judaism in this most important part of the world, home to some 750,000 Jews.” He urged the WUPJ to train and dispatch rabbis and Jewish educators to Latin America, asserting that American Jewish organizations had neglected South America for too long.

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