South American Cultural Backgrounds: Jewish History in Argentina

When most people think of cities with large populations of Jews, they think of Tel Aviv, New York City, Los Angeles, and Jerusalem. Many people do not realize that there is also a significant Jewish population in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In fact, there are more Jews in Argentina than in any other Latin American country. If you are interested in Jewish culture and heritage, you will find that you can learn a great deal about the religion and its people when you attend Spanish school in Argentina.

During the Spanish inquisition, Jews fled persecution. Many of them ended up in Argentina and called themselves "conversos" or "Secret Jews." In the middle of the 19th century, more European Jews moved into Argentina. Later in the century, Jews who were looking to get away from pogroms in Russia made their way to Argentina. One of the reasons that this Latin American country was so popular among Jews is that its immigration policy was very open. In the early 1900s, about 13,000 Jews came to Argentina each and every year.

Unfortunately, during the time of the Nazis, the Argentinean government enacted some regulations that did not allow many Jews to immigrate. When Juan Peron came into power, he initially sympathized with the Axis Powers and said he admired Mussolini. Ultimately, however, Peron signed a declaration of war against the Nazis. Jews were once again able to immigrate. They were even permitted to run for public office under Peron's leadership.

If you learn Spanish in Buenos Aires, you will find that the city has a lively Jewish community that dates back to 1862. The first synagogue opened its doors in 1875. Other large population centers for Jews in Argentina are Cordoba and Rosario. While many Jews live in the city, there are also Jewish agricultural communities.

Currently, according to estimates, there are about 250,000 Jews living in Argentina. This is the 7th largest concentration of Jews in the world. Most of these people came from Western Europe after the late 1800's. Approximately 85 percent of the Jews in Argentina today are Ashkenazi Jews and about 15 percent are considered Sephardi Jews. Further, most Jews are either Conservative or Orthodox. It is interesting to note that only a small percentage of Jewish people in Argentina consider themselves Reform Jews.

If you learn Spanish in Buenos Aires, you might want to schedule a Jewish tour of the historical parts of the city. You will find Jewish schools, butchers, supermarkets, bakeries, and synagogues. Other interesting landmarks you can visit when you attend Spanish school in Argentina include the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary and the Holocaust Shoa Museum. Touring these areas will undoubtedly open your eyes to exactly how integrated the Jewish culture is within the country.

Latin Immersion offers Spanish classes in Buenos Aires. Aside from studying the world's third most spoken language, students exerience the local culture as they learn Spanish in Argentina. More information =>

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