The Jewish People of Argentina

Following the Jewish expulsion from Spain in the early sixteenth century, many Sephardic (Spanish origin) Jews fleeing persecution immigrated to what is now known as Argentina. However, they didn’t form an organized Jewish Community until after Argentina became an independent country of Spain in the early nineteenth century. Later, fleeing from the social economic disruptions of revolutions from France and Western Europe, Ashkenazic (German origin) Jews came to settle in Argentina as well, because of its open-immigration policy. These people spoke French, German, Russian, Yiddish, and Judeo-Spanish (also known as Ladino), which is a romance language derived from Medieval Spanish and Yiddish.  

Argentina has the largest Jewish community in Latin America. However, most of the anti-Semitism in the country started around World War I, with a pogrom against the Jews, specifically the Rusos (Russian origin) following the Russian revolution. Many people had been beaten and their belongings destroyed. However, the Jewish community became more involved with Argentina, other than its military or its government, as they were barred from it. 

Its open-door policy for immigration lasted until 1938, in which Argentina stopped accepting Jewish migrants because of the tensions of Europe from the Nazis in Germany. Juan Perón was elected as President of Argentina in 1946. While Jews were afraid of him as he was a Nazi sympathizer and had fascist views of leadership. However, he also ended up making good diplomatic relations with Israel and helped Jewish rights in Argentina, including allowing Jewish people to hold office in the national government. After Perón was overthrown in 1955, many thousands of Jews immigrated to Israel and other countries in Europe because of the huge waves of anti-Semitism that occurred (Argentina Virtual Jewish History Tour). Organized campaigns encouraging street fights and vandalism against Jewish properties were frequent. 

Starting in 1976, the Argentina was under military junta rule, which included a large wave of anti-Semitism. This was partially because of the Nazi ideologies, conspiracy theories about Israel, and higher-ranking people in the military obsessing with the “Jewish Question” on how Jews should be part of society. Often, they would be targeting Jewish people over non-Argentinians, and would charge them with political crimes if they disagreed with the government, and arrested, imprisoned, and even “disappeared” (Jewish Political Studies Review). Jewish people were often singled out for extra imprisonment. Many Jewish people left to immigrate to Israel to avoid the oppression of the junta rule. Israel had arranged to allow people accused of political crimes against the Argentinian government to immigrate, because of a law in their prisons that allows prisoners to leave to any country willing to take them in. 

Junta rule ended in 1983 with Raúl Alfonsín being democratically elected as president. Anti-Semitism rates had fallen, and the government had many Jews in high positions. Later in 1989, Carlos Saul Menem was elected, it worried some of the Jewish people because of his Arab origins, but he ended up being more supportive, with many Jewish appointees in the Argentinian government, and his passing laws against racism and anti-Semitism. However, high levels of anti-Semitism occurred during his presidency, including terrorist attacks, bombing of the Israeli Embassy, a Jewish community center. 

Currently, the Jewish population in Argentina is about eighty percent Ashkenazic and twenty percent Sephardic. While anti-Semitism has decreased, the amount of Jewish population has also been decreasing as of the recent years as they have been immigrating to Israel and other countries. The acceptance of Jewish people in Argentina based on polls showed many stereotypical views of the community, such as the belief that the Jewish people were preoccupied with making money (Study reveals anti-Semitic sentiment in Argentine society). Numerous anti-Semitic incidents have occurred in the current century, including Nazi propaganda and terrorist attacks. However, the Jewish community in Argentina is thriving. There are laws in place that allow Jewish people to observe religious holidays such as Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Pesach, and the government recognizes the holidays. The main language spoken is Spanish, but some people have brought in languages from their originating countries, such as Hebrew, Russian, and mixed languages such as Yiddish and Ladino. 

Works Cited: 

Argentina Virtual Jewish History Tour. (n.d.). Retrieved from 

Jewish Political Studies Review. (n.d.). Retrieved from 

Study reveals anti-Semitic sentiment in Argentine society. (2011, October 09). Retrieved from 

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