Jewish Life in Buenos Aires, Argentina

My two Argentine friends in Boston generated a collection of invitations in Buenos Aires that could keep me occupied here in this massive city for two weeks.  One invitation was to attend services at a Reform-ish temple on Friday night.  The service itself was highly unusual from an American Jewish perspective.  Almost the entire time was taken up with lively singing by experts within the community and the congregation as a whole.  Everyone seemed to know each other.  Security was very tight.  I almost didn’t make it into the temple because my escort was unknown to the guard.  Fortunately she had her national ID card with a last name of “Cohen” to present.  Why the paranoia?

At first glance you’d think that Argentina’s Jews would be happy and complacent.  There has never been any violence directed at the Jewish community here from their mostly Italian- and Spanish-descended fellow citizens.  They escaped Europe’s war against her Jewish citizens.  You’d think that being on the other side of the globe from the Middle East would preserve Argentina’s Jews from the Muslim war against the Jews.  The 1993 bombing of the Jewish community center here in Buenos Aires, however, left a deep scar.  85 people were killed and 230 wounded in a car bombing that was never completely resolved.  Supposedly the money came from Iran and support from the local Iranian embassy but the actual killers were never identified.

It’s a tough situation when you’re already at the End of the Earth.  There is literally nowhere to run.

11 thoughts on “Jewish Life in Buenos Aires, Argentina

  1. I agree with evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.  All religion is evil.


    Is Science a Religion?

    by Richard Dawkins

    Published in the Humanist, January/February 1997

    The 1996 Humanist of the Year asked this question in a speech accepting the honor from the American Humanist Association.

    It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, “mad cow” disease, and many others, but I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.

    Faith, being belief that isn’t based on evidence, is the principal vice of any religion.  And who, looking at Northern Ireland or the Middle East, can be confident that the brain virus of faith is not exceedingly dangerous?  One of the stories told to the young Muslim suicide bombers is that martyrdom is the quickest way to heaven — and not just heaven but a special part of heaven where they will receive their special reward of 72 virgin brides.  It occurs to me that our best hope may be to provide a kind of “spiritual arms control”:  send in specially trained theologians to deescalate the going rate in virgins.

    Given the dangers of faith — and considering the accomplishments of reason and observation in the activity called science — I find it ironic that, whenever I lecture publicly, there always seems to be someone who comes forward and says, “Of course, your science is just a religion like ours.  Fundamentally, science just comes down to faith, doesn’t it?”


  2. Dawkins is a very acute critic — But it’s dopey to quote him as if his point of view on religion is definitive.
    Attending a Jewish service in Argentina risks inciting suicide bombing? It’s about as dangerous as viewing an El Greco painting exhibit.
    As for Philip’s other point about Argentina’s anxious Jews, I would wonder: Didn’t Eichmann’s presence there until 1960 undercut some of the jews’ security in their community?

  3. Jews were disproportionaately targeted in Galtieri & his generals’ terror from the mid 70s to 1983 or so. Theoretically I suppose they could “run” to Israel?

  4. Paul Whitmore wrote, “…it’s dopey to quote [Richard Dawkins] as if his point of view on religion is definitive.”

    I agree.  Fof the definitive citation, see J. Lennon (1971):

    Imagine there’s no heaven,
    It’s easy if you try,
    No hell below us,
    Above us only sky

  5. Yes, Alex, how very scientific of Dawkins – a few anecdotes presented as if they were hard, scientifically generated data. Is Dawkins’ science as full of holes as his writing on religion?

  6. Philip, when you say ‘Muslim war against the Jews’, do you mean ‘Palestinian resistance to Israeli attacks’.? I do hope you are not one of those who equate Palestinians militants (Muslims and Christians) to ‘Muslims globally’, or equate Isreal’s Likudniks to ‘Jews globally’. It will be truly sad if too many American Jewish academics became like Alan Dershowitz.

    Take care (of your feelings, and the feelings of those who admire your photography)
    Masud Sheikh

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