Jewish Agency meeting in Buenos Aires 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
BUENOS AIRES – Since the establishment of Israel the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) has held its annual meetings in the country, but for the first time in decades the Zionist group’s top brass has gathered overseas for its Board of Governors which kicks off here on Monday.
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”We’ve decided to hold our annual conference in the Diaspora once a year,” said JAFI Chairman Natan Sharansky in a hotel lobby where Jewish delegates from around the country and the world had gathered. “We’ve decided to have our first in Argentina because it has a large Jewish community with excellent ties to Israel. It’s a regular Board of Governors with the regular decisions that it makes only in between we’ll be visiting the Jewish community and meeting with local leaders.”
The Israeli delegation for the three-day gathering includes Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor and representatives of the Jewish Federations of North America, the Maccabi sports movement and other groups. During their stay visitors will tour the city's Jewish institutions and meet Argentinean government officials including Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, the first member of the Jewish community to hold that position.
There are about 200,000 Jews in Argentina constituting the largest
Jewish community in Latin America. Earlier this year a study
commissioned by Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina, the country's
Jewish umbrella group, and the Anti-Defamation League pointed at a vein
of anti-Semitism in Argentinean society. According to the study, a large
percentage of Argentineans believed Jews are greedy and would rather
not live next door to them.
“We thought things like that would be over after the Holocaust,” World
Zionist Organization Chairman Avraham Duvdevani on Sunday told an
elderly crowd of Argentinean Jews at a hotel in the affluent
neighborhood of Recoleta. “But we’ve seen that the world never learns
and that once again we are facing anti-Semitism."
But young Argentinean adults who attended the event and stayed mostly
outside the hall where Duvdevani and others spoke said they did not feel
under siege by an anti-Semitism similar to that which was common during
the Holocaust era.
“There is some anti-Semitism coming from Venezuela but you don’t feel
any anti-Semitism on the streets,” said Uri Levit, a 19-year-old student
and member of a Jewish youth group. “Perhaps there are bigoted people
but it’s mostly just ignorance and bad education. It’s not a widespread
phenomenon that I feel on a daily basis.”
Prof. Benny Schneid, the head of WZO’s chapter in Argentina, ranked
anti-Semitism a distant second in the list of issues posing a danger to
the Jewish community in the country.
“Anti-Semitism is a problem,” he said, “but to my mind the bigger one is assimilation.”