Argentina is home to the largest Jewish community in the Hispanic world, the second largest in the Western hemisphere. During successive political and social regimes, Argentina alternately barred Jews from entering the country and recruited them to immigrate, persecuted Jews as heretics or worse and welcomed them as productive settlers, restricted Jews by law and invested them with the fullest rights of citizenship. This volume traces the shifting patterns of Jewish immigration and Argentine immigration policy, both as manifestations of cultural and historical processes and as forces shaping the emergence of a large and energetic Jewish community.
Within Argentina, many Jews followed traditional immigration strategies by consolidating communities and institutions in Buenos Aires and other cities. But many others settled on the land, in agricultural colonies sponsored by Baron Maurice de Hirsch’s Jewish Colonization Association, a group with far-reaching impact that is examined closely in this book. The Israeli kibbutz movement drew strength from the Argentine farming colonies, when beginning in 1949 groups of Argentine Jews immigrated to Israel to found kibbutzes. Eventually, in the face of political and economic upheavals with anti-Semitic undercurrents, almost 40,000 Jews left Argentina for Israel. A country of absorption became a country of exodus, and Zionism became a central focus of Argentine Jewry, interlocking families and fates separated by oceans and continents.