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Republic in southeastern South America. The first Jews arrived with early Spanish settlers in the 16th century. They were Marranos, forced converts who practiced their religion in secret. By the time of Argentina’s liberation from Spain in the early 19th century, the Marrano community had vanished. The earliest modern community was set up in 1868, but regular immigration did not begin until 1891. In that year Baron Maurice de Hirsch founded the Jewish Colonization Association (I.C.A.) to encourage the settlement of Jews upon the land. Swelled by waves of immigrants, the community grew from 1000 in 1890 to almost half a million at one point.

Most of Argentina’s Jews live in Buenos Aires and other urban centers. About half are engaged in trade, with businesses ranging from tiny shops to huge commercial establishments. A large percentage are workers in the leather, furniture, and garment industries. Many have entered the professions. Jews have played an especially important role in the economic life of the country. Among the ideas introduced by Jewish merchants were installment and direct sales, and the organization of cooperatives for both buying and selling. Within the Jewish community there are many cooperative banks, as well as cooperative business undertakings.

For many years, agriculture played an important part in the life of Argentinian Jewry. The first independent Jewish farm settlement was founded in 1899 by refugees from Russia. Other settlements were established and aided by the Jewish Colonization Association (I.C.A.). By 1940, there were 28,000 Jewish colonists on the pampas (farm regions) of Argentina. This was one of the largest Jewish farm communities in the world. Owing to the decline of the farm economy under the dictatorship of Juan Peron and to the tendency for children of settlers to move to the cities, the farm community has dwindled dramatically. Already by the last half of the 20th Century, the vast majority of Jews, members of the middle class, lived in urban centers, particularly Buenos Aires, and was engaged in business.

Buenos Aires, the capital of the country and home of most, has been one of the world’s leading centers of Yiddish culture. With Yiddish daily newspapers, weeklies, and numerous other periodicals, it has been a great center of Yiddish publishing. Hundreds of Yiddish writers, artists, musicians, and scholars lived in the city.

The Jewish Community of Buenos Aires, known as the Kehilla, is a truly unique organization. With its large membership, it has handled all aspects of communal life for the Jews of East European origins

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