The Golden Pacific Region includes Northern California and Hawaii.
OUR JEWISH COUSINS, SOUTH OF THE EQUATOR
Stan Goldman, regional co-president
For a few short weeks this past December, my wife Carol and I escaped our long wintry nights to vacation in sunny Chile, Argentina and Brazil. From Iguazu Falls in Brazil to Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego in the south, we were treated to Nature’s grandeur. And with the assistance of B’nai B’rith International, we were introduced to Jewish leadership in both Chile and Argentina.
The congregation is young and vibrant. Services were well attended – even though it was the middle of their summer. After services, we were introduced to many in the B’nai B’rith and larger Jewish community. Emma, Mario and their family treated us to lavish Shabbat dinner at their home.
On the following Friday in Argentina, BBI District 26 President Mario Wilhelm and his wife Alicia were our gracious hosts. We attended Kabbalat Shabbat services at the historic Congregacion Israelita. The shul is built in the classic style in downtown Buenos Aires. Adjacent to the shul is a grand museum, displaying countless Judaic treasures documenting over 100 years of the Jewish community.
Although I could not understand the Shabbat sermon – in Spanish of course – the rabbi did welcome us by name. He added that we were “B’nai B’rith dignitaries” from the United States. At the oneg following services, I felt a real sense of their hamish community. No one was in a hurry to leave!
Later, the four of us met BBI International VP Susana Chalom de Nesis and her husband BBI District 26 Executive VP Jorge Burkman for dinner at an elegant tango restaurant. At midnight, I think our group was one of the first to leave the restaurant. Don't Argentineans ever sleep????
In speaking with our hosts from Chile and Argentina, I noticed some similarities and some differences between their two districts. Although District 26 covers only Argentina, District 27 includes Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Over the years, all four countries have had some political disagreements.
Each district appears to have about the membership as one of our larger U.S. regions. And lodges in Districts 26 and 27 have very active programming schedules.
From my discussions, it appears that the Jewish community of Buenos Aires has a more established history. And although both Argentina and Chile welcomed Holocaust refugees and survivors during and after WWII, the immigration had a greater demographic impact on smaller Chile.
As to relations with Israel, Chile maintained diplomatic relations until just after the recent Presidential elections, where the socialist candidate defeated her more conservative opponent. Severing ties represents a historic departure for Chile, as both countries have deep economic and military connections. Some believe that the new President’s decision to break relations was a political concession to the much larger Palestinian community. Chile is home to the largest Palestinian-Arab population outside the Middle East.
The recent history of Jews in Argentina has not been easy. Although one of the world’s richest nations at the end of WWII, economic and political troubles have since plagued the country. Argentina has been buffeted by the socialism of the Perons of the 1950’s and 1960’s, the military dictatorship of the 1970’s, the terrorist attacks against the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish Community Center of the 1990’s, and ongoing anti-Semitic incidents.
Despite these challenges, B’nai B’rith seems to be doing well in both countries, providing an “address” where Jews can unite to help each other and provide crucial service to their communities. We look forward to our next visit with our Jewish “cousins,” south of the Equator.
Regional communications - We learn by sharing. Stan Goldman agreed to continue publishing the "Weekly Update." Please send any info about upcoming lodge/unit events to Stan (firstname.lastname@example.org).
R. Stanley Goldman
B'nai B'rith Golden Pacific Region
801 Second Avenue, 14th Floor
New York, NY 10017
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