It is surprising to many, but Argentina has a large population of Jews. The question people ask is “Why?” I wondered the same thing. This is what I learned after reading up on the subject.
- Argentina is home to around 250,000 Jews, making it the sixth largest Jewish community in the world, and the biggest in Latin America.
- The vast majority of Argentina’s Jewish population is now located in Buenos Aires. There are smaller communities found in other parts of the country, especially Rosario, Córdoba and Santa Fe.
- 85% of the Jews in Argentina descend from France, Germany and Eastern Europe. The remaining 15 % are descendants of those from the Iberian Peninsula, the Middle East and North Africa. The majority of the 15% are Orthodox.
- A small amount of Jewish settlers came to Argentina very early on, to evade the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions. During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries some came as ‘conversos’ or secret Jews.
- After Argentina gained independence from Spain 1816, there was a spike in Jewish immigration, mostly from France, with others coming from England and Germany.
- At the turn of the 20th century another wave of immigration diversified the community, with Sephardic Jews arriving from Turkey and North Africa.
- In the 20th century Jewish immigration to Argentina peaked following both world wars and the Holocaust.
- According to the 1960 national census, there were 275,913 Jews living in Argentina, though it is believed that this figure was more like 310,000, representing the peak of the Argentine Jewish population in the 20th century.
Since the first surge of Jewish settlers, Argentina has been both a safe haven and a place of persecution for Jews. Today Jews in Argentina are in need of the same transforming Gospel as the Argentines. Pray for them with me.