Argentina is home to approximately 200,000 Jews, making it the largest Jewish center in Latin America. The first Jews to arrive in the 16th and 17th centuries hailed from Portugal and Spain. They quickly assimilated into the Argentine culture. During the mid-19th century, an influx of European Jewish immigrants, particularly from France, arrived. During the same century, many Russian immigrants fled to Argentina to escape the violence and poverty of their homeland.
In the 1930s, political unrest sparked Argentine anti-Semitism. Then came the political rise of Juan Peron, a known Nazi-sympathizer. Jewish immigration ceased. Argentina became a notorious haven for Nazi war criminals, and Buenos Aires was soon a center for anti-Semitic activity. Despite the overthrow of Peron, waves of anti-Semitism followed. The capture of Adolf Eichmann in 1960 further aroused anti-Jewish sentiment.
JDC initiated its operations in Argentina following World War II. In 1992, terrorists bombed the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. Two years later, in July 1994, the Argentine Jewish community was the victim of another terrorist bomb. This one destroyed the AMIA (Argentine Mutual Aid Association) building, claimed 86 lives and wounded 200 people. The bomb also destroyed or damaged the properties of 900 families. The community had barely recovered from the attack when Argentina’s economy began to collapse.
In 2001, Arentina’s economy collapsed, plunging the Jewish community into poverty. JDC responded immediately with an emergency relief fund, establishing welfare services and medical support. In partnership with local Jewish organizations, the Ariel Job Center was created to assist those who were looking for employment.