This week, B’Chadrei Chareidim spoke to Ariel Eichbaum, the president of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires, about the situation of the Jewish community in Argentina during its prolonged lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis.
The Jewish community in Buenos Aires, which has been in continuous lockdown since before Purim, has been dealing with closed shuls and inactive Jewish organizations for months, with a total lockdown reimposed this week until at least July 17 due to the continuous uptick of virus cases in recent weeks.
Despite one of the longest lockdowns in the world, the province of Buenos Aires, which is home to about one-third of the country’s population, has one of the highest rates of infection in the country, and the number of cases has been rising. Residents are forbidden from leaving their homes except to buy food or medication and even those errands can only be carried out within 500 meters of their homes. The lockdown’s effect on the economy has been devastating and the Jewish community has not been spared.
“We’re collapsing,” Eichbaum told B’Chadrei. “Argentina’s main economy is in Buenos Aires. The ongoing lockdown is harming institutions, schools and communities. We’re working night and day at the AMIA (Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, the Jewish Community Center) to assist the Jewish communities but it’s not enough. We’re hoping the state of Israel can make an effort and assist the community in Argentina.”
“We’re also having trouble from a religious standpoint. A few days ago we successfully gained government approval for an outline for mikvaos but we haven’t made any progress regarding minyanim. In the next few days, I’m working together with other organizations to obtain government approval for an outline [for minyanim].”
Most of Argentina’s Jews live in Buenos Aires but there are dozens of small active communities outside the capital city, where the lockdown is not as strict due to the lower infection rate and minyanim of ten men are allowed, said Rav Eliyahu Hamara, president of the Federation of Argentine Jewish Communities.
“We at the AMIA assist the communities financially every month and also organize events and provide advice,” Rav Hamara said. “Over the past month, we invested in a special website at https://donacion.com.ar/vaadhakehilot, at which anyone who wants can donate to the Argentine community from all over the world. We also keep a registry of all the Jewish patients in the country and try to provide a response to every request.”
It seems like the ongoing crisis, both from a health and financial perspective, is leading to a rise of Argentine Jews interested in making aliyah. “We’re currently organizing a special flight for hundreds of community members with Israeli passports or who have finalized the aliyah process,” Rav Hamara said.
Argentina has recorded 67,182 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,351 fatalities.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)