With the lighting of a torch and the signing of a charter of commitment, Hillel opened its first branch in Argentina in June.
"Jewish students are stuck in the middle of the economic crisis in Argentina," explains Hillel Argentina Executive Director Gabriel Trajtenberg. "Hillel will allow students to strengthen their Jewish identity, provide an international network they can count on, and develop professionally. Hillel brings hope, not just assistance."
Hillel Argentina was launched with the support of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and local Jewish philanthropists. The project was spearheaded by local chairman Eduardo Elzstain.
Hillel's second affiliate in Latin America, Hillel Argentina will serve as a student center that is free to college-age Jews throughout Buenos Aires, rather than simply a campus student center. This structure responds to the needs of young Jews in Latin America who typically live at home during their college years, and do not have a social outlet within the Jewish community.
"Hillel offers a new form of participation for this age group unlike anything currently sponsored by other Jewish groups in Buenos Aires," said Jay Rubin, executive vice-president of Hillel. "Hillel Argentina will bring our experience with Jewish engagement to this new population. We will meet them where they are and provide programs and services in the areas where they are interested."
Hillel will sponsor many activities such as social events, professional development, arts and culture, Jewish learning and celebration, community service, Israel advocacy and Zionism, sports and recreation, academic assistance, leadership training, and participation in various conferences.
Although the staff currently works out of a temporary space, Hillel Argentina leased a spacious and attractive 1920s-style mansion in the Jewish neighborhood of Belgrano. Renovations are underway and plans for the new building include a cyber-caf, Judaic library, multi-purpose lounges, meeting rooms, and a large enclosed outdoor area with a swimming pool and a typical Argentinean barbecue. The development of Hillel Argentina has been spearheaded by local chairman Eduardo Elzstain.
The creation of Hillel Argentina will enable local Jewish students to participate in Hillel programs in the United States and around the world. A group of 11 students from Argentina will participate in the Charles Schusterman International Student Leaders Assembly in Honesdale, PA, in August to expose them to Hillel student leadership training and to enable them to network with fellow Jewish students.
"Argentina Hillel provides me a new way to participate in the Jewish community in Buenos Aires and around the world," says Luciana Pattin. "I feel like I am part of a bigger family now."
"I am proud that Hillel's Jewish renaissance has come to Argentina," Hillel International Board of Governors Chairman Edgar Bronfman told the opening ceremony.