Posted by: Wayne L. Firestone, President on 3/13/2007 2:12:00 PM
Have you ever heard of Cordoba, Argentina? Cordoba, a province located 400 miles from Buenos Aires, is home to Argentina’s second-largest city and to the world’s newest Hillel. I have just returned from a moving journey to Cordoba where I joined with local students, professionals, and volunteer leaders from across the Americas to celebrate the inauguration of our new Hillel facility.
Celebration is the proper word because the creation of a Hillel in Cordoba is a welcome development in a community that is still recovering from decades of economic and political hardship. We were pleased to meet with Cordoba Governor Jose Manuel de la Sota who praised the creation of Hillel and spoke of the importance of the Jewish community.
The capital city of the province, which is also named Cordoba, has an estimated Jewish population of 10,000. The new Hillel center, located in the Nueva Cordoba neighborhood, will serve approximately 2,000 Jewish students attending six major universities. It is the third Hillel in Argentina and the fifth in South America.
Participating in the ribbon cutting were our International Board of Governors member from Argentina, Eduardo Elzstain, the chair of Hillel Uruguay Sergio Zimet and representatives from Brazil Hillel. Martin Teicher, a local businessman who has spearheaded the creation of Hillel Cordoba, was present. North American volunteer leaders Fred Margulies and Joseph Farivar also made the trip to demonstrate their support. Also attending were representatives from the Jewish Agency for Israel, Taglit-birthright israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Chabad.
At night, over 300 students packed a trendy nightclub to officially open their new Hillel. Hillel Cordoba will kick off its programming with seminars on Jewish leadership training for young professionals and with tzedek programming, such as working with disadvantaged youth and the elderly.
Cordoba Hillel is another example of the hard work and talent of our executive director in Argentina, Gabriel Trajtenberg. Gabi has created a Hillel in Argentina that is enriching the lives of hundreds and hundreds of Jewish students, often under trying circumstances. He is a model of warmth, determination and administrative savvy. We are fortunate to have him.
While I was in Argentina, I connected with groups of Hillel students from the University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt who were in the country to do tzedek, social justice, alternative spring breaks. They were led by Vanderbilt Hillel Executive Director Ari Dubin and Hillel of Greater Philadelphia Executive Director Rabbi Howard Alpert. Hillel truly has become an international movement in which students of all backgrounds and citizenship share a commitment to social justice and Jewish peoplehood.
They say that Cordoba is at the heart of Argentina. Now, this distant Jewish community has a place in Hillel’s heart as well.
RE: Hillel in the Heart of Argentina
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