By Aviva Perlman
Buenos Aires became the first South American city to open a second Hillel building on March 10 when Hillel Argentina dedicated the new Hillel Argentina University Center in downtown Buenos Aires.
The new building is near Buenos Aires University (UBA), one of the most renowned state institutions within Argentina. The first Hillel Argentina is located in Belgrano, a middle-class neighborhood in the northern part of Buenos Aires.
"In general, the first Hillel center is used mostly in the afternoons, evenings and weekends," said Jay Rubin, executive vice president of Hillel's International Division. "The new Hillel center is to become a place that is more accessible to students during the day."
The more than 4,000 Jewish students attending UBA have access to an inexpensive kosher cafeteria, a library, a free cyber caf, study spaces, meeting spaces and free academic, Jewish and artistic activities.
"Because most South American students live at home, many aspects of American campus life do not exist," Rubin said. "In South America, Hillel is less about religious services and more about other Jewish and academic activities."
Rubin, Lynne B Harrison, a member of Hillel's International Board of Governors and Board of Directors, and participants on the 2005 Lay Leadership Mission to South America attended the opening-day activities
. Also in attendance were Amos Hermon, chairman of the Jewish Agency's Education Commission, and representatives from the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish Agency for Israel, which works in partnership with Hillel to support Jewish student life in South America.
A delegation of 16 students from American University and Georgetown University who were visiting Argentina on an alternative-break program also participated in inauguration activities.
"I had the privilege and honor of affixing a mezuzah made by the group and Gary Rosenthal, a sculptor from the DC area," said American University sophomore Ben Horwitz.
Similar to the first Argentina Hillel center, the new location is community-based, where students between 18 and 30 years old can participate in different activities to complement their university studies.
"It was an amazing experience sharing in the joy of another Jewish community I had only met a few days prior," Horwitz said.
According to Rubin, Hillel's popularity in South America is quickly growing.
"A couple of other cities in Argentina have been lobbying with Hillel Argentina to get centers opened up in their areas," Rubin said. "Considering the oldest South American Hillel is only four years old, it's pretty encouraging."Aviva Perlman is a junior at American University and an intern in Hillel's communications department.