My Jewish Rosario


When I arrived in Rosario, Argentina for a six-week study abroad program this Summer through the School of Journalism and Communications at my college, I knew only a bit from my Rabbis about the large 110-year-old Jewish population there.

Approximately 0.2% of the entire seven billion people in this world are Jewish.  Of that small percentage, about 181,500 live in Argentina; 15,000 in Rosario.  How did these Jews end up there?  As with most Diaspora populations, it began with expulsion; this time in 1492 from Spain.

Once Argentina gained its independence from Spain in 1810, more immigrants arrived, this time from France. By 1920, more than 150,000 Jews immigrated to Argentina from Europe. When Juan Peron seized power in 1946, Jews worried about his support for the Nazi party. He halted Jewish immigration into Argentina but created diplomatic relations with Israel in 1949.

“There may have been some anti-Semitic attacks in the past, especially during the '70’s or during the Dirty War,” explained Rabino Pablo Lugt, Rabbi at the Kehila Rosario, a conservative synagogue.

Once Peron was overthrown, anti-Semitism rose in Argentina due to the Nazi’s who fled Germany and found refuge there after the Holocaust.  Under Argentinian military rule between 1976 and 1983, Jews became part of the 30,000 Argentinians who were tortured at facilities – one of which I toured – displaced from their homes and never heard from again.

Extremely high security was present on my first attempt to enter the Kehila Rosario synagogue.   I was turned away, told that I had to present my passport and a letter from school explaining who I am.  

When I returned the next day, security knew who I was and buzzed me in.  Rabbi Pablo explained the two bombs that exploded in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994.  He said security was intensified because,“unfortunately, you never know what can happen here.”  The first bomb was at the Israeli Embassy and the second was at the Jewish community center, collectively killing 119 people and wounding more than 100. 

One of my more rewarding experiences in Rosario was finding its Conservative Jewish youth movement, Hejalutz Lamerjav.  I naturally gravitated towards it because in Los Angeles, I was strongly affiliated with United Conservative Youth (USY).  I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with 19-year-old Clari Goldin, who is an active participant.

“Being Jewish is an essential part of my life” she commented as we sat in the back corner of the coffee shop, sipping on our café con leche and intrigued that we could connect so well just because we are both Jewish: “It is part of our identity.” This is a phrase I could relate to well. Both Clari and I were raised Conservative, the key difference is that she's from Rosario and I am from Los Angeles.  This was easy to bypass through our shared religious traditions and ideals, experience with Jewish summer camps and youth movements, and our time spent in Israel.

Clari attended a Jewish day school. At age nine, she joined the Hejalutz Lamerjav.  After grade school, she spent a year in Israel training to become a leader.  She is now a Madricha (counselor), educating young Argentinean Jews on their religion, culture and the State of Israel.  But, Clari is frustrated at the growing assimilation of younger generations. “I am proud of and love being Jewish,” she says. “I just want to encourage others to feel the same way.”

When anti-Semitism or anti-Israel rhetoric is present either in Rosario or on social media, Clari stays loud.  It is very common in Argentina – and in the US – to hear, “Don’t be so Jewish,” as an insult or stereotype.  It’s a label. She explains, “we get used to it, but we try to stop it. You will hear that kind of stuff and see swastikas in the streets, but you know that you are you and are stronger,”

Clari is proud, as am I, to be part of a huge community all around the world. “I can talk to you here because we understand the same things,” she said. “We think the same way. We are family. It’s powerful. It’s something I just feel.”

Hearing someone who lives 5,941 miles from my home echo my opinions on what it means to be young and Jewish gave me a lot of hope for the continuation of the Jewish religion.   “My favorite part is belonging to something huge. I know that I have a home no matter what. I have a family no matter what and I want my children and future generations to feel the same way,” says Clari.  Rabbi Pablo echoes her words, “The synagogue is the place where a community comes together to find God.” The key word is “together.” 

No matter where I am in the world, I can always be “together” with the Jewish community.

Even if we only make up a very small portion of the world’s population, finding a person so similar to me, who understands my family’s history, knows what I’m talking about when I compare the Argentine food, Suprema—a breaded, baked chicken—with my mom’s schnitzel, or who can break a language barrier by some basic knowledge of Hebrew, automatically makes me feel comfortable and at home.  As Clari opined,  “wherever I go, the Jewish people will truly always make me feel at home.”


Natalie Engler is a resident of Los Angeles, a Sophomore at the University of Oregon and the StandWithUs Emerson Fellow 2016-17

From Holocaust survivor to Mother of Plaza de Mayo


In October 1977, two couples, all Holocaust survivors, carpooled to an illegal protest in downtown Buenos Aires. Each couple had a missing child. Sara and Bernardo Rus’ son, Daniel, a nuclear physics student, had been kidnapped in July from his work at the Atomic Energy Commission. Armed men had also abducted Lea and Marcos Novera’s son Héctor, a law student, from their home the previous month, along with his younger brother, who had since been released.

At the time, it was still the beginning of Argentina’s dictatorship (1976-1983), during which some 30,000 people disappeared — kidnapped, arrested and many executed in secret detention centers, or dropped from airplanes on “death flights.” An overwhelming number were university students with ties to leftist groups, and approximately 5 to 6 percent were Jewish, despite the fact that Jews made up only about 1 percent of the country’s population.

The families, from the same neighborhood, headed to a demonstration of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, staged by a group of mothers whose children had disappeared. The group met to circle a pyramid-shaped monument in front of the Presidential Palace every Thursday. As a precaution, Marcos Novera stayed by the car, parked a few blocks away from the plaza.

“With Mother’s Day [in Argentina] approaching, the protest took on more force,” recalled Lea, 89, sitting in her apartment’s kitchen in Buenos Aires in late July. “Just in case, someone should stay outside.”

Family members of the disappeared linked arms and marched, chanting, “Tell us where they are.” Many policemen with loudspeakers started to arrive and began emptying buses near the plaza, ordering protesters to leave or board the buses. The Ruses left, but Lea was arrested, taken by bus to a police station. When she was released late that night and called her house from a parking garage, her daughter-in-law told her that her missing son Héctor had returned that same night, wearing his pajamas, with cracked ribs and having undergone electric shocks.

“It was luck, because there were so many innocents who died,” said Lea, who had filed daily writs of habeus corpus for both her sons. “I didn’t go to the marches anymore — I didn’t feel I had the strength. I was filled with a terrible fear, because we were living a period like Nazism.”

The Ruses’ fight for Daniel was just beginning, and today he remains unaccounted for, one of 15 disappeared from Argentina’s Atomic Energy Commission.

In late July, Sara, 89, told the story of both of her tragedies to a group of young professionals in the Buenos Aires Jewish neighborhood of Balvanera (commonly known as Once), as part of an event of Zikaron BaSalon, an organization that invites Holocaust survivors to give testimony in people’s homes.

“Effectively, I’ve survived twice,” she said, beginning her story. 

Sara was born in 1927 in Lodz, a textile-manufacturing city in Poland that at the time had the second-highest number of Jews in the country. Her parents were German immigrants, and her father ran a sewing workshop that manufactured and sold furs and suits.

After Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Nazi soldiers raided her house. Noticing a small violin on a table, a Nazi asked to whom it belonged. Her mother answered that it was Sara’s, who had started playing by ear.

“He grabs it, bangs it against the table and destroys it,” Sara said. “That was the first visit of the Nazis that I remember. The first time they hurt me.”

In 1940, the family moved into a single room in the Lodz ghetto, where Sara worked in a hat factory for a daily meal card. Her mother gave birth in the ghetto, and Sara would wake up early to look for milk for her baby brother. He died at three months old from malnutrition, and when her mother gave birth again a year later, the newborn was assassinated immediately by the Nazis.

Despite the losses suffered by her family, “In the ghetto, love also existed,” Sara said. At 16, she fell for Bernardo, a young man her father invited to dinner one night, despite their more than 10-year age difference. They decided that if both survived the war, they would meet in Buenos Aires, in front of the famous Kavanagh skyscraper, and they set a date of May 5, 1945, which Bernando wrote in her pocketbook.

The two were separated in July 1944, when the Nazis accelerated the liquidation of the ghetto; a train took Sara and her mother to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where her mother was sent to a line on the right — to die — and Sara to a line on the left — to work. Frantic, Sara approached a German soldier and told him she wanted to be with her mother.

“He shouted at me, how do you dare to approach me?” Sara said. Shocked when he learned she spoke German, however, the Nazi allowed Sara’s mother to switch lines.

After seven weeks in Birkenau, another train transported them both to Czechoslovakia, where Sara worked and slept in an airplane factory. After suffering a serious injury, she was taken to a hospital, where she spoke back to a Nazi who accused her of trying to avoid work.

“I said, ‘You’re right, I did it on purpose.’ He froze. The girls thought he was going to kill me,” she said. Miraculously, the Nazi instead ordered her recovery.

By 1945, they could already see the Allies’ planes overhead, but the prisoners were forced on another train to Austria, from where they began a “death march” to the Mauthausen camp. They were liberated there in May, on the same day that Sara had long ago intended to meet Bernardo.

Unable to eat or drink from malnutrition, Sara recovered slowly in a military hospital, where she received a letter from Bernardo, who had survived Birkenau. He had heard she too had survived and wrote that he was waiting to marry her in Lodz.

“I had a boina [beret], and he was well dressed, like a man,” she said, describing their reunion. “I can’t describe to you how pale we both were, and our happiness.”

After living briefly in a refugee camp in U.S.-occupied Germany, Sara, Bernardo and Sara’s mother decided to travel to Buenos Aires, where they had family who immigrated there right before the war. They flew to Asuncion, Paraguay, on a KLM flight for refugees, and since Argentine President Juan Perón had prohibited Jewish immigration, they crossed a river at night into Formosa, Argentina, where the local Jewish community took them in.

Threatened by officials to be sent back to Paraguay, Sara’s now-husband Bernardo wrote to Eva Peron, the president’s wife and a social activist, asking for clemency as refugees. It was granted, and, at age 20, Sara finally arrived in Buenos Aires, where she gave birth to Daniel and his younger sister, Natalia.

“We cared about giving our children everything we never had,” she said.

But her next tragedy began once her son became an adult.

A week before Daniel was kidnapped, a chemist friend of his disappeared.

“My husband told him, ‘Please, Daniel, go to Uruguay and then go to Israel,’ ” Sara said, explaining that her son refused to stop working on his thesis. “He said, ‘Why would I leave here?’ ”

After Daniel disappeared, Sara and Bernardo traveled to Washington, D.C.; they also wrote letters to then-military dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, the pope, the United Nations, and even the German foreign ministry, but received no information. Sara began marching weekly with the Mothers, wearing a headscarf embroidered with her son’s name.

“I wasn’t interested in politics,” she said. “I just wanted to be with my children.”

Bernardo died in 1984, a year after Argentina returned to democracy, having given up on finding Daniel. Sara now speaks in schools about both her stories, and, in 2012, she visited Poland with several Jewish schools through March of the Living, “on the condition that they would take me to the city where they forced me from, where my entire family had lived.”

In 2007, Eva Eisenstaedt wrote Sara’s biography, “Sobrevivir dos Veces” (Surviving Twice).

“No one denies the dictatorship, but there is an entire generation that prefers not to speak,” Eisenstaedt said, noting that Sara’s public profile contrasts with the Mothers’ collective approach. “She is a protagonist; she dedicates herself to speaking. No one can take this away from her, because it’s her story.”

Today, Sara practices Israeli dancing once a week and finds happiness in her two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, as well as by telling her story.

“Life continues onward,” she said, smiling. “I think that the most wonderful thing is to have friends, people that care about you, and to speak if you have something you want to share.” 

——————————–

FOR THE RECORD Aug. 19, 2016:

An earlier version of this arcticle had an incorrect photo credit. The photographer is Gabriela Scheyer

Argentine Jewish leaders call on government to make AMIA bombing a ‘national priority’


Argentine Jewish leaders called on the country’s government to make the investigation of the AMIA Jewish center bombing a “national priority” at a ceremony commemorating the attack that killed 85 and injured hundreds.

Speakers at the ceremony Monday at the site of the rebuilt building also thanked the government for voiding the agreement with Iran to jointly investigate the 1994 bombing, which Iran has been accused of being behind.

President Mauricio Macri, who canceled the memorandum of understanding with Iran last December in his first week in office, attended the event for the first time as president but left early. Other members of his Cabinet stayed for the entire ceremony.

AMIA Vice President Ralph Thomas Saieg praised the “positive nullification” of the Iran pact. Sofia Guterman, whose daughter Andrea, 28, was killed in the bombing, also praised the Macri government for its quick cancellation of the memorandum.

Guterman also told the gathering that the previous governments “talked a lot but did very little. It is time that it promises less and solves more.” She added that if the investigation does not come to a resolution, “we’ll soon have to issue a death certificate for the case itself.”

Saieg called on the head of AMIA Special Unit, Mario Cimadevilla, and Justice Minister Germán Garavano to make the case “a national priority.” There have been no arrests.

“We know you have been in your posts for a short time, but we have been calling for justice for 22 years and bearing the sad reality of not having even one person arrested,” Saieg said.

The late AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman was remembered at the event, as well as at the Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism, where a panel on Monday was dedicated to the AMIA attack.

At the panel, Cimadevilla confirmed that he was preparing a law for trial in absentia to be discussed soon in the Parliament. The 250 participants from 17 countries who came to the Buenos Aires forum — the first time it’s been held in Latin America — participated in the AMIA ceremony.

In the 18 months since Nisman’s death, authorities have yet to determine whether he took his own life or was killed by someone else.

“Nisman didn’t kill himself, he was murdered,” Guterman asserted at the panel. “He was assassinated for being the prosecutor of AMIA case.”

Nisman had been scheduled to appear in Congress hours after he was discovered shot dead in his apartment to present allegations that then-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner orchestrated a secret deal to cover up Iranian officials’ alleged role in the AMIA bombing. Fernandez denied the allegations and judges threw out the case.

In a statement, B’nai B’rith International President Gary Saltzman recalled Nisman’s “valiant efforts to procure justice for victims of the AMIA building bombing.”

Global meeting against anti-Semitism meets in Buenos Aires


An increase in education, closer monitoring of the internet and media, new legislation, and interfaith dialogue are needed to combat anti-Semitism, a global meeting against anti-Semitism was told in Buenos Aires.

Parliamentarians and 250 experts from 17 countries in the region came to the Argentine capital for the Global Forum for Combatting Antisemitism, a biennial gathering for assessing the state of anti-Semitism globally and formulating effective forms of societal and governmental response.

The two-day assembly, meeting for the first time in Latin America, opened Sunday.

Also for the first time, a non-Jewish group — the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition, an evangelical Christian organization — was a co-organizer.

“This is an historical event. The presence of the evangelical community united with the Jewish community in this fight against anti-Semitism is very important,” Pastor Mario Bramnick of the coalition told JTA. “We are half a billion people in Latin American and rising. We could be a tremendous force for support and a voice, impacting people, legislation and governments.”

Gideon Behar, director of the Department of Combatting Antisemitism at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told JTA that non-Jews are essential in the battle against anti-Semitism “because it is an international problem and not only a Jewish problem.”

“It affects the society at large, and is a danger for democracy, Western values and the civilized world. Evangelicals are very important and we want also other coalition partners.”

On Saturday night, Bramnick hosted a Celebration of Israel event at an evangelical church in Argentina.

Ira Forman, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, is among the participants at the Intercontinental Hotel gathering. Among those joining him are Argentina’s vice president, Gabriel Michetti, and minister of social development, Carolina Stanley; Colombian Supreme Court Justice Camilo Montoya, and Uruguay’s education and culture minister, Maria Julia Muñoz.

Other co-organizers of the annual forum include the World Jewish Congress through its regional chapter, the Latin American Jewish Congress, and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

At the first panel on Sunday, award-winning Uruguayan publicist Pipe Stein presented a campaign that he created to erase racism in language for the Afro-Uruguayan Culture House.

“The racism that the black people in Uruguay suffer is also my problem, just as anti-Semitism is also a problem in society,” he said.

On Monday, forum participants are scheduled to attend the ceremony commemorating the 22nd anniversary of the AMIA Jewish center bombing before meeting at the rebuilt AMIA building for the last session, which is dedicated to presenting an action plan for the region.

A youth forum of 25 representatives from Argentina, organized by the state’s National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism, also is participating in the forum.

ISIS logo featured on threatening note to Jewish sports club vandalized in Argentina


A Jewish sports club in Argentina was the victim of a threat that included the Islamic State logo.

A threatening note with the logo was attached to a plastic bottle filled with cement that was thrown through a window of the Maccabi Jewish Community Center and sports club in Santa Fe City, the capital of the Santa Fe province.

The note read “This is a warning, the next one will explode” and “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic.

“This is the first time the ISIS flag has been used in an attack in Argentina,” Ariel Gelblum, a representative of the Wiesenthal Center in Latin America, told JTA. “The influence of ISIS is growing in Latin America and this could be a consequence of the spread of ISIS hate messages.”

The National Institute Against Discrimination expressed “deep concern” about the attack “written in Spanish and in Arabic with a motto used by fundamentalist groups,” according to a statement issue by its Santa Fe office.

The Santa Fe representative of the Argentine Jewish political umbrella DAIA, Horacio Roitman, met with police and security authorities to strengthen surveillance of the institution and to put in place preventive measures. Roitman denounced the attack in interviews with local and national media.

The JCC said on social media that its activities will continue as usual. Maccabi is celebrating this month its 60th year, as well as the 30th year of its headquarters in Santa Fe City.

Argentina was hit by deadly bombings in Buenos Aires of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the AMIA Jewish center in 1994. Iran, through the Hezbollah terrorist group, has been accused of plotting the attacks, though no one has been brought to justice.

The late special prosecutor Alberto Nisman charged that the Argentine government was involved in covering up Iran’s role in the AMIA bombing. He was found shot to death in January 2015 in his Buenos Aires apartment; the official cause of death has yet to be determined.

In March, the murder of a Jewish businessman in Uruguay by a gunman who yelled “Allahu Akbar” was seen as marking the arrival of Islamist terrorism from the Middle East to South America.

 

Jewish justice joining Argentina’s Supreme Court in landmark appointment


Carlos Rosenkrantz, a Buenos Aires attorney and law professor, as well as a former presidential adviser, will be the first Jewish justice on the Supreme Court of Argentina.

Rosenkrantz, 57, is expected to be sworn in to the nation’s highest court next month after being approved last week by two-thirds of the Senate. He was nominated by President Mauricio Macri.

The Buenos Aires native has been teaching law theory at the University of Buenos Aires since 1990 after earning his law degree from the school seven years earlier. He also works at his own law firm, Bouzat, Rosenkrantz & Associates.

Rosenkrantz was an adviser to then-President Raul Alfonsin during the constitutional reform convention in 1994. He was global law professor at the New York University law school from 1996 to 2007.

Just weeks after his nomination last December, the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires wrote in a public letter supporting his candidacy that his appointment “would constitute a significant step in building a judiciary that reflects the diversity and plurality of our people,” pointing out that “Rosenkrantz would be the first Jewish judge to integrate the Supreme Court.”

In a biography on his own webpage, Rosenkrantz describes himself as a “son of a Jewish father with Polish roots and a Catholic teacher.”

His mother was born in the northern province of Corrientes, and Rosenkrantz has said he considers himself to have ties to the province. In an appearance before the Senate on March 10, Rosenkrantz joked about his ties with the Corrientes province as well as with the Corrientes, a main avenue in Buenos Aires that passes through the Jewish neighborhoods of Balvanera and Almagro.

During confirmation hearings, a senator asked if his origins from a northern region could bring diversity to the court.

“With regard to regionalism, I consider myself 40 percent Correntinean, I am sensitive to regional diversities. My mother is Correntinean; my father used to say that he was Correntinean … but actually he was a Jew from  Corrientes Street, not from the province of Corrientes,” Rosenkrantz said.

He added: “I think that I bring some cultural diversity to the (Supreme) Court.”

Alberto Nisman may have been forced to kill himself, says Argentine prosecutor


Alberto Nisman, the federal prosecutor who investigated the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center here, may have been forced to kill himself, a prosecutor who was formerly in charge of his case said.

Viviana Fein, who in December was removed from the investigation into Nisman’s mysterious death, had said before that it was likely suicide. But in an interview with local radio station La Red, she acknowledged for the first time that it was possible he was “induced” to kill himself.

Fein defended the theory, saying there were several back-and-forth calls with “six or seven people,” including former spy chief Antonio Stiuso and then-army chief Cesar Milani on Jan. 18, 2015. The body of Nisman, who led the probe of the AMIA Jewish center attack that killed 85 people, was discovered that day in his apartment with a gunshot wound to the head.

“I think he was forced; it’s perhaps highly likely that they forced him or induced him to commit suicide,” Fein said, adding: “I find it suggestive and noteworthy that personalities of this caliber were on the same day of his death talking uninterruptedly.”

Elaborating on this point, she said: “There was a group of people who may have been waiting for something. It’s possible, it’s one of the hypotheses, but it raises red flags that these calls happened only on that day, not before or after.”

Nisman had been scheduled to appear in Congress the day after his death to present allegations that then-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner orchestrated a secret deal to cover up Iranian officials’ alleged role in the AMIA bombing. Fernandez denied the allegations and judges threw out the case.

Nearly 18 months after Nisman’s death, authorities have yet to determine whether he took his own life or was killed by someone else.

Conspiracy theories have flourished around the case.

Argentine president asked to help nix Iranian terror suspect’s visit to Colombia


A Jewish human rights group asked the president of Argentina to help prevent a planned visit to Colombia by an Iranian implicated in terrorism.

Shimon Samuels, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director of international relations, conveyed the request Thursday in a meeting with President Mauricio Macri at the government palace here. Mohsen Rabbani, a former Iranian cultural attaché in Argentina, is scheduled to visit Bogota as a representative of the Iranian government in a delegation seeking to increase trade.

Rabbani has been wanted by Interpol since 2007 in connection with the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. He was implicated in that attack by the Argentinean government, whose judiciary determined Iran had a role in planning and carrying it out. Eighty-five people died in the blast.

The London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported Monday Rabbani’s planned participation in the Colombia visit by officials from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“A free sanctions Iran mixed with a commercial-needy Latin America is a very dangerous combination,” Samuels said. “After the commercial missions, terror will follow.“

In recent years, Iran expanded its activity in Latin America, including the 2014 opening of a news agency based in Buenos Aires devoted to covering the continent.

Also in 2014, the Israeli government launched a three-year plan to strengthen its economic ties with five Latin American countries, including Colombia.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos received in 2012 the Shalom Prize by the World Jewish Congress. Early this year, Colombia’s ambassador to Washington, D.C., held a reception in honor of WJC President Ronald Lauder, who called Colombia a friend of Israel.

Colombia was one of only four Latin American countries that abstained from a 2012 United Nations General Assembly vote on a motion supporting the creation of a Palestinian state, which Israel opposed. Only one Latin American country, Panama, voted against the motion.

During their meeting, the Simon Wiesenthal Center delegation asked Macri to reverse Argentina’s vote in favor of a resolution passed by UNESO in April that Jewish groups and Israel said ignored the Jewish people’s ties to Jerusalem.

First Jewish same-sex marriage in Latin America held at Argentine synagogue


The first Jewish same-sex wedding ceremony in Latin America was celebrated at a Buenos Aires synagogue.

Victoria Escobar, 36, a convert to Judaism, and Romina Charur, 35, were married on Sunday evening at NCI Emanu El Temple in the Argentine capital. Some 300 guests attended the ceremony, which was officiated by Rabbi Karina Finkielstein.

Escobar and Charur entered the synagogue together and the rabbi led them to the huppah. Less than one hour later, Finkelstein read in Hebrew from the ketubah, or marriage contract, that consecrated the wedding.

The couple were married in a civil ceremony in 2014.

Finkielstein spoke about how about two years ago the couple began to participate actively in the NCI community, including taking courses in parallel, such as introduction to Judaism, Torah and Talmud. The rabbi also spoke of the demanding beit din, or rabbinical court, that approved Escobar’s conversion.

Escobar  was raised in a non-practicing Catholic family and converted to Judaism through the Conservative Latin American rabbinical seminar. She told the Argentine media outlet Infobae that “my desire is to have Jewish children.”

Charur told Argentine media that the couple want to raise a Jewish family and need the ketubah to enroll their future children in Jewish schools. She revealed that they are in the process of in vitro fertilization treatments with a sperm donation and she will gestate the baby.

The ceremony ended with the traditional cries of “mazel tov” from the crowd, as the two brides broke two wine glasses — an image that on Monday was featured on the cover of the leading Argentine newspaper Clarin.

The wedding announcement was widely reported by Argentine and Latin American media, as well as by JTA, and celebrated by LGBT groups such as the Argentinian Homosexual Community, or CHA.

Both brides told Argentine media that they wanted the publicity in order to encourage other couples to hold religious wedding ceremonies.

Argentina was the first country in Latin America to approve same-sex marriages, which have been legal since July 2010.

The assembly of NCI last month unanimously approved a request to hold the same-sex wedding, calling it “another major step in the full recognition of all religious rights for all members of the community,” NCI Emanuel and the LGTB organization Judios Argentinos Gay (Jewish Argentinian Gays), or JAG, said in a statement, which said the wedding would be the first same-sex Jewish religious marriage in Argentina and Latin America.

The decision was made under the guidelines of the 2006 Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, which approved same-sex marriages for the movement.

NCI-Emanu El belongs to both the Conservative and Reform movements.

How the rabbi who never knew Alberto Nisman became his family’s pastor


In January 2015, Rabbi Marcelo Polakoff was stuck in Buenos Aires when his phone rang.

He’d been planning a trip to New York but a storm had canceled all flights, and Polakoff, the rabbi of Cordoba, a province in central Argentina, was cooling his heels at his sister’s house.

A woman he didn’t know was on the line. She introduced herself by saying that she remembered him from a wedding he’d performed for a friend of hers, and asked if he could help her family in Buenos Aires.

Polakoff did not know Nisman, but the call brought the rabbi into a circle of private mourning, public outrage and global intrigue over an event that made headlines around the world.

Nisman was 51 at his death. He left behind a formidable tribe of women: his mother, Sara Garfunkel; her sister, the psychologist Lidia Garfunkel; a sister, Sandra Nisman; and his former wife, Sandra Arroyo Salgado, the mother of their daughters Iara, who was 15 at the time of her father’s death, and Kala, who was 8.

When the cousin called Polakoff, their usual rabbi was out of town. In fact, half the Nisman family was out of town. Polakoff was asked to accompany Nisman’s mother to identify his body.

Argentine law stipulates that a body must be formally identified before burial. On the day of his death, Sara Garfunkel had been taken by jittery police officers to Nisman’s apartment, where she was the first to see his lifeless body splayed on the bathroom floor in a pool of drying blood.

Ten days later, she was asked to view the body again at the city morgue.

“You can’t imagine,” Polakoff, 49, the president of the Latin American Rabbinical Assembly, told JTA. “Sandra [Nisman’s sister] decided not to enter, and Sara asked me to accompany her. Of course, it was very complex and difficult. But this is what rabbis do.”

Polakoff uses his hands to frame a smallish oval on his face. That is what he was able to see of Alberto Nisman’s face when they were called upon to identify the body.

“The magnitude of an event like this can unfocus you,” said Polakoff, who had not told his story before speaking to JTA. “During this year and a bit, I’ve tried not to lose focus and to attempt to simply accompany the family. It is paradoxical that I didn’t meet Alberto Nisman alive. Incredibly, lamentably, it came to me to see him only in death.”

Polakoff also served as shomer, or guardian, of Nisman’s body at the funeral home in the hours before a public wake – a custom of Argentine Jewry distinct from the shiva.

“I was there alone with the coffin for a few hours — well, ‘alone,’” he said. “The streets were blocked off, there were barriers up, guards, snipers, helicopters, attack dogs, anti-terror vehicles.

“Later on, when people started streaming in, there was a waitress, not Jewish, who worked there who’d seen me since I slipped in, who came up to me sobbing, crying rivers of tears. She grabbed my arm and said, ‘Rabbi, I am incensed. I feel desperate. Did you see the deployment out there, even snipers on the roof?’ She’d noticed even that. A waitress. ‘If the prosecutor had had this kind of security two weeks ago, we wouldn’t be here today.’ Sobbing.”

For years, Nisman had received threats to his life and to the well-being of his family. His friends to this day aren’t certain if he was fully aware he was endangering his life by investigating Iran’s role in the bombing of the AMIA community center or in accusing Kirchner of covering it up.

Nisman was protected around the clock by a detail of the Argentine Federal Police. On Jan. 18, 2015, for unknown reasons, they refused to break down his door for the better part of a day when he stopped answering his phone.

Now his family is guarded by officers of the same security force.

“It’s a different government,” friends of the family point out, accurately but without conviction.

On Jan. 29, 2015, the hearse’s slow journey to the Jewish cemetery of La Tablada was interrupted by people jumping into the middle of street shouting “Nisman!” or “Argentina!” or both. Others threw flowers onto the car.

“At one point, while I was riding in the hearse towards the burial, someone jumped out and kissed the car, and it was then that I allowed myself to react, a little,” Polakoff said. “It was unbelievable, unbelievable.”

As part of his eulogy, Polakoff told a story directed at Kala, Nisman’s younger daughter. It was about a little boy her age who liked asking his rabbi tough questions. One day he asked why crocodiles, so ugly and dangerous, live so long, compared to butterflies, which are so pretty and benign.

“I don’t know,” the rabbi answered. “But I do know a crocodile can’t achieve in 1,000 years what a butterfly achieves in two weeks.”

Kala read aloud a letter to her father that ended “Bye Daddy, I’ll see you when I die.”

In January of this year, Mauricio Macri, the newly elected president of Argentina, invited the two Nisman girls to his home to mark the anniversary of their father’s death. Their mother was abroad, so they went with Polakoff.

“It was the two Macris with Antonia, their 4-year-old little girl and the three of us,” the rabbi recalled. “I read Psalm 23 and ‘El Maleh Rachamim’ and explained what it meant to the president.”

The president’s office tweeted an image of the gathering that went viral alongside the message that Macri promised the Nisman girls “there will be justice.”

Last month, a Buenos Aires court ruled that the investigation into Nisman’s death must be handled by a federal court, under the assumption that “the death of Natalio Alberto Nisman could also be a result of the act of a third party.”

Despite the tragic and tabloid-ready circumstances of Nisman’s death, Polakoff said he tries not to view it as anything but a particular family’s loss.

“When death comes early, is violent and has national and international significance, it should be indistinguishable” from any other, from a rabbi’s point of view, he said.

“Because for the person who has lost a loved one too early and violently, no matter what other transcendence the event may have … it is the same to me whoever is the person who died.”

A year after Nisman’s death, signs of progress in Argentina probe


An extraordinary series of developments are bringing new hope — and new heartbreak — to the family and colleagues of Alberto Nisman, the Argentine federal prosecutor who was found dead last year just days after accusing then-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of covering up Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of this city’s AMIA Jewish center.

Fourteen months after Nisman was found dead in his apartment with a single bullet in the head, no autopsy results have been released and no official cause of death has been determined.

But on Feb. 29, Antonio “Jaime” Stiuso, Argentina’s former head of intelligence operations, who has been living in exile in the United States for the past year, delivered bombshell testimony here, accusing Kirchner of ordering a hit on Nisman and seeking to portray his death as a suicide.

“They killed Nisman because of the work he was doing,” Stiuso said in testimony lasting 17 uninterrupted hours, according to numerous media reports.

“The author of all this madness was that woman, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner,” he said. “When the madness of the former president became explicit, I had to take my family and move.”

Stiuso wasn’t done. Referring to Iran, he said, “When you have these people as your enemy, there’s no point in having bodyguards.”

At the time of his death, Nisman, 51, had been under guard by a contingent of officers from the Argentine Federal Police. Their absence from his residence on the night of Jan. 18, 2015 has yet to be explained.

Hours after Stiuso finished testifying, the presiding judge, Fabiana Palmaghini, who took charge of the probe in December, excused herself from further handling the case. In a document over 30 pages long that she managed to produce in a matter of hours, Palmaghini charged Viviana Fein, the investigator of Nisman’s death, with ignoring testimony Stiuso provided in 2015 in which he allegedly said Nisman was killed. Hours after Nisman’s death was discovered, and for no known reasons, Fein announced she was investigating it as a suicide.

The developments come exactly 100 days into Mauricio Macri’s term as president, and some see them as part of his campaign to convince world leaders he can restore Argentina’s global standing. Since he took office in December, he has been visited in Buenos Aires by the leaders of France and Italy. And on Wednesday President Obama will arrive, accompanied by 400 American business leaders, on the first state visit to Argentina by a U.S. president in 27 years.

On Monday, at a news conference held in anticipation of Obama’s visit, Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra described the government’s task as “inserting Argentina in the world” — as if the Kirchner years had caused it to fall off the planet.

Macri’s presidency began with a flourish, annulling what was left of Kirchner’s pact to jointly investigate the AMIA bombing with Iran. Nisman had accused Tehran of masterminding the attack and produced evidence that led Interpol to issue extradition requests against senior Iranian officials, including a former foreign minister.

Last week, appearing before the first meeting of the World Jewish Congress to be held in Latin America, Macri promised to advance the investigation and lamented the harm done to Argentina’s international reputation by the lack of progress in the AMIA probe and the scandal surrounding Nisman’s death.

“But now we are determined to bring what happened to light,” Macri told The Associated Press.

Nisman had devoted the last decade of his life to investigating the AMIA bombing, which left 85 dead and hundreds wounded. Four days before his death, he charged Kirchner with attempting to cover up Tehran’s role.

Last week, Daniel Berliner, the director of Argentina’s Jewish news service, Agencia Judía de Noticias, released what he claims is the last recording of Nisman’s voice. In a telephone call conducted two days before he was found dead, Nisman spoke with eerie clarity.

“I knew that no matter what, I had to do this,” Nisman said. “I couldn’t keep this evidence to myself either for me of or for the country. And well, I’ll end up as I end up. As long as the truth is known.”

Formally, Nisman’s death is still considered a “suspicious death” and is being handled by a lower court. On Friday, in small, stuffy chambers on the fifth floor of the Criminal Court building in downtown Buenos Aires, a panel of three judges heard arguments about the future handling of the case.

The state, which under Kirchner wanted the investigation kept in lower court, under Macri has joined Nisman’s family in requesting its reclassification as a possible homicide and federal crime.

“Federal Prosecutor Natalio Alberto Nisman was assassinated so as to impede the progress of his work on behalf of the state!” thundered Pablo Lanusse, a towering legal figure in Argentina who is representing Nisman’s mother, Sara Garfunkel.

The intense, soft-spoken attorney Manuel Romero Victorica, acting on behalf of Nisman’s former wife and his daughters, quietly read aloud one of the numerous threats emailed to Nisman in his last frenzied months of work: “We will make true our promise to kill you and your family, but before that, we will make you look like shit in public and in the media. We’ve already managed to separate you from the AMIA case and we’ve gotten Argentina a deal with Iran without you.”

Sandra Arroyo Salgado, Nisman’s former wife and herself a judge, broke down in tears as she described her “dual role” as the mother of her daughters and as a judicial figure in her own right.

“We have been through a very complicated year of malevolence and fear,” she declared, describing how she and her daughters have been publicly smeared. “When they talk about ‘Nisman’s little ex-wifey,’ that’s me. How can I tell my daughter that when she hears threats she shouldn’t be afraid?”

The panel is scheduled to decide whether the Nisman case will be transferred to a federal court on Wednesday, the day of Obama’s arrival.

Argentine president ‘determined’ to discover truth of Nisman’s death


Argentine President Mauricio Macri said he is “determined” to discover the truth about the death of AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

“Everything that happened made us look weak in the world,” Macri told The Associated Press as part of a long-ranging interview published Thursday. “But now we are determined to bring what happened to light.”

The Argentine judiciary has not yet determined whether Nisman’s shooting death in January 2015 was a homicide or suicide.

Macri discussed the Nisman case and the 1994 Jewish center bombing, as well as the 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy, during his address Tuesday night to the opening gala of the Plenary Assembly of the World Jewish Congress in Buenos Aires. Both attacks in the Argentine capital remain unresolved.

“Here, we suffer the ravaging consequences of two bomb attacks. We are still in the dark of what happened,” Macri declared, adding: “We are fully committed to contribute in any way we can to make headway with this investigation.”

He also reminded his audience that his government, during its first week in power in December, voided an agreement with Iran to jointly investigate the AMIA bombing, calling it “unconstitutional.”

“A year ago the [AMIA bombing] prosecutor dies, a prosecutor that was trying to elucidate one of these attacks, and he prepared a very tough accusation about why we actually signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran that he believes was unconstitutional,” Macri said at the dinner.

Nisman was found dead hours before he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the AMIA Jewish center bombing, which left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.

The federal Criminal Appeals Court will hold a hearing Friday to decide which court should be given jurisdiction over the Nisman case. A political murder case must be handled by the federal courts.

On Wednesday, the WJC plenary assembly held a tribute to Nisman led by Rabbi Marcelo Polakoff, who shared the stage with Nisman’s mother, Sara Garfunkel; his ex-wife, Sandra Arroyo Salgado, and his daughter, Iara.

The assembly, which is being held this week for the first time in Latin America, is scheduled to end Thursday with the delegates attending a ceremony marking the 24th anniversary of the embassy attack.

Argentine judge denies request to reopen Nisman complaint against ex-president


A federal judge in Argentina rejected a request to reopen an investigation into allegations by the late AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman that former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her government covered up Iran’s role in the bombing of a Jewish center.

Federal Judge Daniel Rafecas ruled late last week that no new evidence has come to light and that the case is already closed due to the absence of a proven criminal offense. He also wrote that the accusation had already been rejected by a federal criminal appeals court and that the prosecutor before the Federal Cassation Court also dismissed the case.

Last month, Rafecas turned down the request made in December by prosecutors to reconsider the complaint filed by Nisman four days before his still-unexplained death, which occurred on the day he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.

Prosecutor Raul Plee had asked the judge to review new information collected during a case dealing with the Memorandum of Understanding signed with Iran to co-investigate the bombing, with an eye toward reviving Nisman’s complaint. Iran has been accused of being behind the bombing.

The government of Mauricio Macri voided the pact in December, days after it was sworn in.

Plee wrote in his December request to reopen the complaint that during hearings on the unconstitutionality of the pact with Iran, the Foreign Ministry presented “secret and confidential” documents that could be considered useful to reactivate Nisman’s accusation against Kirchner, her foreign minister, Hector Timerman, who is Jewish, and others.

Meanwhile, the  investigation into Nisman’s shooting death could take new turn at the end of the week. On Friday, the Buenos Aires City Appeals Court will hold a public hearing with all parties involved to decide if the investigation into Nisman’s death will be sent to a federal court. Murder cases are handled by the federal courts.

At the end of February, prosecutor Ricardo Sáenz called for a federal investigation of the Nisman case. Saenz, the attorney general for Argentina’s Criminal Appeals Court, said a federal magistrate “has the broadest jurisdiction to clarify which of all the assumptions” involving Nisman’s death is the truth. Some have called his death a homicide, while others believe that the prosecutor took his own life.

Obama urged to meet survivors of terror attacks on Argentina Jewish sites


Leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee urged President Barack Obama to meet with survivors of two 1990s terrorist attacks on Jewish institutions when he travels to Argentina.

“As you work to renew the partnership between the United States and Argentina, we would like to suggest that you use this visit as an opportunity to pay tribute to victims of terrorism in Argentina and pledge to help bring those responsible to justice,” said the March 1 letter from Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the committee chairman, and Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., its top Democrat.

“The attacks that targeted the Israeli Embassy on March 17, 1992 and the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) on July 18, 1994 were the deadliest in the country’s history,” the letter said. “Recognizing the victims and pledging assistance would send an important signal that the U.S. will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Argentina to fight terrorism.”

Obama is traveling to Argentina on March 23-24.

The Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah is widely believed to have carried out the attacks with Iranian backing. The embassy bombing killed 29 people and the AMIA Jewish center attack left 85 dead. Hundreds of people were wounded.

Argentina has yet to bring the killers to justice, and there are allegations that over the years some Argentine authorities, including former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, were compromised by efforts to maintain ties with Iran. A Jewish federal prosecutor investigating the crime, Alberto Nisman, allegedly was murdered last year after making charges to that effect against Kirchner.

Nisman’s death to be investigated as homicide after ex-spy’s testimony


Former Argentine spymaster Antonio “Jaime” Stiuso accused the government of former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of being responsible for the murder of Alberto Nisman.

Stiuso, the former operations chief of the Intelligence Secretariat, or SI, the country’s spy agency, testified for more than 15 hours on Tuesday in connection with the death of Nisman, the AMIA Jewish Center bombing special prosecutor. Stiuso had assisted Nisman in the investigation into the 1994 bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.

Nisman was found shot and killed in the bathroom of his apartment on Jan. 18, 2015.

Stiuso’s testimony, some of which leaked during the day, was not released because Judge Fabiana Palmaghini placed a gag order on the investigation.

Argentinean media reported, however, that Stiuso said that the late AMIA prosecutor’s death “was intimately linked with the complaint that he made.”

Nisman’s lawsuit claimed that the government of Argentinean president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner decided to “not incriminate” former senior officials of Iran and tried to “erase” their roles in planning the bombing.

Ten hours after hearing Stiuso’s testimony Palmaghini declared herself “unfit” to continue with the case, and decided that it would be investigated by a federal court. The judge also lodged a complaint against Prosecutor Viviana Fein for allegedly failing to register information, including some data provided by Stiuso in his first testimony in the Nisman investigation made in February 2015.

The change of jurisdiction was requested less than a week ago by Ricardo Sáenz, the attorney general for Argentina’s Criminal Appeals Court, who also asserted that Nisman was murdered. In a letter to the judges, Saenz wrote that a federal magistrate “has the broadest jurisdiction to clarify which of all the assumptions” into Nisman’s death are correct.

Nisman’s body was found hours before he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires. According to Stiuso, the AMIA prosecutor was murdered for not stopping the investigation of AMIA bombing, as Kirchner had requested. “She decided to negotiate the pact with Iran and ordered the SI to stop providing evidence or information to the AMIA case,” Stiuso reportedly said Tuesday during his testimony.

According to Palmaghini, some evidence at Nisman’s apartment could have been tampered with before Fein’s arrival at the scene, since at least 20 people , including former Security Secretary Sergio Berni , entered the apartment the night that Nisman’s body was discovered.

Also Tuesday, addressing the first session of the national Parliament, Argentine President Mauricio Macri said: “Let’s not forget that little more than a year ago prosecutor Alberto Nisman turned up dead in circumstances that remain uncertain but that are slowly starting to clear up.”

The president did not explicitly mention the change in venue of the case, or that the focus of the investigation has turned more to the homicide theory, rather than suicide or uncertainty as previously argued by prosecutor Fein.

Argentine prosecutor: AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman was murdered


Alberto Nisman was murdered, the attorney general for Argentina’s Criminal Appeals Court said — the first suggestion by the country’s judicial branch that the AMIA special prosecutor’s mysterious death may have been an assassination.

Ricardo Saenz in a letter to the judges on Thursday called for a federal investigation of the case involving Nisman, who was found shot dead in his Buenos Aires apartment on Jan. 18, 2015. There has been no official cause of death.

A federal magistrate “has the broadest jurisdiction to clarify which of all the assumptions” involving Nisman’s death is accurate, Saenz wrote.

The Criminal Appeals Court will hold a hearing on March 18 to decide what court should be given jurisdiction over the case. Murder cases are handled by the federal courts.

Nisman’s family has claimed he was murdered. His former wife, Sandra Arroyo Salgado, has called for a federal investigation,

Saenz again put the spotlight on Diego Lagomarsino, the IT engineer who worked with Nisman at the AMIA special unit and admitted to lending Nisman the gun that ended his life. The versions about the presence of the gun at Nisman’s apartment are “contradictory,” Saenz wrote.

In his opinion, Saenz also referred to the results of tests on the gun said to have killed Nisman as elements that negate the possibility that the special prosecutor committed suicide.

Nisman, who was Jewish, was found hours before he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.

Alberto Nisman remembered one year after his still-mysterious death


Thousands gathered in Buenos Aires to remember Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor in the AMIA Jewish center bombing, one year after his still-mysterious death.

Journalist Joaquin Morales Sola, prosecutor Ricardo Saenz and Ariel Cohen Sabban, president of the Jewish umbrella group DAIA, were the main speakers Monday at Plaza Alemania, in the Palermo neighborhood. DAIA organized the event.

Sola, a columnist for the La Nacion newspaper and the host of a weekly program on the TN news channel, called Nisman’s shooting death “the most important political crime in Argentinian history.” Nisman was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment on Jan. 18, 2015; the cause of death has yet to be determined.

“I don’t think that it was a suicide. Nisman was murdered,” Sola told the crowd of over 5,000. “In my opinion Nisman was murdered three times: He also was murdered when he was discredited without possibility of defending himself, and also again when the judges didn’t investigate his charges” against the administration of former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Members of the government on hand included Vice President Gabriela Michetti, who stood alongside Nisman’s mother, Sara Garfunkel, and several national ministers, as well as foreign diplomatic representatives from the United States, Israel, Germany, France and the Czech Republic.

Saenz praised Nisman’s work as a fellow prosecutor, saying “he found his death in the exercise of his role as a prosecutor. His work was what we all expected to be done” He asked for the investigation of Iranian citizens and arranged for  Interpol to spread  international alerts.”

Sabban called for memory and justice in Nisman’s death.

“We want to know how the gun was triggered and who did it,” he said.

Nisman’s daughters, Kala and Iara, in a letter read by their aunt Marcela Arroyo, acknowledged the people’s support for their father. They were received on Sunday morning by President Mauricio Macri,  in contrast with his predecessor, Kirchner, who never received Nisman’s relatives nor expressed condolences to the Nisman family

Sola also spoke about Nisman’s complaint filed right before his death.

“I want Nisman’s accusation to be reopened and finally investigated,” he said.

One month ago, a federal prosecutor asked an Argentine court to reopen the complaint filed by Nisman charging that Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 AMIA bombing, which killed 85 and injured hundreds.

Nisman was found dead on the floor of his apartment with a bullet to the head just hours before he was to present the evidence on his charges against Kirchner and other government officials to Argentine lawmakers.

His grave is located in the largest Jewish cemetery in Argentina, in the “Martyrs Section,” where the victims of the AMIA attack are buried.

New Argentina AMIA investigator eyeing trial in absentia


A trial in absentia could revitalize the AMIA case, the new head of the investigative unit looking into the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish center said.

Mario Cimadevilla, a lawyer and former senator, has been tasked with reactivating the investigation and seeking new ways to bring the case to trial and get justice.

The announcement of his appointment was published Wednesday in the official government gazette.

“All my efforts will be addressed to clarifying the most abominable terrorist attack that our country has ever suffered,” Cimadevilla said. “There will be cooperation and ongoing support for justice; the Argentinian society as a whole needs inexorably to know the truth.”

In speaking to journalists about his task, he said a trial in absentia could revitalize the case. As a senator for the left-wing UCR party, Cimadevilla had undertaken a project dealing with trials in absentia.

The investigative unit, which was created in 2000, will prepare a proposal to be discussed in Congress after the summer recess in March.

Though Argentina has accused the Iranian government of directing the bombing, and the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah of carrying it out, no arrests have been made in the case. Six Iranians have been on the Interpol international police agency’s most wanted list since 2007 in connection with the bombing.

Argentina’s Jewish political umbrella, DAIA, welcomed the trial in absentia project.

In a meeting last week with Foreign Relations Minister Susana Malcorra, the DAIA invited Malcorra to the “Candles for Nisman” public demonstration memory on Monday, which will mark the first anniversary of the still mysterious death of the late AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

Cimadevilla said he believes Nisman’s death is related to his involvement in the AMIA case.

Nisman’s body was found hours before he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the AMIA attack, which left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.

The investigative unit, in coordination with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the Anti-Corruption Office, monitors the progress of court cases related to the bombing.

In secret recordings, former Argentine FM says Iran behind AMIA attack


Argentina’s former foreign minister said on secretly recorded phone conversations that Iran was responsible for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires while he was negotiating with Tehran.

The leaked recordings of Hector Timerman, who is Jewish, speaking in 2012 with Argentine Jewish leaders were released Friday by the Argentine radio station Mitre.

Timerman defends the efforts made by the government of then-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, saying the only goal is to solve the AMIA case. Timerman justifies the negotiations with Iran to jointly investigate the attack, which killed 85 and injured hundreds, saying “Eighteen years ago they planted the bomb.” AMIA criticized the talks with Iran.

In the first recording, Timerman is speaking with Guillermo Borger, then the president of the AMIA Jewish community organization.

Timerman says, “I’m calling you because it hurts. It hurts me as a Jew to hear the critics from AMIA. And it seems that the best choice is to do nothing, and if we [the government] do nothing, the AMIA will be happy. But I’m doing this for AMIA.”

The foreign minister also said the AMIA prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, told him in a private call that he was in favor of the negotiations, but after Iran and Argentina signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly investigate the bombing, Nisman challenged the agreement, asking a federal judge to declare it unconstitutional.

In the second tape, AMIA vice president Jose Scaliter also joins the conversation:

Borger: “We don’t regard Iran as valid [as a negotiating partner].”

Timerman: “And who do you want me to negotiate with, Switzerland?”

Borger: “I will just say that Iran lies, is not credible and denies the Holocaust.”

Timerman: “But we don’t have anyone else to negotiate with […] Well, tell me who you want me to negotiate with?”

Later, Borger says: “I hope you can negotiate with another …”

Timerman: “If there was someone else, they [the Iranians] wouldn’t have planted the bomb. So we are back to the beginning. Do you have someone else for me to negotiate with?”

Scaliter: “We don’t tell you with whom you must negotiate.”

Timerman: “No, you tell me with who cannot negotiate.”

Scaliter: “Right.”

Timerman: “Ah, are you smart.”

Later, Borger says that Nisman “carried out a serious and important investigation and says Iran did it.”

Timerman: “So?”

Borger: “… so I will trust him if they will present to the justice.”

Timerman: “So how do you want me to bring them [the Iranian fugitives to Argentina]? You never know what should be done.”

Nisman was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment on Jan. 18. The cause of his shooting death has yet to be determined.

The recording was released by Radio Mitre on a program called “La noticia deseada,” or “the desired news,” on Friday when guest journalist Daniel Santoro provided the recordings that he used in his book, “Nisman debe Morir,” or “Nisman should die.”

In 2015, Timerman resigned his AMIA membership, expressing his “indeclinable resignation” due to the “obstructionist actions” that the institution had made against a deal with Iran to investigate the attack.

Though Argentina has accused the Iranian government of directing the bombing, and the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah of carrying it out, no arrests have been made in the case. Six Iranians have been on the Interpol international police agency’s most wanted list since 2007 in connection with the bombing.

Argentina’s new government voids pact with Iran on AMIA bombing


The new government of Argentina effectively voided the agreement with Iran to jointly investigate the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center.

In its first week of operation, the government under President Mauricio Macri withdrew the appeal filed by its predecessor, led by Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, of a federal court decision declaring the 2013 pact unconstitutional. Macri and his government were sworn in Thursday.

After his election last month, Macri pledged to void the pact, which has been criticized by Israel and Argentina’s Jews, among others. Iran has been accused of being behind the AMIA bombing, which killed 85 and injured hundreds.

On Monday, lawyers of the Ministry of Justice presented a file withdrawing the appeal of the court decision made last year when federal judges in Argentina declared unconstitutional the government’s cooperation with Iran on the investigation of the terrorist attack on the Buenos Aires center.

AMIA and Argentina’s Jewish political umbrella group, DAIA, had filed a petition with the court arguing against cooperating with Iran because of evidence linking former Iranian government representatives to the bombing.

Argentina’s minister of justice, German Garavano, informed the media of the move on Friday.

“We are instructing our lawyers today to cease the appeal on Monday,” Garavano said just one day after being sworn in.

DAIA President Julio Schlosser, who was succeeded on Monday by Ariel Cohen Sabban as the new leader of Argentine Jewry, was elated.

“This news is excellent, not only for the DAIA but also for Argentine society,” Schlosser said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also praised the action.

“This is a welcome change of direction, and I hope we will see a significant improvement of Argentina-Israeli relations as well as a change for the better in relations with other countries in South America in the coming years,” Netanyahu said Sunday during his weekly Cabinet meeting.

The pact, signed by Argentina’s former foreign minister, Hector Timerman, who is Jewish, and his Iranian counterpart, proposed the creation of a joint commission to help solve the bombing.

In November 2013, the late prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was in charge of the AMIA case, asked a federal judge to declare the pact unconstitutional, saying the memorandum of understanding with Iran “constitutes a wrongful interference of the Executive Branch.”

New Argentine president pledges to cancel pact with Iran on AMIA bombing


The newly elected president of Argentina said he will cancel the agreement signed with Iran to jointly investigate the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, as he vowed during the campaign.

“We will propose to the Congress to cancel the pact with Iran as we promised in the campaign,” Mauricio Macri said Monday morning in his first news conference after being elected in a runoff vote the previous day.

Macri, the opposition candidate, will take office on Dec. 10. He won the runoff with 51.4 percent of the vote, defeating Daniel Scioli, a close ally of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who garnered 48.6 percent, according to the final results released Monday.

The agreement has been criticized by Israel and Argentina’s Jews, among others. Iran has been accused of being behind the AMIA bombing, which killed 85 and injured hundreds.

Macri has a recent history of close relations with Argentine Jewry and Israel.

As mayor of  Buenos Aires City, the country’s capital, Macri’s government implemented a plan to support incubators and start-ups inspired by the Israeli “Start-Up Nation” model. Local entrepreneurs visited Israel to learn how to market themselves globally, and they described their experiences on the city government’s website.

In June 2014, he traveled to Israel to participate in a mayors’ conference in Jerusalem, where he offered his support to Israel against terrorism.

“Israeli suffering has to be understood. From afar, it is easy to give advice, but you have to be in Israel to really understand the situation,” he told journalists.

Macri’s new political party, PRO, leads Argentina’s Let’s Change coalition. In 2011, the center-right party picked Rabbi Sergio Bergman to head the ticket for municipal elections. In 2013, Bergman was tapped by Macri to run for the national legislature, which he won, becoming the first rabbi to serve as a national lawmaker in the country. Macri also has ties to other Jewish candidates.

On Election Day, Macri played in a soccer game with his friends against the over-45 team that will represent Argentina at the next Pan-American Maccabi Games in Chile. The president’s team defeated the Jewish squad, 4 to 1.

Examining a shared history through a festival lens


Last fall, I was invited to show my documentary “Raquel: A Marked Woman” in Eastern Europe, including Poland, Romania and Ukraine. I wondered whether the gap left by the annihilation of local Jewish communities, followed by decades of silence and secrecy behind the Iron Curtain, is the same in each country.

My documentary tells the story of a young Jewish-Polish mother, Raquel Liberman, who left Warsaw in 1922 with her two young children to follow her husband to Argentina. What happened next is an ordeal many young women suffer today. An international crime organization, made up of Jewish-Polish immigrants, entrapped and enslaved her into the sex trade. These men recruited young Jewish women from the shtetls (small Jewish villages) in Eastern Europe in the early 20th century. The organization, headquartered in Argentina, ensnared Raquel in its web and destined her to a life of suffering.

In my film, the “bad” guys are Jews. I ask audiences to move past the familiar demonization or idealization of Jews and see them as human beings with all their human foibles. This exercise is challenging for a conventional Jewish-American audience. Because these East European countries are only now beginning to reconcile their shared pre-World War II history with Jews, I was curious about their reaction. 

It was a great opportunity to present subject matter that local audiences could relate to — given its historic and present-day relevance to the Eastern Europe sex trade. I realized that bringing Raquel back to her home country of Poland would also be a chance to engage with local audiences and understand the cultural and environmental landscape from which my heroine came — a culture that had been fertile ground for the Holocaust. 

Before embarking on my mini-tour, I thought I would experience the consequences of the Russian propaganda machine — a generation too old or too complacent with its secrets. But the opposite seemed to be true. Most young people feel a kinship to Jews and Jewish culture. Yes, it’s now “hip” to be a Jew. This led me to ask: Is the recent resurgence of interest in Jewish culture and traditions in Eastern Europe based on curiosity or atonement? 

“Raquel” was scheduled for two film festivals and two community screenings, all run by non-Jews. These audiences are trying to come to grips with their history and the reformulation of their identity. In Warsaw, a city that was leveled during the war and eerily rebuilt by the Communists, the audiences’ surprising focus was not on the “bad” Polish Jews, but on Raquel’s courageous journey from enslavement to heroine.

Krakow’s Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, an old town dating back to the 12th century, is seeing a Jewish revival of sorts. Many young Polish people are finding out that their grandparents converted to Catholicism and never spoke about their origins — either for fear of persecution or guilt by association.

This unique population was represented in the questions it raised: “Did the Catholic neighbor, who became the foster parent to Raquel’s two young boys, ever tell them that they were Jewish?” “Why did Raquel leave her children with a non-Jew?”

In Bucharest, Romania, the event planners were eager to educate Romanian non-Jews about Jewish life, culture and Israel. Why? The new generation of Romanians is completely unaware of its relationship to its Jewish past, and Israelis run many of the country’s mid-level businesses. The focus of the audience was twofold. First, was I afraid for my life in exposing this Jewish mafia? Did I have the mafia’s list of members and was I going to publish it? Second, the audience deeply identified with Raquel’s story and shared how its country is living through what was depicted in the film: girls being trafficked in and out of Romania for sex.

The final screening took place in Lviv, Ukraine. All but one of the synagogues is still standing, and years of Soviet rule obliterated the population’s enmeshed history with the Jews. In Ukraine, the truth is hard to find and its re-creation is a feeding machine of propaganda and fears. The questions that surfaced were about what happens when there’s a gap in knowledge, as in Raquel’s story. For 70 years, her children and grandchildren remained completely in the dark. How does the gap in knowledge get filled when much of the information has been buried or is dismissed? Was it possible for Raquel’s descendants to make sense of her story even if the information was buried? 

At the end of my trip, both as Raquel’s storyteller and as a second-generation Holocaust survivor, I asked myself questions similar to what my audiences asked. How do you build a story when there’s a gap in history? How do you create an identity when much of your history is buried in secrecy or dismissal? In my films, I have explored the notion of active recalling, engaging and, ultimately, taking responsibility for our past. What happens when those who held the memories die off, as in the case of Raquel? Who is responsible for the telling of their story? 

The new generation in these countries surprised me. What at first seemed such a peculiar reality — Eastern Europeans hungry to find their connection to Jewish history — has now made me realize that we might be struggling with a similar goal. 

The journey through these lands has opened my heart to a past we share. We are forever tied to a communal history. It is no longer about victims and perpetrators. It is about our humanity. It is about a world that requires us to see beyond our fears, to question our lessons, and to open our hearts — as I know Raquel’s story has opened audiences’ hearts to the reality that too many young women are still being trafficked today. 

Gabriela Bohm is a filmmaker in Los Angeles.

New tests negate possibility of Nisman suicide


The results of new tests on the gun believed to have killed Alberto Nisman appear to negate the possibility that the AMIA special prosecutor committed suicide.

Experts confirmed that three laboratory analyses performed on the gun tested positive for traces of gunpowder residue, according to new information released Monday. The .22 caliber Bersa that killed Nisman detected antimony, barium and lead in the electronic scans performed at the Scientific Laboratory of Tax Investigation, in the northern province of Salta.

A test performed in February on the prosecutor’s hands had detected no gunpowder residue.

The new tests seem to support the theory that someone else shot Nisman or cleaned the prosecutor’s hand. Some experts also said Monday that if the environmental conditions of the tests had slight changes, the results could be different.

“This is conclusive proof about the murder,” Nisman’s former wife, Sandra Arroyo Salgado, who is a judge, said Tuesday in an interview with Radio Mitre. “After this test, to argue that this is a suicide, you must say that Nisman shot himself with gloves and after that he took them off.”

In July, forensic pathologist Cyril Wech analyzed the case and said he believes that Nisman likely was murdered.

Prosecutor Viviana Fein has not yet released a final ruling.

“I cannot determine for the moment whether it was a suicide or a homicide,” she said on March 6, when she convened the authors of the independent forensic report to examine their evidence. Her final ruling likely will be released after the October presidential elections.

Nisman’s body was found on Jan. 18, hours before he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.

U.S. forensic pathologist: Nisman case more likely a homicide


A U.S. forensic pathologist believes that the late Argentine special prosecutor Alberto Nisman likely was murdered.

“The evidence argues strongly and scientifically against it being a suicide,” Cyril Wecht said in an interview aired by Argentina television’s Channel 13 on Sunday night. “It is much more likely that this was a homicide than a suicide.”

[RELATED: The 86th victim of the Buenos Aires bombing]

Wecht has been president of the American Academy of Forensic Science and the American College of Legal Medicine, and has performed about 17,000 autopsies. He has consulted on several high-profile cases, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

At the request of the Argentine current events show “Periodismo para todos,” hosted by the eminent Argentine journalist Jorge Lanata, Wecht analyzed Nisman’s case photos, videos, studies and forensic reports. Interviewed from Pittsburgh, Wecht said that the position of the gun would have made it difficult for Nisman to shoot himself.

Forensic experts have differed on the cause of death. Many have said it will be difficult to establish one unified version of how Nisman died, with some experts believing it was suicide and others murder.

Prosecutor Viviana Fein has not yet released a final ruling.

“I cannot determine for the moment whether it was a suicide or a homicide,” she said on March 6, when she convened the authors of the independent forensic report to examine their evidence.

On Monday, the New Yorker published a Reporter-At-Large piece about Nisman’s death by Dexter Filkins, who interviewed Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner last week.

“During my interview with Kirchner, she seemed unnerved by talking about Nisman’s death,” Filkins wrote. “When I raised the question of whether she’d had him killed, she blurted, “No!,” and then handed me a printout of the statement that she’d written for her website. She seemed mostly disturbed by the damage that Nisman’s death was doing to her reputation.”

Kirchner published a transcript of the interview on her personal blog a day before the interview was posted by the New Yorker.

Filkins concludes: “By Jewish tradition, people who kill themselves are sometimes denied a proper burial; in the cemetery in La Tablada, suicides have been relegated to a far corner. After some discussion, Nisman’s body was buried not with those who killed themselves but with the victims of the AMIA attack.”

Nisman was found shot to death in January in his Buenos Aires apartment hours before he was to present his evidence on an alleged government cover-up that included Kirchner into Iran’s role in the deadly 1994 attack on the Buenos Aires Jewish center. Argentine courts dismissed Nisman’s complaint.

Argentine President Kirchner doesn’t understand why her Shylock comment angers Jews


Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is in trouble over her evoking of William Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” Jewish antagonist, Shylock, in an attempt to explain Argentina’s national debt to… schoolchildren.

Argentine Jews, needless to say, were not amused.

Kirchner told the kids that Argentina’s economic trouble could be understood by reading “The Merchant of Venice,” where the heartless Jewish moneylender seeks revenge on his nice, Christian debtors, whose only fault is that they took his money and wouldn’t give it back.

Kirchner tweeted that the idea had come to her after she asked the children what Shakespeare play they were reading and they told her: “Romeo and Juliet.”

And, so, she tweeted, “I said, you have to read the ‘Merchant of Venice’ to understand the vulture funds,” and that, apparently, made everybody laugh. So she tweeted, “No, don’t laugh, Usury and bloodsuckers have been immortalized in the greatest literature for centuries.”

The vulture banker, in case you haven’t been following the Argentine debt crisis over the past decade or more, is Jewish Billionaire Paul Singer, whom Kirchner and her Minister of the Economy Axel Kicillof have actually accused of behaving like a vulture — for insisting Argentina pay him back the $1.5 billion they owe him.

He’s dragged them through US courts, and has been beating them, to the point where the Argentine credit rating has been seriously curtailed. And when they offer him fistfuls of Argentine pesos he insists—Shylock that he is—on green bucks, which clearly spell, “In God we trust,” not in Argentine promissory notes.

This is, then, an ancient rivalry, and the President figured she was using humor to illustrate financial matters for the little ones.

Kirchner would not apologize, and instead tweeted an ad for “The Merchant of Venice” which was performed two years ago in Spain by an Israeli company.

Which means she honestly did not comprehend the difference between watching a WW2 movie and joining the Nazi party.

The last political celebrity to put his foot in his mouth over “The Merchant” was everybody’s favorite VP, Joe Biden. Speaking at a conference celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, Biden shared stories he’d heard from his son (now departed), Beau, about his military experience in Iraq as Major in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps.

“That’s one of the things that he finds was most in need when he was over there in Iraq for a year,” Biden said, “that people would come to him and talk about what was happening to them at home in terms of foreclosures, in terms of bad loans that were being…I mean these Shylocks who took advantage of, um, these women and men while overseas.”

It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Israel signs $111 million deal to upgrade Argentinean tanks


Argentina’s army signed a $111 million contract with Israel to upgrade 74 tanks made in Argentina.

The deal to upgrade the Argentinian Medium Tanks, or TAM, was signed in Buenos Aires by the Argentina’s Minister of Defense Agustin Rossi and Mishel Ben-Baruch, director of the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s International Defense Cooperation Division.

“This is an extremely important step, not only for the project but for the excellent relations between both countries. It’s also the beginning of a great friendship between the two ministries,” said Ben Baruch, who also praised the work done by Israeli and Argentinian technical teams to reach the agreement.

The agreement includes different tools designed to ensure that Argentina can develop its own technology and capabilities provided through co-production projects with Israel, and also human resources training and technical assistance to upgrade the tanks in Argentina.

Rossi said in a statement released by the Defense Department after last week’s signing that the deal “is a strong boost” for the local defense industry and described it as “an investment of $111 million.”

“The modernization of the TAM is emblematic because it is a tank designed and made in Argentina,” said Santiago Rodríguez, the Defense Ministry’s secretary of Science, Technology and Defense Production. “The production line will be installed in our country, where locally manufactured components will be incorporated,” he added.

Iranian suspect in AMIA bombing denies involvement, cites ‘influence of ‘Zionism’


An Iranian suspect in the 1994 attack on the Buenos Aires AMIA Jewish center denied that his country was involved and blamed Argentina for being “under the influence of Zionism.”

The accusation against Iran made by Argentina’s Justice Department “is unfounded, false and a lie,” Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister in Iran, said in an interview Monday in Tehran. “Argentina should not be an instrument of Zionist politics. Argentina isn’t in the position to interrogate us, they should give us an answer over their weakness before Israel and the United States.”

The AMIA bombing has come under renewed scrutiny following the mysterious death in January of investigator Alberto Nisman.

“We call on Argentina not to be an instrument of the Zionists,” Velayati, who served as the foreign minister from 1981 to 1997, when attacks on both the AMIA Jewish center and on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires occurred, told the Argentine TV news channel C5N. “Here in this region the Zionists don’t have the courage to do anything against Iran, so they provoke others” to act against Iran.

“The enmity of Zionists against Iran is very clear,” added Velayati, currently the head of Iran’s Center for Strategic Research.

Asked if he will testify as is called for in the memorandum of understanding between Argentina and Iran to jointly investigate the AMIA bombing, Velayati replied, “Argentina isn’t in a position to question officials of an independent country.”

The interviews with Velayati and Mohsen Rabbani, the former Iranian cultural attache in Argentina who also is a suspect in the bombing, were aired Monday night on a program called “MinutoUno.” C5N is a private channel run by Cristobel Lopez, a businessman close to the national government.

Argentina’s Justice Department has accused the Iranian government of directing the bombing, which killed 85 and injured 300. Iran also is believed to be behind the 1992 car bombing that destroyed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 and injuring 242. No arrests have been made in either case.

Nisman, who first made the accusation against Iran and later alleged that Argentina’s president and other government ministers covered up Iran’s role in the bombing, was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment on Jan. 16, hours before he was to present his allegations to Congress. Argentine courts have dismissed Nisman’s claims against the government for lack of evidence.

Argentina’s Senate approves one-time payments to AMIA bombing victims


Argentina’s Senate unanimously approved a bill that offers one-time compensation to the families of the 85 people killed in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center.

Under the bill approved Wednesday without debate, the compensation will be about $170,000 for each fatality in the Buenos Aires attack.

Also, for those whose injuries were “extremely grievous,” the reparation is reduced to 70 percent of the amount, and those with “grievous” injuries will receive 60 percent of the amount.

The bill advances to the Parliament’s lower chamber. If it is approved there, it will become law.

In June 2011, the Argentina Parliament unanimously ruled that the relatives of victims of the 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires would receive compensation from the state. Under that law, the families received $225,000 in the case of death, and $158,000 for dramatic and severe injuries, for a total of $40 million from the Argentine government.

The perpetrators of both crimes have never been caught.

Nazi refuge discovered in Argentine jungle, archaeologist says


A team of archaeologists and researchers discovered what they believe was a refuge for Nazis in an Argentine forest near the border with Paraguay.

It is believed that the Nazis prepared the hideout in the first half of the 1940s as a place to flee should World War II not go in their favor, but they did not use the refuge.

The director of the Urban Archaeology Center of the Buenos Aires University, Daniel Schavelzon, is leading the investigative team that is working at Misiones National Park in Teyu Cuare, a province in the northeastern cone of Argentina.

His team discovered German coins minted between 1938 and 1941, and porcelain dishes made by the German Meissen Company between 1890 and 1949.

“We found here an extraordinary type of construction, rare,” Schavelzon told Argentina’s Clarin newspaper. “We have not yet reached a final conclusion, but our first explanation, or idea, is that we have found a refuge for the Nazi hierarchy. The building is very exceptional, with objects and characteristics of building that are not from the region.”

Supporting the theory, he said, is the fact that the walls of the hideout were 10 feet thick and it was located in an inaccessible location.

In a video interview from the excavations, Schavelzon said he rejects the theory that Nazi official Martin Borman, who served as Adolf Hitler’s private secretary, had lived there.

When the Nazis did enter Argentina, they reportedly did so with the blessing of Argentine President Juan Peron and thus did not need the hiding places and the plans to spirit them there.

“We think that we found a huge refuge that ultimately they didn’t use,” said Schavelzon, who also is a researcher on the National Scientific and Technical Research Council, or CONICET.

Misiones province is located on the frontier between Argentina and Paraguay, which is populated by a large number of European immigrants. In 1940, Misiones had a population of 190,000, including 80,000 immigrants — 14,000 from Germany,

“It is very interesting scientific research and we believe that full transparency is crucial to understanding the scope of the Nazi presence in Argentina and South America,” Sergio Widder, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director for Latin America, told JTA. “I believe that the enthusiasm should be balanced with a professional approach, which seems to be the case. It is important to note that Schavelzon makes clear that no secret hiding plans were needed in Argentina, since the protection of the Nazis was out in the open.”

Alberto Nisman was a ‘scoundrel,’ Argentinian Cabinet chief tells reporters


Argentinian Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernandez  called the late AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman  a “scoundrel” and  a “wretch.”

Nisman “embezzled  public funds” using money meant to fund the AMIA special unit in order “to go out with women” and “to pay workers who did not work,” Fernandez told journalists Wednesday before entering the Government House.

Fernandez on Thursday clarified through the state news agency Telam that in his statements the previous day he was not referring to the late Alberto Nisman’s private life, but talking about his actions that have “penal significance,” such as the misuse of public funds or withholding half the salary of an employee.

Diego Lagomarsino, who has been charged in Nisman’s death for lending Nisman the handgun that was used to kill him, has through an attorney accused the prosecutor of withholding half of his wages.

On Wednesday, Argentine philosopher and writer Santiago Kovadloff responded to the Cabinet chief. “When you attack a dead man and discredit him in the way he did, it’s because that dead man is alive. If he’s alive, it’s because he’s has a great deal of significance. Because he has a great deal of significance, you have to discredit him,” Kovadloff said at the first of planned monthly rallies to remember Nisman, attended by about 200 people.

Nisman, who was Jewish, was found dead on Jan. 18, hours before he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires.