Jewish Agency Cancels Vacations of Emissaries and Employees in Argentina

Jerusalem-----December 23......(The Jewish Agency)
Meridor Calls on Government of Israel to Include Special Assistance In Budget For Argentinean Immigrants;
Chesler Assures Jewish Communities In Latin America: Jewish Agency will Expand its Assistance to Aliya and

Following violent demonstrations in Argentina sparked by the intensifying economic crisis, and the state of emergency and curfew imposed by the government, the Jewish Agency is taking emergency measures for increasing Aliya of Argentinean Jews to Israel.

The Jewish Agency cancelled the year-end vacations of its emissaries in Argentina and offices will remain open till midnight. Assisted by some 50 local employed, eighteen Jewish Agency emissaries in Argentina work in the area of immigration and Jewish-Zionist education.Head of Jewish Agency delegation to Latin America, Kito Hasson reports that since yesterday the number of Jews, who came to the Jewish Agency asking to immigrate, doubled.
In light of the violence that erupted in Buenos Aires and Cordoba as a result of the intensifying economic crisis, a thirty-day Sate of Emergency and curfew were declared last night. In the course of the violent protests and demonstrations in front of Congress, five were killed and more than 100 were injured. The demonstrators set the Ministry of Finance on fire and all the Ministers, beside the Prime Minister, resigned. Stores at the center of the city were closed for fear of theft and looting. The government warned that it will exercise force against the demonstrators and the Senate stopped deliberations in order to deal with the state of emergency.

Some 200 thousand Jews reside in Argentina, most of them from the middle-class. Since the economic crisis, some 1,700 Jewish families lost their homes, some live in rooms in cheap hotels situated in poor neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, while others live under bridges, in public squares and parks. The number of welfare recipients in the community increased from 4 thousand to 20 thousand and heads of the community estimate
that the number of needy is much larger but many are too ashamed to ask for assistance from the community and turn to soup kitchens and churches. As a result of the crisis, there is serious increase in the instance of domestic
violence, divorce and single parent families. Since the collapse of the banks in October 1989, some 4,500 children dropped out of Jewish education programs.

Jewish Agency Chairman, Sallai Meridor announced special measures to precipitate Aliya from Argentinan and called on the Government of Israel to include special assistance to Jewish immigrants from Argentina in its 2002 budget. Argentina is one of the three target countries, along with France and South Africa, which had been the object of a special Jewish Agency-Government of Israel program for promoting and facilitating immigration and absorption. Since the State of Emergency was declared, Meridor has been conducting telephone consultations regarding Jews in Argentina, and will be calling an emergency meeting at his office on Sunday, in the presence of all the relevant governmental, security and Jewish Agency resource people.Jewish Agency Treasurer, Chaim Chesler who recently attended an International conference in Argentina that addressed the problems of poverty in Jewish communities in South America announced that the Jewish Agency considers itself committed to assist regarding all aspects of aliya and education.

Current estimates place a quarter of Argentinean Jews beneath the poverty line.Chesler noted that in the in the past two years the Jewish Agency expanded its education assistance to the Jewish community. This activity includes setting up a new Jewish education center and offering more Jewish study programs on Sundays for children whose parents are no longer able to send them to Jewish schools.In 2001 the number of Olim from Argentina grew by 30%, representing some 1,500 new immigrants.

All in all, in 2001, some 6,000 Jews from Argentina turned to the Jewish Agency and many of them are now preparing for immigration.