February 2023 Keeping Connected
In 1986, when I was a rabbinic student, I had a part-time job as an educator at B’nai Jeshurun in NYC. The synagogue had just been reinvigorated by Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer, who had just arrived from leading the Conservative Jewish community in Buenos Aires. I was very inspired by his charisma and rabbinic vision. He was able to integrate the unique culture of Argentinian music and worship into New York Jewish life. He was also able to bring to the congregation many of his students from Argentina and they have continued this tradition. At present BJ is one of the most vibrant communities in NYC. You can learn more about the synagogue, the history, the people, as well as virtually attend services there if you want. (https://www.bj.org)
I share this with you because from that time forward I was inspired to learn more about the Argentinian Jewish community. Jews settled in Argentina as early as the colonial era, especially people escaping from the Spanish Inquisition. It was not, however, until 1816 when Argentina gained its independence from Spain that a formal Jewish community was able to be established. The Jewish history in Argentina is rich and fascinating and I hope to visit museums, take tours, attend Shabbat services. The Jewish population in Argentina is the largest in Latin America, the third largest in the Americas and the world’s seventh largest outside of Israel.
I look forward to sharing with you some of these experiences while I am away as well as when I come back.
One incredible coincidence that I want to share with you is that I selected an Air B&B to stay in our first week in Buenos Aires somewhat randomly based on location and price. When I was emailing with the family they greeted me asking me if I had had a happy Chanukah! I was kind of shocked. I said thank you and asked how they knew to ask. They responded that they saw my email address and that they themselves are Jewish. Not only that they belong to a Reform congregation and the mother is a Jewish tour guide! Of the many, many places I could have chosen, what is the chance I could have selected one with this connection. We have been e-mailing and texting back and forth. I feel like it was truly bashert!
I am also hoping to travel to Guatemala in early February, where there is Jewish community as well. In particular I am hoping to intersect with the Mayan Hands cooperative. This is the tzedakah project our school students are working with this year. This aspect of the trip is not fully fleshed out so I cannot yet say if it is for certain. I hope it will work out. Then at the end of the sabbatical I will be in Mexico City, where there is another large Jewish community.
I have set up an Instagram account (Sabbaticalrabbi) and I will post updates at the CS Chat page on Facebook. For the most part I will not be checking e-mail while I am away. I also probably will try not to be on Facebook except once a week. If you need any help, small or large, please reach out to Liz Denly, Deborah Morrissey, Liz Jegasothy and Sandy Moore. I will be in touch with them periodically and they will know what to do to help with emergencies and pastoral needs.
I look forward to coming back on March 1st renewed and excited to share with you my Jewish Latin America experiences.
L’shalom and adios,
Rabbi Shoshana Perry