‘Disgusting’ Atmosphere Drove Rabbis From Argentina

‘Disgusting’ Atmosphere Drove Rabbis From Argentina

By Suzi Brozman

When the news broke that the bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires had been solved but that the special prosecutor ready to present the evidence had been found dead, I turned to Congregation Or Hadash Rabbis Mario Karpuj and Analia Bortz, for whom the 1994 AMIA bombing was an important reason for their decision to leave Argentina.

Rabbi Mario Karpuj

“Argentina is a country with many problems, the most important being a lack of justice,” Rabbi Karpuj said. “You have a feeling that justice does not exist. It puts everything else in doubt. The guy investigating the AMIA had solved it … who, what, when, who organized it. We have no questions. He announced he had proved the president and foreign minister were involved.”

Rabbi Karpuj said it was known that Iran authorized the bombing and that the work involved Hezbollah. Investigator Alberto Nisman said he had evidence tying Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to the bombing.

“But,” the rabbi said, “Argentina is in desperate need of energy. Iran says, ‘No problem, we can give you oil if you help.’ ”

Six hours before Nisman was to appear at hearing on the AMIA case, he was found dead of a gunshot wound in his home.

Even worse, Rabbi Karpuj said, the son of the man behind the bombing was killed eight hours before Nisman’s death. “Hezbollah’s commander organized the bombing, decided who would be the suicide bomber. He was killed in Damascus on 2008. His son died just hours before Nisman, in Syria.”

Given Argentina’s political atmosphere and the wide knowledge of details of the case, Rabbi Karpuj said the biggest question is why Nisman had to be killed. “It was not a secret that Nisman was going to accuse the government officials. … There are hundreds of pages of public information. The killing didn’t stop the information.”

Rabbi Bortz said Nisman had said he expected to be killed.

The death sparked a protest march and a demonstration in front of the AMIA building, Rabbi Bortz said. “My mother is there right now.”

Why did the rabbis decide to leave their homeland? “Twenty years ago, there was no political will,” Rabbi Karpuj said. “You need political justice and the will to solve this kind of horrible crime, and there was no will to do it. Now the country will keep falling into this kind of thing. There is still no justice in the system. People don’t feel they can respect laws when nobody else is respecting them.”

Rabbi Bortz elaborated.

“It is a beautiful Zionist Jewish community with a long history,” she said. “It has been involved in the general community. It isn’t fair. It is a big shock, but at the same time it doesn’t surprise us. We knew justice wasn’t going to happen. We were proven to be right.”

She said the Jewish community in Argentina, estimated at a quarter-million people, is active and public, such as renting out a building like Madison Square Garden for a community celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut. The country has Jewish community centers and day schools, Ashkenazi and Sephardi residents, and a range of Jewish congregations.

“But the atmosphere is disgusting, not just scary,” Rabbi Bortz said. “As a citizen, I don’t feel safe there. As a Jew, it doesn’t make a difference. It is unstable for everyone there.”

Rabbi Karpuj added: “For the Jews, it’s now particularly worse. You see the attacks, and you see where things are going.”

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