Monday, October 30, 2006

NewU: Author Marcos Aguinis Speaks on Jewish Life in South America

Link to Article

Author Marcos Aguinis Speaks on Jewish Life in South America
Religion: The Department of Spanish and Portuguese sponsored the author’s discussion.
By Reut R. Cohen
Staff Writer

Acclaimed Argentinean Jewish writer Marcos Aguinis, born in the region of Córdoba, spoke at UC Irvine on Monday, Oct. 16.

In 1983, when democracy was reestablished in his country, Aguinis was appointed Secretary of Culture. He has written 30 books, including “La Gesta del Marrano,” “Attack on Paradise” and “¿Qué Hacer?”

Aguinis is also a well-known columnist who has written on the Israeli-Arab conflict and anti-Semitism in Argentina.

In his lecture, which was sponsored by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and titled “The Presence of Jews in Latin America: Then and Now,” Aguinis emphasized the continued presence of Jews in many Latin American countries, including Argentina.

Aguinis said that whereas Jews in Argentina had “experienced humiliation … and personal attack” before democracy, after democracy was instituted in the 1980s, Jews were treated as first-class citizens.

This peace was broken by a terrorist attack in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994. Aguinis, who suggested that he has felt anti-Semitism in both subtle and obvious manners, spoke about the incident, in which a bomb was planted inside the headquarters of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, which killed “Jews and non-Jews alike.” This event, according to Aguinis, shocked the world and devastated Buenos Aires.

Still, Jewish culture continued to thrive in Argentina. But Aguinis argues that anti-Semitism is growing even today.

“Lately an unexpected and different phenomenon has broken out,” Aguinis said. “Latin-American Jewish and Muslim communities have always lived in harmony, but now, violence is spreading. Jews and Israel cannot be separated … and Jews are experiencing a new tsunami of anti-Semitism. The Jews have to be committed and democracy has to be prepared against this new wave.”

In Aguinis’ essay “What Being Jewish Means to Me,” he says that “being Jewish means loving culture and its primary symbols: the spoken and written word. The Jews transformed holy words – the Torah – into a portable homeland, thus insuring the historic unity of our people. Whether agnostics or mystics, conservatives or liberals, scientists or artists, we carry in our innermost selves a love for words.”

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