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In late June 1969, members of Baderej (On Our Way), a leftist Sephardi Zionist youth group linked to Hashomer Hatzair (The Young Guard), decided, quite energetically, that they would not participate in national Argentine politics.1 Instead, they stressed the need to continue to prepare for aliyah, focusing on educating the “Jewish Argentine community [so it can fight against its own] establishment and indolence.”2 Moreover, “Any member of Baderej politically active outside of the Zionist youth group will be separated from the movement,” the leaders declared.3 The reaffirmation of the centrality of the Jewish Zionist framework—with aliyah to kibbutzim as the only objective—was necessary, they argued, because of the attempt, led by a few within the leadership of Baderej, to begin work among high school students in Argentine public schools. The intention of this minority within Baderej was not, of course, to bring Zionism to non-Jews, but to participate in the political organization and leadership of student unions at a time when youth in general, and students in particular, had become central actors in Argentine politics.4 The rift between these two factions within Baderej, i.e., those who advocated remaining within the Zionist frame and those who encouraged participation in national Argentine movements, had become visible in May, and culminated with the statements issued in late June.5 By early July, and to confirm their decision, Baderej had replaced their old leadership. The immediate reason behind the crisis and the reorganization of Baderej’s leadership was the assassination of Emilio Jáuregui, a journalist and trade union leader, during a mass meeting called by the General Confederation of Argentine Workers (CGTA), and the role played by several Baderej members in its aftermath.6

Ironically, the resolve of Baderej to oppose participation in Argentine politics and to focus on spreading Zionist ideals coincided with their expulsion from several Argentine Sephardi social institutions in which the group had been active for several years. Upon their arrival in Argentina during the last decade of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth century, Sephardim had founded social, religious, and educational organizations according to their geographical origins. Moroccan Jews, for example, had settled in the southern neighborhoods of Buenos Aires; Jews from Aleppo and Jews from Damascus had each established their own institutions in the [End Page 113] neighborhoods of Barracas, Flores, and Once; and Jews from Izmir, Istanbul, Rhodes, and Salonika had created organizations in Colegiales and Villa Crespo as well as Once. Since the late 1950s, young Sephardi Zionist men and women had organized youth collectives (precursors to Baderej) that worked in these communities providing the children and youth with sporting events, Jewish history courses, drama and Hebrew classes, but also instilling “the Renaissance ideals of our people, embodied in sionismo realizador [aliyah-oriented Zionism.]”7 In fact, the members of the groups, as well as the leaders of Sephardi institutions, had come to imagine (even if the latter reluctantly at times) these Zionist youth groups as central to keeping Jewish and Sephardi identities alive in a country where both Jews and Sephardim were a minority: Jews within the larger Argentine society, and Sephardim within the Jewish community. Yet the relationship between these Sephardi Zionist youth groups and the Sephardi social institutions in which they worked soured and were broken off by the end of the 1960s.

In this paper, I trace the development of these two processes; on the one hand, I describe the work done by Baderej and other Sephardi Zionist youth groups, such as Centro Israelita Juvenil (Jewish Youth Center; CIJ), Tejezakna (Be Strong; name taken from a famous poem by Hayyim Bialik), Juventud Israelita de Flores (Jewish Youth of Flores), and Movimiento Juvenil Sefaradí Sionista (Sephardi Zionist Youth Movement; MJSS) inside Sephardi institutions in the 1960s and before, their conflicts with these institutions’ leadership, and their final expulsion from these centers in the late 1960s. I also focus on the increasing politicization of these youth groups and touch on the internal clashes that developed starting in the late 1960s regarding their position vis-à-vis Argentine politics. Rather than focus on those Sephardim who did become involved in...


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