This Day in Jewish History / August 14

On this day in 1889, 824 Russian Jews arrived in Buenos Aires to start the first Jewish commune in South America.

On this day in 1889, 130 families consisting of 824 Russian Jews arrived in Buenos Aires. They were not the first Jews to arrive in Argentina (that distinction probably goes to those who came during the Inquisition in the 15th century), but they were the first to establish a Jewish agricultural colony in South America. After discovering that the lands they had intended to buy in Buenos Aires were unavailable, the group moved to what they called Moises Ville in Argentina’s Santa Fe province. Ironically, what kept these “Jewish gauchos” together was a high mortality rate during their first year on the land. Once they had buried their loved ones in the two Jewish cemeteries they established, they were bound to remain in Moises Ville.

The colonists named their community in honor of the German-Jewish philanthropist Baron Maurice de Hirsch who, when he learned of their initial difficulties, established the Jewish Colonization Association to help them. (They originally intended to call the colony Kiryat Moshe, but the name was Hispanicized when it was registered.) In the following decades, the JCA brought tens of thousands of additional European Jews to Moises Ville and other colonies in the Buenos Aires and Entre Rios provinces. At its peak, the association owned more that 60,000 dunams (about 15,000 acres) of land, which was being worked by more than 200,000 Jews (approximately the number of Jews in Argentina today).