Well, hello, 2019. I have been a terrible writer. I was in the US for the end of December and all of January, and even though I took with me a backlog of museum visits to work on while I was there, it obviously never happened because a good 97% of my focus at home is devoted to getting tacos. Thank you for your understanding.
So now I’m home, and also sick, which is a great condition for acclimating to the change in time zone, but whatever, my point is I have time. So–
This is the Museo Judío de Buenos Aires, and if you’re thinking that’s a bit unassuming and you might miss it, don’t worry, because this is the temple next door:
The museum is connected to the Templo Libertad, the central synagogue of Buenos Aires. It faces the same stretch of squares as the Teatro Colón and the Supreme Court building. I’ll touch on the history of Jewish Argentines lightly as I go here, but Argentina has the largest Jewish population in Latin America, and their history is, of course, extensive.
Visitors to the museum will encounter first a heavy, locked door, and they must be buzzed into the antechamber. Visitors are at this point required to show identification to the doorman, who sits behind a shield. After that, the doorman is able to buzz visitors through the next heavy, locked door. You will find extra security precautions at many Jewish schools and synagogues in the city; 1992 and 1994 saw two major terrorist attacks against the Jewish community (the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish Community Center [AMIA], respectively). They are accustomed to foreign visitors, and passports are welcome forms of identification.
Inside, you will find a warm and welcoming staff. The signage is in Spanish, although an audioguide is available in multiple languages for download on smartphones, so bring some headphones. It does not appear that the guide is linked on the museum’s website, so it requires Internet access within the building or a local data plan. I hope they consider linking it in the main website so it can be downloaded prior to visiting. I also hope they expand the content someday, as it is on the lean side, but nevertheless a pleasant way to tour the museum.
The museum’s collection is entirely donated, and it includes ancient artifacts:
As well as a few contemporary art pieces here and there:
…which is a nice touch, a reminder of the museum’s place within a community that is both ancient and living.
Most of the items are from the 19th and 20th centuries. This is a 19th century Polish Tanahk (Hebrew Bible) in miniature that could be hidden on one’s person as necessary.
There are other religious texts and cases:
…as well as items related to Jewish life from all over the world:
In the late 1800s-early 1900s, there was a large number of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe, escaping violence and attracted by Argentina’s liberal immigration policy. Thousands settled into agricultural life, and Jewish gauchos became a thing.
My favorite part was the Menorah collection!
Also the Torah pointer, which is just a really practical design.
Visitors can also see the temple itself, which is very impressive, and hosts an active congregation.
The museum has a small gift shop.
A unique history museum and worthwhile visit, the Museo Judío de Buenos Aires is open Monday through Friday from 10am to 6pm. The entry fee is a relatively steep US $10 for foreigners (but currently 80 pesos for Argentine residents and 50 pesos for Argentine retirees). It’s easy to get to via the B and D subway lines and a multitude of buses, and just down the street from Teatro Colón, so it’s right in the thick of things.