Museo Judío de Buenos Aires [Jewish Museum of Buenos Aires]

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–

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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:

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You are not going to miss it.

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:

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Bronze Age oil lamps made of clay

As well as a few contemporary art pieces here and there:

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…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.

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There are other religious texts and cases:

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…as well as items related to Jewish life from all over the world:

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“Tallit Bag”–the glare is obscuring the label there.

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An example of a table set for Passover

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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.

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Alberto Gerchunoff emigrated to an Argentine Jewish agriculture colony as a small child from what is now Ukraine, and later became a writer, although gaucho seemed to be a better look on him.

My favorite part was the Menorah collection!

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Also the Torah pointer, which is just a really practical design.

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YOU ARE HERE

Visitors can also see the temple itself, which is very impressive, and hosts an active congregation.

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The museum has a small gift shop.

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For game day.
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Don’t worry; God doesn’t play favorites.

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.

Museo de la Inmigración [Museum of Immigration]

Today, if you immigrate to Argentina, you will undoubtedly spend some time in the Migraciones building, near the Retiro train station and the port.  You’ll be going to the same place immigrants have passed through for more than 100 years.

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These guys are probably still in line.

In 1906, the Hotel de Inmigrantes (Immigrants Hotel) was built at this site with the aim of acting as a kind of full-service center for immigrants.  Part of the old hotel building, between present-day Migraciones and the Navy’s school of sea sciences, now houses the Museum of Immigration (and a contemporary art center).

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The museum’s on the third floor; definitely take the elevator.

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Bank, ho! (Multi-post joke)

The museum does have some artifacts, but it also dedicates a fair portion of its small space to contemporary art with an immigration theme.  It is more of a tribute to immigration than a strictly educational space (although it does also house historical records for research).  It begins with this work, We Are All the Same Under the Skin (I would credit the artist but apparently the museum handout I was reading like an hour ago has been misplaced):

The visitor also sees a timeline of immigration legislation and its historical context:

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The visitor moves through the experience of immigration, with the examples of travel documents and illustrations of accommodations:

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Sail 3rd class with your closest 800 friends.
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The travel truck of a couple fleeing Italy’s anti-Jewish laws and the impending war in 1939.

In addition to the multimedia artwork, visitors can listen to and watch interviews with more recent immigrants.  As you move into the immigrant’s process of starting a life in Argentina, there is a life-size model of a part of a dormitory in the Immigrants Hotel.  There’s a voice singing, and I recognized the lullaby.

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Marginally better than 3rd class, but the price was right (free).
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It could accommodate 3000 new arrivals at a time.

Next, you see the some of the things immigrants used to create and sustain their communities:

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Finally, the museum has an exhibition by the EDO art collective, imagining a solution to the dehumanization and rejection of migrants by having them be given the legal status of fine art, and then regaining their full status as human citizens of their new countries (the transport ship, La Ballena, is organized into elements of first-world museums, as befitting works of fine art).  It sounds weird but I promise the concept appears more coherent and creative in person.

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That the promenade is mostly Duchamp’s Fountain is just the best.

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The museum is free, and the hours vary by season.  While the signage is only in Spanish, there is an English-language booklet available at the desk on the bottom floor (by US reckoning, I mean the first floor; by Argentine I mean the PB).  Finding it is a little bit of a challenge, as the road in front of the Migraciones complex is currently severely torn up by construction (probably for years to come) and the Immigrants Hotel is set back from the parking lot.  There are some large banners to help direct visitors, and it shares an entry with the Navy’s school–the sailors on guard duty were very pleasant and helpful in directing us the right way.  You can get to the general area by way of a train or subway to Retiro station and walk about a kilometer, or by taxi.