The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Evocating European Synagogues in Agricultural Settlements in Argentina: Architecture and Immigrant Identity, 1890s to 1930s

This paper investigates the phenomenon of synagogues built by European Jewish immigrants in agricultural settlements in Argentina as reproductions of the synagogues of their native hometowns. The agricultural settlements in Argentina were founded by the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA), an organization established in 1891 by the German Jewish financier and philanthropist Baron Maurice Hirsch, whose main scope was to facilitate the Jewish migration from the Russian Empire territories and other Central and Eastern European countries to agricultural settlements located in several extra-European countries, including Argentina. The paper focuses on the period from the 1890s to the 1910s, that is the timeframe in which most of the Jewish agricultural settlements were founded by the JCA in remote areas of Argentina.

The relation of the architectural reproduction to its model ranges from similar architectural shape through the quotation of some aspects of the original building, its spatial arrangement, decoration, and furniture in the interior, to the use of relics brought from the old to new places, or mere dedicatory inscriptions, or a written or oral lore connecting the new and old synagogues. In this paper, the analysis of these synagogues` artistic and architectural features is carried out in relation to their historical and social contexts. In fact, many synagogues were built there to represent a direct architectural and artistic output of the European Jewish immigrants’ self-identification. Often, the architects of these synagogues, the interior decorators, and the artisans who designed the Torah arks and bimahs, were Jewish immigrants themselves. These people well remembered and were greatly inspired by the synagogues they left in Europe.

Through the analysis of selected synagogue buildings located in agricultural settlements in Argentina, this paper aims to explore the relation between Jewish immigrant self-identification and synagogue architecture, by also examining the different extents of resemblance between European and local synagogues.