Coinciding with the premiere of the documentary film ”Legado. Yo nunca me fui de mi pueblo” ( Legacy. I never left my village), the centennial of the foundation of the Jewish colony ” Las Palmeras”, was celebrated on the 17th of October 2004 in Las Palmeras, at the province of Santa Fe, 600 kilometers from the city of Buenos Aires.
Under the direction of the superintendent Victor Cravero and the co-ordination of Alexis Astore, Las Palmeras lived through three successive unforgettable days which ended on Sunday October 17th with the official celebrations.
More than 2500 visitors walked the streets of their small town, inhabited by no more than 700 people, to watch the inauguration of the museum ” Paseo de los Recuerdos” (Remembrance Promenade) and the small square in ” Homage to the Immigrants” in the rejuvenated railway station; the opening of the renewed school; the inauguration of the monolith and the water fountain in honor of the 100 years; the fireworks; the photograph display ” Life in images”; the different exhibitions in the Hatjia library; the religious ceremonies in the synagogue and in the chapel; the uncovering of plaques in Plaza General San Martín, the official parade, the huge luncheon followed by dancing, folklore and Jewish dances and, as a perfect ending, the show offered by the popular singer León Gieco.
As its founder, Baruj Tenenbaum, represented the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF). He was born in Las Palmeras and on this occasion he was honored for spreading world wide, the name of the ex- Jewish colony.
Likewise, the IRWF made a donation that allowed the only synagogue in the town, to be restored, to recover the two original Torahs ( Rolls of the Old Testament) and reconstruct its Arón Kodesh ( Sacred Ark), the same one in front of which, the teacher Máximo Yagupsky made his promise.
During the official act, eloquent words were spoken by the Governor of Santa Fe, Engineer Jorge Obeid, the Superintendent Cravero and by Monsignor Carlos Maria Franzini, Bishop of Rafaela, who received from Tenenbaum the painting ” Basílica de la Anunciación” ( The Basilica of the Annunciation), work painted by the argentine master of fine arts, Raúl Soldi. Governor Obeid, in the meantime, received a copy of the video ”Legacy” as a present from the IRWF.
Dozens of volunteers worked for nearly eight months for the completion of this festivity, which summoned not only the actual inhabitants but also the ex dwellers of Las Palmeras, who came from different places of Argentina and of the world.
The impeccable organization was made possible, thanks to the efforts of the Centenary Commission and its sub- commissions and the contributions of the local community.
Work done by the Mothers Club and the Cooperative of the School Nº 744, was astounding, as well as those of the families that lent clothes and handicrafts, together with the different exhibitions and work carried out by teachers, parents, students and young people from Las Palmeras and the members of all the other institutions of the small town.
WHAT WERE THE JEWISH COLONIES?
The Jewish settlement in Argentina, that began at the end of the XIX th. century, is an unique chapter of world history produced by numerous immigratory currents that settled in the land of the ” pampas” , enhanced by the policy of encouragement to populate the region.
The law ruling population and settlement , in force since the presidency of Nicolás Avellaneda and later of Julio Argentino Roca, was the incentive that allowed the creation of the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA), founded by the Frenchman Baron Maurice de Hirsch.
From the moment of the arrival of the steamer Wesser at the port of Buenos Aires , with 136 families ( 824 people) ,the colonizing business was triggered off by the purchase of land in the province of Santa Fe and the foundation of the urban area of Mosesville, later named the ”Argentine Jerusalem”
Las Palmeras, situated only at 15 kilometers from Moses Ville, was born together with other neighboring colonies ( Palacios, Monigotes, etc.), as a consequence of the purchase of 118,242 hectares by the JCA from Doctor Palacios, owner of a cattle ranch ( estanciero) in the area.
In the year 1904 the train arrived at Las Palmeras for the first time ; this event became the landmark of the foundation of this small agricultural colony, where hundreds of Jews who escaped from the persecutions in Eastern Europe, found refuge, liberty, work and dignity.
Translation: Maria Pensavalle