Converging Identities: The Creation of Argentine Sephardim in the Early Twentieth Century

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2019
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Haverford College. Department of History
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Thesis
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Award
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eng
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Open Access
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Abstract
This thesis discusses the formation of Sephardic Jewish identity in Argentina in the first decades of the twentieth century. Jews began migrating to Argentina in large waves beginning at the end of the nineteenth century, and between these initial years and the early 1930s the Jewish population grew exponentially. Although only 13% of Argentine Jews, the Sephardic Jews who left Morocco and the (former) Ottoman Empire in search of economic opportunity and refuge from growing tensions in their home communities emerged as a visible migrant community. The Argentine Sephardic newspaper Israel and the memoirs of Sephardic migrants to Argentina demonstrate the process of adjustment to life in Argentina and the daily experiences that led to the formation of identity. They settled in Argentina, established new communities, yet also retained affinities to the places from which they migrated. As a result, this Sephardic community represented a heterogeneous mix of cultural and linguistic practices. They all referred to themselves as Sephardim, but had lived in distinct communities for centuries. Upon their convergence in Argentina, Sephardim needed to redefine their community identity to fit with their new surroundings, including other Sephardim, Ashkenazim, and non-Jewish Argentines. While not homogenous, the community formed by the Sephardim in Argentina developed out of common experiences of diaspora and migration, and a desire to ensure the survival of Sephardic traditions. They negotiated a balance between their Sephardic and Argentine identities, resisted impositions of unity by external organizations, and formed their own transnational relationships between their homelands and Argentina. In doing so they formed an Argentine Sephardic identity specific to their surroundings. Therefore, the Sephardic community that emerged in the first decades of the twentieth century in Argentina fulfilled both the necessity of survival and the desire to unify around common experiences of migration and settlement in new surroundings. The formation of an Argentine Sephardic community demonstrates that new identities develop out of migration and the specific conditions of the sending and receiving communities.
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