Sephardi, Jewish, Argentine: Community and National Identity, 1880-1960. By Adriana M. Brodsky. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2.016. vii + 280 pp.
Argentine Jews in the Age of Revolt: Between the New World and the Third World. By Beatrice D. Gurwitz. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2016. vii + 231 pp.
A review essay on multiple books is not an easy task. Luckily for me, these two works cover the same overall subject matter, Argentine Jewry, albeit with vastly different perspectives. At first glance, these momentous books seem quite similar. Both are written by knowledgeable scholars, both deal with the Argentine Jewish community, and both mention the communal central institutions of the DAIA (Delegation of Argentine Jewish Organizations--the umbrella organization of Argentina's Jewish community), the AMIA (Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association) and the OSA (Argentine Zionist Organization). Both books discuss Zionism, Jewish ethnicity, activism, the Argentine nation and Jewishness. However, there are also important differences worthy of discussion.
Without a doubt, the Jewish experience in Argentina is tied to the social and cultural development of the country. In Adriana M. Brodsky's book Sepbardi, Jewish, Argentine: Community and National Identity, 1880-1960, a complex picture emerges of both cohesiveness and disjuncture as Sephardi Jews constructed their public Jewishness and evolved from being at the margins of society to leaders of the entire Jewish community. Brodsky recounts the settlement and acculturation periods when Sephardi Jews created organizations, founded synagogues, and built cemeteries. She elaborates on the interrelated processes that shaped the Sephardi identity in Argentina, both in Buenos Aires and the interior provinces, through shared experiences with other Argentines. These processes were often contested and debated from within the various Sephardi groups as well as from the outside. Brodsky highlights this transformation from non-entities to leaders as part of a much larger process of not only integrating into the Ashkenazi community but also of developing a sense of national belonging. She argues that the construction of a unified Sephardi identity was a choice and part and parcel of creating a hybrid identity as both Jewish and Argentine. Brodsky also discusses the cultural differences between Ashkenazim and Sephardim and how they related to each other.
Brodsky's book is part of the Sephardi...