Inspiration Report

Guest Blog By Marysa SherenIt’s hard to explain what drew me to Argentina. Your quintessential humanities-worshipping college kid, I dabbled in studying Spanish as a foreign language throughout my teenage years and, like many Philosophy majors hailing from pampered suburban backgrounds, wanted to do something that would make my parents wildly uncomfortable. When the time came to choose a destination for my junior year semester abroad, I was faced with an exhaustive list of foreign cities from which to choose. I wanted to be somewhere beautiful, with a complicated and interesting history, and I wanted to be as far away as possible from the comfort of the snowy Bostonian college campus where I weathered the rocky transition from teenagehood to whatever hood it is that comes directly after. Aside from the United States and Canada, Argentina is home to the largest Jewish community in the Americas. But this did not initially factor into my decision to come here. It wasn’t until I knew I would be moving to Argentina that I started to read up on the open-door immigration policy that attracted thousands of World War II refugees to seek a new beginning in Latin America. At a time when the US had slammed its doors to immigrants and Europe was a war-torn wreck, Argentina offered hope to Europe’s weary Jews. Today, the country but especially its capital, Buenos Aires, is home to hundreds of thousands of Jews and hundreds of holocaust survivors.When I became aware of this history, I immediately felt connected to it on a spiritual level. Raised in a very “culturally but not religiously Jewish” household, Judaism–its culture and its theology–became increasingly central to my life over the first two years of my college career. A wiz with a search engine, I quickly found a Jewish-Argentine non-profit concerned with the needs of ailing Jewish populations in Argentina. That day, I translated my resume into Spanish and applied for a volunteer internship. Foundation Tzedaká, where I landed months later, is an organization with diverse initiatives designed to alleviate the suffering of impoverished and socially ostracized Jews throughout Argentina, of which there are many (this was news to me). Tzedaká (the organization’s name comes from the Hebrew word tzedak, which we understand as meaning justice through solidarity) serves to restore the human right to live with dignity, and provides academic scholarships, food, clothing, medical care and other kinds of support to those who need it. Having been with the organization for almost a month now, I wanted to share with Beliefnet readers what I find to be one of its most inspiring projects: a center for Argentine holocaust survivors to unite, share their stories through creative writing, art and music, receive support in various forms and serve their communities. It is my personal goal as an American, as a Jew and as a budding journalist to help make Tzedaká’s mission known internationally. If you are interested in learning more about the organization or in making a donation, please visit its website.Marysa Sheren is a college student and former Beliefnet intern studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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