Last month, seven Los Angeles rabbis and five community leaders traveled to Argentina for a whirlwind 72-hour trip. The mission, organized by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, helped them gain firsthand knowledge of the crisis in Argentina. Upon their return to Los Angeles, the leaders have begun promoting the Federation's Lifeline to Argentina campaign, a $1 million challenge grant matching every dollar raised. Below are some of their thoughts and photos of the trip.
"We all promised this Jewish family of ours that we in Los Angeles -- whose lives are so blessed -- would not forget them. At our final meeting we were able to visit the now-abandoned Jewish community center (one of several that has had to close) that is currently used for only one purpose -- a unique "community pharmacy" that the Tzedaka Foundation and JDC run to provide free medicine for those in need. We watched in awe as a combination of paid and volunteer pharmacists showed us how they process 16,000 prescriptions a month that literally are keeping the Jewish people alive." -- Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation
"One of our most memorable experiences was a visit to a nonsectarian soup kitchen sponsored by the JDC. Downstairs, JDC staff and volunteers serve a hot meal each day to children who live in the local shantytown. Upstairs, their mothers learn to weave colorful fabrics into clothing to provide a meager income for their families. Amid the pain and suffering, the JDC brings a message of hope as it carries out its mission of tikkun olam." -- Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, executive vice president, Board of Rabbis
"I was most moved by the unity and cooperation between the various movements and denominations within the Argentine Jewish community. I did not feel the polarity that exists here between Orthodoxy and non-Orthodoxy. The Argentine community is a great example of how crisis brings people together and breeds innovation and fosters unity. There is a lot we can learn and emulate from the Argentine Jewish community." -- Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, Sephardic Temple Tifererth Israel
"For me, the highlight of the trip was to see the creativity the Jewish community has used to address the problem of decreasing enrollment in Jewish schools because of the poverty. They responded by building afternoon schools where they feed children a hot lunch and then offer a variety of Jewish and secular programs in a Jewish environment. Such a program is Morasha, organized by the Orthodox community of Buenos Aires. It serves 1,200 students and reaches out to the entire spectrum of Jews." -- Rabbi Elazar Muskin, Young Israel of Century City