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June 30, 2011

Last days for Argentina’s Jewish cowboys?

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/last_days_for_argentinas_jewish_cowboys_20110629/

I was once surprised to learn that there had ever been Jewish cowboys. Then I met one in a Beverly Hills realty office:

Smiling behind the desk is Steve Freed, a blue-blooded Jewish product of Beverly Hills High School, a successful industrial real estate developer and owner, and a ... cowboy.

“This isn’t a typical office of a Beverly Hills executive,” Freed, tall, thin and tanned, in jeans and cowboy boots, said dryly.

That, like the fact Freed doesn’t run into many other Jewish cowboys, is a given. Not since the Southwest was pioneer country and Adolphus Sterne smuggled arms to Sam Houston have Jewish cowboys been commonplace.

Well, Jewish cowboys are still saddling up in Argentina—but only a few and maybe not for long.

The Washington Post has an interesting feature about the fading tradition of Jewish gauchos. An excerpt:

Today, the story of their arrival in Argentina’s outback is all but a footnote in the history of the Jewish diaspora. But in the 1890s, as whole towns of Eastern European and Russian Jews began packing, the offers of a new life in the New World seemed like providence.

With escalating czarist pogroms against Jews a foreshadowing of the calamities to come, the logical promised land was not Palestine but the wide-open spaces in the Americas — at least in the mind of an eccentric German-Jewish philanthropist and railroad financier named Baron Maurice de Hirsch.

So at the same time as the father of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl, was marshaling support for a Jewish state, Hirsch was busily buying up huge tracts of land in the United States, Canada and Brazil. His Jewish Colonization Association, though, had its greatest success here, acquiring a a swath of farmland equivalent in size to Delaware and parceling out plots to 50,000 immigrant Jews over four decades.

And so the Jewish gauchos rode. Read the rest here.

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