May 23, 2002
Angelenos Aid Argentines
L.A. residents who left Buenos Aires try to help the loved ones who are still there.
Mariano Fainstein hasn't seen his wife in almost three months, and he may have to miss his daughter's wedding. Because of the recent economic crisis in Argentina, the 52-year-old electronics engineer temporarily left his home in Buenos Aires in hopes of landing a new job in Los Angeles to support his family. He's staying with friends in Sherman Oaks while in talks with a company that has expressed interest in him.
If he gets the job, he won't be able to go home in time to walk his daughter down the aisle. To make matters worse, he isn't sure his wife is willing to join him here.
"Last time [I worked in the United States] she was missing her mother so much that she decided to return to Argentina. After she was gone for three months, I decided to move back, too." In the meantime, Fainstein reaches out to other Argentine Jews who understand his situation.
Rosa (not her real name), a retiree from Sherman Oaks, left Buenos Aires when she was 25. At 62, she is still in close contact with her family there. Her niece and nephew, both 20-somethings, are forced to live with their parents because they can't find work, despite the fact that they are both professionals.
"I try to send them [money] every month," Rosa says, "It's very hard for the young people because there are no jobs. It's really bad."
According to Fainstein, flexibility is the key to finding a job in Argentina. "You have to have a broad range of knowledge because you can't specialize in one field," he explains. "It's as if you are a physician, and sometimes you have to work as a cardiologist, and other times you have to work as a pediatrician and so on. The market is very small."
Cantor Marcelo Gindlin, 33, moved to the United States two years ago when he was offered a position at the Malibu Jewish Center. After experiencing culture shock, Gindlin made friends and found fulfillment in his job, which he loves. Still, he is sad when he thinks about the state of affairs back home.
"[Argentines] are so well-educated, but the situation is so bad now," says Gindlin. "The last thing they want to do is lose their faith, so they stay there."
Some L.A. Argentines are trying to persuade family members to move to the United States, like Silvia Kremer, who works in the apparel business. "I've been in touch with my cousins a lot, and I suggest that they come and visit to maybe see a future for their children, but it's such a major decision," explains the 54-year-old Sherman Oaks resident. "None of them has decided to move, yet."
Fainstein believes that the situation in Argentina will get worse before it gets better. "I think this government is going to be in power for a long time," he sighs. "I think it will eventually be replaced by a combination of military and civil power. The ideal is democracy. I don't like military governments, of course, but sometime you have to accept them as transition."
Kremer agrees that it will be a while before things change. Although she doesn't see a bright future, she is proud of the way some of the citizens are expressing their feelings about the economy. "Even though [Argentines are] going through such a hard time, they never show violence with guns or anything like that. The noise they make is with pots and pans and wooden spoons. They'll go where the government is or in front of a bank and make noise."
She believes that the nonviolent protests, indicative of the country's educational level, makes the economic situation even more frustrating. "Everyone goes to college, and you see accountants and lawyers driving taxis because there are no jobs."
Kremer points out that because of the crises in Israel and Afghanistan, the situation in Argentina isn't getting as much press as it did a few months back. "I don't think America will be able to help Argentina get the money they need," she says, "I think they're looking for $15 billion, but now nobody really says anything about it. It's like it died in the news."
While the world may be preoccupied with other troubles, L.A. Argentines continue to focus on the problems in South America. Gindlin, who has a degree in music therapy, is trying to organize a concert fundraiser. He worked as a cantor in eight different communities in Argentina, and his goal is to raise money for all of them. He is hoping to recruit other cantors in Southern California to join in his efforts.
Gindlin feels very connected to his roots: "The tradition of Judaism and the education that I received in Argentina, the values from my family and the values of my teachers is all inside of me."
Before the economic crisis, Rosa's brother was part of the Buenos Aires middle class. Although he is now poor, Rosa says he's managed to stay in good spirits. "He has hope," she says.