Thursday, April 12th, 2012...12:50 pm

Passover with an Urban Twist in Argentina

By Katina Rajunov

Katina Rajunov is a JDC Jewish Service Corps Fellow serving in Buenos Aires, Argentina this year.

Pesaj Urbano in Buenos Aires, Argentina

The streets of Buenos Aires are known for their trendy cafés, fashion boutiques, and beautiful plazas.

And on the Sunday before Passover began, Plaza Armenia in the hip Palermo Soho district was completely transformed – with crumbs of matzah on the floor, children fishing for baskets with “baby Moses,”and a general aura of festivity.

This transformation was all part of the annual Pesaj Urbano celebration, courtesy of a JDC project called YOK – “Judaism your way”- a program I have worked on as a JDC Jewish Service Corps Fellow these past months.

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The idea of bringing Jewish content to the streets of Buenos Aires sets YOK’s activities apart, and attracts a large segment of the Jewish population that is not affiliated to any communal organization.

Every year the JDC staff strive to create a space where people can connect to Judaism through art, music, food and games. For many, this gathering offers them the opportunity to re-connect with their Jewish identity and find new avenues to explore.

JDC’s insight into the makeup of the community helped staff identify the large segment of the Jewish community that sought a new space to shape their Jewish life. Now in its 13th edition (there is also an Urbano hosted for Rosh Hashanah) Pesaj Urbano has become a Passover tradition for many families in Buenos Aires.

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Strolling down the street, the banners of “matzah” hanging high in the air might have caught your eye and opened up your appetite, influencing most to start the day by the food stands where you could find all kinds of Jewish delicacies.

Further down the street, artisans offered up their Passover best, including beautiful seder plates, paintings, and other crafts.

All along the streets free samples of matzah were available to ensure that everyone’s digestive system could start prepping for the week to come. Musical interludes from local bands prompted Israeli dancing on the streets, while children had the opportunity to participate in an array of Passover-themed games.

On the other side of the block you could find those seeking some intellectual enrichment on themes that included contemporary definitions of freedom and liberty and Passover then and now.

One thing that set this stage apart: it was shared by a female rabbi, an Orthodox male rabbi, and numerous academics. Given the diverse landscape of the Jewish community of Buenos Aires in terms of observance and affiliation, shared spaces and discussions are rare. This unique forum is part of the openness and plurality that YOK strives to offer, granting everyone the opportunity to define his or her Jewish identity for themselves.

As I get ready to follow my Bobe’s matzo ball recipe to celebrate Passover far from home, I appreciate the importance of “transmitting” the story of Passover more than ever. Whether it is on the streets of Buenos Aires, at home with family, or next year in Jerusalem, may our people continue to remember our departure from Egypt while embracing our freedom and bringing light unto the world.

Chag Pesach Kasher V’Sameach!!!

Want to see Argentina’s Jewish community first-hand? Travel with JDC on Inside Jewish Argentina this summer! More here.

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