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Pursue justice for the Jews of Argentina

Honor her mother and the other victims of Buenos Aires' Jewish center 1994 bombing by living with hope and seeking justice

This week we began the Three Weeks of Mourning on the Jewish calendar, starting with the 17th day of the Jewish month of Tammuz — the fast of Shiva Asar B’Tammuz — and ending on the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av — the fast of Tisha B’Av, which occurs exactly three weeks later. Both of these fasts commemorate events surrounding the destruction of the Jewish Temples and the subsequent exile of the Jews from the land of Israel.

Almost every year this period coincides with my own weeks of mourning. The mourning of my destruction, the destruction of the AMIA (Asociation Mutual Israelita Argentina) building in Buenos Aires Argentina, on July 18, 1994. This mourning period is between July 18th, the date of the attack, and the 10th of Av, the Hebrew date, my mother’s yahrzeit. This year commemorates 22 years since a bomb was detonated in a Renault traffic van in front of the AMIA building, at the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. Twenty-two years since 85 people were killed, including my mother, Susy Wolynski Kreiman, and hundreds were injured.

Let me tell you  about my mother, Julia Susana Wolynski Kreiman, or Shoshana, or Susy, as all knew her. My mom was a dedicated mother, wife, friend and social worker. She ran the employment office at the AMIA, where she spent her days trying to find jobs for people who sought out her help. She loved her job and was committed to helping those in need, in every way she could. My parents taught me to celebrate Shabbat, to open my home, and to live a life of meaning, with commitment to our tradition, to those in need and to a path of justice.

Every year, I share the story that when I got up from shiva, one of the first phone calls I received was from the head of the Hebrew school (Talmud Torah, as we called it in Argentina) where I was working, teaching bnei mitzvah students. The head of the school said that I didn’t need to go back to teaching right away, that they could get a substitute teacher, for as long as I needed. I immediately responded that I would be there, teaching the 6th and 7th graders and helping them to get ready for their bar and bat mitzvahs. I have one memory from that first class: standing among middle school children and crying, while the students sat silently.

Being back at the Bet-El synagogue in Buenos Aires, on that day in August 1994, was a meaningful and powerful experience. My mother had been a teacher there. She had helped to found the nursery school in the synagogue and she was a very active youth leader (together with my father). I still remember the feeling of deciding to teach immediately after getting up from shiva.

I am not sure I could articulate at that time why it was so important to me, but I know now that this was an act of affirmation. Affirmation — of my outlook on this world, of Judaism, of the strength of my family, and my relationship with God. I had to go teach. Otherwise, fear and hatred might have begun to define me. I needed hope to guide me. I needed to affirm the possibility that we can live in a better world.

It has been hard to keep up with hope and believe in the possibility of justice in the case of AMIA, especially after the tragic death of Alberto Nisman, z”l.

Nisman was the federal prosecutor for the AMIA. He dedicated the last 10 years of his life to the investigation of this terrorist attack. He was found dead the day before he was scheduled to give testimony on the allegations against the Argentinean government that concerned covering up Iranian involvement in the attack. There is no clarity around this case, but what is clear, sadly, is that we continue to commemorate this date with no justice.

The realization that a part of me has lost hope that change is possible in Argentina saddens me deeply. I’m usually a hopeful person, but it has become impossible to believe that justice will be achieved in Argentina.

The first year after the AMIA bombing, when I was still living in Buenos Aires, I joined the weekly demonstration in front of the Argentinean Supreme Court to ask for justice. We would stand there every Monday at 9:53 a.m., the day and time of the blast, and cry out, “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof — Justice, justice you shall pursue.” I recall asking myself on one of those Mondays if I could continue standing there asking for justice for the rest of my life.

I decided to leave Argentina, and to move to Israel. I became an educator, and later a rabbi, bringing the values that my parents taught me to life. I never imagined that 22 years later, we would be in the same place, with no justice and no one held responsible for this atrocity.

But I remind myself that there is hope; that it is in our hands to create a different future and new reality for our children. Not long ago, at the celebration of a newborn baby, I heard that bringing children to the world is an act of faith. I was moved by those words. As I look at my two daughters today, 7 and 1-year-old, I refuse to give up. I refuse to let go of the hope that this world can be different. I truly believe that this is possible only with dialogue, peace talks, and negotiations — with those different from us, even with those who want to hurt us, and even when it scares us.

I continue to stand today, one more time, believing that we can create a new reality; there is no other alternative.

I continue to stand today and ask for justice, because the lack of justice means we have given up on the possibility of living in a world where these atrocities do not happen. I ask for justice, because the lack of justice makes us numb, and used to death, violence and killing. I ask for justice, because I want a brighter world for my daughters.

Nothing will bring my mother and the other victims to life, but our commitment to a life of meaning and pursuit of justice will ensure a brighter world for our children. I know that, to honor my mother’s memory, I will never give up.

* * *

Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof. Justice Justice you shall pursue.

We remember today 85 victims. We say PRESENTE (they are present, they are here with us today), as is customary in commemorations of the AMIA bombing, after each name:

Silvana Alguea de Rodríguez
Jorge Antúnez
Moisés Gabriel Arazi
Carlos Avendaño Bobadilla
Yanina Averbuch
Naum Band
Sebastián Barreiros
David Barriga
Hugo Norberto Basiglio
Rebeca Violeta Behar de Jurín
Dora Belgorosky
Favio Enrique Bermúdez
Romina Ambar Luján Boland
Emiliano Gastón Brikman
Gabriel Buttini
Viviana Adela Casabé
Paola Sara Czyzewski
Jacobo Chemauel
Cristian Adrián Degtiar
Diego De Pirro
Ramón Nolberto Díaz
Norberto Ariel Dubin
Faiwel Dyjament
Mónica Feldman de Goldfeder
Alberto Fernández
Martín Figueroa
Ingrid Finkelchtein
Leonor Gutman de Finkelchtein
Fabián Marcelo Furman
Guillermo Benigno Galarraga
Erwin García Tenorio
José Enrique Ginsberg (Kuky)
Cynthia Verónica Goldenberg
Andrea Judith Guterman
Silvia Leonor Hersalis
Carlos Hilú
Emilia Jakubiec de Lewczuk
María Luisa Jaworski
Analía Verónica Josch
Carla Andrea Josch
Elena Sofía Kastika
Esther Klin
León Gregorio Knorpel
Berta Kozuk de Losz
Luis Fernando Kupchik
Agustín Diego Lew
Jesús María Lourdes
Andrés Gustavo Malamud
Gregorio Melman
Ileana Mercovich
Naón Bernardo Mirochnik (Buby)
Mónica Nudel
Elías Alberto Palti
Germán Parsons
Rosa Perelmuter
Fernando Roberto Pérez
Abraham Jaime Plaksin
Silvia Inés Portnoy
Olegario Ramírez
Noemí Graciela Reisfeld
Félix Roberto Roisman
Marisa Raquel Said
Ricardo Said
Rimar Salazar Mendoza
Fabián Schalit
Pablo Schalit
Mauricio Schiber
Néstor Américo Serena
Mirta Strier
Liliana Edith Szwimer
Naum Javier Tenenbaum
Juan Carlos Terranova
Emilia Graciela Berelejis de Toer
Mariela Toer
Marta Treibman
Angel Claudio Ubfal
Eugenio Vela Ramos
Juan Vela Ramos
Gustavo Daniel Velázquez
Isabel Victoria Núñez de Velázquez
Danilo Villaverde
Julia Susana Wolynski de Kreiman
Rita Worona
Adehemar Zárate Loayza

About the Author
Rabbi Claudia Kreiman is a rabbi at Temple Beth Zion in Brookline, MA. She grew up in Santiago, Chile. In 1994, Rav Claudia’s mother, Susy Wolynski Kreiman, was killed in the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) bombing in Buenos Aires. Rav Claudia moved to Israel in 1996, received smicha, and has since energized TBZ’s prayer through the addition of song and music, drawing members and visitors alike to Jewish prayer. Rav Claudia is married to Rabbi Ebn Leader, who is on the faculty of the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. They have two daughters, Alma and Ariel.
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