Menora was a great place for me, as an American who doesn’t speak much Spanish, to meet people in Buenos Aires. They have many relaxed events where you can eat parilla (BBQs), hang out, and meet locals as well as other foreigners. I wish I knew about this place sooner, there were many questions and concerns I had about living in Buenos Aires that were resolved with the help of the Menora center. For example, where to go for Shabbat dinner o “cualquier cosa”.
Jason Naziri, LA, USA – 2012
Arriving in Buenos Aires was both exciting and yet daunting. That first day, I felt small and insignificant in a city of which I knew little. I arrived unaware of the experiences to come, and left feeling as I had a deep-rooted connection to a country thousands of miles away from my own. I can say with conviction that this incredible sense of belonging is all thanks to Menora and the special people that help to make it the successful organisation that is it today.I chose Argentina. Realistically, I could have gone to any Spanish-speaking country in the world and yet I chose Buenos Aires. The city seemed utterly irresistible to me from the outset: the birthplace of Lionel Messi and Che Guevara, and a fascinating, beautiful and rich national culture of steak, mate and tango. And yet, what most attracted me most was what I had been told of the vibrant Jewish community, the biggest of its kind in Latin America. My two passions combined into one experience: being Jewish and speaking Spanish…seemingly a magical formula.
A few days into our 5-month adventure, we found a decent place to live, across from the road from a place, which we later discovered was a Jewish youth centre. After a few days we felt relatively settled and decided to go across the road in order to introduce ourselves. My intention was to participate in some way in the Jewish community, but never did I imagine the extent of our involvement. By the end of the 5 months, I came to realise that almost every aspect of my social life was revolved around the many social events that take place at Menora and that all my close friends had come from there.
From the very first day one we were part of the community. After only a month, we had already acquainted ourselves with a number of families that play an active role in the community. We were invited to spend Friday night dinner with different families every single week, allowing us to sample the wonderfully delicious Sefardi style of cooking, and perhaps more essentially to help us feel at home. After a period of time, it genuinely felt as if we had come to know the entire community. We would go to shul on a Friday night and everyone would greet us wishing us ‘Shabbat Shalom’ as if we were just as much part of the Menora “family” as anyone else there.
I feel that I benefitted from the Menora not just socially, but indeed Jewishly in terms of the strengthening of my identity. Thanks to the community at Menora, one of the most dedicated and warm-hearted communities I have ever had the privilege of meeting, we were involved in every type of social activity. There were times when I forgot that I was not just in another country, but also in another continent altogether. Such was the warmth of the community and incredible dedication of the Sacca Rabbis, that I always felt at home.
My experience in Buenos Aires was not just a mere memory, since it left an indelible mark on me. It was a life changing experience. So much so that I have since booked flights to return in order to spend my summer with the community that I so love and miss. Everyday I want to relive the experience and thanks to Menora I know I will always have that home in Buenos Aires, amazing friends with whom I hope I will always be close, and a wonderful place to live out my identity…Jewish.
Ben R., London, England – 2011-2012
Spending six months of my Year Abroad in Argentina as part of my University degree was certainly a daunting experience. I was out of my comfort zone, living in a new city, speaking a different language, experiencing a new culture and meeting new people. One immediately searches for ways of settling in and I am glad that I found Menora or perhaps that Menora found me – it turned out that the flat where I was living for the next six months was located across the road from Menora!It is worth mentioning that Menora welcomes all Jews irrespective of how observant they may be. For example, in London I vary rarely go to synagogue and I certainly was not studying the Torah in my spare time. However, Menora welcomed me into a very warm and friendly community that encouraged me to become more involved. I began to attend Friday night services and I was warmly received as a guest in the homes of many different families. I must add that at no point did I feel pressured to come to Menora. In fact, it was more a case of my positive experiences with the youth organisation that kept on bringing me back and increasing my involvement whilst in Buenos Aires. I was given the opportunity to build an excellent rapport with the leaders of the organisation, and had the privilege to be invited to Rabbi Gabriel Sacca’s and Rabbi Isaac Sacca’s homes to spend Shabbat. It was a genuine pleasure to get to know them and their families on a more personal level.
At times it can be difficult to be so far from home, particularly when religious holidays such as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur remind you of being with your family. This proved to be another instance in which I was delighted to fall under the whim of Menora. The organisation ensured that I was invited to spend Rosh Hashanah with wonderful families. This helped me to feel very much at home and it was truly fascinating to experience how an Argentine Safadi Jewish family shares so much in common with my own.
Finally, one of the most challenging aspects of living abroad is making good friends. Menora offers one the opportunity to meet people of the same age who, from my personal experience, are very friendly and willing to meet up and socialise in much the same way as you would back home. There are numerous social events organised for young Jewish people living in Argentina and they are often a lot of fun. This coupled with classes that Menora offers during the week means that there are plenty of different ways to get to know young Argentine Jews.
If one is looking to enhance their experience whilst on their Year Abroad then look no further than Menora. It offers the unique opportunity to immerse oneself into Argentine Jewish culture and become part of a family.
Andrew H., London, England – 2011
Menora was so helpful to me as a study abroad student in BA. They not only had classes and events during which I could learn and meet students, but also invited me into their community. I must say that did not happen to any of the other students in my program. I got invited to Shabbat meals, met ‘real’ Argentinians, and genuinely became friends with them. I would HIGHLY recommend that any student going to BA just stop by – they’re incredibly friendly and willingly to accept you, no matter what kind of Jew you are 😉
Morgan R., New York, USA – 2011