During a diplomacy trip to Latin America last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the longest-serving head of government in the EU, gave a speech at Templo Libertad in Buenos Aires. On Thursday, after Merkel entered the building with Buenos Aires’ mayor, Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, and Rabbi Simon Moguilevsky, a spiritual leader at the synagogue, she told a packed house: “This synagogue is a symbol of the great Jewish community of Argentina, where many Germans came escaping from the Nazis,” she said, according to a JTA report. “There was a bridge between Argentina and Germany, and I want to thank you for having welcomed many Germans here in your country.”
Merkel recalled the 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which left 29 people dead, and the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing that killed 85, as “living and painful” examples of anti-Semitism.
“We must fight anti-Semitism where it is present, and fight for democracy and the rule of law throughout the world,” said Merkel, who also noted that Germany’s past is a reminder of the need to fight against anti-Semitism and for freedom and democracy.
Also significant is the fact that the event marked a celebration of the restoration of the synagogue’s unique Walcker pipe organ (Walcker Orgelbau’s largest organ creation was destroyed in WWII). The temple, built in 1932, is home to a Jewish History Museum and Congregación Israelita de la República de Argentina, the oldest congregation in the country. The building itself is a national monument.
Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.