Computer Science Lab for Tucumans Jewish community


9 September 2005 After years of growing economic pressures and declining population, the isolated Jewish community of Tucuman, in northern Argentina, has had an opportunity to celebrate with the opening there of a new ORT computer science laboratory. More than 150 of the towns 3,500 Jews attended the opening of the facility, which is aimed at improving young peoples job prospects and so provide an incentive for them to stay in Tucuman. The laboratory will also be used for evening classes to re-train adults in high-tech fields. World ORT Executive Committee Chairman Mauricio Merikanskas speaks to the media at the opening of the new ORT computer lab in Tucuman. The state-of-the-art computer centre boasts 15 IT work stations, two classrooms and associated facilities. It will be run by the local Chabad Lubavitch organisation under the technological and pedagogical supervision of ORT Argentina. It really was a day of joy, said Mauricio Merikanskas, who, in his capacity as Chairman of World ORTs Executive Committee, was made an honorary citizen of Tucuman by the provinces first Jewish governor, Jose Alperovich, in recognition of ORTs contribution to local education. Mr Merikanskas said the projects chief financial backers, London-based businesspeople Eduardo and Leticia Azar, could be proud of what they have made possible. They have done a brilliant and fantastic thing for Tucumans Jewish community, Mr Merikanskas said. They can feel very proud and very satisfied with the professional job that ORT and Chabad has done with this computer laboratory. World ORT Executive Committee Chairman Mauricio Merikanskas speaks to the media at the opening of the new ORT computer lab in Tucuman. ORT Argentina National Director Baruj Zaidenknop said Mr and Mrs Azars investment in the computer laboratory had raised the prospect of further ORT projects in the Tucuman area, some 600 miles north west of Buenos Aires. There is no doubt that this has opened the door to the province, Mr Zaidenknop said. And future developments will include the non-Jewish population as well. Mr Azar said he hoped to visit Tucuman with his wife at the end of the year when they make their annual trip back to their Argentine birthplace. We have IT and property business interests in Argentina and Ukraine, so we want to be able to put back into the communities there some of what we earn, Mr Azar said. We supported the ORT Technology Centre in Dnepropetrovsk and now we are supporting this project in Argentina. Mr Azar stressed the importance of the long term effects that projects like the computer laboratory can have particularly in a small town like Tucuman that could easily have been overlooked by the international community. My wife and I are active in providing food aid in Tucuman and other places in Argentina, he said. But the philosophy behind this project is that if you can give people a good education that will enable them to get work then they wont need food aid because theyll be able to buy it themselves. Giving someone work is the best charity we can do. Until relatively recent times, the Jewish community of Tucuman was composed of mainly middle class and upper class professionals, successful businessmen and entrepreneurs. Today, however, the community has fallen victim to the same downward trend that has affected people and businesses throughout the country. Mounting pressure caused by rising unemployment, assimilation, and migration now pose a serious threat to this once vibrant and successful Jewish community. The Director of Chabad Lubavitch of Tucuman, Rabbi Daniel Levy, said the joining of forces with ORT had been a good shidduch (match). The opening of this facility, thank God, is wonderful; its an historic act and has been recognised as such by the local people and by the media, Rabbi Levy said. From the day after the laboratory opened the phone here has not stopped ringing. People of all ages have been asking when the classes start and how to enrol. Now, I feel, the real work begins. With 230,000 people, Argentina’s Jewish community is the largest in South America and seventh largest in the world. Most live in Buenos Aires (180,000) and there are significant populations in C rdoba, Rosario, and Santa Fe as well as Tucuman.