SECAUCUS, NJ — The history of the Jews of Argentina goes back to the Spanish Inquisition when Jews fleeing persecution settled there. The Jewish community has continued to grow and Argentina now has the largest Jewish population of any country in Latin America, and the 5th largest Jewish population in the world with most Jews living in Buenos Aires, the country’s capital. The kosher scene has grown as well, with thousands of companies in Argentina holding kosher certification. The Abasto de Buenos Aires shopping mall boasts the only glatt kosher McDonald’s in the world. Even Israel which has several kosher McDonald’s branches does not have a branch that caters to kosher consumers who eat only glatt.
Natalia Faigenbaum, manager of the Argentinean-Israeli Chamber of Commerce, was one of the officials in the large and beautifully designed pavilion at Kosherfest. As much as the pavilion promoted Argentinean manufactured kosher foods, there was also an emphasis on Jewish tourism. “Argentina has a wide array of amenities to offer the kosher traveler,” Natalia explained. ‘We have kosher-friendly hotels, such as the Alvear Palace Hotel, where staff are educated on the needs of kosher travelers and will assist them with whatever they need. We also have many restaurants, ice cream shops, and other easily accessible places to get kosher food.”
Officials and Jewish community leaders estimate that Argentina has 300,000 traditional Jews who eat strictly kosher on Jewish holidays. In addition to its home market, Argentina exports such kosher products as wines, meat, matzah, sunflower oil, cheeses, cookies and cakes. To increase their presence in the worldwide kosher market, Argentina advertises its kosher wares through their embassies around the world. They also work with travel agencies and the Israeli government to attract kosher travelers. Natalia hopes to see a 100 percent increase in companies in Argentina seeking kosher certification, and her goal is to make kosher food accessible to all citizens, not only Jews who observe the dietary laws. ‘Kosher food is quality controlled, and is often fresher and less contaminated,’ says Natalia. ‘All Argentineans will benefit from an expanded kosher market.’