Saturday, November 22, 2008

In Which The Rolfs Arrive

Our first visitors have arrived! Shelley, Jacob, and Hannah arrived yesterday afternoon to their hotel in Recoleta where we met them after completing an extensive cleaning of our apartment. This place never looked so good. After waiting for the man who was to give us the keys to what is really their small apartment for what seemed like an eternity (he was obviously on Argentine time) we went to lunch near the cemetery and then briefly walked among the small town of mausoleums that line the meandering paths of Recoleta cemetery.

We returned to their room for a nap and then Josh and I made our way to Frisbee practice. We left early to meet them back at our place to show off our digs and then headed to what you might now recognize as our favorite restaurant DesNivel. Shelley was more than pleased with her grilled 1/4 chicken while the rest of us chowed down on some red meat. Being very full and tired we all headed home to rest up before our early morning wake up call.
This is the gorgeous view from the Rolf's window of a park.

We met at the Rolf's place at 9:15 for our private tour of the Jewish side of Buenos Aires. Our tour guide was a very knowledgeable man named Ernesto who was born a porteƱo but spent much of his adult like in Houston Texas after attending college at Columbia University.
His family owned a textiles store that was the best in Buenos Aires where Evita's boyfriend (prior to her Peron years) was the manager. This turned out to be the demise of the store because Evita's corrupt brother wanted to become a business partner and had the place shut down when he was shut down.
The first place we went to was the Sheraton Hotel. Here is Jacob taking in the view:
The view was amazing from the top floor showing the River Plata and the coast of Buenos Aires. You could even make out Uruguay in the distance. In this picture you can see a clock tower known as the British Clock Tower before the Falklands war and the train station built by the British that we took to get to Tigre:

To the right of the train station is an excellent venue where one can purchase a Churipan for $3.50 (pesos that is) and it comes with a free stomach ache if taken right before Frisbee. Next we headed for the Casa Rosada to continue our history of Argentina. In case you didn't catch what it looked like the first time around, here is the Casa Rosada (the pink representing the unification of the country folk and the city folk and then end of civil war but also a convienent color because the cow's blood used to make the color last longer happens to leave the paint pink):
This is where the President and her people work everyday, and its no surprise that the majority of protests take place directly in front of it. With the windows open to let in a breeze it is impossible to believe some of what the people say is not heard, but it seems to have no affect.
Next we went to this church:
which I have passed my many times. The building is Greek in style and this may be why I assumed it was a government building, but our guide was overjoyed when Josh guessed within seconds that the pediment was showing the reuniting of Jacobs family in Egypt. Inside we saw the impressive tomb of the liberator of Argentina and the memorial to the Jews murdered in the Shoah, and the two recent bombings in Argentina on the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish Federation. Its the only Church maybe in the world with a memorial to murdered Jews, but the whole thing was only a little awkward since there was a mass going on...

Next stop were two churches near to our apartment. One was the Franciscan Church which was important because they had great relations with the Jews and helped to hide them when people attempted to bring the Inquisition to Argentina, and the other was their rivals the Dominicans. The Franciscan Church was Evita's Church but was ironically burned down by ignorant Peronists. More interesting to me was the massive street party going on in front of the school near our place.
These crazy kids are in fact the smartest kids in BsAs seeing as they go to the best school in the city. And yet they party like rock stars throwing paint, flour and eggs at each other while dancing to music outside their school with their clothes covered in filth and the shirts tied up or off in the case of many young men. These kids know how to party on the last day of school!
Next we finally went to a synagogue. This is an Orthodox temple started by the cousin of Ernesto's grandfather. He is known their even though he is a conservative Rabbi because it is where he chose to say Kaddish for his father for the year after his death. It is a Sephardi temple and beautiful. Here is the courtyard which has a detachable roof:

and the shocking stained glass with human images and winged angels in the Sephardi tradition which is strictly prohibited in the Ashkenazim:
Even though those who attend the Temple and the Yeshiva upstairs are mostly Syrian and Sephardi, they still dress in the black hatter style of the Ashkenazi. Here are some photos of the sanctuary:

After a marathon of napping we went to Belgrano which is where the more liberal Jews live. We walked around China town for a little and Jacob had his first taste of Churipan. Obviously he loved it, and after our snack we headed to the synagogue for some Kabbalat Shabbat. The door to the synagogue was guarded by two men who nodded to familiar congregants on their way in, but who stopped us for questioning. He asked Josh if he was Jewish, if his parents were Jewish, where he was from, if he has a synagogue in America that he belongs to, etc. until the final question: What do Jews eat on Passover-which Josh answered correctly. We were finally allowed inside for the most amazing service I've been to in a long time. The Rabbi was a man with long hair and a big white keepah. The cantor was a beautiful woman with the most amazing voice and she was accompanied by a drum, an electric piano, a tambourine, and maybe a guitar. The service was familiar at parts and we sang along with the help of the prayer books. Of course the prayers spelled out phonetically are spelled out in Spanish, so Micha Mocha is Mija Moja. It was very funny.
During L'Cha Dodi I was almost moved to tears. Maybe it was the manipulation of the music or the angelic voice of the cantor, or just being in a room full of strangers but knowing the same words, the same tune, and the same rituals that our people have done for centuries. Every time this happens I remember how much I love Judaism, and how beautiful Shabbat is. The ritual of ending the week with friends and loved ones and setting aside a time for rest is so important because often times without Shabbat we forget to celebrate or ability to take a day for rest. Kabbalat Shabbat also happens to be my favorite service, and for the first time since Camp I really felt the beauty of the service. People got up and danced, and the tunes encouraged participation. It was a fun service and I loved every minute of it. For the first time since I've been here I felt truly at home and I also felt more at home in this synagogue than I had at any synagogue I've ever been too. I am very excited to go back and determined to drag Josh with me at least once a month. I'll need him to be my translator so we can make some friends.

1 comment:

Ann Behar said...

Sounds like a wonderful visit so far--thanks for all of the pictures and your detailed descriptions!