Pablo Laufer is a judge who specializes in criminal cases in Buenos Aires.
But his heart belongs to the Jewish people.
As vice president of BAMA (Beit Hamechanech Hayehudi – Home to the Jewish Educator), a volunteer position he’s held since last February, Laufer recently spent a week in Israel as a guest of the Jewish Agency, discussing BAMA’s new vision as it looks to the future.
“There are big changes ahead,” Laufer told the Jewish Agency. “BAMA arose out of the vacuum left by the local economic and educational crisis. And even though the Jewish Agency’s goal since its inception was for us to be locally supported and run, that hasn’t happened – until now.”
Established by the Jewish Agency in 2003 in the aftermath of Argentina’s economic collapse, with generous support from the UJA-Federation of New York, its mission was to enable the community to rebuild and strengthen Jewish education. Over the past year alone BAMA has provided nearly 1,000 educators (nursery through high school) and over 150 youth formal, informal and complementary Jewish education.
Now, nearly a decade since its inception, BAMA is branching off to become independent, governed by a board of handpicked community leaders and educators.
“These changes are necessary for deep-rooted reasons because it is a fact that an institution has more of an impact on a community when it comes from within – when the leaders are members of the community themselves,” said Laufer.
Laufer’s vision for the future is to establish BAMA as the primary institution for Jewish education, which is no small feat for Latin America’s largest – and highly Jewishly knowledgable – community. (Population of 200,000) By all accounts, Argentina boasts exceptionally high levels of Jewish education, with excellent Jewish professionals, Rabbis and teachers.
BAMA also aims to expand its scope to outreach to the members of the community who are marginally affiliated, such as the over 40 Jewish Zionist educational centers they work with around the country, according to Laufer. Speaking of the next generation, there are currently more than 50 thousand Jewish youth between ages 3-17 in Argentina.
One unique aspect to Argentina’s Jewish community is its unequivocal support and connection to Israel.
“Israel is a unifying factor among all the separate Jewish streams in Argentina, and because of this, Israel education is so pivotal. One cannot separate Jewish identity from Israel,” said Laufer.
And when he envisions BAMA’s future, Laufer isn’t afraid to dream big.
“Want to know my dream?” he asked. “That when you talk about Jewish education in Argentina, you’re talking about BAMA.”
courtesy The Jewish Agency for Israel