Renovated Uruguay Holocaust memorial rededicated

(JTA) – A renovated Holocaust memorial monument, which has been hit several times in recent years by anti-Semitic vandalism, was rededicated in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital.

The unveiling Friday came after renovations which included installing lights, staircases and a clean-up of the monument, which was unveiled in 1994. The Israelite Central Committee, the country’s umbrella Jewish organization, funded the restoration. The group did not disclose the project’s cost.

Uruguayan officials and Jewish community representatives were among those on hand for the rededication of the 120-yard long memorial on the Rambla waterfront overlooking the River Plate, near Pocitos, a popular Jewish neighbourhood of Montevideo.

The ceremony was held during the sixth edition of the local Jewish National Fund (JNF) congress, with representatives from some 15 countries from the Americas. Israeli Ambassador Nina Ben Ami also attended, the Agencia Judia de Noticias reported.

Daniel Atar, the international chairman of JNF, addressed what he described as the changing facades of anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism across the world has been shaped as BDS and attacking the State of Israel though the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said in reference to the effort to isolate Israel through boycotts. “However, it is a frame that, if opened, contains an intense hatred against the Jewish people. We will manage to win this fight if we remember the Jewish values of support and solidarity.”

The monument features a high granite wall buffering a stone path leading to a plaza, the surroundings broken in the middle. The gulf represents the Holocaust. The monument also features the Bridge of Doubt, a walkway designed to encourage visitors to contemplate the fate of European Jews; tombstone-like granite slabs with quotes from Elie Wiesel and Maimonides. Another stone plaque tells of 15-year-old Ana Balog, Uruguay’s only known Holocaust victim, who died in Auschwitz in 1945 after returning from South America to Hungary with her family.

Uruguay has only 10,000 Jewish families, according to the World Jewish Congress, but the community is more diverse than many other South American Jewish communities. Unlike the communities of Argentina and Brazil, where most Jews are Ashkenazi, Uruguayan Jewry is 75 per cent Sephardic thanks to a wave of immigration from the Balkans and as part of the Jewish exodus from North Africa in the 1950s and ’60s.

Only six of the 20 synagogues in Montevideo hold weekly Shabbat services as of 2003, according to the Times of Israel. The Yavne Community Center synagogue is open daily and also has a day school for Jewish education. Relative to its Jewish population, Uruguay has one of the Western Hemisphere’s highest rates of aliyah, Jewish immigration to Israel, according to the Times.

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