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Thursday evening rememberance service by Argentine community: "They were living just like YOU."


Candle-lighting service


Earl Barish, on the Executive of B'Nai Brith Canada, conveys organizaton's statement re the bombing.


Friday noon: a candle is lit for each man, woman and child killed in the attack.

 

Raymond Hall

Argentina Terrorist Victims Remembered In Services put on by Federation and B'nai Brith

by Raymond Hall, July 19, 2010

Five thousand, eight hundred and four-four days after the terrorist bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (Argentina Jewish Cultural Centre) in Buenos Aires that killed 85 individuals and injured more than 100 others, both Jewish and non-Jewish, not one person responsible has been held legally accountable for the massacre. Sunday, July 18th  marks the sixteenth anniversary of the tragedy, and Jewish organizations around the world commemorated the event this week not only with a prayer service and candle-lighting tribute to the victims, but with a vow by the community to not rest easy until those responsible for the heinous crime are brought to justice.
Winnipeg was the venue of two separate services in commemoration of the travesty this week, the first conducted on Thursday evening July 15 by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and the Argentinian Manitoba Association, and the second conducted  on Friday  July 16 at noon by B’nai Brith Canada’s Winnipeg chapter. About 50 people attended the first commemoration service, while the second was attended by about 100 people.
The Culture Centre bombing occurred two years after the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires was bombed, killing 29 and wounding 242 . The Embassy bombing marked the first time that Middle East terrorism extended to South America. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. The story of the subsequent botched investigation and corrupted involvement by the Argentine government and justice system of both bombings could be characteristic of a Hollywood mystery movie, were it not so tragic and pathetic.
The Culture Centre explosion itself was detonated by a suicide bomber inside a Renault truck placed adjacent to the front entrance of the building. The truck contained 275 kilograms (600 pounds) of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil that, when detonated, destroyed the front load-bearing walls of the building, causing each of the floors above to collapse in sequence. The suicide bomber, a Lebanese citizen acting on behalf of Hezbollah and supported by Iran, was later honoured by a plaque in southern Lebanon for his “martyrdom.” Within a few years after the disaster, the Argentine government admitted that both the judiciary and the political leadership of the country were guilty of withholding and destroying evidence related to the bombings. The judge responsible for the investigation was eventually impeached, allegedly for bribing a witness to change his story, and for actually destroying evidence that would implicate the perpetrators of the crime.
More recently, the BBC reported that Interpol has placed on its wanted list an individual that it alleges was responsible for planning the Culture Centre attack—none other than  Iran’s current Minister of Defence, Mr. Ahmed Vahidi.
In addition to the lives lost by so many innocent individuals in the attack, the 200,000 member Argentine Jewish community also lost irreplaceable cultural records, as well as files related to tracking Nazi war criminals in South America.

Both Winnipeg services this week consisted of a reading of the names of the victims, reciting of prayers, and the lighting of candles in their honour. Both services also included a slide show or video presentation restating the commitment of the Argentine communities to continue to pressure the government and judiciary of Argentina to redouble its efforts to solve the crimes and to bring the perpetrators of the crimes to justice. The B'nai Brith Service, which was its 16th annual AIMA commemoration service, had a video message  from Guillermo Borger, AMIA President.

Both services included direct references to the trails of evidence leading directly to fundamental Islamic extremist groups in both Lebanon and Iran, which, given the poignant present invective of the political leadership of those countries, cannot help but leave one with unsettled emotions. Grief, yes. But also concern that the fundamentalist religious rhetoric emanating from these groups and nations is anything but diminishing, and concern that cultural centers throughout the world are not at all immune to fanatic disciples of these regimes that  may be tempted to do more than to simply embrace the rhetoric.

After each of the two Winnipeg services at our own Jewish cultural centre, I left with the disquieting feeling: “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

 *At the B'nai Brith Service, opening remarks were made by Earl Barish, Chair of the Executive Board, B’nai Brith Canada. Songs were sung by Alexander Lerner, Gustavo Levy, Marcelo Lubocki and Pablo Steinberg, with Barry Kay (responsible for translation). Candle Lighting was led by Viviana Finkelstein, and Maria Fernanda Medina. Gustavo Levy sang "El Maalei Rachamim." Rabbi Laurence Pinsker of Shaarey Zedek sunagogue recited kaddish. 

*The Emcee for the Federation's service was Eduardo Saveliovsky. Sergio Glogowski and Ariel Melamedoff both spoke, followed by a song sung by Gustavo Levy and Pablo Steinberg with Marcelo Lubocki (pianist). The keynote address was given by Enrique Levy in Spanish and Kevin Szkop in English. Cantor Anibal Mass sang Arim Roshi (by Shai Gabso), and then El Maleh Rachamim/Mourner's kaddish. Candles were lit by The Honourable Christine Melnick, Vanesa Cotlar, Melanie Skiarsky, Ariel Melamedoff, Pablo Steinberg, Gustavo Levy,Marcelo Lubocki, Enrique Levy,Kevin Szkop, Sergio Glogowski,Isaias Schor, Marcelo Mandelbaum, Eduardo Saveliovsky,Dan Stone, Alan Yusim and Cantor Anibal Mass

* Below is a list of the 85 people who participated in the B'nai Brith commemoration service, each of whom lit one candle in honour  of the 85 victims of the bombing: 

Cheryl Barish, B'nai Brith Manitoba Jewish/Christian Roundtable
Sheldon Mindell, Riverview Health Centre Foundation
Stan Carbone, Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada
Marcelo Lubocki, from Argentina
Pablo Steinberg, from Argentina
Chuck Duboff, Educator and Human Rights Advocator
Maxim Berent, President, JSA Hillel from Ukraine
Aida Strocovsky, from Argentina
 
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