By Daniel Chejfec
On July 18, 1994, I was sitting at my desk in Northfield, New Jersey. I was at the time the Community Relations Council (CRC) Director for the Jewish Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties (Atlantic City). The phone rang, and a friend of mine who used to work for the American Jewish Congress in New York and who was a fellow Argentinean Jew, told me the news that the AMIA (Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina) in Buenos Aires was bombed.
I will not go into the frantic activity that came after that working with others to mobilize the American Jewish community. I want to focus on my inner story. My first reaction was concern for my friends, quite a few of whom worked in the building. Over the next several weeks, I would learn that two of them died, one of them survived miracleously under the rubble, but lost her son who worked on the second floor of the building; another saved his life by jumping from a third floor in the building; a few were thank God in vacations. I would also learn of the tremendous cultural loss of manuscripts- one of them a Maimonides manuscript brough to Buenos Aires by Syrian Jews - and the Yiddish library of the YIVO in Buenos Aires, second only to the one in New York. I would learn of the disorientation felt by many who could not comprehend what hapenned, of the rage of those who survived their loved ones, of Argentinean religious leaders calling for all Jewish organizations to be concentrated in one place so "innocent Argentineans would not suffer"
Over the following years, I would learn of government coverups, of miscarriage of Justice, of injustice done in the name of greed. And of the pain of those left behind; of the sense of insecurity that took over a proud and vibrant Jewish community; of the impunity of the perpetrators.
Fifteen years have passed, and the pain and the wounds are still there, open and bleeding. One of my friends was the assistant director of Social Services of AMIA with an office in the ground floor. Her department helped everybody, Jews and non Jews, to cope with their personal situations. Her son worked as a computer operator on the second floor. When the building collapsed, she was trapped under the rubble and rescued almost 24 hours later. Her son, twenty years old, died. She became one of the leaders of the associacion of family and friends of the victims for many years until her death of Cancer, probably induced by her exposure to chemicals during her ordeal. Please remember her, her son and the other 84 victims.