Four Jews, Five Identities: Representation, Popular Culture, and Language Politics in the Making of Jewish-Argentines (Buenos Aires,1930-1945). Open Access

Svarch, Ariel (2016)

Permanent URL:


In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, mass transoceanic migration radically altered the social, cultural, and economic features of Latin America. The ruling elites of these young nations faced the changing demographics with both high expectations and existential dread. In Argentina, the country with the highest non-native population immigrant population in the region, immigrants placed a central role in the struggle to define national identity. This study analyzes the creation of public representations of Jewish-Argentineness as part of the contested process of establishing Argentine identity. The purported Otherness of Jewish immigrants - defined through language, religion, and both ancient and modern prejudice - as well as their place as the largest non-Catholic minority group established them as the symbolic battlefield where liberal and nativist factions of the country's elite fought to determine the boundaries of the nation. Jewish artists, radio show producers, and translators and publishers of Yiddish literature produced narratives of social and cultural integration and even redefined the meaning of Argentineness to construct xenophobia and anti-Semitism as incompatible, foreign forces. Language - Yiddish, Spanish, or a combination of both - acted as their preferred codification device to address their target audience. These efforts sought to reinforce the identitary construction of immigrants, incentivize their local-born children to resist assimilation and maintain their hyphenated identities, and convince the national elites of the productivity and patriotism of the Jewish-Argentine population. Representations of Jews in the non-Jewish liberal media similarly portrayed members of this ethnic group in a positive light, and argued for the success of trans-generational assimilation. Drawing on extensive archival research and audiovisual records, this study examines representations of Jewish-Argentines in popular culture, produced by both Jewish and non-Jewish cultural agents, to show the power of these public constructions to shape external understandings of minority identity. Analyzing these images and their reliance on constructions of the immigrant's accent, this dissertation highlights the relationship between language and ethnic identity. By comparing representations made by elite and minority cultural producers, this dissertation uncovers ideological and communicational chasms between social groups, and reveals shared underlying understandings between social center and periphery.

Table of Contents

List of Figures


Introduction. 1

Setting the Stage: Nation-Building, Mass Migration, and its Consequences. 15

Immigration, Ideological Conflict, and the Challenges of Cosmopolitanism in Modern Argentina. 17

Eastern European Jews Join the Argentine Nation. 23

The Many Constructions of Jewish-Argentines: Institutional Bias, Popular Culture, and the Polysemy of Ethnicity. 30

Language, Identity, Representation, and Cultural History as a Methodological Toolbox. 37

The Ideology of Language and the Language of Gender Dynamics. 43

The Sources of Popular Culture: People of the Book, the Newspaper, and the Radio. 47

Jewish-Argentine Representation, From the Inside to the Outside: Chapter Order and Content. 53

Chapter 1

Jevl Katz, Lithuanian-born Jewish-Argentine Bard: Hybrid Popular Culture and the Intricacies of Belonging. 57

"...One hears of nothing but Jevl Katz": Media coverage, career construction, and the negotiation of ethnic art and politics. 68

On Tour with the Jewish Gaucho. 75

Jevl Katz - man of the (Yiddish) Hour. 84

Recorded and Published. 85

An artist you can take your wife and daughter to see. 87

One Does not Tire of Jevl Katz. 91

Lyrics Analysis. 93

The development of Argentine Yiddish. 94

Conventillos: The Immigrant Connection. 95

Being a Gringo and Becoming Criollo. 98

Conclusion. 103

Chapter 2

We Want the Airwaves: Radio asa Forge of Jewish-Argentine Representations and Samuel Glasserman's Identitary Balancing Act(1937-1942). 105

Creating a Radio Show, Creating Jewish-Argentines: Analyzing Matinee Radial Hebrea. 114

Bringing the Stage to the Radio Studios. 119

Fiddler on the Airwaves. 120

A Matchmaker, a Lawyer, and an Accountant Walk into a Jewish Radio Show. 123

A Star-Studded Program: Guest Appearances and Interviews. 126

The Organized Community in Need of Air (Time): Jewish-Argentine Institutions and Matinee Radial Hebrea. 139

Celebrating Patriotic Dates: Defining and Re-defining Jewish, Argentine, and Jewish-Argentine. 148

How Argentine can Jewish-Argentines be? Gender, the Intermarriage Taboo and the Resetting of Ethnic Boundaries. 156

The Many Roles of Yiddish and Spanish: Language Politics in the Airwaves. 172

Conclusion. 180

Chapter 3

Found in Translation: The Power of the Written Word, Translation as Identitary Strategy, and the Emergence of Cultural Jewish-Argentineness, 1933-1946. 183

Salomón Resnick and JUDAICA. 188

Translation, Curation, and Language: a Recipe for Cultural Identity Representations. 191

The Uses of Translation and the Uses of Language. 194

Translation and the Uses of Literature. 197

Non-Fiction: Borrowing Authority, Establishing. 205

Nobel Laureates, Ancient Hebrews, and Jewish Gauchos: or Why You Should Stop Worrying and Love the Jews. 207

We are Here, We are Jewish-Latin Americans, Get Used to it. 209

Life on the Hyphen: Bridging the Gap between Yiddishists and Integrationists. 216

The Ticking Clock: The Rise of Nazism and JUDAICA's Sense of Urgency. 224

Fighting Fire with Fire: Expelling Anti-Semites from the Argentine Body Politic. 236

Reception, Exoticization, Appropriation. 239

Conclusion. 250

Chapter 4

People of (Jewish-Argentine) Character: Representation, Linguistic Markers of Ethnicity, and Jews as a Liberal Discourse in the Fight for Argentineness. 252

Don Jacobo and Patoff Battle the Nacionalistas: Critica, Mass-Media, and Liberal Populism.. 255

An Immigrant Family Man: Don Jacobo, Jewish-Argentines, and the Success of Trans-Generation Assimilation. 263

The Conversion of Paw and his Newfound Jewish-Argentineness. 270

Moises Patoff, Street Brawler and Horse Whisperer Extraordinaire, Joins Don Jacobo in the Fight against a Rising Argentine Right. 279

Argentine Theater and the Normalization of Jewish-Argentines. 290

Conclusion. 304

Conclusion. 306

Epilogue: A Comedic Jewish-Argentine Superhero, or the Convergence of Ethnic and Argentine in Mass Media. 312

Bibliography. 318

Sources. 334

About this Dissertation

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files