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New site brings together Latin American Jewish community

Industry Standard

June 8, 2000
Web posted at: 11:17 a.m. EDT (1517 GMT)

(IDG) -- Jewish web sites have popped up throughout Latin America, but none has galvanized the community more than Shalom Online, a pan-regional site endorsed by leading Jewish groups and area governments.

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Like most Jewish sites and media outlets in the region, deeply political Shalom Online concentrates on issues of concern to the Latin American Jewish community, especially the fight against Nazi groups and anti-Semitists in the region.

The Argentina-based site launched late last year with offices in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Mexico and Miami. Subscriptions to its online newsletter are increasing 5 percent to 7 percent each week, and the site receives some 20,000 visits a day, which puts it well ahead of other local-community Jewish sites. Shalom Online has launched a wide advertising campaign, and has a growing audience outside of Argentina, including substantial traffic from Israel, where thousands of Latin American Jews have settled.

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Before starting Shalom Online, its founders, Adehmar Faerstein, Diego Rubinstein, Diego Rabin, Gabriel Avram and Fabio Kornablau worked for technology companies, but had been involved with grassroots Jewish organizations all their lives. The site's objective, according to its founders, is to provide a new voice for Latin America's Jewish community, which is made up of one million Portuguese and Spanish speakers. So far, funding has come primarily through donations from wealthy community members.

The site aims to be self-sufficient not to turn a profit which the founders hope to accomplish through e-commerce and ad space sales. Local Jewish leaders endorse the site with personal appearances, and influential groups such as the Israeli Embassy, the Jewish umbrella organization AMIA and the Wiesenthal Center help with fundraising. Top officials of the newly elected Argentine government, such as Vice President Carlos Alvarez, attended the Buenos Aires launch to show support for the site.

The 300,000-strong Argentine Jewish community is the largest Spanish-speaking Jewish community in the world; at least 10 Jewish newspapers and magazines, one all-Jewish radio station and one cable television network, serve Buenos Aires alone.

Shalom Online features historical information, Jewish recipes and a rabbi who answers questions. But the site's feature on two infamous car bomb attacks against Jewish targets in Argentina draws much of the traffic. One attack involved the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 in which 29 people were killed; the other was the seven-story AMIA community center bombing, which leveled the center and killed 86 people in 1994.

While Argentina's last administration under the presidency of Carlos Menem committed to finding the culprits, the Jewish community worldwide has accused the government of mishandling the case. So far, 15 people have been jailed in connection with the community center attack; four of them are members of Argentina's security forces.

On the You Will Seek Justice page, visitors to Shalom Online can track the progress of the investigation and read postings by nonprofit groups that are helping to solve the crime.

"It is a fantastic tool of communication within the community, and it amplifies its demand for justice, because it is the voice of the people not just of its organizations," says Sergio Widder, Latin America's managing director of the Wiesenthal Center.




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