Spanish is ‘mama loshen’ at new club

Spanish is ‘mama loshen’ at new club

TEANECK – A township resident born in Russia of Polish parents and raised in Cuba wants Spanish-speaking Jews to join the club he just founded. Isaac Student, a Teaneck resident for 30 years, came up with the idea of the Club Hispano Hebraico after a recent conversation he had with another member of the Jewish Center of Teaneck, Susan Rabkin, about its Spanish speakers.

At a planning meeting for Club Hispano Hebraico are, from left, Mario Leonor of Teaneck, Isaac Student of Teaneck, and David Bernal of Jersey City. Photo by Michael Laves

"I found it extremely interesting in talking to them," he remembers telling Rabkin.

Rabkin suggested that he start a group similar to the JCT’s Yiddish club and Student started looking for potential members.

"I thought that this would be a wonderful idea and talked about it to some of these Spanish speakers and found a very enthusiastic support for this idea," Student said.

The club was to have its first meeting on Wednesday.

"I first want to have our first meeting to see what direction we actually take," Student said. "This is a very exciting adventure that we are starting."

Student, who spoke Spanish as a first language, presented the idea of the club to the board of trustees and received "unanimous support," he said. According to Student, 66, the purpose of the club is to give members the opportunity to explore the different Jewish communities in Spanish-speaking countries.

"The club will discuss, mostly in Spanish, topics of interest related to Jewish culture," he added. "It is open for membership to the general community."

Lectures in English related to Spanish-Jewish culture will also be sponsored by the club, which plans to meet once a month.

Of the 15 people Student has approached, mostly by word of mouth and through friends, 10 are member of the JCT.

"I am sure that once word spreads there will be a lot more people involved," he said. "Each one of us has a very interesting and fascinating story to tell. The members will set the agenda and I, for one, am very interested in the different communities that our members come from and their structure and history."

The JCT Spanish-speaking members hail from Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Chile, Colombia, and Morocco. (Morocco is not a Spanish-speaking country, but the member was born in Tangier, a former colony of Spain.)

This is the first time Student has organized a club of this nature, he said, adding that he does not know of any other club or organization in the area specifically for Jews of Spanish-speaking countries.

"This is a new experience for me," he added.

Attempts to organize Spanish-speaking Jews in New Jersey and the metropolitan area have been few and far between.

In November, 1990, David Levine, a Bolivian-born Haworth resident, founded the Latin American Jewry Club at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, which attracted about ‘0 Bergen County families from Colombia, Argentina, and Bolivia. The club met twice and folded.

In 1989, the Jackson-Heights-Elmhurst Kehillah surveyed Latin American Jews living in Queens with the purpose of creating a gathering place for them. Financed by the United Jewish Appeal of New York, the study included a brief history of Jews in Latin America and the migration of a few hundred, mostly Argentineans, to the New York City area. The organization was never created.

According to anecdotal evidence, there are no more that 30 Jews from Spanish-speaking countries in Bergen and Passaic counties.

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