Immigration scams in which those wishing to emigrate are promised guidance and assistance for a “small fee” are, sadly, not new. Such incidents have been going on for hundreds of years.  Just such a scam played a role in the beginning of the Argentinian Jewish gauchos (often translated as cowboys).

It all began in the Ukraine, when Eliezer Hauffmann returned from Paris without an agreement for 800+ Jews to create a new settlement in Palestine, but with a signed contract for land in Argentina. (Even unknown Argentina was better than pogrom-ridden Ukraine at that time.)

When the immigrants arrived in Buenos Aires in 1889, however, they discovered that the land promised to them was not actually available. Not wanting to return to the Ukraine, they accepted an alternative tract of land and purchased it from Pedro Palacios. The travel conditions were frightful and, at the end of the rail line, their guides failed to appear. The settlers ended up living in freight cars along the rail-lines. They survived on handouts, and more than 60 of their children perished due to these harsh conditions.

Wilhelm Loewenthal, a Romanian bacteriologist, who was in Argentina on a scientific mission, travelled to Palacios’ train station and saw the miserable conditions of these swindled settlers. He reported the situation to the Alliance Israelite Universelle. The Alliance raised the necessary funds for assistance from Baron Maurice Moshe Hirsch, who then created the Jewish Colonization Association.

The spirit of these settlers was incredible. With the assistance of neighboring Italian settlers and the funds from Baron Hirsch, they created Moises Ville (Moses’ Village, in honor of Baron Hirsch). These Jews soon learned to work the land and herd cattle.

Through Baron Hirsch’s Jewish Colonization Association, additional Jewish settlers came to the Santa Fe province. The community of Moises Ville flourished until members of the recent generation, drawn toward urban life and upwardly mobile professions, moved away.

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