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Moisés Ville

Date of Submission: 29/06/2015
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Argentina to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Province of Santa Fe, Department San Cristóbal
Coordinates: S30 43 00 W61 29 00
Ref.: 6066

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At the end of the 19th Century, the difficult conditions, persecutions, pogroms and restrictive laws against Jewish communities in the Russian Empire led to emigration to seek freedom to practice their religion, language and social traditions. Argentina offered those conditions and thousands of Jews emigrated to that country. From 1891 on, the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA), a philanthropic institution founded by Baron Moritz von Hirsch, facilitated their departure and settlement in their new countries. Besides Argentina, the JCA established and supported settlements in Brazil, Canada and the USA. In 1889, Moisés Ville, located in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina, was the first rural Jewish settlement to be established in the country. The first population was a group of families coming from the Podolia region, now in Ukraine.

Over the first half of the 20th Century, Moisés Ville became the most important Jewish village in Argentina and a centre of Jewish culture recognised at the international level; famous for its synagogues, theatre, Hebrew schools and academy, libraries and newspapers and magazines, in both Yiddish and Spanish. From the 1950s on, many descendants of the original settlers began leaving Moisés Ville, to seek higher education possibilities. Currently, the Jewish population in the village is some 10% of the total, but the testimonies to Jewish culture are present and alive, in both tangible and intangible components.

Tangible components include the urban layout and a group of buildings and sites that testify to the combination of influences coming from the local tradition and from the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. The urban layout, which is atypical in relation to other villages settled in the country in that period, is a combination between the grid pattern typical of Latin American towns and linear layouts coming from the shtetls, or Jewish villages, in Eastern Europe.

The group of buildings and sites include three synagogues, the cultural centre “Kadima” (with theatre hall and library), the Hebrew School, the Academy for Hebrew Teachers, the cemetery (the first Jewish cemetery in Argentina), the “Baron Hirsch” Library, the students’ residence and the hospital. All these buildings exhibit the interchange between Jewish and local traditions and architectural types. Houses of the beginning of the 20th Century constitute an example of the adoption of Argentine dwelling types by the Jewish community; some specific types, such as the “communitarian houses” are typical of Moisés Ville. The Museum of Jewish Settlement preserves a rich collection of objects and documents that testify to the unique Jewish history of this village.

Together with tangible components, the intangible cultural heritage completes the exceptionality of Moisés Ville. Religious and cultural traditions, such as the Yiddish language and Jewish gastronomy have been preserved and are alive today. The main event of the village is the Cultural Integration Festival, which celebrates the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of different communities that settled in Argentina at the end of the 19th Century.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

As the urban centre of a Jewish rural settlement, Moisés Ville is an exceptional testimony to the processes of emigration of communities that were persecuted in their regions of residence and that sought in other countries the possibilities of living in freedom, with the right to practice their religion and to preserve their language and cultural traditions. The village is an exceptional testimony to the labour developed over several decades by the Jewish Colonization Association, a philanthropic society which sought a response to persecutions to Jewish communities in Eastern Europe through their organized emigration to other regions, including South America, and especially Argentina, as the principal destination. Moisés Ville also reflects the policies and actions of the Argentine government between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, in generously opening the country to immigrant communities coming from diverse cultural contexts, guaranteeing an egalitarian practice of fundamental human rights, religious freedom and practice of specific cultural traditions.

Moisés Ville is an exceptional testimony to Jewish urban settlement. The urban layout is the result of the combination of components coming from the local tradition with specific contributions from the founder community. The group of institutional buildings reflects all the functions of a Jewish urban community. The synagogues combine typological layouts coming from the original region with the use of local materials and construction traditions. All of the buildings, with the exception of the ritual bathhouse, continue with their original uses, which makes Moisés Ville a living example of a cultural tradition and of an immigration process. The first Jewish cemetery of Argentina summarises 125 years of the village and still constitutes a place of worship and pilgrimage for descendants of the first settlers that live in other regions of the country or abroad. Residential architecture reflects the evolution of this type of urban settlement; houses from the beginning of the 20th Century were constructed on the basis of typical Argentine typologies and, in some cases, of specific architectural typologies, such as the communitarian houses.

The tangible attributes that convey the exceptionality of Moisés Ville are complemented by others that make up a rich intangible cultural heritage. Although the Jewish original population constitutes currently a minor percentage of the total, religious practices and social traditions still exist. Jewish gastronomy has been preserved and the main social event of the year is the Cultural Integration Festival, which reflects the spirit of peace and coexistence among diverse socio-cultural groups that converged to settle on Argentine territory at the end of the 19th Century.

The conditions of integrity and authenticity will be discussed in the following session. With regard to protection, Moisés Ville enjoys the status of National Historic Town, by Decree of the National Government, which guarantees the highest degree of protection under current Argentine legislation. The Brenner Synagogue has been declared a National Historic Monument, while other provincial and local regulations complete and complement the protection of the tangible components of the property.

With regard to management, the declaration of National Historic Town implies that Moisés Ville is under the supervision of the National Commission on Museums, Historic Monuments and Sites, under the National Ministry of Culture. The property is managed at the provincial and local levels. The local community is conscious of the values of the property and participates actively in its management. Several of the most representative institutional buildings are owned by the Israelite Mutual Community of Moisés Ville.

Criterion (ii): Moisés Ville constitutes an exceptional example of exchange of human values between Jewish communities coming from Eastern Europe and local communities that populated Argentine territory between the end of the 19th Century and the first half of the 20th. This exchange is expressed in the urban layout, which combines typological components from the local tradition with others stemming from the founder community and in the combination between architectural types stemming from the original region with local traditions and construction methods and techniques.

Criterion (iii): Moisés Ville constitutes an exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition based on the transposition to Argentina of urban and architectural types of Jewish communities in Eastern Europe at the end of 19th Century. Since many shtetls (Jewish villages) in their original regions were destroyed in the wars of the 20th Century, Moisés Ville reflects all the tangible and intangible components that characterize this type of urban settlement.

Criterion (vi): As an exceptional testimony to the rural Jewish settlements established in the Americas between the end of 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th, Moisés Ville is linked to ideas, beliefs and traditions of exceptional universal significance. The fact that Jewish communities emigrated from their residence regions in Eastern Europe to South America is linked to the defence of fundamental human rights such as practice of the own faith, the use of language and the practice of social traditions, all are issues of universal significance. The labour carried out by the Jewish Colonization Association, of which Moisés Ville constitutes an exceptional example linked to ideas and beliefs of universal significance, such as the search of freedom and human dignity. At the same time, the harmonious coexistence between the Jewish communities in Argentina and other neighbouring national communities, among them Swiss and Italians, constitutes an exceptional exercise in peaceful and mutually respectful relations between diverse cultural groups.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Integrity: The group of buildings and sites represented by Moisés Ville includes all the necessary components to express the proposed Outstanding Universal Value. With the exception of the Lithuanian Synagogue, demolished in the 1980s, all the institutional buildings and sites representative of the Jewish community are currently in place. The components selected to convey the exceptionality of the property are not bound at development adverse impact; they are highly recognised and appreciated in their cultural values and their role in the cultural identity of the village, by both relevant authorities and the local community. There are no provisions regarding a possible development that could cause adverse effects. For some architectural components whose state of conservation is not adequate, a conservation plan is foreseen.

Authenticity: The authenticity of the group of buildings and sites representing Moisés Ville can be expressed on the basis of the following items:

  • Although the village underwent an extension throughout the 20th Century, the original urban layout has been preserved with no major alterations. The combination between a grid pattern and linear urban schemes is still legible.
  • Although there was a change of original population and the descendants of Jewish settlers constitute currently a minority, the village has preserved its basic function of an urban services centre of the surrounding rural area.
  • The relationship between the village and the surrounding rural area has been preserved. The extension of the village over the 20th Century has not produced a significant change in the urban scale.
  • The three synagogues preserve their original features of form, design, materials and setting. Modifications to original buildings in the Hirsch and Workers Synagogues in the 1920s are a part of the history of the buildings and reflect social architectural changes of the period. The synagogues conserve their original furniture and equipment. Although only one of them is still used for religious activities, new uses that could be incompatible with the original character of the monuments have not been incorporated.
  • The civilian buildings that testify to this Jewish village are preserved with no substantial changes in their form, design and materials; original uses are also preserved.
  • Although the village underwent a process of renewal of its urban fabric, the original scale and the low density have been preserved. A significant amount of residential buildings from the period of consolidation of the village, at the beginning of the 20th Century, are still in use. In some cases these fragments of the original urban fabric are integrated into the most representative institutional buildings forming urban-architectural ensembles.
  • The cemetery has been in continuous use from 1891 onwards; the location and the surrounding rural setting have been preserved. Graves corresponding to different periods testify to the evolution of Jewish funerary architecture between the end of 19th Century and all the 20th.
  • Functions and the vocation of the village have been preserved, as well as components of an intangible cultural heritage, which characterise Moisés Ville as a typical Jewish village. Among these heritage components, it is worth mentioning the use of the Yiddish language among descendants of the original population, the continuity of Jewish religious celebrations and rites, gastronomy and other traditions. Moisés Ville is recognised not only within Argentina but also outside the country as a paradigmatic case of a Jewish populated village and it has been the subject of many literary, musical and cinematographic works.
  • There are also in place traditional management methods and procedures; a good part of the institutional buildings are owned by the Moisés Ville Israelite Mutual Community, which plays, together with relevant authorities, an active role in  protection, conservation and management.

Comparison with other similar properties

With the purpose of carrying out a comparative analysis, Moisés Ville is defined as the urban centre of a Jewish rural settlement established in Argentina at the end of the 19th Century, with its original population coming from Podolia, in the present territory of Ukraine. In this framework, selected properties at both national and international contexts, are referred to as urban and rural settlements characterised by the presence of a predominant Jewish population, with the presence of specific architectural programmes and types (synagogues, cemeteries, schools, dwellings, etc.).

Some urban properties inscribed on the World Heritage List, among them Cracow (Poland), Venice (Italy) and Toledo (Spain) have Jewish quarters within their boundaries. These quarters have not been, however, the focus of the nominations. In some cases these Jewish quarters or ghettos conserve their monuments but were depopulated of Jewish inhabitants. Other ghettos were totally or partially destroyed or cleared, as the case of Prague, Mikulov and Prostechov; most of shtetls (Jewish villages) located in Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania were mostly destroyed during World War II.

Jewish settlements inscribed on the World Heritage List include the Jewish Quarter and St Procopius’ Basilica in Třebič, Czech Republic, inscribed in 2003 on the basis of criteria (ii) and (iii). This property is declared to be the most representative and complete Jewish settlement, including all the functions, such as synagogues, schools, hospital, factory, etc. Although there are some similarities, such as the presence of typical Jewish buildings like the synagogues or the Jewish cemetery, the main differences are that in Třebič the Jewish Quarter is a part of a larger city and that it stems from the middle ages; Moisés Ville, instead, is a completely Jewish village and it was established at the end of the 19th Century. At the same time, both urban layout and main buildings in Moisés Ville exhibit the interchange of ideas and knowledge between the local and the Jewish communities. 

There are no similar properties on Tentative Lists that can be compared with Moisés Ville. With regard to urban settlements founded or supported by the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA) in the Americas, Moisés Ville is compared with properties in Argentina, Brazil, Canada and USA.

In Brazil, two main settlements were established, Philipson and Quattro Irmãos, both in 1904. Currently, some remnants of that period survive, among them the cemeteries, but these places have not the significance of Moisés Ville as an entirely preserved Jewish village. In Canada, the JCA established or supported some settlements, among them Walpella (1897), Lipton (1901), Hirsch (1902) and Edenbridge (1906). Although some tangible remnants still remain, these settlements were gradually abandoned by the Jewish communities, due to several factors. In the USA, the JCA settled Jewish immigrants in Ellington, Connecticut, a village founded in the late 18th Century; the synagogue still remains, responding to the typical American Colonial Revival Style of the 19th Century. Other villages settled by the JCA are located in the State of New Jersey: Alliance, Carmel and Rosenhayn. Alliance had four synagogues and several schools but the Jewish population and associations gradually faded.

Argentina is the country where most of the JCA settlements were founded; 15 rural settlements were located in different regions of the country. The first JCA settlement is Colonia Mauricio, in the province of Buenos, although most of the settlements are located in the province of Entre Ríos, where Moisés Ville can be compared to Basalvibaso (formerly Lucienville), Aldea San Gregorio (Sonnefeld), Villa Clara, Ingeniero Sajaroff, Avigdor and Villa Domínguez. In all of these there are testimonies to the Jewish population, such as synagogues and cemeteries and cultural traditions are still alive. Nevertheless, none of them has the quantity and quality of tangible testimonies when compared with Moisés Ville.

As a result of the comparative study, Moisés Ville can be considered the best and most exceptional testimony of Jewish emigration to the Americas at the end of 19th and beginning of 20th centuries and preserves most of its religious and institutional buildings and sites in a degree of completeness that does not appear in other similar settlements on the continent.