Baruch Tenembaum

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Baruch Tenembaum
Born 9 July 1933
Las Palmeras, Santa Fe, Argentina
Residence Argentina
Education Higher Institute of Judaic Religious Studies
Occupation foundation director
Employer Raoul Wallenberg Foundation
Known for advocacy for Holocaust victims and their friends
Religion Jewish
Children three

Baruch Tenembaum was born in Argentina on 9 July 1933 at the Las Palmeras colony, a Santa Fe provincial settlement for Jewish immigrants escaping from the Russian pogroms of 1880. The grandson and son of Jewish gauchos, he studied in Buenos Aires and Rosario.[1] He is best known as an interfaith activist, most recently with the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.[2] According to the International Peace Research Institute,[3] Oslo (PRIO), Mr. Tenembaum was amongst the nominees to the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. World gambling operator - Ladbrokes, gave Baruch Tenembaum a 1/40 odds to win the prize, as oppose to 1/20 to the actual winner, US President Barack Obama. In a recent interview to Zenit News Agency,[4] he was asked about his nomination to the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, to what he replied: "Who I am?...just a descendant of slaves". Tenembaum characterized his life as being dedicated "to thank those human beings who saved lives, who risked themselves. [...] At the Wallenberg Foundation we work intensively to discover, among others, the exceptional deeds of those heroic human beings."

The Wallenberg Foundation aims to pay tribute to the "Saviors of the Holocaust," recognizing those who "risked their lives and freedom to save thousands of Jews from a certain death in hands of the Nazis during the Second World War," the site of the foundation explains

Education and activism[edit]

In 1952, Tenembaum graduated from the Higher Institute of Judaic Religious Studies. As a teacher and a professor he taught Hebrew and Yiddish language and literature, the Torah, the Prophets and Mishnah. In 1955, he was appointed Director of the Moises Ville Teacher's Seminar in the province of Santa Fe where he taught the Old Testament and philosophy.[1]

He was First General Director of the Argentine-Israeli Cultural Institute (ICAI). Important undertakings in the field of education were set in motion and announced from his office, including bar mitzvah tours and the founding of the Tarbut School, among others. He organised the first Latin-American Bible contest. He translated Spanish classics into Hebrew and 'Haskala' literature into Spanish.[1]

He launched the idea of establishing interfaith monuments by promoting the creation of a fresco by the Argentine master painter Raúl Soldi at the main church in Nazareth, which was completed in 1968.[1]

In 1965, he was a Latin American promoter of the first visit by a Pope to Jerusalem. Granted an award for his work by the Vatican, he was invited to a ceremony at the Vatican City and was received by Pope Paul VI on January 13, 1965. At a separate public ceremony, Monsignor Antonio Caggiano, Cardinal Primate of Argentina, presented him with an Argentine Church award, granted for the very first time for a Jew Jew in Argentina.[1]

Along with writer Jorge Luis Borges, he founded la Casa Argentina en Jerusalem, with branches in Buenos Aires and Jerusalem. He has worked on interreligious initiatives with Rabbi Guillermo Schlesinger, Father Carlos Cuccetti, Pastor Sosa and Father Ernesto Segura, who was the first President of Argentine House in Israel.[1]

Tenembaum's Jewish and humanist education is a result of a deep devotion of his teacher and mentor, Rabbi Jacobo Fink, an orthodox rabbi who initiated him in the Jewish knowledge and the Kabbalah, and guided him all of his life. Even if they were far away (he was Great Rabbi in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Haifa, Israel, and Buenos Aires, Argentina) so close was their relationship that every Friday they had a conversation, which was never ever postponed until the last day of his life.[1]

He was the co-author, together with Dr. Shalom Rosenberg, professor of philosophy at the Hebrew University at Jerusalem, of the book 'Holy Places in the Holy Land'.[1][citation needed]


On January 31, 1976, Baruch Tenembaum was kidnapped by rightwing extremists belonging to the Triple A (Argentine Anti-subversive Alliance) a clandestine state terrorist organisation founded under the aegis of José López Rega, a sinister character of great influence during the government of President Isabel Martínez de Perón. Together with members of the military and police, the Triple A supposedly began the "disappearance" of people in Argentina which, by the end of the military dictatorship in 1983, came to a total of 30,000 persons. The kidnappers allegedly accused him of “infecting the Catholic Church with the virus of Judaism” and “of spreading ideas of alleged coexistence so as to destroy Christian principles” through his inter-faith work, which they claimed, “leads to the destruction of the Creole republic”. Additionally, they accused him of being a part of the sinister “conspiracy” known as the Plan Andinia.[1]

In a dramatic turn of events, his wife Perla volunteered as a hostage, and was also kidnapped herself. While he was in captivity Father Horacio Moreno spoke out for him, calling for his freedom from his pulpit at Fatima Church and later holding a face-to-face meeting with the kidnappers who self-defined themselves as “concerned Catholics”. Finally, he was liberated.[1] Since then Mr. Tenembaum resides in Uruguay from where he leads the international affairs of the Wallenberg Foundation.

Recent events and activism[edit]

Tenembaum continued his work on humanitarian causes searching for gentiles who helped Jews during World War II. After eight years in self-imposed exile, and following the fall of the military dictatorship, he renewed his visits to Argentina.

Tenembaum was one of the founders of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.[5][6] Raoul Wallenberg was the Swedish diplomat who disappeared in the Soviet Gulag after saving the lives of thousands of Jews and other persecuted by the Nazis during World War II.[7] The foundation honors Wallenberg's memory,[2][8] and continues to hunt for him or his remains.[9][10] The Wallenberg Foundation also honors other righteous gentiles who saved Jews during the Holocaust or shoah.[11][12][13]

In October 2003, United States Congressman Tom Lantos made a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives to honor Tenembaum, and had a fuller tribute inserted into the Congressional Record[14][15] Wallenberg apparently was instrumental in saving Lantos from the Nazis.[16] Tenembaum also received the Royal Order of the Polar Star from H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.[17] Tenembaum has had an audience with the Pope.[18] He frequently has letters to the editor published.[19]

Baruch Tenembaum and Elsa Kononowicz are the parents of Shmuel Tenembaum AKA Mookie Tenembaum, an Israeli lawyer and conceptual artist, Yoav Tenembaum, an historian and author, and Abigail Tenembaum, a strategy consultant. He also has six grandchildren.[20]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Biography at Raoul Wallenberg Foundation web site". 1965-01-13. Retrieved 2013-02-09. 
  2. ^ a b "". 2012-11-10. Retrieved 2013-02-09. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Nobel Candidate Honors John XXIII | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome". ZENIT. 2010-01-13. Retrieved 2013-02-09. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Florencia Arbiser. "The Jewish Gauchos’ ‘Legacy’: Film Recalls Argentina’s Immigrant Colonies". Retrieved 2013-02-09. 
  7. ^ "about Wallenberg at the Foundation web site". Retrieved 2013-02-09. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ By SAM GREENBERG; 429 words. "Letter to the editor at Highbeam web site". Retrieved 2013-02-09. 
  10. ^ Kosher Delight magazine web site
  11. ^ Honoring Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes
  12. ^ See note on Pope John XXIII when he was Vatican legate to Turkey[dead link]
  13. ^ Croatian president Stjepan Mesic
  14. ^ "Baruch Tenembaum". Retrieved 2013-02-09. 
  15. ^ "See also". Retrieved 2013-02-09. 
  16. ^ Welcome To Kosher Delight - Your Jewish Online Magazine!
  17. ^ "Baruch Tenembaum decorated by Sweden". 2006-12-19. Retrieved 2013-02-09. 
  18. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-02-09. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ Family information cited from:The World Seen From Rome Zenit News Agency, (January 18, 2005).