Thursday, March 8, 2012

So Good to Be Back In the U.S.A.

“We need to see your passports,” said the person at the door.
We showed our passports and the contents of our backpacks. The door cracked open. “Where are you from and what do you want here?”

“We’re from Chicago and we’d like to come in.”

He opened the door and warily let us in. We were at the main synagogue and Jewish Museum in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Having lived in the United States for most of our lives, we couldn’t have anticipated that reaction to our request. We take for granted the ease with which we can enter a synagogue anywhere in the U.S. We can do this without fear because for the most part, we are safe here. Our trip to South America was a jolting reminder that that is not the case for Jews in many other parts of the world.

Even passing inspection, we were not allowed to walk through the Museum freely. Rather, we were taken on a guided tour by a guide who wouldn’t let us out of her sight for more than a minute or two at a time. Twenty years ago, the Jewish Federation building in Buenos Aires was bombed and 85 people were killed. The Jewish community of Argentina, which used to number about 500,000, is now about 250,000. Many Jews left during the Argentine economic crisis 10 years ago. Others had left earlier during their Dirty War (1976-82) during which 1900 Jews were among the 30,000 Disappeared. Now, although Jews seem to be free to enter professions and live in Argentina anywhere, the community is still extremely fearful.

A few days later, we had a tour of their federation (AMIA) building and had to pass through a similar inspection. Once we passed it, however, we were treated cordially. Their organization is strong, reaching out to all the subgroups of their community. I would show you pictures of the synagogue, but we were emphatically told by an armed security guard not to take pictures of it. We did take pictures at the AMIA and here is one of a memorial created by Agam, the abstract artist, to those who perished in the bombing 20 years ago.
Sometimes, in the process of advocating for America to be even better, we forget what is good here.  There were many wonderful things to see in Argentina and Chile and we had a great trip. I’ll talk about some more of them in the next week of two and share a couple of recipes I got there. Nevertheless, I wasn’t kidding when I said it was good to be back in the U.S.A.

Another good thing was having access to working appliances. We got home early enough to defrost leftovers for dinner. A working refrigerator, washing machine, and dryer. Yeah!!

                                  Chicken in White Wine with Capers and Mushrooms

Boneless skinless chicken breasts
Italian flavored breadcrumbs
Olive oil
Mushrooms sliced
Minced garlic
Onion chopped
White wine

Dip the chicken breasts in water and then breadcrumbs. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the chicken breasts. Then set aside.
Use the rest of the olive oil to sauté the mushrooms, onions, and garlic.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the skillet and bring sauce to a boil.
Add the chicken breasts back and turn down the heat to low-medium. Cook for about 45 minutes.  

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