Mar del Plata, located in Argentina’s Buenos Aires Province, is a bustling beach city found on the country’s east coast. With a permanent population of 750,000, and nearly eight times that number of annual tourists, Mar del Plata is the seventh-largest city in Argentina and home to an estimated 5,000 Jews, who now have their own Chabad branch.
It was just over a month ago, on the fifth of Tevet, that Rabbi Zalmi and Patsonia Lipinski, with the guidance of their mentor, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, relocated to Mar del Plata to open the 37th branch of Chabad in Argentina under the direction of head shliach Rabbi Tzvi Grunblatt. Although they first began visiting a few months back, the official opening of was delayed due to difficulties finding housing. After much deliberation, they decided to make the move and find a residence afterward. Two days after they arrived, an apartment became available, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Himself a native Argentinian, Zalmi grew up as the son of Chabad emissaries to Buenos Aires City, and Patsonia, originally born in South Africa, was raised in Israel. The couple married in Jerusalem in 2013 and are now settled in Mar del Plata with their two daughters.
Since their opening, Chabad of Mar del Plata has held several learning sessions and Shabbat dinners, catering to both permanent residents and tourists alike. The reaction of the Jewish community, says Rabbi Lipinski, has been “very positive.”
“They’re all very excited,” the rabbi says, adding that hundreds of people responded to Chabad of Argentina’s Facebook announcement of the new appointment to Mar del Plata, many of whom, after expressing their enthusiasm, asked for the new Chabad’s address.
“Our immediate goals are to establish chinuch (Jewish education), kosher, Shabbat minyans, and family purity,” Rabbi Zalmi says.
Currently, there are no Jewish education options available in Mar del Plata, but the Chabad already has plans in place to address that need. Beginning in March, which is the start of the scholastic year in Argentina, the couple hopes to open a kindergarten. Eventually, they also want to open a Hebrew school for adolescents and older students.
As for kosher, there is one Jewish couple that sells kosher meals in Mar del Plata throughout the summer months, but during the rest of the year, says the Rabbi, “there is nothing.” For now, Chabad imports kosher food, including such staples as milk, from the capital city of Buenos Aires, which is a four-and-a-half hour drive away. Meat is harder to import because it needs refrigeration, but the Lipinski’s intend to utilize Chabad of Argentina’s meat exportation program, which will allow local supermarkets to stock kosher meat.
In addition to the regular tasks that come along with running a Chabad house, the Lipinskis will also be taking over the management of Templo Gabriel, the older of Mar del Plata’s two Sephardic synagogues. The couple hopes to bolster attendance and eventually have enough congregants to conduct a weekly Shabbat minyan.
“Our vision is to have an established kehilla, a functioning community that can grow,” Lipinski says.