cover image The Murders of Moisés Ville: The Rise and Fall of the Jerusalem of South America

The Murders of Moisés Ville: The Rise and Fall of the Jerusalem of South America

Javier Sinay, trans. from the Spanish by Robert Croll. Restless, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-63206-298-7

Argentinian journalist Sinay makes his English-language debut with a gripping account of a series of murders in Moisés Ville, Argentina’s first Jewish agricultural colony, founded in 1889 by Jews seeking refuge from pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe. Between 1889 and 1906, 22 Jews of Moisés Ville were killed, their deaths part of a wave of violence carried out by gauchos in a region where law enforcement, or any government presence, was minimal. Among the many crimes, the most horrific was the 1897 massacre of almost the entire Waisman family by thieves who looted the household after the slaughter. Reconstructing the century-plus-old crimes proved a daunting challenge, with many relevant records lost in the 1994 Buenos Aires terror attack on that city’s major Jewish community center. Sinay supplements the scant archival material with interviews with the victims’ descendants and his own family members, creating a disturbing picture of refugees from oppressive regimes further victimized by murderous outlaws as they tried to build new lives. Sinay acknowledges the impossibility of fully separating legends from facts (as he was able to do in the case of one murder, for which details of another homicide had been misattributed), but his diligence has produced as definitive an account as possible of what actually happened during this bloody period. This nuanced search for truth should have broad appeal. (Feb.)