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St. Petersburg, Russia, 27 June 2012

As the only Jewish organization accredited to the 36th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre focussed its proposal on "the role of heritage  as a powerful tool in tolerance-building".

The Centre's Delegate and Director for International Relations, Dr.Shimon Samuels, emphasized its institutional imperative as "the transmission of memory to draw its lessons to contemporary issues of prejudice", adding "each ethnic and faith community in both domestic and national jurisdictions deserves respect for its narrative as a contribution to its host country and to universal heritage.Our Centre thus encourages the States Parties to the World Heritage Convention to celebrate the cultural sites of their minorities". 

In a communication presented to WHC Director, Dr. Kishore Rao, followed up in discussions with several Ambassadors to the session, Dr.Samuels underlined, "as a paradigm of the contribution of refugees to the national tapestry of states that have opened their gates of welcome, we present, as a model of best practise, the rural Jewish community site of Moises Ville,Argentina. 

This demarche by our Centre has been authorized by the municipal Rabbi Aaron Halevi Goldman Museum and the Moises Ville, San Cristobal, district authority  - with the blessing of the AMIA Argentine Jewish Federation, and Argentina's Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Dr. Miguel Angel Estrella. Moreover, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirshner has played a central role in the conservation of the community's principal synagogue". 

He explained that "Moises Ville, (Spanish for 'City of Moses', in Hebrew "Kiryat Moshe", a neighbourhood of Jerusalem, symbolizes the Biblical exodus from Egypt) was founded in 1989 by Jews fleeing pogroms in the then Ukraine. 

Despite drought and disease, the settlers created a model agricultural economy, the Kadima Yiddish theatre which attracted productions from New York, Warsaw and Buenos Aires and cooperative relations with the neighbouring Criollo/ Gaucho and Italian settlements. The celebrated novel by Alberto Gerchounoff,'El Gaucho Judio' ('The Jewish Cowboy') iconized the successful integration of their offspring. 

On its centenary, in 1999, the Argentine government declared Moises Ville 'pueblo historico' ('a historic village')". 

It was noted that "their descendants are now a minority in Moises Ville, as many have moved on to larger cities in Argentina or to the State of Israel. 

Yet their Jewish historic and cultural heritage has been preciously preserved (photos available on request)". 

The Centre declared that "in the absence of an Argentine delegation to this World Heritage Committee session, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre is proud to present Moises Ville, and the lessons it evokes, as a  preliminary proposal for inscription as a World Heritage cultural site", continuing,"we will work closely with the State-Party, the Argentine Republic, to ensure that the correct procedures are followed under the Convention, with regard to the World Heritage Centre and its advisory bodies". 

The Centre pointed out that "world Jewish heritage is clearly of national significance in the diaspora sites of many UNESCO member-states, as also, self-evidently, in the 3,500 year relationship of the Jewish People with the Land of Israel". 

"The inscription of Moises Ville would represent acknowledgement of a diasporic best practise as an example for the sites of other ethnic and faith migrant communities around the world", concluded Samuels.