Jewish Web arriving in Latin America

It will provide free e-mail, chat rooms, video conferences and practical information such as how to plan a Jewish wedding, prepare a traditional seder or find a burial site, as well as news and information.

The site will also provide a place for individuals and organizations to exchange information and communicate.

"Shalom Online will take advantage of the Internet to shorten distances between communities and serve as a research tool to keep the history of Jews alive," said Sergio Widder, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Latin American director.

In addition to the center, the site is sponsored by the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, the Argentine National Library, and AMIA and DAIA, the two umbrella Jewish organizations in Argentina.

Argentina's vice-president-elect, Carlos Alvarez, and Israel's ambassador to Argentina, Yitzhak Aviran, joined the directors of the organizations in the presentation of the Web site.

"There are more than 2,000 sites that promote hate and intolerance on the Internet," said Widder. "There are close to 40 that operate in Latin America, with groups in Argentina at the forefront."

Jews in Latin America — there are 225,000 in Argentina alone — are especially worried about a neo-Nazi conference scheduled to occur in Chile next April.

According to Diego Rabin, one of the site's directors, the site "combines the tradition of our community with the technological advances of the Internet."

The site will be financed through private investors and advertisements.

The Internet is beginning to catch on in Latin America, but it has not yet penetrated the market as it has in the United States or Europe.