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At the NY Jewish Film Festival: “The Impure”—Yes, nice Jewish girls and women were prostitutes in Argentina

More timely than ever—think trafficking and violence against women, think Time’s Up‑ “The Impure” (New York Jewish Film Festival Jan. 16) digs into Argentina’s subculture of Jewish prostitutes and pimps in the massive immigration from Eastern Europe starting in the 1880s.

the impure lilith article photo

Argentina’s legal prostitution attracted Eastern Europe’s Jewish underworld, riding the wave of 100,000 Jewish immigrants, mostly male. “Impuros” was the term created by the respectable Jews of Argentina to distinguish themselves from the similar-looking immigrants in the sex trade.

What opens as workmanlike documentation–shots of neglected headstones, black-and-white stills of 1880s Buenos Aires, soulful music–gets interesting as the film’s director discovers his own family connections to the sex trade.