AVNI, HAIM (Steindling ; 1930– ), historian of Latin American and contemporary Spanish Jewry. Born in Vienna, Avni immigrated with his family to Israel in 1933. He became acquainted with Latin America through his educational work with leaders of youth movements at the Institute for Young Leaders from Abroad (Makhon Le-Madrikhei Ḥuẓ La-Areẓ) of the World Zionist Organization in Jerusalem. He studied at the Hebrew University and wrote his master's thesis on the attitude of Franco's Spain towards Jewish refugees during the Holocaust and his Ph.D. dissertation on the Jewish agricultural colonization promoted by the Baron Maurice de *Hirsch in Argentina. Avni served as head of the Division of Latin America, Spain, and Portugal at the Institute of Contemporary Jewry of the Hebrew University from its establishment in 1967. In the years 1983–95 he was the co-director of the Graduate Jewish Studies Program of the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City. After his retirement in 1999 he became (in 2000) the academic director of the Central Zionist Archives.
Avni bases his studies of the Jews in Spanish-speaking countries on a thorough analysis of the host societies as well as on the broad Jewish context, emphasizing the relevance of Latin American cases both to the local arena and to general Jewish history. Among his major publications are Argentina "The Promised Land" (Heb., 1973), Spain, the Jews and Franco (1982), Argentina and the Jews: A History of Jewish Migration (1991), Emancipation and Jewish Education (Heb., 1986), and Judíos en América: cinco siglos de historia (1992). He was the editor of the entries on Latin America in the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971).
Avni's studies on Latin American Jewry opened a new field of research in contemporary Jewry. In 1982 he took part in the foundation of lajsa – Latin American Jewish Studies Association.
[Margalit Bejarano (2nd ed.)]