History of the Jews in Brazil


History of the Jews in Brazil

Infobox Ethnic group
group = Brazilian Jew
"Judeu Brasileiro · יְהוּדִי ברזילי"


caption = Notable Brazilian Jews:
Henry SobelMarcelo GleiserMoacyr Scliar
poptime=96,000 Brazilian Jews 0.05% of Brazil's population [cite book
title=American Jewish Year Book
publisher=American Jewish Committee
url=http://www.ajcarchives.org/main.php?GroupingId=10143
volume=107
year=2007
, to see chapter used, see [http://www.ajcarchives.org/AJC_DATA/Files/AJYB727.CV.pdf "World Jewish Population, 2007"]
]
popplace = Brazil:Mainly in the cities of São Paulo and Rio
langs = Portuguese
rels = Judaism and minority Roman Catholic
related= White Brazilian, Jew

A Brazilian Jew (Portuguese: "Judeu Brasileiro") is a Brazilian person of full, partial, or predominantly Jew ancestry, or a Jew-born person residing in Brazil.

The history of the Jews in Brazil is a rather long and complex one, as it stretches from the very beginning of the European settlement in the new continent. Jews started settling in Brazil ever since the Inquisition reached Portugal in the 16th century. They especially arrived in Brazil during the period of Dutch rule, setting up in Recife the first synagogue in the Americas as early as 1636. Most of those Jews had fled the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal to the religious freedom of Dutch Brazil. After the royal decree in Portugal signed in 1773 that abolished discrimination against Jews, the Jews began to slowly arrive in Brazil. Many Moroccan Jews arrived in the 19th century, principally because of the rubber boom. Waves of Jewish immigraion occurred during the rise of Nazis in Europe. In late 1950s, another wave of immigration brought thousands of North African Jews. Nowadays, the Jewish communities thrive in Brazil and there are several Jewish and Zionist groups, clubs, schools, etc. Antisemitic events mainly occurred during the 2006 Lebanon War. Professor Anita Novinsky, a specialist on the Jews at the University of São Paulo, said that, "Brazil was made by the Jews."cite web |url= http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Brazil.html|title= Brazil|accessdate= 2008-06-09|last= Oreck|first= Alden|date= |work= The Virtual Jewish History Tour|publisher= Jewish Virtual Library]

First Jewish arrivals

Jews first arrived in Brazil when the Inquisition took hold of Portugal in 1497. These escaping Jews primarily arrived as New Christians or Conversos, names designated to describe Jews (or Muslims) who converted to Christianity. They began to colonize the land and to practice secretly Judaism. One of the first Jews to set foot in Brazil was Gaspar da Gama, a Jew who had been forced to get baptized, who later went along with Pedro Alvares Cabral in the trip that led to the discovery of what is now Brazil, in 1500.

Despite constant persecution by the Inquisition, the Jews and New Christians successfully established sugar plantations and mills. There were about 50,000 Europeans living in Brazil in 1624 and the New Christians made up a significant percentage of this population. According to Alden Oreck, "They were businessmen, importers, exporters, teachers, writers, poets, even priests."

In 1630, the Dutch conquered portions of northeast Brazil. The Dutch colonizers permitted the open practice of any religion. In 1636, the Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue was built by the Jewish settlers in Recife, the capital of Dutch Brazil. It remains in the same location to this day and the temple is considered to be the oldest synagogue in the Americas. [cite web
url= http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/922773.html
title= Synagogue in Brazilian town Recife considered oldest in the Americas
accessdate= 2008-06-09
accessdaymonth=
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last=
first=
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date= 2007-11-12
year=
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publisher= Haaretz
pages=
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quote=
] Official Dutch census reported that the population of Jews in Dutch Brazil peaked in 1645. About 1450 (11% of the total population) citizens were Jews at that time. [cite book |title= Jews and the American Slave Trade|last= Friedman|first= Saul S.|authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1997|publisher= Transaction Publishers|location= |isbn= 0765806606, p. 60]

During the Dutch regime, the Jews prospered in, according to Oreck, "Sugar industry, tax farming and slave trade." Saul S. Friedman, however, states that, "Jews worked mainly in retail and brokerage, as engineers and lawyers, not as "Senhores de Engenho" [the proprietor of a sugar plantation complex] ." He writes that only about 6% of sugar mills were owned by Jews. [Friedman (1997), p.61] It is interesting to note that the slaves preferred to work for Jews because, while the Portuguese only gave Sunday off and the Dutch gave no day off, the Jews gave both Saturday (Jewish Sabbath) and Sunday as rest days for the slaves.

The Inquisition responded to the Jews' prosperity in Dutch Brazil angrily. The Jews were accused for turning in Brazilian property for the Dutch "heretics". They were accused for being the utmost responsibles for the Portuguese political disaster during the Dutch regime in Brazil. [cite web
url= http://www.rumoatolerancia.fflch.usp.br/node/128
title= Jewish Roots of Brazil
accessdate= 2008-06-09
accessdaymonth=
accessmonthday=
accessyear=
author=
last= Novinsky
first= Anita
authorlink=
coauthors=
date=
year=
month=
format=
work= Inquisição em Portugal e no Brasil
publisher= Laboratório de Estudos sobre a Intolerância da FFLCH/USP
pages=
language=
doi=
archiveurl=
archivedate=
quote=
] Also, the rapid growth of the Jewish population in Pernambuco worried the Portuguese Christians. They wrote a letter in 1637 to the government requesting the immediate suspension of Jewish migration to the Captaincy. [cite web
url= http://www.magmarqueologia.pro.br/s_kahal.htm
title= Arqueologia da Sinagoga Kahal Zur Israel
accessdate= 2008-06-09
accessdaymonth=
accessmonthday=
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last=
first=
authorlink=
coauthors=
date=
year=
month=
format=
work= Brasil Arqueológico
publisher= Equipe do Laboratório de Arqueologia da Universidade de Pernambuco
pages=
language= Portuguese
doi=
archiveurl=
archivedate=
quote=
] They called for the expulsion of all Jews and even accused some four "infamous" Jews of plotting a revolt of slaves. Even before the Portuguese recaptured the Dutch lands, many limitations have been imposed on Jews, "banning intermarriage, the construction of synagogues or charging more than 3 percent interest on loans." [Friedman (1997), pp.60-61] After the Portuguese recaptured the Dutch lands, in 1654, Jews fled to many other places. Some 24 Jews fled to New Amsterdam, which later became New York City, becoming the first Jews to arrive in the United States. [cite book |title= The Jewish Travel Guide|last= Sheldon|first= Betsy|authorlink= |coauthors= |year= 2000|publisher= Hunter Publishing, Inc.|location= |isbn= 1556508794, p. 129 Quote: "This was the starting point for Jews in America: In 1654, a small group just shy of two dozen sailed into New Amsterdam, more by accident then by intent. The Jews from Brazil, bound for shores more secure than the Spanish-controlled colonies where the Inquisition still threatened, found a safe, if not welcome, harbor."]

1773-1920

The Jews began to slowly arrive again in Brazil after a royal decree signed in Portugal in 1773 abolished all discrimination against Jews. A stream of Sepharadic Moroccan Jews began arriving in 1810 in Belém, capital of the Province of Grão-Pará, in Northern Brazil. Not only were they attracted to the Amazon region because Brazil presented itself as a nation free of persecutions like the ones in Morocco, but also because of, "The intensification of the exterior, propitiating the greater commerce of importation and exportation, loads, and transportations of passengers and migrants; the interior navigation subsidizing and propitiating the interiorization of the Jewish migratory streams along the Amazon River and its tributaries; the rubber cycle that also attracted the English, French, German, Portuguese, and the distressed and the people looking for a better place from Northeast Brazil, that escaped the droughts of 1877 and 1888." [cite web
url= http://www.letras.ufmg.br/poslin/defesas/cassiascheinbein_diss.pdf
title= Línguas em Extinção: o Hakitia em Belém do Pará
accessdate= 2008-06-12
accessdaymonth=
accessmonthday=
accessyear=
author=
last= Scheinbein
first= Cássia
authorlink=
coauthors=
date= 2006
year=
month=
format=
work= Programa de Pós-Graduação em Estudos Lingüísticos
publisher= Faculdade de Letras da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
pages=
language= Portuguese
doi=
archiveurl=
archivedate=
quote=
, p.44
] Most sources state that the first synagogue of Belém, "Shaar Hashamaim" ("Gate of Heaven"), was founded in 1824. There are, however, controversies; Samuel Benchimol, author of "Eretz Amazônia: Os Judeus na Amazônia", affirms that the first synagogue in Belém was "Eshel Avraham" ("Abraham's Tamarisk") and that it was established in 1823 or 1824, while "Shaar Hashamaim" was founded in 1826 or 1828. The Jewish population in the capital of Grão-Pará alread had in 1842 an Israelite necropolis. [Scheinbein (2006), p.45]

Because of unfavorable conditions in Europe, European Jews began debating in the 1890s about establishing agricultural settlements in Brazil. At first, the plan did not work because of Brazilian political quarrels. In 1904, the Jewish agricultural colonization, supported by the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA) began in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state in Brazil. The main intention of the JCA in creating those colonies was to resettle Russian Jews during the mass immigration from the hostile Russian empire. The first colonies were Philippson (1904) and Quatro Irmãos (1912).cite journal
quotes =
last = Nachman
first = Falbel
authorlink =
coauthors =
date = 2007-08-16
year =
month =
title = Jewish agricultural settlement in Brazil
journal = Jewish History
volume = 21
issue = Numbers 3-4, September 2007
pages =
publisher = Springer Netherlands
location =
issn = 0334-701X (Print) 1572-8579 (Online)
pmid =
pmc =
doi = 10.1007/s10835-007-9043-6
bibcode =
oclc = 46840526
id =
url = http://www.springerlink.com/content/7v63748ugn1k5p60/fulltext.pdf
language =
format =
accessdate = 2008-06-15
laysummary = http://www.springerlink.com/content/7v63748ugn1k5p60/
laysource = Spinger Link
laydate =
quote = Jewish agricultural colonization in Brazil began in 1904 in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, supported by the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA). The JCA created the first colonies – Philippson (1904) and Quatro Irmãos (1912) – with the intention of resettling Russian Jews during the decisive years of mass immigration from the Russian empire.
. No page, quote taken from abstract.] All these colonization attempts, however, failed because of, "Inexperience, insufficient funds and poor planning" and also because of, "Administrative problems, lack of agricultural facilities and the lure of city jobs." In 1920, the JCA began selling some of the land to non-Jewish settlers. Despite the failure, "The colonies aided Brazil and helped change the stereotypical image of the non-productive Jew, capable of working only in commerce and finance. The main benefit from these agricultural experiments was the removal of restrictions in Brazil on Jewish immigration from Europe during the twentieth century." By the First World War, about 7,000 Jews were inhabiting Brazil. In 1910 in Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul, a Jewish school was opened and a Yiddish newspaper, "Di Menshhayt" ("Humanity") was established in 1915. One year later, the Jewish community of Rio de Janeiro formed an aid committee for World War I victims.

Present-day Jewish community

There are about 96,000 Jews in Brazil today, and they play an active role in politics, sports, academia, trade and industry, and are overall well integrated in all spheres of Brazilian life. The majority of Brazilian Jews live in the state of São Paulo but there are also sizeable communities in Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Minas Gerais, and Paraná.

Jews lead an open religious life in Brazil and there are rarely any reported cases of anti-semitism in the country. In the main urban centers there are schools, associations and synagogues where Brazilian Jews can practice and pass on Jewish culture and traditions.

Some Jewish schoolars say that the only form of threat which faces Judaism in Brazil is the relatively high frequence of intermarriage. There have been, however, some instances of vandalism in Jewish cemeteries after Israel's attacks in Lebanon, like the ones in Belo Horizonte in 2007.

See also

*List of Brazilian Jews
*List of Latin American Jews
*History of the Jews in Latin America

References

Further reading

cite book
last = Lesser
first = Jeffrey
authorlink =
title = Welcoming the Undesirables: Brazil and the Jewish Question
publisher = University of California Press
location= Berkeley
year = 1995
doi =
isbn = 0520084136


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