Brazil opens first Jewish immigration memorial

Marcy Oster

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Several Jewish and non-Jewish officials attended the inauguration ceremony for Brazil’s first memorial dedicated to Jewish immigration

The five-story Jewish Immigration Memorial dedicated on Tuesday gathers some 1,000 historic articles including documents, objects, clothes, and books narrating the history of  the Jewish community of  South America’s largest country. The building is located at the Kehilat Israel synagogue, the oldest Jewish house of worship in Sao Paulo, founded by Bessarabian immigrants in 1912.

“We have created the memorial to fill in the blank of our people’s immigration history. Brazil has always been a tolerant country that welcomed Jewish immigrants with open arms. Other groups such as Italians and Japanese already had centers to remember their historic path to Brazil. We, Jews, did not have anything like that until now,” said Breno Krasilchik, the memorial council’s president.

Built in the city’s historically Jewish-populated neighborhood of Bom Retiro, the building also features a center for study and research on Jewish immigration to serve the whole Brazilian society.

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“This is a new institution to play a distinguished role at the city’s and the country’s historic and cultural background,” the memorial’s coordinator, Rabbi Toive Weitman, told JTA.

Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger joined the ceremony to lay the cornerstone in early 2013.

Brazil is home to some 120,000 Jews, including 60,000 in Sao Paulo and 40,000 in Rio. Recife, in the northeast, hosts the very first synagogue in the Americas, the Kahal Zur Israel, opened in 1636.

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