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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Brazil 04: Communal and cultural life

Sephardi communities - racist Zionists and Jewish communists in Brazil - cultural restrictions in the 1930s and 1940s - Jewish schooling, clubs, rabbinates, newspapers, and books in Brazil

from: Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Brazil, vol. 4

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)


<Communal Life.

[The Sephardi community life - Pôrto Alegre, Rio, São Paulo - Yiddish newspapers]

Apart from the religious and social organizations maintained by the Sephardi communities in the north, in the 20th century improvised prayer houses and minyanim [[groups of 10 or more Jews needed for a worship service]], as well as small charitable organizations, existed in the two major cities, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. It was at Pôrto Alegre, however, the capital of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, that the first officially organized communal activities were introduced. The erstwhile agricultural settlers who had concentrated in that city after abandoning their work on the farm established a variety of religious, charitable, and cultural societies. Pôrto Alegre was also the place where the first Brazilian Yiddish newspaper was published in 1915. Gradually, a properly organized community emerged in the capital (at that time), Rio de Janeiro, especially from the impetus to provide help to the war victims. In 1916 a central aid committee was formed, and all the existing Jewish societies in the city took part in it. Most of these societies had come into being in the six preceding years.

The second city in importance, São Paulo, had at this time a Jewish community (founded in 1915) and several philanthropical and cultural associations. On December 31, 1916, the cornerstone was laid for the first  synagogue proper. On a smaller scale, Jewish organizations also came into being in towns near São Paulo, such as Santos, Campinas, Franca, Santa André and São Caetano do Sul.

[Racist Jewish Zionists and Jewish communists in Brazil since the 1920s]

The large immigration of the 1920s consisted of Jews of a variety of social categories and the whole gamut of ideological orientation. All the [[racist]] Zionist parties were now represented among Brazilian Jewry, and they left their mark upon the community [[with the aim of a racist "Greater Israel" from the Nile to the Euphrates according to 1st Mose, chapter 15, phrase 18, and the Herzl booklet "The Jewish State" stating that the Arabs could be driven away as the natives in "America" had been driven away]].

There was also an organization of Jewish Communists. As a result, Jewish social and communal life was greatly enriched, but each group adhered to its own formula. This was one of the factors which frustrated the efforts by Rabbi Isaiah Raffalovitch (an official of the Jewish Colonization Association, active in social and educational affairs, and in immigrant aid) to create a unified Jewish community in Rio de Janeiro.

Further development of Jewish communal activities was brought to a halt by the gradual slow down in immigration and the increasingly nationalistic policy followed by the Brazilian government.

[[This indication is wrong: Immigration was not stopped:

Nevertheless, Jewish immigration, mainly from Nazi-dominated Europe, continued by a variety of means. From time to time special provisions were made for the immigration of people skilled in certain fields or relatives of Brazilian citizens. The law also made it possible for the authorities to accord to tourists the status of permanent residents. In this manner, some 17,500 Jews entered Brazil between 1933 and 1939. (col. 1329)

And the years 1940-1945 are not mentioned in the article...]]

[Cultural restrictions step by step since 1933 - anti-Jewish propaganda - halt since the entry into the war]

The latter [[the Brazilian government]] resulted in heavy pressure upon the ethnic minorities to assimilate to Brazilian culture. (col. 1329)

In April 1938, the government issued a decree prohibiting political activities by foreigners and contacts with foreign organizations; in 1941 foreign-language newspapers were outlawed. The two existing Yiddish dailies had to close down; the same applied to the Zionist Organization. The secular activities of the community, represented mostly by Ashkenazi Jews, were severely curtailed [[restricted]]. Although Brazil had never known any organized anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic racist propaganda began to appear in newspapers, and several editions of the Protocols of the *elders of Zion appeared. This threatening development, however, was brought to a halt before it could result in any serious consequences, thanks to discreet counter-propaganda on the part of the Jews, Brazil's entry into the war on the side of the Allies, and to the basic fact that Brazil's heterogeneous society was not a fertile breeding ground for anti-Semitism.

[More "democratic" climate and racist Zionism since 1945]

It was not until 1945, however, on the eve of the proclamation of the new constitution, that a more democratic climate came to prevail in Brazil. The [[racist]] Zionist Organization and other Jewish movements resumed their activities, and the social life of the community functioned once again, albeit at a more subdued pace.

The establishment of the [[racist Free Mason CIA Herzl]] State of Israel in 1948 was a source of great encouragement for the Jewry of Brazil. In the period 1946-47, federations of Jewish organizations and institutions were formed in the larger communities, and 1951 witnessed the establishment of the Confederação das Entidades Representativas da Coletividade Israelita do Brasil (Confederation of Jewish Institutions in Brazil) - now known as Confederação Israelita do Brasil (CIB) - to act as the authoritative and representative body of the country's entire Jewish community. Communities in eight states, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Bahia, Recife and Pará, joined the new Confederation. It consists of about 200 institutions and organizations active in the fields of [[racist]] Zionism, education, philanthropy, religion, culture and recreation, sports and interest-free loans.

[[The natives were driven away and the jungle was destroyed for all white and black settlement. There was never any democracy for the native cultures]].

Education and Culture.


The first formally organized Jewish school in Brazil was founded in 1907 in the Philippson agricultural colony; another school was founded in Pôrto Alegre in 1910. São Paulo established a talmud torah [[school]] in 1916. In 1929, there was a total of 27 schools in the country, with about 800 pupils. Figures published in 1967 listed 33 Jewish schools in Brazil attended by 10,409 pupils: 2,907 in kindergartens, 4,611 in elementary schools, 2,383 in junior high schools and 508 in senior high schools and teachers training courses.

General studies are held in Portuguese and follow the official curriculum; Jewish studies take up three hours a day, with an emphasis on the study of Hebrew and, in a few cases, of Yiddish. The two major cities each have 13 Jewish educational institutions. There are also courses in Hebrew at the state universities in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, which, however, are not held regularly and are not of a high standard.

Only an estimated one-sixth of the Jewish children in the two major centers attend Jewish schools, while in the smaller cities the proportion is much higher, sometimes reaching 80 or 90%. The majority of the Jewish schools have a national-secular orientation, while the rest are religious institutions. Most of them are housed in their own buildings.

[Jewish clubs]

No central cultural organization exists in the country. There are large Jewish clubs, which from time to time celebrate important cultural occasions; their activities are mainly in the field of sports and recreation. In Rio de Janeiro, the leading Jewish clubs are Hebraica, Monte Sinai, CIB, and ARI; in São Paulo, they are Hebraica, Macabi, Círculo Israelita, and CIP.


Neither does the Jewish (col. 1330)

community of Brazil have a central rabbinate. Each of the two major cities has three chief rabbis who set the tone in religious affairs; in addition, there are various small groups of Landsmannschaften with their own rabbi and synagogue. The larger cities have both Sephardi and Ashkenazi synagogues; the Conservative branch (CIP in São Paulo and ARI in Rio de Janeiro) of Judaism has the most members, outnumbering the Orthodox and Reform.

[Jewish newspapers in Brazil]

Jewish newspapers, in both Yiddish and Portuguese, came into existence during World War I. In 1915, the first Yiddish-language weekly made its appearance in Pôrto Alegre under the name of Di Menshhayt ("Humanity"), and the following year a Portuguese-language monthly, A Coluna, was founded in Rio de Janeiro. In 1923 a Yiddish weekly was published in Rio de Janeiro under the name of Dos Yidishe Vokhenblat [[Yiddish Weekly]], later changing its name to Brazilianer Yidishe Presse [[Brazil Yiddish Press]] (1927). Di Yidishe Folkstsaytung [[Yiddish Popular]] also came into existence in Rio de Janeiro in 1927; at first it appeared twice a week, and in 1935, became a daily, appearing as such until 1941, when it ceased publication. The Yidishe Presse [[Yiddish Press]] in Rio de Janeiro, which was founded in 1930, appears mostly as a weekly, and the weekly Brazilianer Yidishe Tsaytung [[Brazil Yiddish News]] was founded in 1952.

Two Portuguese-language weeklies are Aonde Vamos? [[Where we go?]] and Jornal Istraelita [[Israeli Journal]]. São Paulo's Yiddish weekly, Der Yidisher Gezelshaftlekher un Handels Buletin [[Yiddish Society and Commercial News]], was founded in 1928; a second Yiddish newspaper, Di San Pauler Yidishe Tsaytung [[Yiddish News from Sãu Paulo]], was founded in 1931 and later became a daily, appearing as such until 1941, when it was closed down. From 1933 to 1939 São Paulo also had a Portuguese-language periodical, A Civilisação. Der Nayer Moment [[Civilisation. The New Moment]], first published in 1950, appears three times a week. There is also a Portuguese-language biweekly newspaper which appears in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and other cities with Jewish communities.

[Jewish books in Brazil]

The first book in Hebrew, Ziyyun (Ẓiyyun), was published in 1925. Up to 1969, 20 Jewish titles had been published, mostly in Yiddish. In addition, various books on Jewish themes have been written in Portuguese. There is also a small number of Jewish writers and journalists who have published books on general themes. The publication of books on Jewish subjects in Portuguese has been supported by such institutions as Biblos and, since 1966, Perspectiva and Tradição.> (col. 1331)



Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Brazil,
                          vol. 4, col. 1329-1330
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Brazil, vol. 4, col. 1329-1330
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Brazil,
                          vol. 4, col. 1331-1332
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Brazil, vol. 4, col. 1331-1332

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