Memorial Center to Jewish Immigration Launches in Brazil

Solid gold tefillin boxes made in 18th century Germany; photo by Victor Moriyama/Folhapress
Solid gold tefillin boxes made in 18th century Germany; photo by Victor Moriyama/Folhapress

S. Paulo, Brazil – A new cultural center and museum memorializing 100 years of Jewish immigration to Brazil has been launched with a groundbreaking ceremony and the receipt of historic artifacts to be housed in its permanent collection.

Through interactive displays and a collection of objects of historic and artistic interest, the center will highlight the six waves of Jewish immigration to Brazil, and will include an exhibit dedicated to the Jewish life cycle and traditions. The center is part of the restoration of Kehilat Israel, the first synagogue in S. Paulo, founded a century ago by Jewish immigrants from Bessarabia.

“Brazil welcomed its Jewish immigrants with open arms and they could profess their faith freely. It is important to preserve that history,” noted the mastermind of the project, Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Y. David Weitman, Rabbi of the Sefardi Community Beit Jacob Safra.

The collection already includes Jewish amulets, manuscripts, a German Sabbath lamp from the late 19th century and a book of poems about the Inquisition published in Naples in 1630, all donated by members of the community. “This amazing memorial project will allow us to rescue parts of our history and transmit it to future generations,” said Mario Fleck, Chairman of the Jewish Federation of S. Paulo.

The cultural center will be located near the State Gallery, the Portuguese Language Museum, and other local and national institutions.

The cornerstone for the center was laid at a ceremony attended by community members and dignitaries from Brazil and abroad, including the mayor of the city of S. Paulo, Gilberto Kassab, the former governor of S. Paulo state, Claudio Lembo, Rabbi Weitman and Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger. The center is expected to be completed in 2014.