New Yom Kippur Machzor for Amazon’s Jews

3,500 Sephardic Jews living in northern Brazil’s Amazon region will celebrate this coming Yom Kippur with their own Machzor, translated for the first time into Portuguese.

The Machzor, called “Ner Yom Kippur,” was prepared and edited by Rabbi Moyses Elmescany and Cantor David Salgado, and includes the traditional Hebrew text of the Yom Kippur prayer services, together with a transliteration and translation into Portuguese.

This distinctive Machzor is made up of almost 1000 pages and is the first of its kind to incorporate the unique customs and prayers of the Moroccan Sephardic rite, which was brought to Brazil in the 19th century by Moroccan Jewish immigrants.

The initial run of the Machzor is intended primarily for the use of the Jewish communities of Belem and Manaus in Brazil, which are home to some 700 Jewish families. It was published with the support and assistance of Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based group that assists small Jewish communities as well as “lost Jews” seeking a return to the Jewish people.

“This Machzor is really the first of its kind,” said David Salgado, project director for Shavei Israel who moved to Israel from northern Brazil together with his wife and children. “It will enable Portuguese-speaking Jews who use Nusach Sepharadi to better recite and understand the meaning and significance of the Yom Kippur prayers.”

Salgado noted that the Machzor reflects the texts and customs used by Moroccan Jewish communities, but with a special twist. “This Nusach is the one that was brought to Brazil’s Amazon region by the first Moroccan Jewish immigrants, who arrived there nearly two centuries ago,” he said. “And until today, Brazil’s Jews of the Amazon are still using the same rite and following the same customs as they were practiced in Morocco in the 19th century.”