Jewish Tours

Buenos Aires, Argentina



The organization of the community was a decisive factor for successful integration. Wherever large groups of immigrants settled, as for instance in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Salvador, Recife, Belo Horizonte, Belém, and other cities, there was always at least one or more charitable organization, a credit cooperative, and one or more schools, which provided immigrant children with good social and educational opportunities. In 1917, the first Congresso Israelita no Brasil took place.

The first charitable society, Achiezer, was founded in Rio de Janeiro in 1912. The Sociedade Beneficente Israelita, Relief, was founded in 1920. Three years later the Froien Farain and the Lar da Criança Israelita (children's home) were founded. The Policlínica Israelita was established in 1937, later becoming the Hospital Israelita. In Rio de Janeiro, the Sociedade das Damas would later found the Lar da Velhice (old age home), in 1963. Also, a credit cooperative was founded in that city, which was Brazil's capital until 1960 (when it was transferred to Brasilia).

In São Paulo, between the years 1920 and 1940 there were 10 charitable entities in the community which offered all the necessary support to the newly arrived immigrants, from welcome at the port, assistance to pregnant women, and loans to set up a small business. Some of these organizations were run by individuals and families who had arrived some time before and had already prospered and did not want to see their brethren having to beg in the streets or looking like poor immigrants. The Sociedade Beneficente Amigos dos Pobres Ezra was established in 1915, in São Paulo, followed by the Sociedade Beneficente das Damas Israelitas a year later. The Policlínica Linath Hatzedek was established in 1929, and later the Gota de Leite of B'nai B'rith, the Lar das Crianças da CIP, the Lar das Crianças das Damas Israelitas, the Organização Feminina de Assistência Social (Ofidas, 1940), and the Asilo dos Velhos (1941). Between 1936 and 1966 the Sanatório Ezra for tuberculosis patients operated in São Jose dos Campos (50 miles from São Paulo). It had 120 beds, taking care of Jewish people from about 30 cities from all over Brazil. In 1928 the Cooperativa de Crédito Popular of the Bom Retiro neighborhood was established.

Even though the Bom Retiro neighborhood of São Paulo concentrated the main nucleus of immigrants coming from Eastern Europe, there were also small communities scattered throughout the city, and the groups from Western Europe, the Germans, and the Sephardim basically kept themselves apart, maintaining contact only from time to time. Each group had its own burial society, but the cemetery was common to all. In Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro there were common institutions from the beginning of the immigration.

Community life also developed in and around the synagogue, social, sporting and cultural clubs, political movements, and the active press. In Rio de Janeiro, União Israelita do Brasil was founded in 1873 and the first synagogue, Centro Israelita, opened in 1910. The first Jewish institution to be opened in São Paulo was the Kahal Israel synagogue (1912). In São Paulo, the Sephardim from Lebanon and Syria founded two synagogues in the Mooca neighborhood in the 1920s. The German Jews (as well as Italian and Austrian Jews) established the Congregação Israelita Paulista in São Paulo (1936) and the Associação Religiosa Israelita (1942) in Rio de Janeiro. Both were liberal congregations.

In Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul, the local União Israelita was founded in 1909 by Ashkenazi and Sephardi immigrants together. Sephardim founded the Centro Hebraico Rio-Grandense in 1922. Sibra (Sociedade Israelita Brasileira de Cultura e Beneficência) was created in 1936. In the interior of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, small comunities were formed in Santa Maria (1915), Pelotas (União Israelita Pelotense, 1920), and Rio Grande (Sociedade Israelita Brasileira, 1920, with many immigrants from the agricultural colony of Philipson), Passo Fundo (União Israelita Passo-Fun-dense, 1922), and Erechim (1934, Sociedade Cultural e Beneficente Israelita, with many immigrants from Quatro Irmãos).

In Salvador, capital of Bahia, a synagogue opened in a private household in 1924. Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe began to arrive in Recife, capital of Pernambuco, in the 1910s and in the same year a shill in a private house was created. In 1918 Centro Israelita de Pernambuco and an Ídiche Schul were founded, followed by the cemetery (1927), the Synagoga Israelita da Boa Vista (1927), and a cooperative (1931). In the 1930s Sephardim built their synagogue in Recife. The community at Recife had a very active Jewish life, with five schools, a library, a theater group, youth movements, and Zionist women's organizations (WIZO and Naamat).

In Curitiba, capital of Paraná, União Israelita do Paraná was founded in 1913 and later became Centro Israelita do Paraná (1920). The cemetery was built in 1925 and the local community reached around 3.500 Jews.

In São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, and Recife the Jews concentrated in specific neighborhoods: in Bom Retiro, Bonfim, and Praça Onze, respectively, in the first three cities and in Boa Viagem and Boa Vista in Recife. Eliezer Levin is the main chronicler of Jewish life in Bom Retiro and the writer Moacyr Scliar wrote several novels set in the little shtetl of Rio Grande do Sul. In Rio de Janeiro, the main writer of memoirs from Praça Onze (also the heart of the Rio de Janeiro carnival) is Samuel Malamud. In these four large Brazilian cities, a defined Jewish urban space existed, with its stories, both real and imaginary, its meeting places, bars, restaurants, and lively folklore.

Women prostitutes were exploited by the international Tzvi Migdal traffic network based in Buenos Aires from the end of the 19th century and segregated by the community. They founded the Associação Beneficente Funerária e Religiosa Israelita (1906 to 1968) in Rio de Janeiro, and the Sociedade Religiosa e Beneficente Israelita in São Paulo (1924 to 1968), with their own mutual-aid organizations. They maintained separate cemeteries in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Cubatão (a neighboring city of Santos) and a synagogue in Rio. Within the Jewish communities themselves, the traffickers sponsored the Yiddish theater. The existence of Tzvi Migdal was an issue that made newspaper headlines in the 1930s and served as a pretext for those who wanted to ban Jewish immigration. But the history of the Jewish prostitutes or polacas (Poles), as they were known, entered the social and cultural imagination of the two most important Brazilian cities, even though Jews were only a minority among the women prostitutes. These stories can be found in the novel Macunaima by Mario de Andrade, the founder of Brazilian Modernism, and they were also the subjects of paintings and songs by popular artists and musicians. The subject, already a strong taboo in the community, became the theme of a novel (O Ciclo das Águas) by the Brazilian Jewish writer Moacyr Scliar.

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