Jewish Tours

Buenos Aires, Argentina


Postwar Period

After the end of World War II and with the participation of Brazil in the military campaign against the Axis, the dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas fell and Brazil enjoyed a period of democratic regimes up to 1964, including the democratic election of Vargas himself as president in 1950.

It was through the creation of the Federação Israelita do Estado de São Paulo in 1946, under the inspiration of Zionism, that the community in São Paulo started to evolve a general community ideal in order to organize postwar immigration. The campaigns undertaken during the war and Zionist activism generated greater unity. The Zionist movement, which had remained inactive during the war years, resumed its public activity. The Jewish left became quite active again, also in the ranks of the Communist Party. The Federação Israelita do Rio de Janeiro was founded in 1947.

The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was a source of great encouragement to the Jewish minority in 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 (CONIB) – to act as the authoritative and representative body of the country's entire Jewish community.

Jewish immigration to Brazil was resumed in the 1950s. In the period 1956–57 about 2,500 Jews from Egypt and 1,000 from North Africa (mainly from Morocco) and in 1956, some 1,000 from Hungary entered Brazil. According to the official census, the Jewish population of Brazil was 55,663 (1940), 69,955 (1950), 96,199 (1960), and 86,417 (1991). In 1991, 70,960 Jews lived in the Sudeste, mainly São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro; 10,614 in the South, basically in Rio Grande do Sul; 1,693 in the Nordeste; 2,308 in the North; and 841 in Centro-Oeste. According to statistical studies, estimates of the Jewish population in 2005 were 96,700 people, but Jewish institutions in the country expanded this figure to 130,000.

Israel's War of Independence (1948) and Sinai Campaign (1956) brought new waves of Sephardi immigration from Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria, especially to São Paulo, where four new synagogues were founded from the 1960s, three of them in the neighborhood of Higienópolis. From that period Sephardi Jews became politically active in the community and leaders of some of the more important Jewish institutions in the city and also in the country, holding positions such as the presidency of Confederação Israelita do Brasil. Generally, the integration between Ashkenazim and Sephardim in Brazil was successful.

Brazilian Jews experienced considerable economic mobility. The peddlers of the prewar period eventually became wholesalers and retailers, and some also became industrialists. Besides getting involved in trade and industry, from the 1960s a significant number of Brazilian Jews began taking up various professions, becoming physicians, administrators, engineers, university professors, journalists, publishers, psychologists, etc.

Important organizations were also founded in the postwar period. The Hebraica club, founded in São Paulo in 1953, is the largest Jewish organization in the country in terms of numbers of members (25,000). In the field of charity, the Centro Israelita de Assistência ao Menor (Ciam) was created in 1959 in São Paulo, and in 1993 it also developed into the Aldeia da Esperança (Village of Hope), inspired by the model of Kefar Tikvah in Israel. Unibes, the most important Jewish charitable organization in the country, was founded in 1976. Some time later, Ten Yad was established. The Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, inaugurated in São Paulo in 1971, became one of the most important hospitals in the country and maintained an active Department of Volunteers carrying out important medical and social work in a neighboring shantytown.

In 1964, through a coup de état, a military dictatorship took control in Brazil, interrupting 19 years of democracy since the end of World War II. Under the military regime, there was neither a specific Jewish policy nor any spread of antisemitism. The policies of the military government benefited the middle classes and the country underwent a development boom with high economic growth rates during the 1970s, the so-called "Brazilian miracle." In São Paulo, from 1960, many Jews improved themselves economically and moved up the social ladder, leaving the Bom Retiro neighborhood for well-to-do districts such as Higienópolis, and later Jardins and Morumbi. Thus, the centers of Jewish life in the city partly moved to other neighborhoods as well.

Before Parliament was dissolved in 1968, six Jews representing various parties were elected to the federal legislature in the 1966 parliamentary elections. There were also Jewish politicians in the state legislatures and city councils. Horacio Lafer was a leading Jewish political figure and served as finance minister and foreign minister of Brazil. A former federal deputy, Aarão Steinbruch, was elected senator, the first Jew to be elected to that prestigious post.

In November 1975, the Brazilian vote in favor of the UN resolution condemning Zionism as "racism" aroused considerable criticism. It was considered an expression of Brazil's foreign policy, aimed at the Third World and the Arab oil-exporting countries. In 1980 a document issued by the Serviço de Informações do Ministério de Minas e Energia accused the Jewish community of being among the main opponents of the nuclear agreement signed by Brazil and Germany because Jewish physicists such as Mario Schenberg, Jose Goldemberg, and others were among the leaders of this opposition. Some Jewish left-wing activists became involved in movements against the dictatorship and even joined armed guerrilla groups that fought against the dictatorship. The Academic Center of the Institute of Psychology of the University of São Paulo was named for Iara Iavelberg in memory of an activist assassinated by the military regime in 1971. In 1975 the murder of the Jewish journalist Vladimir Herzog in a military prison, reported as a "suicide," triggered off mass protests in the country and was one of the events that led to the end of the military regime. There was great tension in the Jewish community, as many opposed burying the journalist as a suicide. Rabbi Henry I. Sobel was one of the leaders of the movement who challenged the Army's official version of the facts and gave Herzog a regular burial.

In 1978 there were antisemitic outbursts in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. In the same year, Gustav Franz Wagner, an officer who served in the Sobibor concentration camp, was arrested after participating in a meeting of the so-called "Movement for the Liberation of the German Reich." He was held by the Brazilian authorities, while extradition was requested by Austria, Poland, West Germany, and Israel. However, the requests were rejected by the Supreme Court of Brazil. Brazil was a shelter for probably a few dozen Nazis, some of whom had arrived via Argentina. Among the Nazis who took refuge in Brazil was Joseph Mengele, who probably died in the country.

The slow return of the country to democracy started in 1979, first with the Amnesty Policy and in 1984 with the direct election for president of the republic. The return to democracy in 1984 brought new hope, but also some serious economic and social crises. Under the government of Fernando Collor de Melo (1990–92, when the president was politically impeached), Celso Lafer was minister of foreign affairs. In the two terms of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1994 to 1998 and 1998 to 2002) numerous members of the Jewish community took an active part in the government.

Next Page

Read about our specially designed tours Click here to know who we are Customers Testimonials  Site map  
News and Media  Prices Directory of Synagogues  
More info? Click here to send us an email

Terms and Conditions

Related links Other services 


Visite nuestro sitio/Visit our home page:

Jewish Tours Argentina