30 October 2011

Jewish Joint Distribution Committee - Brazil

In 1636, Jews built the Kahal Zur synagogue in Recife/Br
Jewish history in Brazil dates back to the time of the voyages of Christopher Columbus. Gaspar da Gama, a Jew by birth, but later kidnaped and forcibly baptized, accompanied Portuguese admiral Pedro Alvares Cabral when he landed in what is now Brazil in 1500, beginning a more than 500-year presence in the New World.

Brazil is the largest country in South America, occupying half of the continent’s land mass. It is also the largest economy in the region. Formed primarily after 1920, Brazil’s Jewish population is currently the 10th largest in the world. Ethnically diverse in origin, its Ashkenazic component is primarily of Polish and German descent, while much of the Sephardic population is of Egyptian descent. Nearly all Jews live in urban areas, with São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, having the largest Jewish community, followed by Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre.

Brazil is a federation; consequently, the Jews in each state have an organization of their own. The central body representing all Jewish federations and communities in Brazil is the Confederação Israelita do Brasil (CONIB), founded in 1951. This umbrella organization includes 200 associations engaged in promoting Zionist activity, Jewish education, culture, and charity.

Income disparity is a major problem throughout Brazil, including in its Jewish communities. There is a need to create development and income opportunities to ensure a self-sustainable future. Attention to the enrichment of Jewish culture and heritage is also needed.

JDC acts as a partner and consultant to the Jewish communities of Brazil, helping to enhance services, community development initiatives, and outreach activities. JDC’s efforts include:

Opening the Ariel Job Center in Porto Alegre, which provides training and job placement help
Monitoring a microloan fund for the community of São Paulo
Workshops for small Jewish communities in the country’s interior

JDC support is enriching Jewish community development in Brazil through training programs and exchanges. These include:
- The 2nd Latin American Conference for Homes and Day Centers for the Elderly, held in São Paulo in November 2009, brought together representatives from Jewish care facilities in eight Latin American countries
The Albert Einstein Jewish Home for the Aged and Hospital in São Paulo—the largest Jewish hospital in Latin America—partnered with JDC for the event

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