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June 15, 1973 - Image 19

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1973-06-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Brazil —a Latin American Jewish Community at Threshold of Calamity?

JTA News Editor

the night. But those who live
in the night sometimes suf-
(Copyright 1973, JTA, Inc.)
fer from nightmares, and we
"We are Jews only during
suffer from nightmares. The
certain hours, only during
period of time we dedicate
to being Jews is very small."
This view was expressed by
Marcos Firer, president of
Now Accepting
the Jewish Federation of the
- Reservation s for State of Sao Paulo.
Spring an d
"In Brazil, Jews live like
Summer in
a people but not like a Jew-
the Mountains
ish people. There are people
whose forefathers were Jew-
But now, many Jews are
assimilated. and even those
NEVELE • GROSSINGER'S who are not assimilated are
Jews only at home and Bra-
CONCORD • RALEIGH zilians on the street." This
was stated by a Jewish stu-
attending the University
of Sao Paulo.




"Jews are too complacent.
In general they live well and
many are quite wealthy. But
how long will this last? The
fires of revolution are all
around us, Too many Jews,
tragically, will be forced by
their position in society to
act as the fire brigade to put
out the flames of revolt."




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This was the opinion of Fran-
cisco Gotthilf, secretary gen-
eral of the Jewish Confeder-
ation of Brazil, and the pro-
ducer of "Mosaico-TV," the
only Jewish television pro-
gram in South America, and
producer of the daily "Radio.

Jewish families are not under
any compulsion to justify
having a sheigetz for a son-
in-law or a shikseh for a
daughter-in-law. In fact, be-
ing married to a non-Jew is
frequently viewed with favor
because the in-laws repre-
These are some of the sent status."
problems that haunt Jews in
He noted that the trend to-
Brazil, problems that stem ward assimilation is so
as much from the current alarming that a few of the
socio-economic conditions as Orthodox rabbis perform rit-
from the history of adapta- uals that only Conservative
tion to Brazilian mores and or Reform, rabbis would nor-
from the fact that there are mally perform in order to as-
only some 150,000 Jews in a sure that Jews will continue
country of 3,000,000 square to be Jews. "In Brasilia, for
miles with a total population example, where there are
of close to 100,000,000. The few Jews, there is no mohel.

main Jewish centers are in
Sao Paulo with 65,000, and in
Rio de Janeiro with 50,000.
"In Rio we are a commu-
nity without a leadership. In
Sao Paulo there are institu-
tions but little vital activity.
In Brazil as a whole there
are many personal efforts but
few community actions. We
are trapped in a paradox and
entwined in a Gordian knot.
Questions: Who will resolve
the first and cut the sec-
ond?" This was expressed by
Dr. Marcos Margulies, edi-
tor-in-chief of the prestigious
and highly intellectual maga-
zine, Commentario, and pro-
fessor of sociology of mass
communications at a Cathol-
ic university in Rio.
A prominent Jewish leader
noted that outside of Sao
Paulo, the booming commer-
cial center of the country,
and Rio, the intellectual hub
of Brazil, "there are no
viable Jewish communities to
perpetuate Yiddishkeit. There
are no rabbis in the smaller
towns. The general atmo-
sphere is non-Jewish. There
is a great deal of intermar-
riage because there is no

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Semitism among Brazilians—
interestingly, because many
feel they may be descendents
of Marranos who fled to
Brazil from the Portuguese
inquisition—but there is no

overt hostility toward Israel
or Zionism among the older
Arabs, those who have lived
in Brazil for decades, and

their offsprings. There are

some 600,000 Arabs in the
country. "They have a great
deal of economic and politi-
cal influence," Her zber g
said, "because there are so
many more of them than of

us. But we have no prob-
lems with them. Jews and
Arabs work together and in
a number of instances are
business partners. The Arab
partners kid the Jewish part-
ners about events in the
Middle East, and the Jews
reciprocate. There is no ani-
mosity and no acrimony."
However, some Arab prop-
aganda has been making
headway with the influx of
Palestinian Arabs in smaller
towns and communities. But
even here the propaganda is
subtle, not strident. Articles
in small town newspapers
deal with Arab contributions
to Brazilian culture and the
development of sectors of the
economy by Arab business.
men. Pamphlets dealing with
the aspirations of the Pales-
tinian people in the Middle
East and the aims of Arab
liberation movements prolif-
erate in bookstalls and in
university bookstores.
"But it doesn't take too
long for these younger
Arabs, who have come here
to live with relatives or
friends who- are well off, to
find the taste of the good
life preferable to the life of
good taste, politically speak-
ing," Herzberg said. "They
soon become involved in
making money and forget
the problems they left be-
hind. They become assimi-
The Brazilian government,
has also agreed to stem Arab
activity. The Arab League,
Herzberg noted, tried to up-
set this equilibrium but the
government "told the League
to forget any ideas it might
have to mount a campaign
against Jews, Zionism or
Israel. The Brazilian govern-
ment does not want any
problems here and is op-

A doctor is called in to per-
form the bris. But the doc-
tor is not always Jewish.
What about ritual prayers at
the bris? An Orthodox rabbi
travels from town to town
when this need arises and
performs the ritual. There is
no alternative. It's a ques-
tion of pikuah nefesh, the
saving of a life, in this case
as in others, the spiritual
life of a Jew."
Rolf Herzberg, executive
director of the Sao Paulo
Jewish Federation, focused
on another aspect of the pro-
cess of assimilation, that of
identifying with every cause
except causes affecting Jew-
ish life. "This is a particular
problem among our young
people," he said. "They are
more concerned with general .
Brazilian problems such as
poverty, illiteracy, ecology
or housing for the poor. They
can't identify with Jewish
problems because they do
not see any particular Jewish
problem here. Their parents
are well off and there is no
A leading figure in the
Jewish community, who
asked to remain ananymous,
agreed with that view and
added: "I'm very pessimis-
tic about the future of Jews
in Brazil, not because things
are bad, but because they
are too good."
The majority of Jews are
part of the economic aris-
tocracy of the country and
there are a number who,
even by American standards,
can be considered tycoons.
The majority not only share
in the on-going economic
boom of the country but con-
tribute to it as owners of
large business firms, as
highly skilled technicians, as THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
economists and as leading
intellectuals. They are gen-
erally not concerned with the
fact that Brazil is languish-
ing under a military dicta-
torship which has succeeded
in quelling all organized
opposition and imposing a
strict censorship on all news
media. In fact, a number of
Jewish leader s have re-
marked that the liberal Jew-
ish viewpoint, manifest in
North America, is generally
silent here, and that there
is a feeling of unease when-
ever opposition to the govern-
ment policies are expressed
by young Jews or non-Jewish
Paradoxically, the absence
of anti-Semitism is the im-
petus for estrangement from
Jewishness. There is no feel-
ing of imminent danger and,
so, being Jewish represents
neither a special incentive
for perpetuating a heritage
nor a bond for self-preserva-
tion especially . so far as
many of the young Jews are
Not only is there no anti-

posed to having the situation
in the Middle East trans-
ferred to Brazilian soil."

Another reason for the
government's attitude is that
it recognizes — as do many
Brazilians — the numerous
contributions Jews have
made and are making to the
cultural and social life of the
count ry. Walk through the
streets of Rio, or Sao Paulo
or Brasilia and some of the
outstanding architecture is
by Oscar Niemeyer; the
head of a publishing empire
which includes the influen-
tial magazine, Manchete, and
the popular illustrated mag-
agine, Fatos e Fotos, is
Adolpho Block who also owns
what is perhaps Brazil's
most modern and beautiful
theater and private art gal-
lery located in Sao Paulo;
the editor of one of the coun-
try's most influential dailies,
Jornal do Brasil, is Alberto
Dines; the executive director
of Rede Globo-TV in Sao
Paulo is Luiz Guimaraes
(Leib Shefler); the Mayor of
Curitiba is Jaime Lerner;
the late Prof. Fritz Feigl,
who was nominated in 1970
for membership in the Vati-
can Academy of Science,
trained hundreds of research
students in the field of or-
ganic chemistry; Herber t
Moses, who died not long
ago, was one of the pro-
moters of the country's jour-


In addition, there are a
number of Jewish generals
in the army; the director of
the largest petroleum firm in
Amazonia is a Sephardic
Jew; Jose Mindlin, president
of the Federation of Indus-
try, led a delegation of Bra-
zilians to China after Dr.
Henry Kissinger's visit there
last year; and publisher
Abraham Kogan, who issued
the Larousse Encyclopedia
in Portuguese, was awarded
the Machado de Assiz medal
by the Brazilian Academy of
Brazil's friendly attitude
toward Israel was also mani-
fested when, in mid-March,
Jarbas Passarinho, the min-
ister of education, announced
a nation-wide essay contest
on Israel's first quarter of a
century foi high school stu-
"Our embassy was flooded
(Continued on Page 35)

Friday, June 15, 1973—W


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