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January 17, 1986 - Image 83

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-01-17

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84 Friday, January 17, 1986



Detroiters Re-Discover Brazilian Ties


Special to The Jewish News


Keeping up with the
news these days can
be a mountainous
task. But a
subscription to the


can increase your
knowledge — of issues
concerning our Jewish
community — and
lift your spirit.
For subscriptions
Call 354.6060

The Jews in Brazil, like the
Jews in most countries, tend to
outwardly blend into the gen-
eral community. Yet, they hold
onto their identity with great
determination. Though the
majority of Jews live in Rio
(50,000), and Sao Paulo (60,000),
there are many small com-
munities scattered around.
Manaus, which is four hours
from Rio, has a community of
150 families. Without a rabbi,
they engage their hazzan, a
young man, who wears tsitsit
and a kipah and. who studied in
'a yeshivah in Belem. He of-
ficiates at all religious rites,
weddings, funerals. He is a baal
korey (Torah reader), and he
conducts the weekly Shabbat
evening, morning and Minchah
services at which there is al-
ways a minyan.
The Jews of Manaus also take
great pride in their Jewish club
and the Jewish cemetery which
they acquired about 50 years
ago. Prior to that, Jews were
buried in a Catholic cemetery
with Hebrew inscribed on the
tombstones. We visited some of
these Jewish graves and recited
memorial prayers at each one.
There is one grave that is well
known to the people of Manaus.
They call it the grave of the
"Santo Rabino," the Holy Rabbi.
A rabbi, known for his mystical
teachings, named Salom Moyal,
came to Manaus from Palestine
in the first decade of the 20th
Century. He died in 1910, and
was buried in the only cemetery
of Manaus. When the Jews ac-
quired a cemetery they wanted
to transfer the rabbi's grave to
`'''the Jewish section, but they de-
cided to leave the grave where it
is in order to maintain good re-
lations with the Catholics.
Great reverence is paid to the
soul of the "Santo Rabino." The
Brazilians daily light candles at
the footstone of his grave, and
consider him a miracle worker.
Sick people come and offer
prayers for their recovery.
Others pray for success in the
lottery and for all kinds of
blessings. Around the wall sur-
rounding his tomb are inscrip-
tions thanking "the Santo
Rabino" for his successful inter-
vention with the Almighty.
Speaking to the Jews of Man-
aus, it soon becomes apparent
that they consider the Jewish
community of Belem as the
mother community, an invalu-
able source of inspiration for the
Jews residing in Manaus. Older
and slightly larger, it boasts a
community o 250 families, and
two synagogues, one with a
daily minyan for tefilah, Min-
chah and Arvit and one which
has a Shabbat minyan.
The oldest synagogue is a

Rabbi Nelson, second from right, and friends inside the Synagoga
Rebbe Meir.

very impressive pink building,
in the Sephardic style, and was
designed by an Italian Jewish
We visited two cemeteries.
One, in the heart of the
downtown area, has the years
1843-1910 on its outer gate. The
second cemetery, which the
community uses today, is lo-
cated on the outskirts of the
city, and like the Manaus
cemetery, it is adjacent to a
Catholic cemetery. One sad
note: A stone, located in the
front of the cemetery, on which
a Hebrew and Portuguese
prayer is inscribed, was desec-
rated. We were instantly re 7
minded of the sad and perennial
fact of anti-Semitism. Alas, a
family friend, Jacob lienzecry,
confirmed that even in Belem
there are a few who are anti-
Since there is no rabbi in the
community, it must rely on
some of the traditional members
to perform religious functions.
Or, if a family desires, expenses
are covered and a rabbi will
make the four-hour flight from
Rio or Sao Paulo.
I remember flying from Rio to
Recife to perform a wedding in
1967. Seventeen years later I
was privileged to speak to the
bride who was visiting Rio with
her husband and thrge children.
"Se Deus quizer (if God per-
mits), someday we will be to-
gether in Recife," the bride told
me. In Belem, kashrut is made
possible by the presence 10 days
a month of a shochet from Sao
Paulo, a man with a white
beard and a white kipah who I
met as he was overseeing the
preparation of kosher meat in
Even in Rio, where being
Rabbi David. Nelson of Cong, Beth
Jewish is a much less compli-
Shalom in Oak Park served his first
cated effort, life is different from
pulpit at the Associacao Religiosa
Israelita in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
what Americans experience.
He visited the congregation this
There is one liberal synagogue,
past July with his wife, Alicia, and
the Associacao Religiosa Is-
two of his three children, Debra and
raelita (ARI), which is affiliated
Reva. He held the Brazilian pulpit
with both the Conservative and
fi:om 1967 to 1969. The Nelsons'
Reform movements. It is the
son, Harry, was born in Brazil.

congregation I once served with
the late Rabbi Henrique Lemle.
The present rabbi, Roberto
Graetz, a graduate of Hebrew
Union College, cordially wel-
comed our family.
After I delivered the sermon
in Portuguese, he invited me to
bless the congregation, which I
did with a, deep feeling of being
welcomed back to my second
home. The congregation was
very moved by our visit and
warmly-received us.
Next June, a young rabbi
from the congregation will be

Rabbi David Nelson

ordained at the Jewish Theolog-
ical Seminar and will serve as
the assistant' rabbi of the ARI.
At this Frikvevening service,
before the $jinner hour, more
than 400 p`eople came together
for a KabbalatShabbat service.
At the Oneg Shabbat, where
cafe Zinho is served before the
service, we were introduced to a
young - man who will study in
Cincinnati for the rabbinate. He
had been assigned a congrega -
tion for the High Holidays, and
he asked me, "Where is Mt.
Pleasant, Mich.?" What a small
Jewish'world! '
The next day, Shabbat morn-
ing, sitting next to me in the

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