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  ARTICLE : DIASPORA
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The Jews of Brazil
By Miriam Bodovitch - April 24, 2009


From the Movie: The Forgotten Jews of South America
Jews have been part of Brazilian history for a very long time, at least since the beginning of European settlement in the New World. In 1630 the Dutch took over control of Brazil and with their world view of freedom of religious practice made it safe for Jews and other minority groups to settle there. As early as 1636 there were Jews in Recife in Brazil who created a community and established the first synagogue in America there and by the middle of the 1600’s it was reported that there were as many as 1500 Jews living in Brazil.

The Jews prospered under the Dutch regime and became successful as lawyers and engineers and in several commercial operations like retail and brokerage. Their success inspired jealousy from the Portuguese Christians who had been used to having these markets all to themselves and some called for the expulsion of Jews from the country. When the Portuguese recaptured the land from the Dutch in 1654 many Jews fled for their lives, including a handful that set out for the northern part of the Americas and became the first Jews of New York City.

When the Portuguese abolished all discrimination against Jews in 1773 many more Jews made the trek across the water to Brazil. This included Sephardic Jews from Morocco who settled in Belém in northern Brazil in 1810 and once the Brazilian constitution of 1824 granted freedom of religion Jews from other regions of the world began to arrive in Brazil in great numbers. There were also Russians and other Eastern Europeans who arrived in Brazil in the early 1900’s as part of agricultural colonization projects sponsored by the Jewish Colonization Association in southeastern Brazil.
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