RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) – Brazil inaugurated its first memorial dedicated to Jewish immigration.
The five-story Jewish Immigration Memorial dedicated Tuesday features some 1,000 historic articles, including documents, objects, clothes and books, narrating the history of the Jewish community of South America’s largest country. The building is located at the Kehilat Israel synagogue, the oldest Jewish house of worship in Sao Paulo, founded by Bessarabian immigrants in 1912.
Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger joined the ceremony to lay the cornerstone in early 2013. Several Jewish and non-Jewish officials were on hand.
“We have created the memorial to fill in the blank of our people’s immigration history,” said Breno Krasilchik, the memorial council’s president. “Brazil has always been a tolerant country that welcomed Jewish immigrants with open arms. Other groups such as Italians and Japanese already had centers to remember their historic path to Brazil. We Jews did not have anything like that until now.”
Built in the city’s historically Jewish-populated neighborhood of Bom Retiro, the building also features a center for study and research on Jewish immigration.
“This is a new institution to play a distinguished role at the city’s and the country’s historic and cultural background,” the memorial’s coordinator, Rabbi Toive Weitman, told JTA.
Brazil is home to some 120,000 Jews, including 60,000 in Sao Paulo and 40,000 in Rio. Recife, in the Northeast, hosted the very first synagogue in the Americas, the Kahal Zur Israel, opened in 1636.