The Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue was founded in the first half of the XNUMXth century, the Israeli congregation in Rua do Bom Jesus is recognized as the oldest synagogue in the Americas.
The remains that prove the existence of the place of worship were found in archaeological excavations between 1999 and 2000 and are now displayed in the space that functions as a museum and Jewish cultural center.
The Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue (Rock of Israel Congregation) was the first synagogue in the Americas and operated in Pernambuco during the period of Dutch domination (1630-1657).
Israeli community has participated in Pernambuco life since the colonial period, with preserved cultural and religious tradition.
More than a religion, Judaism is linked to the history of a people that became a nation three thousand years ago.
Currently, the Israeli Federation of Pernambuco (FIPE) estimates that there are around 1,5 Jews living in the state – the vast majority of them live in the capital, having a small impact on the city's daily life.
Video”Synagogue Kahal Zur Israel”
History of the Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue
A very different scenario from the one found in the 17th century, when the Jewish population in Recife it was similar to today, but in a province with just over 10 inhabitants.
Currently there are about 1500 Jews in Pernambuco. To be a Jew, one must be the son of a Jewish mother or have converted to Judaism.
The first migratory flow of Jews to Recife took place in the 17th century and brought people from the Iberian Peninsula. “They fled from the religious inquisition.
In Portugal, there was mass conversion of Jews to Christianity for this reason. They started to be called new Christians”, he explains.
Converted Christians and those fleeing from conversion arrived in Recife and practiced Jewish rites and customs indoors to avoid the charge of heresy.
Conversion and secretive practices were not a choice, the crypto-Jews – as those who practiced their beliefs in a veiled way were recognized – had death at the stake in a public square as a sure fate if they went against the inquisition.
Conversion: The conversion process can take up to two years of studying Jewish history and culture and some Hebrew language. At the end of this period, the person participates in a Beit Din (a kind of rabbinical court), composed of three members who will assess whether the individual is able to join Judaism.
The researcher of Jewish history Odmar Braga points out that even before the first great migration, which occurred in the 17th century, the arrival of “new Hispanic-Portuguese Christians” in Pernambuco was already taking place.
“Two synagogues existed between 1580 and 1595. One in Alto da Ribeira and the other in the Camaragibe plantation, owned by the same family”, he explains.
In the 17th century, however, the Dutch invasions changed, albeit momentarily, that scenario. “The Netherlands was a Calvinist country, defending different religious nuances. This allowed the practice of Judaism freely in Recife between 1630 and 1654. The Portuguese inquisitor left the scene and the tolerant Dutch entered”, teaches Tachlitsky.
Traditions: at 8 days of age, Jewish boys undergo circumcision, which consists of removing the foreskin from the penis. At 13, these boys participate in the Bar Mitzvah, which marks the “religious coming of age”. The girls' one takes place at the age of 12, at the Bat Mitzvah.
After the arrival of the Dutch, and the consequent religious freedom, Braga reports that the remnants of the synagogues of Alto da Ribeira and Camaragibe, together with their children, circumcised themselves and founded the Manguén Abraham Synagogue. for the foundation of the Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue”, he says.
The researcher and founder of the Jewish Historical Archive of Pernambuco, Tânia Kaufman, says that with the domain of the Netherlands, this Jewish contingent of Iberian origin, called Sephardic, unlike the new Christians who arrived in the city at the beginning of colonization, do not need to hide your beliefs.
They have already found a Jewish atmosphere in Recife. "They began to enjoy the protection of the government of João Maurício de Nassau and the privileges of the social and economic elite existing at the time", he details.
Against this favorable backdrop, Jewish immigration reached its peak. Odmar Braga reports the culmination of the arrival of Rabbi Isaac Aboab da Fonseca, who had the Catholic name of Simão da Fonseca and studied to become a rabbi after his family fled to Amsterdam.
Tânia Kaufman points to this event as a sign that Jews began to take root in the city, to the point of making the first rabbi of the Americas viable
“It was also at this time that the first Synagogue of the Americas (Sinagoga Kahal Zur Israel) was built, occupying one of the mansions on Rua do Bom Jesus, then called Rua dos Judeus”, highlights Kaufman. Construction of the synagogue started in 1638 and completed in 1641.
The Dutch period, while productive for Jews, was short. A little more than 20 years later, the Portuguese regained control of the colony, generating a massive migration to the interior of the state – especially the Sertão, where it was easier to maintain Jewish habits.
There they would be beyond the reach of the Portuguese Inquisition, which occasionally made incursions with the aim of persecuting heretics and, later, taking them to Portugal to be tried by the Holy Inquisition.
“Given the high number of Jews living in Pernambuco and the reduced physical space of ships at that time, many were unable to leave the country and decided to stay in the Sertão and other locations beyond the Pernambuco border”.
Read - The Jews who built Brazil – Unpublished sources for a new vision of history.
Ssecond Jewish migration and the neighborhood of Boa Vista
Pernambuco once again entered the Jewish route at the end of the 19th century and in the first decades of the 20th century.
This time, as a destination for those fleeing persecution carried out in Europe, especially in the East of the continent.
Jáder Tachlitsky himself has stories of this migration in his family.
His grandparents came from Ukraine fleeing the persecution promoted by the Russian tsars in the region. “Hitler did not create the persecution of Jews, but he took it to a more extreme level, killing millions of people. Before, Jews were already persecuted by Europe”, points out Tachlitsky.
These Jews, who received the name of Ashjenazis, arrived in the city with a different status from those from the first migration, which consolidated themselves as the Recife elite. Both the great-grandfather and the grandparents of the economist worked in informal commerce in the capital of Pernambuco.
“They arrived in a difficult situation. They toured more isolated neighborhoods at the time, such as Beberibe and Casa Amarela, and sold goods on credit, in 10 to 15 installments. Thus, they prospered”, he reports.
He says that, due to the history of persecution, Jews kept the habit of living close to each other, something that remained in the Boa Vista neighborhood until the 70s. “The neighborhood was home to the synagogue, the Israeli Club and of the Israelite College. There was this habit of always having everything close by. Maciel Pinheiro Square, for example, was a meeting point for the Jewish community”, he emphasizes.
Sacred Recife Tour
In the Sacred Recife script to 1st Synagogue located at Rua Martins Júnior, in the Boa Vista neighborhood, the Shil Sholem Ocnitzer or Israelite Synagogue of Recife was inaugurated on July 20, 1926. Currently, the place no longer hosts religious meetings.
Boa Vista: Recife's downtown neighborhood was home to Jews in Recife until the 70s. According to Tachlitsky, Praça Maciel Pinheiro was a kind of meeting place. The house of writer Clarice Lispector, who was Jewish, is located near the square.
The result is that the second community entered Brazil by the less privileged layers of society, as explained by Tânia Kaufman.
“The first contacts were with people with lower purchasing power through commercial relationships. Quickly, the Jews were successful and became traders at fixed points in the Boa Vista neighborhood”, he assesses.
Then, they established themselves in commercial houses concentrated on Rua da Imperatriz Tereza Cristina and its surroundings. Space that was occupied for both commerce and residential use.
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