Judaism in Brazil

Brazil’s Jewish community is the oldest in the Americas, with the first American synagogue founded in Recife in 1636 during the brief period of religiously tolerant pre-Portuguese Dutch rule. Brazil’s earliest Jews arrived in the sixteenth century, conversos or “hidden Jews” fleeing the Portuguese Catholic Inquisition. They ran thriving businesses, importing and exporting goods, including slaves. Upon the assertion of Portuguese Catholic power, this original community fled to the West Indies, New Amsterdam (now New York), and to Europe. A second wave of migration occurred during...

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A Jewish festival commemorating the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai.

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“Repose” in Hebrew. In Judaism, the Sabbath is the last day of the week (beginning Friday at sundown until Saturday at sundown) and traditionally observed as a day to refrain from work while focusing on prayer, study, and family. For Christians, the Sabbath marks the first day of the week (Sunday) and is also traditionally observed as a time for prayer and spiritual renewal. 


A Hebrew word meaning “called by God”. There are several prophets in the Hebrew Bible who are interpreted by most Jews, Christians, and Muslims as speaking the word of God to the people. Examples include Abraham, Moses, and David.


A Jewish festival commemorating the exodus from Egypt and the end of Jewish enslavement by the Egyptians. In the Exodus account in the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 12), the Angel of Death “passed over” the Hebrews in the last of the great plagues.  

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Historically, the term derives from the last Israelite tribe of Judah and is applied to descendants of that tribe following the Babylonian exile in 587 BCE. More inclusively, a Jew is a descendent of the Biblical figures Abraham and Sarah and one who identifies as Jewish. Jesus was born and lived his entire life as a Jew. Some of his followers eventually established a distinct religious identity as Christians several years after his death. 

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A term referencing one who is not Jewish. 

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Destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE

After the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, the Jews of the Kingdom of Judea went into exile. In 538 BCE during the reign of Cyrus the Great, the Jews returned to Jerusalem and were able to build the Second Temple on the site of the original one that had been destroyed. Secular accounts place the completion of the Second Temple in approximately 516 BCE but some Jewish sources date the completion much later in 350 BCE. Herod the Great rebuilt the Temple in 20-18 BCE. The Jews led a revolt and occupied Jerusalem in 66 CE initiating the first Roman-...

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The surgical removal of the foreskin covering the head of the penis. In Judaism, this is a ritual practice traditionally undertaken eight days after birth.

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The Crémieux Decree

The Crémieux Decree was passed in Algeria in October 1870 granting French citizenship to Algerian Jews but not to Muslims, effectively dividing indigenous Algerians with a potent political wedge. The Decree transformed the structure of the Algerian Jewish community, which had prior been autonomous and self-governed by Jewish religious law. As French citizens, Algerian Jews were subject to secular French laws, which prompted some dissent among the Jewish community. French colonists and colonial leaders in Algeria did not themselves accept the Jews as fellow citizens, and expressed a...

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See also: Algeria, France, Judaism