|Scene from Portuguese Inquisition (Public Domain)|
Last month, Kansas City-based Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn flew to Brazil in order to conduct a conversion ceremony.
There he met with "a group of 15 men and women who have been studying and participating in the live Saturday morning Shabbat prayer services" on his Brit Braja website. This one-of-a-kind website offers Portuguese and Spanish distance-learning
opportunities to those interested in better understanding and possibly converting to
During this recent conversion ceremony, participants answered questions regarding Halakhah (Jewish law), engaged in full-body immersions within a local spring for ritual purification (akin to a mikvah), and put pen to ink for the completion of a "specially commissioned Torah scroll."
The Brazilian-Jewish connection is steeped in history. The Washington Post explains that many "Portuguese Jews fled to South America after the Inquisition, settling largely in northeast Brazil." This group of Sephardic
Jews "built the first synagogue in the Americas in the city of Recife in 1636, then under Dutch command."
Unfortunately, once the Portuguese regained control, persecution began anew. Jews there were then "forced to convert to Catholicism." Therefore, many current Brazilian villagers from remote northeast and Amazon regions have Jewish ancestry. Rabbi Cukierkorn's "virtual synagogue" is helping some of them to get back in touch with their spiritual roots.
Copyright January 15, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke All Rights Reserved