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Diversity Committee's December Event: Remarks by Andria Spindel

09/01/2017 01:27:37 PM

Jan9

The Emerging Jews of Brazil and Elsewhere in Latin America

 

On December 4, 2016, 120 members and guests of Congregation Darchei Noam were presented with an historic and current verbal and pictorial overview of emerging Jewish communities in Brazil and other Latin American countries by Fullbright Scholar and Kulanu US (All of Us) board member, Daneel Schaechter. Visiting from NY where he's employed by indeed.com, Schaechter recounted his year-long sojourn in Brazil as a Kulanu volunteer. There, he served as educator and liaison with several new communities of Crypto Jews, or Anousim: those descended from forcibly converted Jews who suffered during the inquisition in Spain, Portugal, Holland. Previously, Daneel had traveled to emerging Jewish communities in Peru, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. Hundreds, if not thousands of people, have re- encountered Judaism, found it spiritually fulfilling, and embraced it. For some, it's meant conversion, for others a reclaiming of a lost heritage, and others are still searching for a meaningful spiritual connection, which is what brought them to Judaism.

The remarkable story is that there are potentially millions of South and Central Americans with Jewish ancestors, and while all are not necessarily considering reconnecting with or converting to Judaism, scores of people have expressed interest in and now study Judaism. This has not been made easy; many such "indigenous" or mixed race communities have not felt accepted by other established Jewish communities. However, the fact remains that there are individuals, families, and whole communities choosing to study and embrace their historic Jewish roots.

During 2015, Schaechter, who speaks fluent Portuguese, Spanish, Yiddish, and Hebrew, provided education, delivered a Torah, and helped community members make important connections pursuant to their choosing Judaism. The communities that welcomed him were Yad EliYahu in Goiania and Shilo do Tatuape in São Paulo. This work was made possible through Kulanu Inc. and was assisted by various local activists and supporters. It was also hindered by local politics within the Jewish community itself, somewhat divided by religious differences. (Oh, how Jewish!) More about this can be gleaned from http://kulanu.org/.

For Darchei Noam, it was a very meaningful weekend including Daneel's presentation to the Hebrew School’s grade 5 class and dinner with the Jewish Diversity Committee and newly formed board of Kulanu Canada, a co-sponsor of the program. His knowledge, commitment, personal experience and courage in addressing and assisting the diverse interests of so many different communities is truly to be admired. Yasher Koach Daneel!

Jewish Diversity Committee and guest speaker Daneel Schaechter

Tue, 3 August 2021 25 Av 5781