Don’t let São Paulo’s nickname get you down! The booming industrial and commercial heart of Brazil has a long and fascinating Jewish heritage behind its development. Located slightly south of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo is home 70,000 of Brazil’s estimated 130,000 practising Jews.
It is said that on Christopher Columbus’ maiden voyage to the Americas, it was a converso (a previous Jew converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition), Luis de Torres, who was the first to set foot on the lands of the Americas. Since then, it was the famous converso Fernando de Noronha who organised the colonial harvest of the much sought-after brazilwood for its dye, that he enabled both other conversos and practising Jews to set themselves up on the coast of Brazil during the course of Portuguese colonization.
From the middle of the 19th Century, a large influx of European Jews, predominately from Germany and Alsace arrived to the shores of Brazil and established themselves in São Paulo’s daily life as mata-galinha (chicken slaughterers), alfaiate (tailors) or teachers of Yiddish.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, Brazil voluntarily took in thousands of Jewish refugees that would continue to enrich São Paulo’s cultural fabric.
Today’s Jewish community in São Paulo’s is active and thriving. In arts, culture, business and political life, Jews have often played center-stage. A prominent Torah-shaped Jewish Cultural Center plays host to varying events, courses and exhibitions while promoting ties with Brazilian Jews with mainstream Brazilian culture. Over 20 active synagogues cater to various strands of the community as well as a place for contemplation in the form of the Holocaust Victims memorial.
Join our knowledgeable guides on a tour of São Paulo with Milk and Honey Tours. We would be more than happy to take you on Jewish heritage tours to discover the rich Jewish history in São Paulo, Brazil and the Americas!