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Sao Paulo - Brazil’s Centennial Synagogue To Be Rededicated 100 Years After It First Opened

Published on: December 6, 2017 05:00 PM
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Sao Paulo - The second oldest synagogue in Brazil’s most Jewish-populated city will be rededicated next year, a century after it was opened.

Knesset Israel was founded in Sao Paulo in 1916. Usually referred to by its nickname Groisse Shil, Yiddish for big synagogue, it was only completed and became operational in 1918.

“We have invested time, emotion, and resources to keep the flame of Judaism alive. Knesset Israel will become a new reference center for Sao Paulo’s Ashkenazi community and we want to add new families from the region to attend the Groisse Shil,” said the temple’s president Marcel Rivkind.

The new state-of-the-art building located in Higienopolis, a heavily Jewish populated neighborhood, will feature two sanctuaries, mikvaot for ritual baths, a library, a ballroom, and classrooms.

“We will continue the bond to this millenial chain that began with the Jewish immigration to Sao Paulo, and where our synagogue was the first to serve as absorption center,” said the synagogue’s rabbi, Motl Malowany.

Jewish immigration to Sao Paulo formally began at the end of the 19th century, but an organized community started in 1910 with immigrants from Eastern Europe including Russia, Poland, Romania, Lithuania and others, followed shortly after by those from Lebanon and Syria. The city’s first synagogue, the Kahalat Israel, was founded in 1912.


During both World War I and World War II, the Groisse Shil welcomed European immigrants including Holocaust survivors who fled to Brazil. In 1957, a major reconstruction was performed. In 1994, a rabbi was hired to lead the congregation after 30 years without a spiritual leader.

Following the movement of Jewish families out of the Bom Retiro neighborhood of Sao Paulo, a new headquarters was established in the Higienopolis neighborhood in 1997. In 2011, the cornerstone of the new Knesset Israel building was laid in a different location in the same heavily Jewish populated neighborhood.

Home to some 60,000 Jews, or half of Brazil’s Jewish community, Sao Paulo has thirty synagogues. The 2,000-family CIP, affiliated with both the Conservative and Reform movements, is considered the largest in Latin America.

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