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Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue

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Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue


Basic Information

Location 8° 3′ 40.72″ S, 34° 52′ 16.75″ W
Country Brazil
City Recife
Address Rua do Bom Jesus 197 Recife, Brazil

General Information

Open to visitors yes
Need appointment no
Handicap accessibility no
Website http://www.haaretz.com/news/synagogue-in-brazilian-town-recife-considered-oldest-in-the-americas-1.233058
Geographical Coordinates -8.06135,-34.87133


Kahal Zur Israel (Hebrew: קהל צור ישראל‎, "Rock of Israel") was the first Jewish congregation in the New World. It was established by immigrants from the Netherlands and joined by New Christians who were already living in the colony. There is now a museum on the site, which is the oldest synagogue site in the Americas.

History and time period

From 1636 to 1654, the synagogue functioned on the site of the houses no. 197 and 203 do Bom Jesus Street (formerly Rua dos Judeus, lit. Street of the Jews). It flourished in the mid-1600’s, when the Dutch briefly controlled this part of northeastern Brazil. The original synagogue building survived until the early twentieth century, when it was torn down. The site has been confirmed by an archaeological excavation. In 2001 the decision was made to create a Jewish museum on the site of the old synagogue, as a two story house with two shops located on the first floor. The synagogue served a community of approximately 1,450 Jews. It had a cantor, Josue Velosino, and a rabbi, Isaac Aboab da Fonseca, sent to Recife in 1642.

Present day

The museum, built to resemble the synagogues built in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by Jews from Spain and Portugal, opened in 2001. Today, there are four synagogues in Recife but many Jews choose to celebrate their weddings and Bnei Mitzvah celebrations in the Kahal Zur Israel because of its symbolism. The synagogue is also at the center of a broader cultural renaissance. In November of every year, a Jewish festival offering dance, cinema, and food, from Gefilte fish to fluden, attracts around 20,000 visitors.

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