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A Special Siddur for Brazil's Jews of the Amazon


 Staff, Shavei Israel, September 8, 2006
Sephardic Jews residing in Brazil's Amazon region have reason to celebrate with the publication of the first Sabbath Siddur (prayer-book) which incorporates their unique liturgy and customs.

The Siddur will benefit other Portuguese-speaking Sephardic Jewish communities as well.

The Siddur, called "Ner Shabbat", was prepared and edited by Rabbi Moyses Elmescany and Chazan (Cantor) David Salgado, and includes the traditional Hebrew text of the Sabbath prayer services, together with both a transliteration and translation into Portuguese.

It was published with the support and assistance of Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based group that assists small Jewish communities, as well as "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people.

"This Siddur is really the first of its kind," said Salgado, who recently made aliyah from northern Brazil together with his wife and children. "It will enable Portuguese-speaking Jews who use Nusach Sepharadi (the Sephardic rite) to better recite and understand the meaning and significance of the Sabbath prayers."

Salgado noted that the Siddur reflects the texts and customs used by Moroccan Jewish communities, but with a special twist.

"This Nusach is the one that was brought to Brazil 's Amazon region by the first Moroccan Jewish immigrants, who arrived there nearly two centuries ago," he said. "And until today, Brazil 's Jews of the Amazon are still using the same rite and following the same customs as they were practiced in Morocco in the 19th century."

"We were happy to partner with Rabbi Elmescany and Chazan Salgado to facilitate the publication of this Siddur," said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund, adding, "We hope that it will help to preserve the unique Jewish practices and rituals of Brazil 's Amazon area, as well as strengthen Portuguese-speaking Jewish communities worldwide."

In its initial run, the Siddur was published primarily for the use of the Jewish communities of Belem and Manaus in Brazil , which are home to 450 families and 220 families respectively. But the Jewish community of Lisbon , Portugal , recently ordered 100 copies of the Siddur for use in their congregation, and both Freund and Salgado say they hope that other Portuguese-speaking Sephardic communities will benefit from it as well.

Keywords: Brazil, Global Jews, Global Judaism, Sephardi, Passover