Brazilian Jews Lead the Charge against COVID-19
June 9, 2020
According to Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Brazilian Jews are leading the charge to assist Brazilians in distress due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Brazil currently has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world outside the US, numbering 676,494. The death toll is 36,044, surpassing that of Italy.
The high number of cases and deaths are due to the government’s refusal to take the pandemic seriously. Months of morbidity and mortality data was removed from public view on Saturday to attempt to hide Bolsonaro’s mistakes.
The Jewish community has stepped in to help those detrimentally impacted by COVID-19. The Posternak family in Boa Viagem, suburb of the city of Recife, turned their pastries and sweets shop into a soup kitchen. The store’s employees and Jewish friends of the family are cooking and packaging food. They provide 400 meals every week to Recife’s low-income neighborhoods, called favelas. The favelas are in awful condition for a pandemic with overcrowding, no running water, and low levels of sanitation.
Local branches of the Brazilian Jewish community central organization, the Brazilian Israelite Confederation(CONIB), have started tzedakah campaigns to collect funds to assist Brazilians in need and provide protective medical equipment for medical staff.
Government food distribution centers have failed to maintain social distancing. Delivering to homes reduces this exposure. The Jewish population has mobilized to fill this need. Rabbi Ventura’s food distribution initiative was funded by Sao Paulo philanthropist William Jedwab and Silvia Kaminsky.
The Brazilian Jewish community, estimated to number 120,000, has been minimally impacted by the coronavirus with only a handful of deaths.
A majority of Brazilian Jews are Ashkenazi. They are the children of European Jews who fled before and during the Holocaust. Most are well-educated, affluent, and living in nice areas.
Recently there has been a high number of benei anusim returning to Judaism. They are descendents of the Anusim of Portugal who fled during the Portugese Inquisition. Rabbi Venturo is active with this working-class community, who are experiencing the effects of coronavirus far worse than the Ashkenazi community.