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One Jew in a Million

Brazilian convert describes his journey to Judaism, his friends’ reactions, and his experience as the only Jew in a city of one million.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 8/14/2013, 5:50 PM

(Illustration) Brazilian delegation to the annual "Jerusalem Parade" 2008
(Illustration) Brazilian delegation to the annual "Jerusalem Parade" 2008
Flash 90

Yitzchak Meir Abramowitz is an Israeli Jew living in Jerusalem, who works with children with special needs. However, he spent his first decades of life growing up in a Christian family in the Brazilian city of Sao Luis.

In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Abramowitz spoke about his journey to Judaism, and his latest visit to Brazil.

As a child, he said, he had no connection to Judaism at all. However, as a teenager he learned that many Brazilians are the descendants of “anusim” - Jews from Spain and Portugal who were forced to convert to Catholicism.

“At age 15 I realized that we were originally anusim from Spain… There were many families that kept some of the traditions for years, like putting stones on graves, or lighting candles in secret on Friday night,” he explained, adding, “Over the years, even those traditions were forgotten.”

Yitzchak began learning more and more about Judaism, and began the process of converting to become a Jew. “It was very interesting. At some stage after I finished studying law, I went to Rio, and there I made my first connection with Jews,” he recalled.

“After that I went to Sao Paolo, where there’s a panel of rabbis there that teaches you Judaism. After a year and a half I traveled to Israel and did the conversion.”

While he now lives in Israel, Yitzchak makes sure to visit his family in Brazil every year. “Even though she’s Christian, my mother made me a corner in the kitchen, she bought a new oven and utensils so that I can cook [kosher food],” he related.

His last visit “was a very interesting experience, because in Sao Luis there are no Jews at all. I was the only Jew among one million non-Jews,” Yitzchak said.

However, he said, there was no hostility.

“Everyone really respects me. My friends hear from me what it’s like to be a Jew, and I stay in touch with them from Israel through Skype and over the phone.”