Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sao Paulo, BrazilGili Yaari/Flash 90

Donations to a Brazilian scholarship campaign to benefit Jewish students collected $3.6 million in two days, nearly three times above the target.

The amount contributed on Oct. 25 and Oct. 26 by 3,056 donors, including Jewish billionaires Joseph Safra and Elie Horn, will assist students from all 15 Jewish schools in São Paulo.

“The fund is much more than financial support. It gives emotional aid and technical preparation so that families and students can actually leave a situation of vulnerability,” Esther Safra Dayan, president of the Beit Yaacov school, told the Tribuna Judaica newspaper.

The Charidy Scholarship Fund aims to provide formal Jewish education for children and young people who face socio-economic vulnerability. Supported by the Sao Paulo Jewish federation and other institutions, it was created in 2016 as an independent entity to centralize managing these scholarships with professionalism and transparency.

In 2017, a total 393 students benefitted and the new campaign intends to assist at least 622 applications, according to fund manager Gabriel Zitune, a member of the four donor families leading the initiative.

The program seeks to place and keep as many children as possible in private Jewish schools, the organizers explained. Less than half of the 12,000 school-aged Jewish youths in São Paulo attend Jewish schools. Some 1,900 Jewish students, or 40 percent of all 4,800 who attend Jewish schools, count on the continuous support to pay the monthly school tuition of up to $1,500 per student.

The granting of scholarships is based on a careful socioeconomic analysis of the families and includes a pedagogical follow-up of the children assisted, as well as support for parents and guardians with programs to train and approach Judaism. The anonymity of both child and family is always preserved.

Sao Paulo is home to half of Brazil’s Jewish community of 120,000. In 2016, a record-high of 700 Brazilian Jews moved to Israel and another 900 are expected in 2017, according to the Jewish Agency. The main reason is quality of life, urban violence and the longtime economic crisis that has squeezed family budgets.