PHOTO: With Heidi, in Beth Yaacov-Rabi Meyr Synagogue, Manaus, Brazil, January 1988.
About HaChayim HaYehudim Jewish Photo Library
In the autumn of 1987, I read an article about the Jewish community of Manaus, Brazil. A synagogue in the Amazon struck me as most unexpected. The story intrigued me enough to add a visit there to my South American travel itinerary during my year-end university recess.
My close friend, Heidi, and I managed to find the synagogue and a few members of the community. Later, I published “One Man’s Fight to Keep Judaism Alive in the Amazon” in the The Jewish Telegraph in the UK. Neither the text nor the photographs were well polished but I was thrilled to have documented for myself the Amazonian community I had been introduced to in a newspaper in Washington, D.C.
Those experiences unwittingly sparked a commitment to visiting and photographing Jewish communities of the world that continues to this day (please see Mission).
Perhaps my biggest discovery of all is this: While each Jewish community is unique, all are bound by common threads of cultural identity. Hence, a visit to a Jewish community in even the most unexpected places like Manaus is somehow familiar. With few exceptions, I have been warmly welcomed by these communities, even when I arrived unannounced. Such welcomes are testament to the ties that bind Jews the world over together.
It is a privilege to have a sense of belonging in places where I am otherwise a mere stranger. The remarkable people that I have met along the way have made that possible. They have generously given me their time, secured access to synagogues, cemeteries, and museums, guided me round their towns and villages, and fed me in their homes.
I am grateful to each and every community for their trust and permission to photograph. It is an honor to share their world with the world. To them, I dedicate my Jewish photo library, HaChayim HaYehudim (Hebrew for “The Life of the Jewish People”).
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