Brazilian Israelis launch group to help growing stream of newcomers

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) – Amid growing immigration from Brazil to Israel, Brazilian Jews living in the Jewish state established an organization devoted to facilitating the absorption of the newcomers.

Olim MeBrasil, or Immigrants from Brazil, was registered Tuesday as a nongovernmental association in Israel.

“The idea came with the increase in olim coming from Brazil year after year, and the forecast is that this increase is not temporary and will continue during the upcoming years,” the group’s vice president, Gladis Berezowsky, told JTA. “It’s an NGO by Brazilians for Brazilians.”

Olim is the Hebrew-language word for people who make aliyah, or immigrants to Israel, according to its Law of Return for Jews and their relatives.

The NGO’s main goals are to “improve the absorption of olim in Israel and improve access to information about Israel for all potential olim from all across Brazil,” Berezowsky added.

Brazil has approximately 120,000 Jews. Brazilian Jews were the sixth largest group to make aliyah in 2016 with some 700 olim, according to the Jewish Agency.

Yigal Palmor, the Jewish Agency’s director of public affairs and communications, told JTA that his organization expects a 30 percent increase in aliyah from Brazil this year, to 900 people, though he added that the factors that result in aliyah are too varied to allow for an accurate forecast.

In 2015, nearly 500 olim came from Brazil – nearly double the 2014 tally of 280.

Brazil’s business sector is attempting to weather the country’s worst financial crisis, in which a stagnant economy is buoyed primarily by foreign investments. The country’s currency, the real, has lost about half its value against the dollar since 2011. But political instability, the result of corruption scandals at the highest levels, is scaring off investors.

Brazil has relatively low levels of anti-Semitic incidents. Many members of the country’s Jewish community enroll their children in Jewish schools with intensive Hebrew-language programs and Zionist youth movements.

The newly arrived Brazilian ambassador in Tel Aviv, Paulo Cesar Meira de Vasconcellos, praised the new organization’s goals.

“We welcome all types of groups of Brazilians working to help Brazilians. There are currently 12,000 and more to come. I wish plenty of success and that the organization continues the exceptional work of its founders supporting the engagement of new Brazilians,” he told JTA.

In 2014, the Beit Brasil project was created to support Brazilian immigrants in Israel as well as potential immigrants in Brazil. The 120-member network of Brazilian volunteers spread across the Jewish state is a branch of the Latin American Organization in Israel, or OLEI.

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