Sephardic Jews living in northern Brazil's Amazon region have reason to celebrate with the publication of the first Rosh Hashanah machzor (New Year prayer book) which incorporates their unique liturgy and customs.
The machzor will benefit other Portuguese-speaking Sephardic Jewish communities as well as Bnai Anousim (people whose ancestors were compelled to convert to Catholicism at the time of the Inquisition, whom historians refer to as Marranos) throughout Brazil and Portugal.
The machzor, called "Ner Rosh Hashana," was prepared and edited by Rabbi Moyses Elmescany and Cantor David Salgado, and includes the traditional Hebrew text of the Jewish New Year prayer services, together with both a transliteration and translation into Portuguese.
It was published with the support and assistance of Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based group that assists small Jewish communities as well as "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people.
"This Machzor is really the first of its kind," said Salgado, who moved to Israel from northern Brazil together with his wife and children. "It will enable Portuguese-speaking Jews who use the Sephardic rite to better recite and understand the meaning and significance of the New Year prayers."
Salgado noted that the machzor reflects the texts and customs used by Moroccan Jewish communities, but with a special twist.
"This rite is the one that was brought to Brazil's Amazon region by the first Moroccan Jewish immigrants, who arrived there nearly two centuries ago," he said. "And until today, Brazil's Jews of the Amazon are still using the same rite and following the same customs as they were practiced in Morocco in the 19th century."
"We are happy to facilitate the publication of this special machzor for Rosh Hashanah," said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund, adding, "We hope that it will help to preserve the unique Jewish practices and rituals of Brazil's Amazon area, as well as strengthen Portuguese-speaking Jewish communities worldwide."
In its initial run, the machzor was published primarily for the use of the Jewish communities of Belem and Manaus in Brazil, which are home to 450 families and 220 families respectively. But Freund said that other Portuguese-speaking Sephardic communities will benefit from it as well.