Kosher Feijoada and Other Paradoxes of Jewish Life in São Paulo

Kosher Feijoada and Other Paradoxes of Jewish Life in São Paulo

Kosher Feijoada and Other Paradoxes of Jewish Life in São Paulo

Kosher Feijoada and Other Paradoxes of Jewish Life in São Paulo


"The special strength of this book, aside from its lyrical writing, is that the author effortlessly blends the meaning of being Jewish in Brazil with that country's much noted racial and cultural tolerance and shows how Jewish identity is impacted by Brazilian concepts of race and ethnicity. It is a delight to read."--Maxine Margolis, University of Florida

"A fascinating ethnography of contemporary life among middle- and upper-middle class Jews in Sao Paulo, Brazil, one of the world's largest cities. Although representing a tiny fraction of Brazil's multicultural population, the Jewish community consciously creates and carefully maintains a tightly organized, lively haven in a chaotic urban center, while also embracing much of Brazil's national culture."--Robin Sheriff, University of New Hampshire

Being Jewish in Brazil--the world's largest Catholic country--is fraught with paradoxes, and living in Sao Paulo only amplifies these vivid contradictions. The metropolis is home to Jews from over 60 countries of origin, and to the Hebraica, the world's largest Jewish athletic and social club.

Jewish identity is rooted in layered experiences of historical and contemporary dispersal and border crossings. Brazil is famously tolerant of difference but less understanding of longings for elsewhere. Celebrating both Carnival and the High Holidays is but one example of how Jews in Sao Paulo hold themselves together as a community in the face of the forces of assimilation.

Misha Klein's fascinating ethnography reveals the complex intertwining of Jewish and Brazilian life and identity.


I have often been met with surprise or even utter astonishment upon telling people that I conduct research on Jews in Brazil. Though hardly a small population when compared with the tiny Jewish communities that are scattered about the globe, it seems as if the idea of Jews in Brazil—a country known for deeply held and celebratory Catholicism, for indigenous cultural and environmental resistance, for Afro-Brazilian religion and art, for entrenched poverty—contradicts these more familiar ways of knowing this continent-sized nation. While there are certainly contradictions inherent in being Jewish and Brazilian, I have found that Jewish Brazilians provide an intriguing window onto Brazil, a way of understanding the center from the margins, a way of examining the complex intersection between nation, race, ethnicity, and class. Considering the experiences of Jews in Brazil is also, of course, a fascinating way of thinking about the cultural construction of Jewishness, of the practices and meaning associated with being Jewish as it is lived and understood in a particular historical and cultural context, in this case, the metropolis of São Paulo at the turn of the twenty-first century.

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