Brazil's Ten Yad Lends a Hand

Article excerpt

IN THE BOM RETIRO working-class neighborhood of Sac Paulo, Brazil, South America's largest city, an inconspicuous little sign in Hebrew and Portuguese stands out from the proliferation of Korean-owned shops along Rua Ribeiro de Lima. The sign welcomes visitors to the Instituicao Beneficente Israelita Ten Yad, a charity that since 1992 has fed, clothed, and offered spiritual hope to thousands of impoverished Brazilian Jews.

During a recent visit to the modest five-story headquarters of Ten Yad--which in Hebrew means "lending a hand"--half a dozen women volunteers were serving hot kosher lunches to about 130 pensioners in their sixties, seventies, and eighties. Across from the cafeteria in another room, Rabbi Yehuda Kanmitzer had just finished giving a lecture on Judaism.

"Our purpose is not only to give food but also to instill spiritual values," says Kanmitzer, a Sao Paulo native who studied at an Orthodox Lubavitch seminary in New York's Crown Heights. "We put tefillin (phylacteries) on people, we give Torah classes in the morning, and we celebrate the holidays."

Therezinha Davidovich, coordinator of Ten Yad, says her organization served over ninety-three thousand hot lunches last year, up from eighty-four hundred in 1992, when the program began. Over 150 people, mostly women, volunteer in twenty different activities within Ten Yad, ranging from helping poor newlyweds get financing for apartments to delivering 135 "meals on wheels" every day to Jews who are either handicapped or have no access to public transportation.

Kamnitzer, above whose desk hangs a portrait of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, says that although the famous New York rabbi was the spiritual inspiration behind Ten Yad, the organization gets no direct assistance from the Lubavitchers, nor does it receive funding from the Brazilian federal or Sao Paulo municipal governments. …


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