Brazilian Jewish Farming Communities


Entrance to the Quatro Irmaos Farming Community Cemetery

This post contains a short history of the Brazilian communities and some references. Baron Hirsch established the Jewish Colonization Agency (JCA) in 1891 to “to assist and promote the emigration of Jews from any part of Europe or Asia… and to form and establish colonies in various parts of North and South America ….”. And during his lifetime the Agency supported farming communities for Eastern European Jewish immigrants in Argentina and Canada.

But after the Baron’s death in 1896, the new directors of the JCA decided to establish additional communiities in the extreme South of Brazil, near the city of Santa Maria in the State of Rio Grande do Sul. These communities were not successful and it is thought that the new directors of the JCA had commercial as well as philanthropic interests in mind. Many of the JCA Board members were involved in railroad construction in Brazil and the Brazilian government paid the new railroad companies for each immigrant it settled near the new railroad lines.

Within twenty years, almost all of the few thousand immigrants who came to settle in these Brazilian communities had moved to urban areas. And even though the communities themselves were not successful, the immigrants were. Today their descendants are top professionals and business people.

The first JCA community in Brazil was Philippson, founded in 1904. The other major community was Quatro Irmaos, founded in 1912.

For more information, see below.

Jewish agricultural settlement in Brazil by Nachman Fabel of the University of Sao Paulo

The Official history of the Jewish Colonization Agency, An Outstretched Arm.

Jewish Colonization in Rio Grande Do Sul, 1904-1925,  by the foremost U.S. authority on these communities,  Jeff Lesser, of Emory University.  This book was published in 1991 and is out of date but is available at the Library of Congress, the NY Public Library and many university libraries. It was published in English by Centro de Estudos de Demografia Historica da America Latina, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciencias Humanas.

I can also offer a long list of resources in Portuguese. Just send me a request through the comment process.



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