Rio De Janeiro (Jan. 6)
A Catholic convert to Judaism has accused the Brazilian authorities of discrimination against the Jewish religion and has taken his case to court.
Francisco Correa Netto, 48, a professor of geography and social science at a public college, filed suit for recovery of sums deducted from his salary because he missed 11 days of classes in observance of Jewish holidays last year. He has charged that this was a violation of Brazil’s Constitution and demanded equality for the Jewish faith. He said he expects to win his claim and would thereby set a precedent for all non-Catholic religions in the country.
The Brazilian Constitution separates church and state. But Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion in the country and its holidays are obligatory rest days. Jewish students at public schools and colleges and Jewish civil servants are also given days off on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. However, that is not an automatic privilege. It must be requested each year by local rabbis or representatives of Jewish organizations. Occasionally, such requests have been denied and Jewish students and public servants were penalized for taking off the holidays.
Netto and his wife describe themselves as non-practicing Catholics before they converted to Judaism 15 years ago because they were looking for “something more spiritual.” Netto adopted the Hebrew name, Abraham Ben Abraham.