RECIFE, Brazil, Oct. 23 (JTA) The opening of a Jewish center on the site of a 17th-century synagogue in Brazil has been indefinitely postponed after Brazil’s president refused to attend a dedication ceremony because he feared a possible terrorist attack.
The center in the city of Recife, where the Zur Israel Synagogue once stood, is slated to host public lectures and an exhibit on Jewish immigration to Brazil.
Jewish leaders were disappointed by the decision made by Fernando Henrique Cardoso and his vice president, Marco Maciel, which came days before Sunday’s ceremony was scheduled to take place.
“All the invitations for the inauguration were already sent out. We had to cancel it over the phone,” said Bernardo Schvartz, an engineer who oversaw the renovation.
The impetus for the Jewish center, which is part of a neighborhood redevelopment project, came after remains of the synagogue’s mikvah were found.
The second floor of the center, which is furnished with newly crafted period furniture, was rebuilt according to the synagogue’s original specifications
Approximately 1,500 Jews live in Recife, which has two other functioning synagogues.
The synagogue was used between 1641 and 1654, when it served many in the Brazilian Jewish community.
After that time, the building housed Catholic institutions.
Much of the community fled in 1654 for the American colonies after the Portuguese ended Dutch rule in Brazil and told both Dutch and Jews to leave.
The center was funded by the Brazilian government, the city of Recife and the Joseph Safra Foundation.