RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Shimon Peres told Brazilian Jews in Sao Paulo that "Nothing is left of those who tried to destroy Israel in the past."
Brazilian Jews held receptions to welcome Peres to their country in the first visit by an Israeli president in 40 years.
In Sao Paulo, some 2,000 people attended a ceremony at the Hebraica Club, the major meeting point for the city’s 60,000-member Jewish community.
The Nov. 12 event was filled with music and dance, including performances by a samba dance school and an Israeli folk dance group. The institution is considered to be the largest Jewish club in the world.
Speaking in Hebrew, Peres praised the interreligious coexistence in Brazil.
Later, referring to Iran’s president, he said that "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad preaches a message of war, hatred and threat. And now he is a great historian by denying the Holocaust. He doesn’t tell the truth and doesn’t bring a message for the future. One who doesn’t bring messages for the future won’t have any future."
Claudio Lottenberg, president of the Brazilian Israelite Confederation, the country’s umbrella Jewish institution, called Peres "one of the most important characters in the history of the Jewish people and of Israel in particular."
The following day in Rio de Janeiro, which has Brazil’s second largest Jewish community with some 40,000 Jews, the community held a welcoming event at a plush hotel facing the renowned Copacabana beach.
"President Peres is an icon of the humanism and the philosophy of the true worker’s socialism," Israel’s honorary consul in Rio, Osias Wurman, told JTA. "He will be able to influence future Brazilian diplomatic initiatives toward respect for Holocaust remembrance and the right of the Jewish state to exist within safe borders."
Peres’ weeklong agenda in Brazil included a meeting with President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva. Peres also gave a historic speech in the Brazilian Congress and was granted the title of honorary citizen of Brasilia, Brazil’s capital.