A polemic Shabbat service in Rio de Janeiro will honor Polish Jewish women trafficked to Brazil to work as prostitutes. The “polacas,” or Poles, of the 19th and 20th centuries will be remembered Friday by a group of Conservative Jewish women who will lead the service in a concert room at the Congregacao Judaica do Brasil synagogue. Taken to Brazil from Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the polacas are part of a rarely recalled Brazilian history. They were discriminated against by the Jewish community, so they founded their own synagogue and cemetery. “These women had a major concern to preserve the Jewish traditions,â€ said Rabbi Nilton Bonder of the 440-member Congregacao Judaica do Brasil. â€œDespite all the difficulties, they also created a service for poor and orphan children. “It is a sensitive subject. There has always been fear that it could be used against the Jews by being added to existing stereotypes. I know I’ll have to hear a lot about this ceremony in which we unite the sacred and the profane.”
Coincidentally, the synagogue is located in an area that is still frequented by prostitutes.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.