Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue

Kahal Zur Israel (Hebrew: קהל צור ישראל‎, "Rock of Israel", Portuguese: Sinagoga Kahal Zur Israel), located in Recife, Brazil, was the first Jewish congregation in the New World. It was established by immigrants from the Netherlands and joined by New Christians who were already living in the colony. There is now a museum on this site of the oldest synagogue site in the Americas.


From 1636 to 1654, the synagogue functioned on the site of the houses no. 197 and 203 Rua do Bom Jesus (formerly Rua dos Judeus, lit. 'Street of the Jews'). It flourished in the mid-17th century, when the Dutch briefly controlled this part of northeastern Brazil. The original synagogue building survived until the early 20th century, when it was torn down. The site has been confirmed by an archaeological excavation. In 2001 the decision was made to create a Jewish museum in two story house with two shops located on the first floor then standing on the site of the old synagogue.

The synagogue served a community of approximately 1,450 Jews. It had a cantor, Josue Velosino, and a rabbi, Isaac Aboab da Fonseca, sent to Recife in 1642.

Present day

The museum, built to resemble synagogues built in the 17th and 18th centuries by Jews from Spain and Portugal, opened in 2001. Today, there are four synagogues in Recife but many Jews choose to celebrate their weddings and Bnei Mitzvot celebrations in the Kahal Zur Israel because of its symbolism. The synagogue is also at the center of a broader cultural renaissance. In November of every year, a Jewish festival offering dance, cinema, and food, from gefilte fish to fluden, attracts around 20,000 visitors.