Founder of Ticún Brasil/תיקון ברזיל https://ticunbrasil.com/
Why would a poor Jewish spirit want to possess someone in Brazil, with its heat and inflation? Since 2012, cultural anthropologist Alex Minkin (Federal University of Sergipe, Brazil) has conducted field research of Afro-Brazilian religions, including interviews with leading Brazilian and Jewish religious leaders, scholars, and practitioners in order to answer this question.
Jewish spirits have their particular place in Umbanda mythology: Jewish rebels refuse the oppression of dominant religions, rabbis invoke mystical forces of Kabbalah, and Polish-Jewish prostitutes offer advice on love affairs. Each of these characters can be traced to a specific wave of Jewish immigration to Brazil: from Portuguese Crypto Jews of the 16th and 17th centuries and Moroccan Jewish Amazon rubber boom workers of the late 19th century, to Eastern European immigrants of the 20th century. While the number of Jewish spirits in Umbanda and Spiritism is relatively small, their histories offer a unique channel to an understanding of Brazilian mysticism and the society’s attitude to the Jews.
In addition to exploring the reasons why non-Jewish practitioners chose to embody Jewish spirits, the presentation will also address the phenomenon of Jewish followers of Umbanda. On the one hand, syncretism of Umbanda is using Jewish characters, symbols and Hermetic Qabalah to explain its metaphysical experiences. On the other hand, Jews while assimilating into Brazilian society, infuse Brazilian mysticism into their religious lives. The therapeutic effect that such practices can offer Jews to confront traumas of discrimination and religious intolerance will be considered.
The presentation will share field studies that exemplify a spiritual dialogue between Jewish and Brazilian cultures, including Umbanda ceremonies with Jewish spirits and interviews with mediums. The lecture will present the stories of practitioners who channel Jewish spirits in a multimedia format, reflecting the mystery of these experiences and their groundedness in history and myth.