In response to the "Decree of Expulsion" of King Manuel I of Portugal,
many "New Christians," Jews who outwardly followed Catholic traditions
while inwardly they maintained their Jewish religion, rituals,
tradition, and culture, left Portugal. Some, after a stay in the
Netherlands, immigrated to Recife, Brazil. After the Dutch gained
control of Recife in 1630 the synagogue, Kahal Zur Israel,
under the leadership of Isaac Aboab da Fonseca as rabbi, was founded
and flourished between 1636 and 1654 when the Portuguese regained
control of the town.
Religious toleration ended and both the Dutch and Jews
left. Many Jews returned to Amsterdam; some fled to the interior of
Brazil. A group of 23 sailed for New Amsterdam where they founded
Shearith Israel Synagogue, the first Synagogue in North
The existence of Kahal Zur Israel was
rediscovered and excavations began in 2000. The present small Jewish
community plans to reconstruct the synagogue and turn it into a museum
and Jewish cultural center.
The stamp was issued by Brazil in 2001 to commemorate
Kahal Zur Israel. The map, Nova et Accurata
Brasiliae totius Tabula by Jan Blaeu, ca. 1662, forms the
background, with a red dotted line indicating the arrival of Dutch
Jews in Recife, and their departure to New Amsterdam. The ship (a caravel)
and the flag are both Dutch.