An important Italian silver Torah crown and pair of Torah finials, assay master Zuanne Premuda, Venice, early 18th century ($400,000–600,000). An important German silver hanging Sabbath lamp, Johann Adam Boller, Frankfurt, circa 1710–20 ($800,000–1,200,000).
SÃO PAULO. - Landing in Brazil I was struck by the beautiful tropical trees amid the sprawling urban landscape of São Paulo and the universal language of graffiti, which enlivens the streets. Fresh papaya and guava at breakfast brought back my South African childhood. Setting out to explore the Jewish community in advance of my lectures about the upcoming , we accompanied my colleague Iris Kaufmann and her husband to Friday night services at Shalom, where the warmth of Rabbi Adrian Gottfried and his inclusive, melodious service reminded us of BJ in NY. He graciously welcomed us and invited everyone to my talk on Monday night.
Exterior of Centro da Cultura Judaica.
Shabbat morning found us at Beit Chabad Itaim, the largest orthodox Ashkenazi shul in São Paulo. A wall of Jerusalem Stone surrounding the Ark, Polish wood floors and modern Brazilian furnishings signify the tri-partite heritage the community wished to enshrine. After lunch, Rabbi Yossi Schildkraut gave us a tour of the building including the children's roof with barbecues down one side for community events, and a beautiful Mikve set in luxurious quarters. In this warm climate, we were told, women have a comfort level with mikve, which is much more widely observed than in America.
Katia Mindlin and the director Yael Steiner at the podium.
On Monday at the Centro da Cultura Judaica we were welcomed by the dynamic executive director Yael Steiner, who runs a full program of Jewish cultural events. They are celebrating their 10th anniversary in this impressive building, shaped like a scroll.
60 people attended my lecture, which told the stories behind some of my favorite objects in the Steinhardt Judaica auction; the Mishneh Torah, the lion-form acquamanile; a reader's desk cover from Mantua, a Shabbat lamp from Germany, a colorful torah binder from Alsace among others. The talk was attended by collectors and art lovers, including the head of the Brazilian friends of the Israel Museum and the new directors of the Jewish Museum of São Paulo now in preparation. Today, on to Rio with Iris and the head of Sotheby's Brazilian office, Katia Mindlin Leite Barbosa.