Nov 11, 2012
Singles Join for Amazon Shabbat
Singles from all over South America and even as far as Miami, New York and Israel traveled to the Amazon, Brazil for a unique Jewish singles event.
The state of the Amazon, Brazil increased its Jewish population by a fifth for three days this past Shabbos, when they made a Jewish singles shabbaton in a hotel in the Amazon rainforest.
The event was organized by Chabad Manaus, and attracted people from across the Brazil and other South American countries (Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay), who flew in for the amazing event. It even drew attention from singles in Miami, New York, and Israel. One person even flew in from Trinidad and Tobago.
The event started on Friday morning with a city tour of the open market and the theater. People were amazed at all the different kosher fish that exist in the Amazon region. Then we went off on an hour boat ride (while making a minyan on the boat) to the five-star hotel that floats on the Amazon River and is surrounded by nature. People were amazed that in the middle of the rainforest such a luxurious hotel could exist. There is an elevator, air conditioning, internet, and all the other amenities that you find in a regular hotel. To the excitement of many a variety of fish were served that cannot be found in other parts of South America. Then a hiking trip was done to get an up-close look at G-dís wonders.
The synagogue was full for Shabbos and the guest lecturers inspired everyone from the start of Shabbat until the end of the event. Rabbi Disraeli Zagury, the Shliach in Belem, Brazil gave a number of lectures and Dvar torahs that inspired the diverse background crowd. Rabbi Yehoshua Forma, the former Shliach to Paraguay and current learning program director of ISEJ in Argenina gave a number of lectures that opened the perspectives of the people to think differently about relationships and Judaism.
Marcelo Preter, a practicing lawyer, was the spark of inspiration and organized several activities while providing much entertainment. Rebbetzin Forma also gave several lectures to the women and learned that one of the women did not yet have a Jewish name. A few hours later, during kriat Hatorah, Natalie was given the name Malka. She was born in Canada and was working in the Canadian consulate when word came to her about the event. It was a chance to see a part of Brazil that she had not known and also be in a Jewish environment. She never imagined that being born in Canada she would get her Jewish name in the middle of the Amazon.
When Shabbos came to a close people prepared to go on the alligator scouting trip. There, they spotted alligators and were able to hold a small one that was caught. However, during Shabbat people saw the huge alligator that hangs around the kitchen just waiting for food. He probably knew that no one would take pictures so he appeared again on Motzei Shabbos.
On Sunday, after all were packed we headed to the last trip "the meeting of the waters." It is a very famous sight, where the two rivers: Rio Negro and Rio Amazonas meet, but do not mix. They are two different colors and yet they do not mix. People were amazed at the amazing wonder of nature.
Rabbi Arieh Raichman, the director of Chabad Manaus said that the idea for such an event started when they realized that their community is very isolated from other Jewish communities. "The closest Jewish community is a two hour flight away," he said. "Even that community has less than a thousand Jews. We had to think of a way of bringing in many singles to Manaus, so that the local members could meet and marry other Jews. That is when the pegisha idea came up. However, in the end everyone got inspired."
All the people were amazed by the event and by the fact that there exists a religious family living in Manaus for the sake of shlichus. They said that they now appreciate much more going back to the big city where they have many synagogues, schools, kosher food, and Jewish friends.