Wednesday, March 29, 2023
12 pm-1:15 pm Eastern Time
Following the 1956 Suez War between Egypt and Israel, the Egyptian government unleashed a wave of state antisemitism against the Egyptian Jewish community, including mass arrests, confiscations of businesses and property, loss of employment and citizenship, and expulsions. Due to this persecution, thirty-six thousand Egyptian Jews emigrated during the next five years, approximately four-fifths of Egypt’s total Jewish population. Scholarship on this emigration has mainly focused on Israel, where nearly half of these emigrants resettled, as well as France and the United States, but has largely overlooked Brazil, the main destination of Egyptian Jews after Israel. This presentation will examine Egyptian Jewish immigration to Brazil from 1956 to 1961, exploring the reasons that prompted so many Egyptian Jews to immigrate to this country. Drawing on previously unexamined records in the JDC archives, it will answer two questions. First, why did Brazil break with nearly two decades of antisemitic immigration restrictions, beginning with a secret ban on Jewish immigration first implemented in 1937, to welcome Egyptian Jews en masse? Second, why did so many Egyptian Jews choose to immigrate to Brazil, where they shared neither a common language nor religion, and which had not previously been a site of Egyptian Jewish immigration? In answering these questions, this presentation will contribute to the study of Middle Eastern Jewish immigration to Latin America during the second half of the twentieth century.
Dr. Michael Rom is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. In 2019, he completed a PhD in Latin American History at Yale University. He has also held research fellowships at the Center for Jewish History, the University of Cape Town, and the University of São Paulo. His scholarship has appeared in AJS Perspectives, Jewish Social Studies, and the Jewish Quarterly Review. He is a recipient of the 2022 Nathan and Sarah Chesin/ JDC Archives Fellowship. His research in the JDC Archives examines the immigration of Egyptian Jews to São Paulo, Brazil.