79-year-old Brazilian man attends Jewish summer camp
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Age-old bond

79-year-old Brazilian man attends Jewish summer camp

Benedito Araujo de Souza converted to Judaism in 2016 and seized the opportunity to celebrate his identity, regardless of age

Benedito Araujo de Souza, right, arriving at Yeshiva Camp in Aquiraz, Brazil on January 2, 2020. (Synagoga Sem Froteiras)
Benedito Araujo de Souza, right, arriving at Yeshiva Camp in Aquiraz, Brazil on January 2, 2020. (Synagoga Sem Froteiras)

JTA — A Jewish summer camp in Brazil says it has welcomed its oldest participant ever: A 79-year-old man who converted to Judaism in 2016.

Benedito Araujo de Souza, also known as Seu Baruch, traveled about 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) from his home in Belo Jardim to attend the 6th year of Yeshiva Camp, which is taking place in the coastal town of Aquiraz near Fortaleza.

The summer camp, intended for children whose families for centuries had concealed their Jewish ancestry, opened earlier this month to coincide with the summer vacation season in Brazil.

The camp is intended for Bnei Anusim, a Hebrew term for people descended from Jewish families that had been forcibly converted. Each year the camp hosts several dozen participants, mostly teenagers. Baruch’s age is unusual but otherwise he fits the bill – his family immigrated to Brazil from Portugal in the Middle Ages.

Baruch and his partner, Luzia Francisca de Souza, drove for 14 hours to get there. “There aren’t many opportunities to share one’s Jewish identity, so we came,” said Baruch, who will turn 80 in September.

Each participant pays about $30 for a stay of more than a week at Yeshiva Camp. It’s a significant sacrifice for the participants, who often come from poor families, but it covers only a fraction of the cost of the running the camp, said Gilberto Ventura, the rabbi of the Synagoga Sem Fronteiras congregation, who established the camp with his wife Jaqueline.

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