RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — A public square in Rio de Janeiro was named for the late Hasidic leader rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson three decades after the first Chabad center was opened in Brazil’s second-largest city.
Several political and Jewish community leaders attended the Wednesday ceremony to honor the legacy of Schneerson, who led the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement through a period of revival and spread its influence through the establishment of Jewish outreach centers in dozens of cities and countries.
“Every righteous person must be remembered for his deeds. This square eternalizes the memory of a man that left precious teachings for all humankind,” said Rio’s first lady Sylvia Jane Crivella, who spoke on behalf of her husband, Mayor Marcelo Crivella, a pro-Israel Evangelical Christian clergyman.
The square is located in Leblon, Rio’s wealthiest neighborhood, home to hundreds of Jewish families, and the site where the city’s first Chabad center was inaugurated in 1987.
“This is a street in an upscale area, and for some reason it had never been given a name,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Goldman, who suggested the square be named for Schneerson, Chabad-Lubavitch’s leader from 1950 until his death in 1994.
“When my parents fled racism and anti-Semitism in their native [country] and came to Rio in the 1930s, benches at public squares there had messages such as ‘forbidden to dogs and Jews’ written on them,” said Osias Wurman, Israel’s honorary consul in Rio.
“Eighty years after, we are here at a public square in one of Rio’s most beautiful places to inaugurate a square named after the greatest Jewish leader of the recent generation,” added Wurman, who also presided over the Rio Jewish federation for two terms.