Non-Jewish Brazilian governor asks rabbi to blow shofar at inauguration

Wilson Witzel, a non-Jewish ardent supporter of Israel, took office surrounded by several members of the local Jewish community at a ceremony held Wednesday in Rio’s Legislative Assembly.

By MARCUS GILBAN/JTA
January 3, 2019 14:45
1 minute read.
Non-Jewish Brazilian governor asks rabbi to blow shofar at inauguration

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish pilgrim blows a shofar, near the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov during the celebration of Rosh Hashanah holiday, the Jewish New Year, in Uman, Ukraine, September 21, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — The non-Jewish governor of a Brazilian state was inaugurated Wednesday with the sounds of a shofar blown by a rabbi.

The shofar “represent(s) the call for freedom, to bring good vibes and positive energies to the new government,” according to organizers of the inauguration in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Wilson Witzel, a non-Jewish ardent supporter of Israel, took office surrounded by several members of the local Jewish community at a ceremony at Rio’s Legislative Assembly.

On Sunday, Witzel and his wife escorted Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Sugarloaf Mountain during his five-day visit to Brazil, the first-ever by a sitting Israeli prime minister.

“One of the most touching moments during my campaign was when I heard the shofar at the Beit Lubavitch synagogue. It gave me the strength I needed to carry on,” Witzel told reporters.


Witzel, 50, is a right-wing politician who is affiliated with the Social Christian Party. Elected in October for a four-year term, he has pledged to fight against corruption and to clean up politics, language that is aligned with President Jair Bolsonaro, his political godfather.

Last month, Witzel spent a week in Israel to learn anti-terrorism techniques than can be deployed against urban violence in his home state.

“We have very similar situations. Our policemen will come to Israel to get familiar with the patrolling techniques in conflict areas, checkpoints and borders,” he said.

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