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174 SHOFAR Fall 1996 Vol. 15, No. 1 vast majority ofAlgerianJews, who were French nationals, went to France. By the 1970s the AlgerianJewish communityvinually ceased to exist, while the Moroccan and Tunisian Jewish communities continued to exist but in ever diminishing numbers. Peaceful relations between Morocco and Israel, which have been developing since Laskier wrote his book, may give greater legitimacy to Jews remaining in Morocco, and may even encourage a few to return, but it is unlikely that Moroccan Jews in large numbers will leave their "diaspora" in France, Montreal, and Israel for an uncertain future in their native land. Daniel J. Schroeter Department of History University of California, Irvine Welcoming the Undesirables: Brazil and the Jewish Question, by Jeffrey Lesser. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. 280 pp. $42.00 (c); $18.00 (P). As one of the New World's largest nations developed by immigration, Brazil has promoted the national image of a racial democracy even though racial and ethnic inequalities exist within its borders. Whether this racial democracy represents political veneer or national ideology,Jeffrey Lesser's historical depiction of Jewish immigration to Brazil after World War I questions this image by arguing that many Brazilian intellectuals and diplomats, especially immigration officials, considered Jews neither white nor prestigious Europeans, but instead Semites who somehow constituted a threat to the State's nationalist project ofconsolidation and homogenization . The contradiction implied in the title of Lesser's cogent study aptly characterizes the ambiguous but insidious modern Brazilian position toward Jews in which denial and acceptance coexist in a context imbued with racial overtones. While New Christian Jews have emigrated to Brazil since the early 1500s, becoming assimilated into the larger population throughout the colonial period, modern Brazilian-Jewish immigration, primarily from Eastern Europe, dates from the nineteenth century, particularly the last decades, as well as the first decades of the twentieth, followed by an intensive period prior to and during World War II. Today, considered to be between 120,000 and 150,000, Brazil's Jewish population for the most part is spread over three major communities in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Porto Alegre. Albeit focusing primarily upon the Vargas regime's Book Reviews 175 immigrant policy from 1937 to 1945, when more than 12,000Jews entered despite strong political and legal impediments, Lesser's admirably documented study also provides a broad picture of the Jewish question throughout Brazil's modern period, suggesting that the policies and actions practiced during the dictatorial Vargas Era may serve as a microcosm for understanding Brazil's attitudes toward "others." Herein lies the originality of this exhaustively researched and historiographically sound study-that race in Brazil cannot be separated from questions of ethnicity, language, nationality, and religion as has been done repeatedly in the past. Lesser's book also illustrates how the Brazilian concept of race goes beyond the question of skin color, Brazil's usual argument for distinguishing between United States and Brazilian race relations. In critically assessing Brazilian nationalism via the ethnic lens, Lesser underscores the importance of including ethnicity as a dynamic social and political reality, especially in regard to perception and expectation involving incidences of cultural stereotyping. This approach should give impetus to more ethnic studies in Brazil and the rest of Latin America because it points to how a national image ofethnic purity can be manipulated for promoting nativism and assimilation as well as xenophobia. In this vein, Lesser employs the term "nationalist authoritarianism" to explain the development of Brazil's national policy toward race, from "whitening" to "Brazilianization," and how ethnicity can become a serious racial matter. For example, Brazilian Jews are perceived as racially distinct yet, as a people, possess the advantage of being able to "pass" as whites. On the other hand, their European country of origin did not afford them the prestigious status accorded to other immigrants from the Old World. During the 1930s and 40s, the cultivation of anti-Jewish images and stereotyping in Brazil, often based upon imagined notions of what constitutes a Jew, served as a resource for elites and government figures to devise policy and to manipulate an official discourse that affected Jewish immigration, negatively as well...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 174-176
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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