Religion & Jewish Life | World

McDonald’s public menorah is Hanukkah symbol in Brazilian Amazon

MANAUS, Brazil (JTA) — A large menorah at a McDonald’s branch has become the only Hanukkah symbol in the streets of Brazil’s largest city in the Amazon region.

In a first, the 7-foot-tall, nine-branched candelabrum made of iron in the front yard of the Jewish-owned fast-food restaurant has become a picture spot for passersby at a major avenue in Manaus.

“We work hard to keep Judaism present, active and inspiring here in the Amazon,” Rio-born Sergio Band told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “We are proud to be Jews in the Amazon.”

Despite Christmas decorations throughout the city, it was the unprecedented Jewish symbol that drew massive attention, also on social media channels.

“It’s important for the local population to note the Jewish community that is part of them, with different customs and parties,” said Benjamin Benchimol, president of the Amazon Israelite Committee, as the local Jewish federation is known.

A candle-lighting ceremony of a second menorah will be held at a local mall next week to mark the eighth day of the Jewish festival.

“We are always seeking integration with the larger society. The evangelical community looks to the chanukiyah as a symbol of theirs, too,” said Band, who also is an organizer of the mall menorah.

Manaus is Brazil’s seventh-largest city with some 2.2 million people. Built in the heart of the jungle, it was once the center of the world rubber trade and a vibrant cultural center that boasted an opera house rivaling the best in Europe.

Home to an 800-strong mostly Sephardic community, the Jewish presence in Manaus goes back more than 200 years with immigrants from Morocco.