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Daniel Azulay, renowned Brazilian artist and educator, dies of coronavirus at 72

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Daniel Azulay, one of Brazil’s most prominent children’s artists and educators, died March 27 at 72 in Rio de Janeiro. Azulay was being treated for leukemia when he contracted the coronavirus.

Azulay was the creator of “Turma do Lambe-Lambe,” a group of children’s characters that starred in television shows that a generation of Brazilian children grew up watching. More recently, he focused on painting, displaying his work in exhibitions abroad and illustrating a picture book about a Brazilian child who moves to the United States.

Azulay was also deeply connected to Brazil’s Jewish community, which numbers about 100,000. Born in Rio to a Moroccan Jewish family, he was a descendant of the founding members of Rio’s first Sephardic synagogue.

At 21, Azulay was a member of the Brazilian tennis delegation to the Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem, later producing an album of sketches that an iconic Brazilian poet said could facilitate peace between Arabs and Jews.

“Azulay had a unique way to draw, an expression of his Jewish ability to convey art,” Arnon Velmovitsky, president of the Rio Jewish federation, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Azulay offered his art to several Jewish institutions. He created logos for the Brazilian Sephardic Congress and the Israelite Religious Association, Rio’s largest synagogue, also known as ARI.

“He was always available with a big smile that lit up his face,” Diane Kuperman, a former vice president of the Rio Jewish Federation, told JTA. “He was once very active at ARI, especially with the education department, for which he created a very beautiful logo with a lion named Ari.”

Thousands of Brazilians left tributes on Azulay’s official Facebook page late Saturday, many sharing recollections of watching his show or pictures taken with him.

“He was an idol for countless kids like me. … I have kept the letter that he wrote to me in response to the drawings that I sent him,” Deborah Bierig Erlich wrote in Portuguese. She ended her comment in Hebrew with a traditional Jewish expression of mourning: “zichrono livracha,” or “may his memory be a blessing.”