The Moroccan girls lured into Brazilian prostitution

With thanks: Michelle

Earlier this year, in  a Harif Lockdown Lecture about the Jews of the Amazon, Dr Saul Zadka  shocked listeners with tales of a massive prostitution racket run by a crime syndicate named after a Polish Jew called  Zvi Migdal. At the turn of the  century, Migdal lured Jewish girls from the synagogues and shtetls in eastern Europe to South America with the promise of Jewish husbands. But the girls were forced into offering sexual services to the large population of single male fortune -seekers in Argentina and Brazil. Migdal ran 431 brothels in Rio alone.

Descendants of Moroccan Jews in the Amazon celebrate Shabbat

Evidence has now emerged that the girls were not all Ashkenazi.  A resident of Carlsbad , California, Solange Aderholdt, contacted Soly Anidjar, who collects information about Jews from Morocco, to tell her tale of woe.

Solange was born in Tangier as Solange Hazan. In 1920, her aunt Messody Sicsu, from a respectable family, set off in a steamer ship with her brother Jose for Amazonia to meet her intended  Polish-Jewish husband who was already settled in Brazil. It was all the rage at the time : Moroccan Jews were leaving Tangier and Arcila to seek a better life from the Amazonian rubber boom. They established a community in Belem and Manaus on the Amazon river. A synagogue still exists in Belem wit a few hundred practising Jews, but many more have assimilated.

As soon as they arrived in Brazil, however, Messody and her brother disappeared. The only thing her family knew was that she was due to travel to Parintin, a remote town in north western Brazil at the mouth of the river Parana do Ramos.

Decades later, Solange learned through a DNA test that Jose had had grandchildren. if he had had grandchildren, Jose must have got married.

As for Messody, one can only assume that she was forced into a prostution ring. According to historian Kaleb Bensaud Bensousan,  who lives in Beersheba, Israel, but has links with his family in the Amazon, many Moroccan Jewish girls became prostitutes.

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