Oldest synagogue in Americas draws tourists to Brazil

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Flanked by bustling cafes in downtown Recife on Brazil's northeastern coast is a little-known treasure of Jewish history in the New World -- the oldest synagogue in the Americas.

Sephardic Jews built the two-story Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue before 1641 -- most likely in 1636 -- when they enjoyed religious freedom under the Dutch, who ruled part of the northeast region from 1630 to 1654 to control sugar production.

The Mikve Israel Congregation in Curacao, a Dutch Antilles island in the Carribean, was considered by some to have been the first congregation in the Americas. But it was founded only in 1651, also by Sephardic Jews from Holland.

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