The second chapter provides historical background through the lens of the present, making use of ethnographic vignettes as windows into the historical origins of the community. Intersecting trajectories find Jews of many origins sharing communal institutions in this South American city. More than a mere backdrop, the city itself is one of the strands of identity. The way the community occupies the city and interprets its place within it (i.e., as a shtetl within the city) is key to understanding the specific ways that Jews in São Paulo manage the many sources of their identity. This chapter also sets the scene for an exploration of the internal dynamics of the community and the role played by the community on the national stage.
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