Brazil governor requests shofar at inauguration

Rio Governor Wilson Witzel made the unusual request, as he considers the ram’s horn a “call for freedom.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Wilson Witzel, the new governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, wanted a shofar (ram’s horn used for Jewish ritual) blown at his Wednesday inauguration, and a rabbi happily agreed to the unusual request, JTA reported Thursday.

The shofar “represent(s) the call for freedom, to bring good vibes and positive energies to the new government,” according to organizers of the swearing-in ceremony.

The trumpet-like sounds helped him during a campaign stop, he said, according to the report.

“One of the most touching moments during my campaign was when I heard the shofar at the Beit Lubavitch synagogue. It gave me the strength I needed to carry on,” Witzel told reporters.

Rio, which has a 30,000-strong Jewish community, mostly in Copacabana, is where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed with his wife Sarah when he first arrived in the country a few days before the parallel inauguration of Witzel’s mentor, President Jair Bolsonaro.

Netanyahu went to Brazil to honor Bolsonaro, who, as an evangelical Christian, is warmly disposed towards Israel and the Jewish people. It was the first-ever visit of an Israeli prime minister to the South American country.

Witzel, also considered a friend of the Jewish state, traveled to Israel in November to learn about a locally made drone that could be equipped with weapons to target drug gangs as well as cameras with facial-recognition technology to aid the police force in their fight against crime.

During his inaugural speech, the new governor repeated campaign promises he had made about cracking down on crime, which plagues his state. He called drug traffickers “narco-terrorists,” vowing that they will “be treated like terrorists.”

The former professor of criminal law and federal judge rode the same anti-corruption wave in the elections that helped Bolsonaro sweep into the presidency.