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Brazil is a land of contrasting styles. It is nouveau riche, and at the same time, a country where millions of its citizens live on the proverbial $1 a day. It is also a land where an established Orthodox Jewish community, existing relatively free of anti-Semitism, has taken a defining role, proving that a partnership between religious organizations and the government can make an impact in the country’s war on poverty. It is also a kiddush Hashem in action.
After the Six Day War, forward-thinking, ever-energetic Rav Mordechai Elefant cashed in on his unlikely connection with Moshe Dayan and received possession of a sprawling campus in the Arab neighborhood of Beit Tzafafa. Yeshivas ITRI became a rare phenomenon in the Torah world of those times, and Rav Mordechai left an unknown, unfinished memoir detailing how he built the institution everyone — from Israeli power brokers to US senators — was talking about.
The blizzard was still powerful on Shabbos morning, but our one-room beis medrash in Bayit V’Gan managed to scrape together a minyan as one by one our intrepid daveners trudged into the room, shook themselves off, and opened their siddurim.