The first colony in Brazil, with an area of 4,472 hectares, was Philippson, in the region of Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul, in 1904, consisting of 37 families (267 persons) from Bessarabia.Through the Jewish Colonization Association and by means of agreements with the state government, hundreds of immigrants from Eastern Europe settled in agricultural colonies, following the example of similar colonies established in Argentina from 1893. The first Jewish school in Brazil was founded in Philippson in 1906, where the official curriculum was taught. In 1908, the colony had 299 inhabitants.
The Jewish Colonization Association (in ídish ICA) was a philanthropic association created by Baron Hirsch to facilitate the mass emigration of Jews from Russia and other Eastern European countries to farm on land colonies supported by the Association, especially in Argentina, Brazil and Canada. It was founded on September 11, 1891.
The first brazilian colony was named after the Director of the Compagnie
Auxiliaire de Chemins de Fer au Brésil, Franz Philippson, Belgian Jewish banker and
chairman of the Jewish Colonization Assoiation at the time. There
the JCA set up an office, housed in a former mansion, where the administrator lived and worked.
JCA would pay the travel expenses and gave to each settler a lot of
25-30 hectares of land, field and forest, a dwelling house for each family in
their respective lands, tools for agricultural work, an oxen, two cows, a wagon and a horse. The
settler was to repay that amount within 10 to 15 years (plus modest interest) in
accordance with the needs of the families.
It was then, however, granted a partial or total reduction in payment of annual installments, where drought or locusts seriously adverse impact on their crops. Expenditure on administration, schools, utilities were built by the JCA without any charge on account of the settlers.
The meager chances of economic success in the settlement, contrasted with the prospect of more comfortable livelihoods as peddlers or artisans in Santa Maria soon led to the settlement's disintegration. In August 1926 the director of ICA in Buenos Aires reported that of the 122 families who settled in Philippson at various periods, only 17 remained. In the 1920s the majority of the colonists moved to Porto Alegre and other cities in the hinterland of Rio Grande do Sul, such as Erebango, Pelotas, Cruz Alta, Passo Fundo, Santa Maria, and Erechim, establishing communities in each one of these cities.
Today remain from Colonia Philippson the Jewish Monument and its cemetery (declared a National Historic site in 1994), where are buried the pioneers who arrived from Bessarabia. It is known today as Itaara. In Santa Maria, 14 kilometers far from Itaara, there is the Yitzhak Rabin Synagogue. The foundation stone of the synagogue in Santa Maria, was launched in 1926. In 1997, the synagogue has undergone a restoration. Tourists visiting the city of Itaara to know the history of the Philippson colony, stay in the county, in hostels located close to nature, to a large green and quiet area.