A new soup kitchen and community center serving the needs of Sao Paulo’s poor officially opened its doors last week.

The new Ten Yad center, located in an impoverished neighborhood in the heart of the city, features hot meals and a benefits center for thousands of Brazil’s urban poor, including the 8,000 Jews who live below the poverty line.

Rabbi Dovid Weitman said the center hopes to provide the city’s Jewish poor with a chance to live a more full Jewish life. The impoverished, he said, “should not live on the margins of society, but should be empowered to participate socially, and to celebrate their own family life-cycle events in dignity, with pride.”

More than a place for a healthy meal, the new center’s multiple floors provide a space for Jewish learning, recreation and simchas.

“This is truly a happening place where adults and children can hang out in a constructive environment,” Fany Waiswohl, coordinator of volunteer services, said of the new center. She added that in addition to formal programming, the community comes to the facility, which has been in operation for one year, to “watch films, enjoy the library, all in a lively, inviting setting.”

At the Hanukkah-themed dedication held last week, Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin praised the work of Ten Yad and pointed out that the Chabad-sponsored program has made a real impact in the Sao Paulo community, both in the lives of Jewish and non-Jewish poor.

“Since Ten Yad has opened that second soup kitchen a few years ago, it has served some 5 million meals,” said the governor, pointing out that the kitchen, which is non-kosher, serves a large population of second generation Arab immigrants in the area.

“Look who came to feed them,” said the governor, “the Jewish people of Ten Yad.”