segunda-feira, 2 de maio de 2022

Jewish activities in Oporto

 



 


Jewish Community of Oporto, Portugal

- Promoting Jewish life

- Promoting Jewish culture

- Combating antisemitism



INTRODUCTION


JEWISH LIFE
1. Religious Ceremonies
2. Achdut Centres
3. Kashrut Structures
4. Portuguese Jewish School
5. Mikveh for ritual baths
6. Jewish Cemetery of Oporto
7. Tzedakah, Jewish charity


JEWISH CULTURE
1. Holocaust Museum
2. Jewish Museum
3. Historical Films
4. Online Jewish newspapers
5. Centre for Historical Research
6. The Largest Library in Iberia
7. Music


COMBATING ANTISEMITISM
1. School visits to the Synagogue
2. School visits to the Jewish Museum
3. School visits to the Holocaust Museum
4. Training courses for teachers
5. Inter-faith actions with the Catholic Diocese
6. Inter-faith actions with the Muslim Community
7. Antisemitic Observatory


CONCLUSION

 



INTRODUCTION


The European Union wants to see Jewish life flourishing in Europe by 2030. The Old Continent had 9,5 million Jews before the Second World War and today there are slightly more than one million and many are leaving.

In 2012, the Jewish Community of Oporto had a few dozen members. The Kadoorie Synagogue seemed to be a ghostly grey building. There were no children, no minyan, no kashrut structures, no cemetery, no functioning mikveh, no school, absolutely nothing but absolute penury.

In 2013, the synagogue was completely refurbished and painted inside and out. It was the venue for large religious ceremonies bringing together Jewish families and renowned rabbis from many countries and continents.

In 2014, the community opened a kosher restaurant and a kosher hotel. Jewish tourism has increased exponentially as has the number of school visits by Portuguese schools, whose students quite involuntarily had many antisemitic prejudices, linking Jews to money, trickery and conspiracy theories.

In 2015, the Portuguese State approved a law aiming to reconnect the country to the Sephardic diaspora. Many families chose Portugal as a destination. More members, new ideas, Jewish religion, Jewish culture, Jewish soul.

Between 2015 and 2022, the work carried out by the Community and the Oporto Rabbinate over the previous years was continued and reinforced. The Jewish Community of Oporto provided a home for Jews from thirty nations.

The community has grown 1000%, constantly celebrates beautiful Tefilot, has Achdut centres, kosher stores and restaurants, a school, a new cemetery, a functioning mikveh, it practices Tzedakah in Portugal and abroad, opened a Holocaust Museum, a Jewish Museum, produced historical films that won international awards, opened a centre for historical research, built the largest Jewish library in the Iberian Peninsula, organised large concerts and even created online Jewish newspapers.

At the same time, the Jewish Community of Oporto has tried to combat antisemitism through positive action. In ten years, the community has been visited by more than 130 thousand school students, at the Kadoorie Synagogue, the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Museum (the Portuguese museum with the largest number of visitors in 2021), organised training courses for teachers, signed cooperation protocols of international scope with the Catholic Diocese and the Muslim Community, and created an observatory to monitor the evolution of antisemitism in Portuguese society.

 

JEWISH LIFE

 

1. Religious Ceremonies

Led by the Oporto Rabbinate, recognised by the Grand Rabbinate of Israel, the Jewish community of Oporto today holds large-scale religious ceremonies in the presence of hundreds of members from thirty countries and gathers around the same table all standards and degrees of observance of Judaism.

These ceremonies include not only traditional Shabbat and Yom Tov services, but also many Jewish festive occasions, marriages, bar mitzvah, Brith milah and others.




2. Achdut Centres

The Community strives to welcome foreign Jewish students enrolled at the universities of Oporto, including them in community activities and creating meeting centres for them. It is a way of promoting Jewish life among those whose families live far away. With the Achdut Centres of the Jewish Community of Oporto, the students feel that they have a home where there are regular Torah lessons, events, and a meeting place. Many Jewish marriages have resulted from this project.




3. Kashrut Structures

Kosher food (in accordance with Jewish law) is essential for the existence of a Jewish community. With groceries, restaurants and even a kosher hotel under its wing, the Jewish community of Oporto has been able to provide the requisite Kashrut structures to resident Jews and visiting Jews.

 



4. Portuguese Jewish School

The Portuguese Jewish School is an initiative of the Jewish community of Oporto that aims to reach all Jewish families living in Portugal.

This is an online project that aims to provide basic courses in Jewish religion, culture, and history.

The Portuguese Jewish School will be directed by Rabbi Eli Rosenfeld, from Chabad Portugal.

 




5. Mikveh for ritual baths

The Jewish community of Oporto has a model mikveh in comfortable, heated facilities, offering every condition to ensure compliance with Jewish law. The mikveh is used not only by women but also by men, particularly before Shabbat and Yom Tov.



 

6. Jewish Cemetery of Oporto

The new Jewish Cemetery of Oporto is a source of pride for the local community. Its name is Isaac Aboab Field of Equality. The name is a reference to Chief Rabbi Isaac Aboab, who lived and died in Oporto following the expulsion of the Jews from Castile.

Five centuries ago, the Jews of Oporto were robbed of all their assets, houses, even their cemetery was destroyed. The new cemetery of the Jewish community is proof that the Jews always regenerate, even in the most unexpected places.



 

7. Tzedakah, Jewish charity

The Jewish community of Oporto is involved in many charitable projects to help the needy, the poor, the elderly, children and the sick. This action takes place inside and outside the Jewish world.

The most important undertaking in the Jewish world is the ''Shabbat Meals from the Diaspora'' project, to provide Shabbat meals to Jewish citizens who currently do not have the resources to prepare their own in Jerusalem, Brooklyn, New Delhi, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Moscow, Barcelona, Ashdod, London, Hamburg, Odessa, Beijing, Sydney and Johannesburg.





JEWISH CULTURE

 

1. Holocaust Museum

The Holocaust Museum of Oporto was created by the Jewish Community of Oporto in partnership with B’nai B’rith International and Holocaust museums around the world.

In 2021, this museum was the most visited museum in Portugal, with around 40,000 visitors. It is run by members of the Jewish community of Oporto whose parents, grandparents and other relatives lost their lives in the Holocaust.

The Museum focuses on the general public, particularly on the young, and invests in teaching, in career training for educators, promoting exhibitions and supporting research.

 



2. Jewish Museum

The Oporto Holocaust Museum was created by the Jewish Community of Oporto in partnership with B’nai B’rith International. In his inaugural speech, the president of this Jewish organisation said: “This Jewish Museum will mark the awakening of Jewish life in Portugal and serve as a beacon for the rest of Europe, now darkened by resurging antisemitism”.

The museum is located on Rua de Guerra Junqueiro opposite the synagogue. It tells the story of the Jewish community in the city of Oporto, a history of over a thousand years, with its many joys and sorrows, the expulsion and the Inquisition, and the return of the Jews to Portugal after the Inquisition.

 



3. Historical Films

To honour its thousand-year old history in the city of Oporto, the community produced a series of films to highlight the important Jewish presence here. The film scripts were first shown to the Bishop of Oporto. The films have received international awards in more than fifty countries and have received praise from Pope Francis, who was delighted to hear of the close relationship between the Jewish and Catholic communities of Oporto.

 



"The Light of Judah"

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/thelightofjudah

It is a historical documentary covering centuries of the history of the Jewish community of Oporto from the Middle Ages to the Inquisition, from modernity to the present day.


"1618"

https://www.israelifilms.co.il/catalogue/1618

It is the 17 century, and as the Inquisition continues to persecute the Portuguese Jews, it sends Visitador Sebastião Noronha to Oporto. The entire population was exhorted to denounce heresies under pain of excommunication. Friction between Porto’s judicial authorities, which had always been on good terms with the New Christians, and the inquisitorial visitation reached such a point that guards on horseback surrounded the ecclesiastical court, preventing the “heretics” in custody from being transported to Coimbra.


“Sefarad”

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/sefarad/365606704

- https://vimeo.com/ondemand/sefarad

It is a film that reveals the existence in Portugal of Marranos right in the middle of the 20th century. They were neither Jews nor Christians but both at one and the same time, living outside the mainstream of both religions.


"The Nun’s Kaddish"

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/thenunskaddish

It is a short film that portrays a true story of inter-religious kindness when a Nun observes a Jewish ritual, raising the spirituality of the two faiths towards a higher feeling of universal brotherhood.


4. Online Jewish Newspapers

The newspaper Mazal News is an initiative of the Jewish community of Oporto to share inspiring actions, based on kindness, solidarity and love, and that encourage the construction of a more just and positive world.

The Portuguese Jewish News is a newspaper of the Jewish community for the Jewish community, sharing news, reportage, opinions and reviews regarding the Jewish community in Portugal.



 

5. Centre for Historical Research

The Centre for Historical Research of the Jewish Community of Oporto seeks to reconstruct the entire history of the community to the present day.

It is responsible for the production of written and audio-visual content on the history of the Jewish community in Oporto.

The Centre is composed of members of the Jewish community, historians, museologists and diverse personalities.

 



6. The Largest Library in Iberia

Oporto synagogue today has most impressive Jewish library in Europe. The three rooms of the library, which are used for Beit Midrash, include books on Jewish law, books on Jewish history, books on Jewish culture and on many other subjects. The principal languages of the thousands of books in the library are Hebrew, French, Portuguese, English and Spanish.

 



7. Music

In the wake of a concert of Ladino music organised by the Jewish community of Oporto at Casa da Música in the presence of more than 1000 guests, other important concerts have been held in other rooms. The Mekor Haim male choir, which sings liturgical music, has performed on the last Friday of each month at the Holocaust Museum of Oporto.




 

COMBATING ANTISEMITISM

  

1. School visits to the Synagogue

Since 2012, the Educational Services of the Jewish Community of Porto have received well over 130,000 visitors, the overwhelming majority of which are young people attending school on study visits promoted by public and private education institutions, from primary school to higher education. This was the biggest and most fruitful national project to combat antisemitism and to promote Jewish history and culture.




2. School visits to the Jewish Museum

The visits cover topics as diverse as Jewish religion, culture and history. From the origins of Judaism and the Jewish people, through its diasporas and persecutions, special emphasis has always been given to the relationship between this old, important but minority group of our society and the history of Portugal.



 

3. School visits to the Holocaust Museum

On the day that the Portuguese Foreign Minister visited the Holocaust Museum, he was surprised to see more than one hundred young people at the door, waiting their turn to enter.

At the Holocaust Museum of Oporto, we always conclude that every moment of the hundreds of hours spent exploring, answering questions, creating analogies with realities known to students and teachers, basically, every moment spent educating, was and still is worthwhile.





4. Training courses for teachers

The Jewish community of Oporto organizes training courses for secondary school teachers, which are held at the Kadoorie Synagogue, at the Holocaust Museum and at the Jewish Museum of Oporto. The courses cover many themes relating to Jewish religion and culture as well as the Holocaust. Holocaust survivors and family members of survivors have attended these courses and each teacher has been given a copy of the book: “Os Dez Mitos Contra os Judeus” (Ten Myths against the Jews)



 

5. Inter-faith actions with the Catholic Diocese

The Jewish Community of Oporto has devised a global project involving close cooperation with Oporto Roman Catholic Diocese, with the following activities: social causes, helping children, the elderly and the sick; promotion of the Jewish Museum and the Episcopal Palace Museum; and the production of four films - "The Nun's Kaddish", "Sefarad", "1618" and "The Light of Judah" - covering events that have occurred over the centuries in Portuguese society.

 



6. Inter-faith actions with the Muslim Community

The Jewish Community of Oporto is one of the founding members of a global project that aims to rebuild bridges between Jews and Muslims.

Named after a rabbi who gave his life defending the Prophet Muhammad, the Mukhayriq Initiative celebrates the great moments of historical brotherhood between Muslims and Jews.

The story of Rabbi Mukhayriq shows that Muslims and Jews are not destined to be enemies. The need to discuss this history and source inspiration from it in today’s political context becomes all the more evident.



 

7. Department to Combat Antisemitism

The department to combat antisemitism aims to observe and follow in real time the antisemitic phenomenon on Portuguese territory, choose ways to mitigate or eliminate biases against Jews and Jewish communities, prepare scientific opinions and reports for dissemination and for action by the formal and competent control instances, raising the political forces’ awareness to the need to improve the existing legislation and promote school programmes to combat the “material image” of the Jew (synonymous with foreign, money, business and interest) which has been disseminated in Portugal for centuries, the collective guilt of “the Jews” as a social and religious group and the traditional myths against this people of forced migration.





CONCLUSION


The European Union will certainly manage to promote the return of the Jewish people, their culture and religion. This is more than possible. The Jewish community of Oporto, which until ten years ago was one of the smallest, most insignificant communities in Europe, is today one of the strongest as regards religious life, promotion of Jewish culture, social philanthropy and combating antisemitism.

However, a note of warning. As soon as Jewish communities start making their mark in European territory, the influential antisemites in society will attempt to destroy Jewish life bit by bit, synagogue by synagogue, organisation by organisation, using the same methods once employed in the Soviet Union.

In Lvov, Jarkov, Tshernovitz, Bobruisk, Smolensk and hundreds of other cities in the Soviet Union, the synagogues and communities were not all closed at the same time, but one by one, always in the same way: (i) use of the press and of slanderers to associate synagogues with businesses, (ii) description of such businesses as being amoral or illegal, (iii) negative reactions from some public opinion and straw Jews, and (iv) total destruction of the synagogues' respectability and the Jewish organisations as promoters of Jewish life and Jewish culture.

Ten years ago, Portugal was a paradise, with almost no antisemitism. At the time, the Portuguese Jewish community numbered no more than six hundred people. It was insignificant. Today, as the Jewish community grows in visibility, antisemitism has returned, embroiled in the millenary antisemitic myths of trickery, business and Jewish Freemasonry, in addition to the conspiracy theories based on anonymous tips, such as those in the period prior to the expulsion of the Jews from Portugal in the late fifteenth century and the ensuing Inquisition.

Seeing that history repeats itself, and that today you might find many Jews where there will be none tomorrow, the Jewish Community of Oporto has taken legal measures to ensure that should the Jews ever abandon Portugal, their assets will be given to the Jewish Agency for Israel.