sexta-feira, 9 de fevereiro de 2018

Shabbatonim in Oporto

Shabbaton, 2018

The Jewish Community of Oporto enjoyed a Shabbaton that included a great Hachnasat Sifrei Torah. Well over 300 Jewish people, from all strands of Judaism - Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Haredi, non-religious, young, old, rich, poor - attended the Shabbaton in order to celebrate together a special event and felt a sense of belonging and unity (Achdut) whatever their religious affiliation and Jewish Ethnic origins. It was celebrated the 80th anniversary of the synagogue and the Community held a special Shabbaton to recite the Kaddish in memory of Emil Oppenheim. After the Second World War, Oporto bore witness to the traumatic life of this German refugee, former lawyer and political activist in Germany, who lived out his life working in a modest laundry close to the synagogue. When he died, in 1982, no Jew from Oporto went to the cemetery and the Kaddish (Jewish prayer for the dead) was not recited, although it had been his ardent desire, for the Jewish community in this city was down to its lowest number and nobody heard of his death. Many of those present saying kaddish in memory of Oppenheim were Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origin, who had recently arrived in Portugal. Five centuries after D. Manuel’s edict had led to the mass exile of the Jewish community, a new law promoted the return to this land they had been forced to forsake.
Rav Daniel Litvak (Oporto Rabbi), Rav Yoel Zekri (Oporto Assistant Rabbi), Rav Eli Rosenfeld (Chabad Portugal), Rav Yechiel Wasserman (Sochnut, Israel), Rav David Merkovitch (OLAMI, USA), Rav Menachem Wilansky (Chabad Russia), Rav David Kahan (Mossedot Kevod Hathora, Israel), Rav Zeev Sheinim (Ashdod, Israel), Rav Yassaf Portal (London, UK), Rav Doron Ahiel (London, UK), Raphael Gamzou (Ambassator of Israel in Portugal) and men, women and children of the Jewish Community of Oporto accompanied the short procession. The police presence, in-house guards and security system provided a very safe haven for the attendees of the Shabbaton that also included social events, religious services and delicious meals.
The cultural programme on Friday afternoon started with the screening of a documentary film by Joshua Mendes (New York), A History of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews, which in addition to the very interesting history included beautiful photographs of Sephardic synagogues from all over the world. This was followed by a fascinating and very personal lecture by the British sisters Sue (TV and film producer) and Judith Summers (novelist and historian): From Braganza to Bethnal Green where they traced their family’s journey from 17th Century Portugal to London's East End and explained why they want to reconnect with their roots. The sisters explained how they traced their Da Costa family tree (back to an ancestor who left Braganza in the 17th Century) in order to apply for Portuguese nationality under the new provisions of the Nationality law, and the importance to them of strengthening their historic family tie to Portugal at a time when the UK is severing its close links to the rest of Europe. The cultural portion of the program ended with a visit to the Oporto Jewish Museum on the first floor of the Synagogue.
Rav Litvak was the chazan for minchah of Friday afternoon (picture above) and the religious services of kabbalat shabbat and Arbit were filled with light to hear Sephardic melodies sung by a Minyan of more than one hundred men and in the presence of women and children. At 7:30 pm, after Arbit, the Board of Directors and the Oporto Rabbinate welcomed guests for a sit-down dinner in the Community’s dining halls. Dinner was a very lively affair especially thanks to the large number of Jewish people that now are living in Oporto, with prayers, zemirot and a marvellous atmosphere. The four dinning rooms of the Oporto Synagogue were absolutely alive with the spirit of Shabbat, in the form of song and dance, wonderful food, and inspiring talks delivered by the rabbis and people present.
On Shabbat morning, after Shacharit, a marvellous Kiddush was laid out in the main entrance hall on the ground floor, giving everyone present an opportunity to mingle and get to know one another better. At 1 pm there were Shiurim by the ten rabbis present in English, Spanish, Hebrew, French and Portuguese and lunch was once again served in the Dining Hall, after which rabbis and the members of the community were free to socialize or return to their hotels to rest until Minchah. The festivities concluded after Havdalah.
Everyone present agreed that there was a wonderful atmosphere during the Shabbaton, with new friendships being formed and a renewed vigour infusing the halls of the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue. The President of the Jewish Community of Oporto, Dias Zion made a short speech promising good things for the future: “The Board of Directors and Rabbinate remains committed to work together to ensure prosperity for the Jewish people in Oporto and around the world”, he said.

 Shabbaton, 2017 
On Tu BiShvat 5777 (February 10, 2017) the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue commemorated its 79th Anniversary with a great Shabbaton, a proper Minyan of the Jewish Community of Oporto and families from other countries. The police presence, in-house guards, security system and new fencing provided a very safe haven for the attendees of the Shabbaton that included both social events, religious services and delicious meals. The event produced an excellent atmosphere and spirit.
The President of the Jewish Community of Oporto, Sam Elijah made a short speech about the Shabbaton and the significance of the week portion, welcoming the visitors and thanking the efforts of those who made the event possible. [Picture, 5776] “This Synagogue is now 79 years old. It was built to receive the victims of a Portuguese Edict in 1496. Today they are here: from Turkey, Israel, Morocco, Brazil and England. People are coming to be part of a revolution. This is a miracle and a kiddush Hashem. We must have be thankful to Hashem for bringing us to this great Shabbaton” said Sam Elijah.
The cultural portion of the program began with a visit to the Oporto Jewish Museum on the first floor of the Synagogue, followed by a fascinating lecture by Rudie Cortissos, a well-known Dutch scholar, on the history of the Portuguese Jews in The Netherlands. Rudie, who can trace his Sephardic pedigree back to 16th-century northern Portugal, focused on the trajectory of the Sephardic Community in Amsterdam, and also shared his personal story. A holocaust survivor himself, he lost 63 members of his family but, happily, has grandsons that bear witness and continue the Cortissos name, a Portuguese name.

Next, there was a screening of a documentary film by Rita Ender, "Las Ultimas Palavras". Rita, an attorney in Istambul, shared a unique insight into the relationship that young Turkish Jews have with the Ladino language. Rita also discussed some of the difficulties facing the community in Turkey today.
The religious services of Friday night were performed by the community chazanim and the Synagogue was filled with light to hear Sephardic melodies sung by a Minyan of more than one hundred men and in the presence of women and children.
At 19:30, after Arbit, the Board of Directors and Rabbi Daniel Litvak welcomed guests for a seated dinner in the Community’s dining hall. Completely remodelled, with new kitchen and bathrooms, the dining hall features three large interconnected rooms and terrace for more than 200 people. For three weeks, Rabbi Zekri and Rabbi Litvak managed all of the kashrut preparations. Meals fully satisfied the congregants and there were many fresh and dried fruits to celebrate Tu BiShvat on Oneg Shabbat.

Dinner was a very lively affair due especially to the large number of young people that now make up the community, with prayers, singing and heart-felt speeches by representatives of other communities in Turkish, Portuguese, English, Ladino and Hebrew.
The Kiddush room of the Oporto Synagogue was absolutely alive to the spirit of Shabbat, in the form of song and dance, wonderful food, and inspiring talks delivered by the rabbis and people present, including francophone students supported by OLAMI. Everyone who attended found it a moving experience. "How uplifting it was, in the dining room, to have the rabbis and the men join hands, sing songs that everyone seemed to know, and dance in and out of the doors!" - said a distinguished member of the Oporto Community.
Mr. Refik Habib, father of the representative of the Jewish Community of Oporto in Istambul and a descendant of the last Great Portuguese Rabbi in 1496, said that it is a great joy to have such strong ties between the Turkish community and the Oporto community. The Turkish Community presented the Oporto Community with beautiful gifts as a token of their friendship. It was particularly significant that the Jewish Community of Oporto now counts among its members Sephardic Jews from Turkey who recently acquired Portuguese nationality through the new nationality law that grants a right or return to descendants of Sephardic Jews.
Gabriel Steinhardt, the President of the Jewish Community of Lisbon, expressed a similar sentiment. Recalling how he used to spend time with the few members that there were in the Oporto Community when he was a child, he spoke of his satisfaction with the strong relationship that now exists between the two communities. He said “the Jewish Community of Lisbon cherishes the fraternal bonds of all Jews in Portugal in general and in particular with the Jewish Community of Oporto. We do not have to agree on every single thing but because we are all one People and because anti-Semitism is coming back in Europe, we are compelled to stay together and stand by each other, shevet achim gam yachad and arevim ze laze.”

Saul Menaged, from S. Paulo, Brazil, expressed his admiration for the work that has been achieved in Oporto by the community and spoke about the powerful bond between his community, also called Mekor Haim, and the Oporto Community. “We have come a long way to share the great joy of experiencing the flourishing of a Jewish community – and also to partake of the moment when this sacred community realizes the first fruits of its efforts to help its brothers in other communities in all corners of the world. It is amazing how much this community has grown in so little time; something almost supernatural. The Sephardic communities of Brazil certainly are greatly honoured to participate with some pebbles in the construction of this beautiful and well organized kehilah.”
On Shabbat day, after Shacharit, a marvellous Kiddush was laid out in the main entrance hall on the ground floor, allowing everyone an opportunity to mingle and get to know one another better.
At 12:00 there were some Shiurim by the rabbis on the first floor of the Synagogue. They wove the symbols and meaning of Tu BiShvat into their lectures. The words were truly inspirational, using stories to illustrate that G-d moves in mysterious ways beyond the understanding of man. The congregation was exhorted to be thankful for daily blessings, and to not to forget all of the good when something goes awry.
Rabbi Daniel Litvak spoke of Tu BiShvat and explained how a community that is almost non-existent and in crisis can flourish and be fully renewed in a few years. Rabbi Zeev Sheinin extolled the extraordinary role of women in the Jewish community of Oporto and recalled Parshat Shira, which teaches us how women were able to redeem the people of Israel. Rabbi Doron Ahiel greeted the community leaders and said that it is necessary to recognize miracles when they happen. He said the Synagogue was created for a grand project and now it is indeed part of a grand project.
Lunch was once again served in the Dining Hall, after which visitors and the members of the community were free to socialize or return to their hotels to rest until Minchah. The festivities concluded after Melave Malka. Everyone present agreed that there was a wonderful atmosphere during the Shabbaton, with new friendships being formed and a renewed vigor infusing the halls of the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue.
Dale Jeffries, member of the Board of Directors of Oporto community and its President for the last 4 years, said: “As a musician I know when a performance is complete. This shabbaton was. New Portuguese citizens have much more than the restoration of faith in humanity to celebrate; they are the fruit of our Synagogue returned to the tree of their Portuguese heritage after 5 centuries. I wish to make a toast to the rabbi, the dedicated members of our Board, the community, and conciliatory heart of the Portuguese nation that helped bring our Synagogue to life in the manner that it was conceived, to serve a large active community. Le Chaim!”
With respect to the 79 years of the history of the Synagogue, Michael Rothwell, member of the Board and delegate of the Community for the nationality law, remembered that when the Synagogue was inaugurated, the Community was almost dead and for many decades the beautiful building was used by but a few Jews of various nationalities who lived in Oporto.

The construction of the synagogue began in 1929 and dragged on for almost 10 years. At this interval many sad things happened, the Captain was the target of the process known as "Portuguese Dreyfus" and the community disintegrated. On January 6, 1938 a few days before the official inauguration of the synagogue, The Jewish Chronicle of London published an article in which the author said that it would be better to sell the Synagogue and return the money to the families of the benefactors (Kadoorie, Rothschild and other benefactors who contributed financially to its construction) as the community had only about 15 men (some Russian, German and Poland immigrants and Captain Barros Basto). The number of Jewish members remained very small for about 75 years, according to community records.

In 1961, the great historian Cecil Roth asked "What is to be done with this Synagogue [of Oporto]?" He would be surprised by the answer given by Marilyn Flitterman, one of the community's oldest members, during the Shabbaton: "It is heart-warming to see how important the Synagogue has become since the days I first knew it, 50 years ago. At that time, there were very few people who went there, only my family and a few others. It was a big beautiful building, almost always empty. Now the Synagogue is always full of life and has a new purpose in welcoming the descendants of Jews who fled five centuries ago to other countries. The Mekor Haim Synagogue has fulfilled its destiny and that makes me very happy.”
A current benefactor of the Community from London said that bez'rat Hashem the Jewish Community of Oporto is perhaps the most powerful community of 200 people in the world, in so for as it is a very young community that has helped the Parliament make a fair law for the Sephardic people, gives tzedakah to many countries, has a graveyard and mikvah that are free of charge to members and has the cheapest kashrut in Europe and a splendid Synagogue!”

Shabbaton 2017. 

On March 17, 2017 the city of Oporto hosted the first meeting of the Keren Hayesod women's divisions of Portugal and Spain. The meeting was chaired by the President of the Women's Division of Oporto, Debora Elijah, and the Israeli ambassador, Tzipora Rimon.
The program included conferences, debates and sightseeing and the participants of the meeting celebrated the shabbat at the synagogue of Oporto. In his speech welcoming the visitors of Keren Hayesod, the President of the Jewish Community of Oporto said: "This Jewish Community is a partner of Keren Hayesod in various programmes for Israel. About Shemos 30:13, Rashi comments that Hokodosh Boruch Hu showed Moshe a coin of fire. Noam Elimelech says that there are similarities between money and fire. Fire can give warmth and give light. Money can also build and give help. Fire can destroy. Money can also destroy. Money used properly can help many people and build worthwhile institutions like this great Synagogue. This was built 79 years ago but was almost empty for many decades but now because of the help of many people from many countries has come to life and is flourishing and growing which we have to be thankful for."

Shabbaton, 2016 
January. The Kadoorie Mekor Haim synagogue experienced a great Shabbaton. Well over 250 Jewish people attended, from Oporto, Turkey, England, Morocco, Israel, France, Australia, South Africa, the Netherlands and Brazil,
including Rabbi Isak Haleva (Hachacham Bashi, the Chief Rabbi of Turkey), Rabbi Doron Ahiel (Dayan of the Beit Din of London), Rabbi Eli Rosenfeld (Chabad Lubavitch, Portugal), Rabbi Zeev Sheinin (Nefesh Hahaim, Israel) and Daniel Litvak, the Oporto community rabbi.

The daily afternoon tefillah (minchah) before Shabbat – with a minyan of more than 110 Jewish men – was scheduled for 5:30pm. The religious services of the Shabbaton were held in accordance with Sephardic custom, led by Rabbi Isak Haleva and Rabbi Doron Ahiel.
The chazanim were members of the Community – Isaac BenHaim and Rabbi Yoel Zekri – and Yosef Haleva from Turkey. Parts of tefilot were sung in Ladino, a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish and other languages. It took the Jews from Turkey visiting Portugal to hear singing in Ladino. Indeed it can almost be said that they are more Portuguese than many members of the national Jewish communities.

The event organized by the Oporto Jewish Community and Golders Green families included a great Hachnasat Sefer Torah. Rabbi Doron Ahiel brought the Sefer from London, where he had previously given a speech prior to the writing of its final letters. The Hachnasat in Oporto took place just before the start of Shabbat. A Hachnasat Sefer Torah is the celebration that centers around the welcoming of a scroll to its new home. It is a really big deal. The town skips Tachanun (penitential prayers) that day in celebration.

The community and visitors joined the short procession and attended synagogue. Everyone felt a sense of belonging and unity whatever their religious affiliation and Jewish Ethnic origin. Four Cohen and many other men, women and children accompanied the short Sefer Torah procession. Men danced and sang as the Sefer Torah was carried under a tallit.  Once the Sefer Torah procession arrived at the prayer room of the Synagogue, the Chief Rabbi of Turkey spoke some inspiring words of wisdom appropriate for such an event. He also emphasized his great joy at witnessing the flourishing of the community, the importance of peace between neighbors.
"Everyone should step back a little in their own ideas - he said - to find harmony with each other in the same way that we retreat three steps at the end of the amidah". Before the Arbit of Shabbat, while wearing a kippah, Oporto Mayor Rui Moreira welcomed the Jewish people from other countries and said at the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue: “At a time of rising anti-Semitism across Europe, I want you to know that you are always welcome here, a place whose identity your communities have shaped forever”. Moreira, a descendent of Ashkenazi Jews from Germany who arrived in Portugal in the 20th century, also said: “There is no anti-Semitism in Oporto, and I know this because I was elected Mayor.”

The Seudat of Friday night with more than 200 people seated in attendance took place in a festive and joyous atmosphere. The great hotel dining room was completely full and several community members and Jews from elsewhere were unable to register on time. There was a wonderful ambience to the sound of the most beautiful zmirot. Jews from many nations and different degrees of religious observance were side by side, including the presidents of the Jewish Community of Oporto and the Jewish Community of Lisbon, singing, eating, drinking, and spending time together.

Jacob Safra, a Jewish philanthropist who is member of the Jewish Community of Oporto said “the Oporto Community is an example for many other communities: cohesive growth, sustained by integrating different types of Jews from different countries”.

The Turkish community took the opportunity to honor the Jewish Community of Oporto by offering a magnificent silver gift. Five centuries ago Oporto and the Portuguese territory were the “Judea” of the world. Judea is an adaptation of the name "Judah", which encompassed the Kingdom of Judah.

Shabbat morning, the synagogue was alive with typical Shabbat scenes and sounds.
As the large crowd arrived in small groups and pairs, one could hear the repeated customary "Shabbat Shalom” greeting, the sound of the talit gently wrapping the participants. It was at the same moment a scene from our past, and perhaps a picture of our future. The new Sefer Torah was first used in an atmosphere of extreme religiosity. The Baal Koreh was Rabbi Daniel Litvak, and Rabbi Rosenfeld (Cohen) was the first to take the Torah Aliah. Some Shiurim and study sessions were held by the present Rabbis. The participants learned about the weekly Torah portion from the perspective of the greatest Jewish leaders of our past, many of whom called Portugal their home.

The Shabbaton activities also included a cultural program in the Oporto Jewish Museum, on the first floor of the synagogue. Michael Rothwell spoke about the history of the Jews of Oporto, including the Edict of Expulsion leading to the Portuguese Sephardic Diaspora and the "New Christians", and the establishment by Captain Barros Basto of the modern Jewish Community of Oporto.
“The Oporto synagogue – he said – was inaugurated in 1938, the year of Kristallnacht, when synagogues were being burnt across Germany. Alas, at this point, Barros Bastos’ Redemption project for Portuguese bnei anousim had collapsed, for he was removed from the army after anti-Semitic charges were made against him. There are no longer any bnei anousim in Portugal, but now, 500 years after the expulsion of thousands of Jews, the Oporto Jewish Community is helping many of their descendants to come back. This is yet another Project of Return, of which the Captain and the other founders of the Community would certainly be very proud.” Mrs. Pereira Schogger, born in a small village in Northern Portugal, emigrated at an early age to the UK.
She spoke of her personal experience as a “descendant of Crypto-Jews” who made an orthodox formal return to Judaism in London, now having a Jewish family in Manchester, and her emotional return to pray in the Oporto synagogue in 2015.
On Sunday the celebrations continued. After the shacharit, the Oporto Rabbi, Daniel Litvak talked about the importance of a strong foundation for the fulfillment of the Torah and the development of a community and that everything must be done to ensure it can endure.

"In this way - Litvak said - Judaism practiced in Portugal more than 500 years ago together with the hard work over the last few years has laid the foundation for the development of a thriving community based on the fulfillment of the Torah."

Dale Jeffries, the President of the Jewish Community of Oporto, said “In 1938, in the speech at the opening ceremony of this synagogue, Captain Barros Basto told about the survival of the Jewish people: “This people – he said –, perhaps one of the smallest people in the world, is one of the most noble and elevated. Rich civilizations tried to eliminate them. These civilizations have died and the small people still lives”.

"We are here - Jeffries said - to celebrate the destiny of the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue with the full support of people with great hearts and great wisdom from all over the world. Our bond with the English community, the French community and new bonds with the Turkish community and Sephardic Jews from 40 countries are the start of a new epoque in our city and country. Portugal has started granting citizenship rights to the descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews who demonstrate a traditional connection to a Sephardic Community of Portuguese origin. I think our synagogue is the jewel in this relationship. The Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue is the biggest in the Sefarad and I feel very honored to have served it a number of years. It is centered in one of the nicest parts of Oporto.
This city is one of the nicest cities to live in the world. Currently our community has everything: a regular minyan, kashrut, a heated mikveh, a chevra kadisha, a rabbi, a Jewish nursery free of charge for the members, a security department and many other things. Please do come to live again in this beautiful city.”

Yigal Dias Zion, another Jewish philanthropist who is member of the Jewish Community of Oporto said “I have been in many Synagogues around the world but Kadoorie Mekor Haim is the best synagogue I have ever seen even though I was in the main Portuguese Synagogues around the world – Portuguese Synagogue of Montreal, Bevis Marks Synagogue in London, Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue in Curacao, Congregation Shearith Israel in New York, Comunidad Nidhe Israel in Florida and many more.”

Refik Habip, the spokesman of the Turkish community and great grandson of Rabbi Jacob Ibn Habip who was the last Portuguese Chief Rabbi five centuries ago, said: “Our great grand-fathers had to leave this country 520 years ago. By bringing Sepharadic Jews to Oporto, this Jewish Community has done an important event in our history. I would like to thank them for their great effort to gather us. My daughter, representative of this Oporto community in Turkey, would have loved to be here with us, but she could not travel as she is pregnant. Her heart and mind is with us. We will always be the voice of Oporto Jewish Community in Turkey and be the connecting bridge between the two communities.”

Leon Amiras, chairman of the Association of OLIM from Latin America, Spain and Portugal, said “we were born in a generation in which Israel exists. And thanks to this strong Israel all Jewish communities in the world can live in freedom.
The Oporto Community is a successful community and the city is a clean, nice and smart city; its inhabitants always ready to welcome foreign visitors to the city. So much warmth and friendship.”

Finally, Rabbi Zeev Sheinin spoke about the roots that Don Yitzhak Abarvanel had planted in Portugal that were torn up, but the fruits grew later with the revival of Jewish life in Portugal. He closed the Shabbaton program with the great song "Rachem".

Hachnasat Sefer Torah

On Sunday 10 January 2016, before the shabbaton in Oporto, Portugal, a great Hachnasat Sefer Torah took place in Golders Green, London. A fantastic warm atmosphere from 3.30pm right through 10.00pm. Well over 1,000 Jewish people, from all strands of Judaism - Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Litvish, Yekkish, Yekers, Chasidim, young, old, rich, poor, religious, not so religious, who attended the parade, the synagogue and the house of members of the Oporto community Board, in order to celebrate together the arrival of a special safe Hatorah. Everyone felt a sense of belonging and unity (Achdut) whatever their religious affiliation and Jewish Ethnic origins.
The Sefer Torah, being a Sephardi one, came in an ornate and beautiful silver casing, with colourful stones decorating its outer casing. This Safe Hatorah had a special journey to make in order to arrive at its final destination, to the Kadoorie Mekor Haim, home of the Jewish Community of Oporto. Mincha was scheduled for 3:30pm and from 3.30pm to 6.00pm people were enabled to finish and complete the writing of the parchment of the Sefer Torah under the guidance of the Sofer Rabbi Benarroch. The completion of each letter brings individuals great merit and they gain the reward together with the other people that contribute to this writing within the Sefer Torah. Rav Doron Ahiel Shlita gave a short speech prior to the writing of the final letters of the Sefer Torah and Rabbi Portal Shlita from Heichal Leah Synagogue gave the Mi Shebeirach’s (blessings) to those individuals who wrote the last lettersof the Sefer Torah and donated Tzedakah (Charity) in honour of this auspicious occasion. Other prominent Rabbonim in the area, including, Dayan David Shlita, head of Od Yosef Hai Synagogue, Rabbi Denderovitch, Rabbi Sternbuch, Rabbi Zimmer, amongst others wrote some of the final letters of the Sefer Torah prior to other members of the community.
The excitement came to a crescendo with the arrival of the band on the back of a float which announced to the surrounding streets that the Sefer Torah procession was about to commence and make its journey to Netzach Yisrael Synagogue, Golders Green Road.
Roads were blocked off and traffic was stopped by local police in order that the Sefer Torah procession and the large crowd of people accompanying it could safely navigate the busy intersection of Golders Green Road and the North Circular (A406) and reach the Synagogue.
Men danced and sang in Woodlands as the Sefer Torah and Haftorah (Prophets) were carried under a colourful Chupah (Canopy) to its final destination. Men, women and children accompanied the Sefer Torah procession. The childrens’ faces were lit up with excitement and they were given bracelets which glowed in the dark. Soft flames were aglow from white and grey Victorian lanterns, which lit up the night.
Once the Sefer Torah procession arrived at the Synagogue, the Sefer Torah was greeted by people holding the other beautiful and ornate Sifrei Torah contained in their lovely casings and dancing and singing around the Bimah within the Synagogue took placed, specifically 7 times around the central Bimah (Hakafot).
Chilren received “pekelach”, bags of sweets and chocolates and other refreshments and drinks were provided and served for the adults. A Festive Meal (Seudah) in order to celebrate this magnificent occasion, took place afterwards at the home of members of Oporto community, where a lavish meal was served and once again the Rabbis gave some words of wisdom and inspiration appropriate for such an event. The final celebration was done in Portugal, within the large synagogue in Oporto.
Shabbaton 2013
In Elul, 5774 the Jewish Community of Oporto celebrated its 90th Anniversary with a beautiful Shabbaton in the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue. The event was presided over by the great mekubal Rabbi Doron Ahiel (of Netzach Yisrael from Golders Green in North West, London) and the orthodox Rabbi of the synagogue, Daniel Litvak, and it was attended by members of Oporto's Community and families from England, France, United States and Israel. The Jewish Community of Oporto was founded in 1923 by Captain Barros Basto and 20 Jewish merchants arrived from Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Russia. Captain was persecuted and humiliated for his attempt to re-establish Oporto's long-lost Jewish Community, so that by the time the Synagogue was officially inaugurated, the Community was almost dead. For many decades, the beautiful building was used by but a few Jews of various nationalities who lived in Oporto. Mr. Eliezer Beigel, who is now 80 years old, is one of those Jews who for decades were alone in Oporto to take care of the "palace". He is an important member of the community, such as Isabel Barros Basto, granddaughter of Captain. This families - Beigel and Barros Basto - already belong to the community since the 20s and have a special historical legitimacy.

The President of the Jewish Community of Oporto, Dale Jeffries, said that the religious and secular Jews of the Community work together, side by side, something rare in the Jewish World. He thanked the Jews living in London for the help they have given to the Jews living in Oporto. Rabbi Doron Ahiel said the synagogue was created for a grand project [now impossible to achieve, because there are no longer bnei anousim] and that in the future it will indeed be part of a grand project, whatever it may be.

Shabbaton 2013
On Tu B’Shvat 5774 (January, 26, 2013) the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue had a great Shabbaton, with a proper Minyan and ceremony in the presence of Rabbi of the Synagogue Daniel Litvak and Rabbi Abraham Serruya from Buenos Aires, who was returning to Oporto forty years after having first visited the community.
Families from United States, Argentina, England, Israel and Spain came to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the synagogue and Shabbaton. The Shabbaton was organized by Golders Green’s families and the Oporto Jewish Community. On Sunday the celebrations continued. Nearly 300 guests attended the celebrations. Dale Jeffries, the President of the Board of Directors of Jewish Community of Oporto, said: “It is fitting that we are celebrating this 75th anniversary in and for the Mekor Haim Synagogue on Holocaust Memorial Day because its very existence derives from another Holocaust in 1492. On this date the Inquisition in Spain began forcing all Jews to convert to Christianity or be expelled. Many fled to Portugal, where for a time they were able to live in relative safety until Portugal promulgated its own expulsion edicts and subsequently established its own Inquisition.
As a result of which, most of Portugal’s Jews fled the country or were forced to convert. Centuries later in the early 1900's Portuguese Captain Barros Basto discovered his ancestry to be one of these Portuguese families. He was the founder of the Jewish Community of Oporto, together with 20 Jewish merchants recently arrived from Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Russia. The legalization of the community in 1923 was a reparation of such historical importance.

History of the Inquisition appeared to be repeating itself and Captain Barros Basto was made an example. He was stripped of his captain's commission and salary and he was repudiated for indulging and leading others in Jewish lifestyle practices. Thanks to great work by his granddaughter, Dra. Isabel Lopes and the team of men of laws, Captain Barros Basto was officially exonerated last year.
But even being stripped of his honorable service did nots stop Barros Basto from trying to do something for those that needed his help.   He still used the synagogue and the quiet secluded nature of Porto to provide a safehouse and passage out of Portugal for a number of Jewish refugees during World War 2. Research is being done now to find all of the names that have passed through Porto during the war with the assistance of many international institutions including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Captain Barros Basto must have been one of the most determined individuals with a heroic spirit for having the “chutzpah” to build a synagogue in Europe in 1938, at the brink of World War 2, while all others were being burnt and destroyed, especially with the German School of Oporto as a neighbor. In fact at one point members of the school threw rocks into the synagogue windows so trees had to be placed between them to make the synagogue less conspicuous. Usually you have a community first and build a synagogue when it is needed to cater to the size of the community. But unlike any other, this synagogue, the largest in Spain and Portugal, was built large with great expectations of a huge community.

I would like to express our profound gratitude to the Religious Committee and Rabbi Daniel Litvak, overseeing and advising every step in the changes required to make our synagogue adequately orthodox, as it was always intended to be.  They are a major reason that some of you today not only know you are in an orthodox and pious synagogue but you can feel this dedicated sense of spirit in every corner that has revitalized everything, the walls, the past, the people and their souls.

Though some of us are more liberal in our daily life practice of Judaism, we appreciate maintaining strict codes of orthodox Jewish law in the synagogue for all levels of orthodoxy to feel welcome to visit, participate, enjoy observing services and receive spiritual fulfillment without reservation.

In summation I wish to thank everyone here and particularly the renowned rabbis who are present here today, as well as our official guests and those who have come from Jewish Communities abroad, making the effort to be with us to celebrate this noble occasion.

It is now my pleasure to introduce our Rabbi Daniel Litvak who miraculously is the first rabbi in my memory that everyone in the synagogue, 100%, likes, honors and respects. This sounds unimportant but in case you don't know Jews frequently have diverging ideas so this is a huge accomplishment.” (

The Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Oporto (Comunidade Israelita do Porto), Daniel Litvak, prefaced the book "The Route of Jews in Oporto" written by historian and researcher César Santos Silva. This bilingual book tells the story of the Jews of Oporto from antiquity to the present day.


“In this preface, I give my blessing and express my support for the work of the historian and Professor Cesar Santos Silva. Those interested in deepening their knowledge about the past and the present of the Jews and of Judaism in Oporto, both lays and scholars, can satiate their interest with the contents of this book, where they will not find easy fantasies, which sell books, fool unsuspecting tourists, but do not respect the truth neither history nor the Jewish law.

Since he had the idea to write this work, Cesar Santos Silva did everything possible for it to be published in such a way so as to respect the historic truth and, at the same time, that all that has been written in the book is correct from the religious point of view, that the words transcribed from Hebrew are well written and all the concepts correctly applied.

In all his steps, he was careful and sought for advise in the Community and its Religious Committee to understand a little bit of Judaism and to not write barbarities, as  it happens with those are not humble, and sought clarification from the Jewish elders of the city, such as Eliezer Beigel, who knows better than anyone how Jewish Community of Oporto was in the last 80 years, making this book, without a doubt, an indispensable source of knowledge to the person interested in knowing the history of Judaism in Oporto and of the local Jewish community. The history of the Jews of the city inseparably intertwined with the history of the city for centuries until the edict of expulsion of D. Manuel dictated there would be no official Judaism in the city for centuries and the Jewish vestiges gradually disappeared, while official Judaism could not be practiced for centuries, during which the practice of the Crypto-Judaism remained in many households until, until the Jewish Community of Oporto was formed in the beginning of last century, with the emergence of the Ashkenazi Jews and the strength of the Captain Barros Basto. 
Recently, the community opened its doors to the general population, telling its story, showing its historical objects that are in the museum of the synagogue, and also divulging the universal moral basis of Judaism through the dissemination of the 7 laws of Noah, which is a moral basis for all humanity. One of these laws refers to an idea of Justice and it seems the desire to do justice to the Jewish people and its history in Portugal encouraged César Santos Silva to write his book.”

The public presentation of the book "The Route of Jews in Oporto" written by historian César Santos Silva was held on June 15, in Oporto Synagogue (Sinagoga do Porto), by Dale Jeffries (President of the Jewish Community of Oporto), Michael Rothwell and Carlos Abreu Amorim. This bilingual book tells the story of the Jews of Oporto from antiquity to the present day. Rabbi Daniel Litvak prefaced the book. 
Some excerpts from the book:
“A book with such a special theme as the Jewish cannot be accomplished only by the author. This one is no exception and, therefore, it is of utmost justice to enumerate some people who have contributed to elaborate it: Our thanks to Mrs. Isabel Flores Lopes (Vice President of the CIP and Captain Barros Basto’s granddaughter) for the kindness shown and for sharing some precious documents and  information to the enrichment of this guidebook. To Mr. Dale Jeffries, President of the CIP, for the freedom of action given within the Community.  To the Religious Committee of the CIP and to Rabbi Daniel Litvak, rabbi of the Synagogue of Porto, for the freedom they gave me within the premises of the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue. To Mr. Eliezer Beigel (former President of the CIP and its member for 80 years), for sharing information that has helped enriching our knowledge about the recent past of the Jews in Porto. To Mr. Michael Rothwell, distinct member of the CIP and to Mr. Hugo Vaz, head of the CIP Tourism Department, I thank for the book review and the total willingness shown. To the Jewish Community of Porto, our deepest gratitude.

Those who arrived at Porto in the 11th and the 12th centuries would see a city quartered on top of an austere granite hill, which also helped to forge the character of the natives from the city, called «tripeiros», keeping an eye on the Douro, which gave them food, but that also brought them piracy. The city was small, probably with no more than one thousand to fifteen hundred inhabitants, curtailed by a wall. The major group, the Christians, who dominated the city at a political and religious level. The Jews represented the most important minority group. 
The oldest physical space  the Jewish Porto knew was in the Bairro da Sé, so it is natural that the greatest adventure in the History of Porto began here.
The Monchique Jewish Quarter had all the institutions Jewish urban life demanded. Social life was well organized and there were even elections for those responsible for the Commune (officers) and their investiture. There are still traces of their presence in the centre of the quarter. Rua, Escadas and Largo do Monte dos Judeus (Street, Steps and Hill of the Jews Square) are unequivocal proof of the historical presence of the Hebrews. However, in 1386, D. João I asked the Chamber of Porto to install the Jews within the city walls. They then moved to the Olive Field Jewish Quarter.

Moving to the Olival (Olive Field) was probably not easy for the Jews. In the former Jewish Quarters, the Jews were closer to the River, to mercantile activities and to the habits they created. But as a practical people, they quickly got used to the new place.

The New Jewish Quarter (the last one) had about two hectares. The Jews lived here for more than a century and they accomplished a remarkable work of urbanism. Compared with the rest of the city, where there was a Daedalus of narrow, steep and dark streets, the Jewish Quarter was well aired, with wide, symmetrical streets: a new urban reality. We can say that was the first gated condominium in the city.

Some Rules:

  • In the evening, at the sound of the Trinity, the Jews who were outside the Jewish Quarter were obliged to go back and the Christians who were there obliged to leave.
  • They had to use a six-pointed star, but were not required to wear a dress code.
  • When the King visited the city, the Jews were obliged to receive him in festivity and with a scroll where the Pentateuch was written, leaning against their chest, as a proof of devotion to the King.
  • Any Jew or Jewess who had intimate relations with Christians was sentenced to be hanged, except in cases of rape or of mutual ignorance of their religions. It should be noted that this punishment would extend to Christians caught in intimacies with Jews or Jewesses.
  • If the Jewish quarters had taverns, the Jews could not attend those of Christians.
  • Jews were forbidden to have Christian servants. However, if they worked on granted land, they could hire Christians to work on the field.
  • Jews were forbidden to enter a Christian woman’s house if they were not accompanied by a Christian man. If it were the house of Christian married woman, the entry was only allowed in the presence of her husband. When the issue was a debt, they could only do it in the presence of two Christian men or women. However, business could only be done at the entrance of the house.
  • Christian women were also prohibited to enter alone in Jewish stores. This action was only allowed to doctors, tailors, carpenters, carders or any masters if it involved any delay.
  • They were forbidden to purchase gold or silver without royal permission.
  • The visiting Jew was allowed to enter the Jewish Quarter after the hour the bell rang. If he came too late and the Jewish Quarter was already closed, he could stay overnight in a Christian lodge. If he came by boat, he could go straight into the Jewish Quarter, regardless of the time.
  • If he were collecting rents, taxes or land transfer taxes for the King, he could be out at night, although he was obliged to be accompanied by a Christian.
  • There were specific courts and judges to resolve issues with Christians, mitigating any attempt they made to abuse of their power towards the Jews.
  • In terms of the law, they could not be bothered on Saturdays or at Easter for any legal matter.
  • On account of a crime, the Jews could not be arrested by a non-Jew. If the accuser were a Christian, it was mandatory that his complaint was corroborated by another Jew.

And thus we are in December 1496, one of the darkest days in the history of Portugal: the day D. Manuel signs the Edict of Expulsion of the Jews from the national territory within a period of 10 months, under death penalty and confiscation of property, which would pass on to the hands of those who denounced them.

Such a decision was a political, economic and cultural mistake Portugal paid dearly. Expelling the Jews also meant expelling the knowledge and the money. The world of finance, business, science, trade, crafts, medicine, everything resented the new reality.

The many who stayed converted to Christianity, becoming new Christians, but, deep down, they continued to have their eternal belief: the worship of the God of Israel. Crypto-Judaism begins here: a profession of faith lived in the intimacy of their home, always with the fear of being caught by the bailiffs of the Inquisition. We cannot imagine the psychological suffering, the fear of getting caught, but, at the same time, a deep belief in their faith, in their deepest religious convictions.

It was the end of the Olival (Olive Field) Jewish Quarter, because many new Christian families moved from this area. From then on, this place is designated as Vitória (Victory) or the victory over the Jews.

From the 1920s on and taking advantage of the democratic spirit of the First Republic, at least in the field of religious confessions, there is the assumption of Judaism on the part of former Crypto-Jews who finally feel the conditions to assume it openly. This phenomenon will be felt in the Beiras and in Trás-os-Montes. Here emerges the figure of Captain Barros Basto and his extraordinary role in bringing the descendants of the Marranos to the central stream of Judaism.

In 1921, Barros Basto marries Lea Azancot. When they came to Porto, they noticed there was, in the city, a group of Ashkenazim Jews dedicated to trade. These had no conditions to exercise their cult as there was no Synagogue in town; in fact, there was not even a Sepher Torah (Scroll of the Law), which was indispensable for the ceremonies.

In 1923, the CIP (Jewish Community of Porto) is created. The Community was formed essentially by Ashkenazim Jews who had come to the city to practice trading, coming from various countries of Eastern Europe such as Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and Russia. It is ironical that, in a country of Sephardic Jews, which, between 1493 and 1496, was virtually the Judea of the world, the Portuguese were the minority in the Porto Community. 

Between 1924 and 1925, Captain Barros Basto is wanted by Portuguese individuals who called themselves Jews and who were, after all, the Marranos: descendants of the converts of 1496, who still retained Jewish practices, praying to Adonai (God) and performing marriages among equals, in order to maintain the Jewish matrilineality. This is what confers individuals the Jewish status, whether they are clandestine, as in those cases, or not.

This new reality of the Marranos will alarm some of the political power and especially the Catholic Church, which sees many members of its flock formally and publicly adhering to Judaism, now without complexes and without atavistic fears, because the Inquisition was already a distant reality and the new times were promising.

Thus we can better explain the condemnation that, years later, fell on Captain Barros Basto, repudiated from the army.

In 1933, the children of Elly Kadoorie, Hong Kong Jewish millionaire, offered 5000 pounds to finish the works, with the obligation that it would be named Kadoorie. Sir Elly Kadoorie’s wife was a Sephardi of Portuguese origin named Laura Matos Moncada.  As a result, the Honorary President of the Community has been, until today, Sir Elly Kadoorie, who died in 1944, after having been in a Japanese concentration camp.

The construction of the synagogue is basically the result of the pecuniary contributions from various sources: London, Paris, Hong Kong, Amsterdam and others, including the former members of the Jewish Community of Porto, as Captain Barros Basto and his wife Lea Azancot.

The Rescue Work could not function with a man alone and is almost dead in 1940. The Captain thinks of communicating that to London, which supports most of the costs of the project. Slowly, the Rescue Work is forgotten and many Jews again feared the public display of their religiosity and returned to anonymity and, as time passed, their religiosity would be diluted and even disappeared with the mixed marriages… Only the Jewish community of Belmonte survived and little else.

Away from the army, he will have a decisive action during the Second World War (1939-1945), helping hundreds and hundreds of Jews to flee Nazi hatred.

For decades, thousands of documents, including individual records of hundreds of refugees that came to Porto, in 1940, fleeing the Nazi terror, were stored in the Synagogue of Porto. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, whose main mission is to generate and disseminate knowledge about this unprecedented tragedy, had access to copies of those documents in 2013 as a result of a protocol signed between the current Vice-President of the Jewish Community of Porto, Isabel Ferreira Flores, and the director of Collections of that Museum, Michael Grunberger.  Among the documents handed over by the Synagogue of Porto to the Museum, we emphasise the individual records of 416 Jewish refugees who benefited from the protection granted to them by the members of the Jewish Community of Porto, then chaired by Captain Barros Basto. Most of these refugees later left to the United States of America, Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina; others travelled to Asia, to Shanghai and to Palestine.  

Barros Basto, that is to say Ben-Rosh, died in 1961 and was buried in Amarante, his hometown, wearing his military uniform and the national flag covering his coffin. Two days before dying, he told his daughter: «One day, justice will be done». It was, though much later.

On 31 October 2011, with the support of the Chairman of the Portuguese Bar Association, the Captain's granddaughter, Mrs. Isabel Ferreira Lopes, current Vice-President of the Jewish Community of Porto, a request to rehabilitate Barros Basto’s memory was admitted to the Portuguese Parliament. Finally, on 29 February 2012, all the deputies of the Parliamentary Commission for Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms and Guarantees voted unanimously for his rehabilitation proposed by the deputy and professor from Porto, Carlos Abreu Amorim, and the official conclusion was that Captain Barros Basto had been a victim of his Jewish condition and, as such, the target of political and religious segregation.

Families such as Barros Basto, Kniszinsky, Beigel, Schumann, Cymerman, Openhaim, Prezman, Lemchen, Tillo and Jeffries took care of the «palace» (Kadoorie Mekor Haim synagogue) and supported it during the cold decades of dictatorship and in times of democracy until today.

Throughout its existence, the synagogue was visited by major international personalities of the secular and religious Jewish world, such as the visit of great Rabbis from London, the United States, Argentina, France and Israel, as the Grand Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who, a decade ago, met with the foreign Jews of the Jewish Community of Porto, which was already presided by its current president, Dale Jeffries, with Barros Basto’s family and even with some Portuguese citizens who, attracted by Judaism, wished to convert to the religion and promised to comply with Jewish religious obligations. 

Before the Edict of Expulsion, there were more than 100 Jewish communities across the country and, after it was issued, mixed marriages and blood mixtures spread to such an extent that it is possible to say with certainty there is a lot of Jewish blood in our Portuguese veins.

In 2013, due to a law drafted by the President of the Portuguese Socialist Party, Maria de Belém Roseira, born in Porto, Portugal become the second country, after Israel, to have a real «law of return» for Jews. Are we to pay a centuries-old debt?
May we be sane so that, in the future, we do not repeat the mistakes from the past and this will only be possible if we know it well.”

On the 17th of June, 2014 in a room of the Oporto Synagogue (Sinagoga do Porto), tribute was paid to Aristides Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese Consul General in Bordeaux, France who, in 1940, issued visas that saved thousands of Jews fleeing Nazism. His name was honored in the past by the Congress of the United States of America and the Government of Israel.

During the ceremony honoring him at the Oporto Synagogue, in which Rui Moreira (the Mayor of Oporto, an honorable man, himself a descendant of German Jews) participated, the Vice-President of the Jewish Community of Oporto (Comunidade Israelita do Porto), Isabel Ferreira Lopes gave the following speech:

“To speak of Aristides Sousa Mendes is to speak of all refugees from Nazism; it is to speak of all those who, to a greater or lesser degree, helped refugees desperately fleeing Nazism.

There were many refugees that stayed at this Synagogue in that fateful year of 1940. Anyone visiting the “Barros Basto Museum” today on the first floor will be stepping on thevery floorboards where once many refugees spent their days and nights, with their lives in tatters. That is also where the charitable services of the international organization, “Committee for the Assistance to Jewish Refugees” operated. The majority of Jewish refugees arrived in Oporto in 1940. The few that had some money wanted to leave at once so that their funds would not run out. 

There were extraordinarily intense situations. As they were not permitted to work, the refugees wandered sadly through the city of Oporto. They would gather to recount their stories, which at the end of the day were all the same, because they had lost touch with their loved ones, all of them had lost their nationality, all of them were lost waiting for the day that they could leave, often heading for destinations completely unknown! They were people like these that Aristides Sousa Mendes saved in France!

One of the Jews who passed through France and ended up here in Oporto was Ralph Baruch, who later was to become the owner of the Viacom Media Group in the USA. In 2007, we were in contact (then he was more than 90 years old)  and he expressed his gratitude to the Jewish Community of Oporto and to members of my family. He had eaten the first slice of bread with butter in many weeks at the house of my Uncle, Max Azancot. He praised the strength of my grand-father and remembered going for walks with my mother near the Synagogue and its neighborhood. They were the same age.  He did not speak one word of Portuguese, nor did she speak any English but he said that they understood each other very well. Ralph Baruch embarked on a ship from Portugal to the United States, where he stayed and settled. Refugees from Germany, Poland, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Luxemburg and many other countries passed through this city and this Synagogue, some stateless and some even originally from Argentina and Iran!

As the Vice-President of the Jewish Community of Oporto, and granddaughter of Captain Barros Basto, I can say that the Jewish Community of Oporto played a vital role in sheltering refugees during the Second World War. In the case of my own family, my Grandfather and my Grandmother dedicated so much time and energy to the Jewish refugees that many years later, the historian, Michael Studemund-Halévy, from the Institute of Jewish History in Germany, said of my Grandfather that he was the "Apostle of refugees"!

In 2013, The Jewish Community of Oporto provided the Holocaust Museum in Washington with copies of thousands of documents. It is my hope that the Holocaust Museum and other organizations who have very complete data bases can reconstruct the stories of these refugees and know what became of them…after they left Oporto!

I often wonder what happened to all of the refugees who passed through Oporto. Today I ask myself also: What happened to all of the refugees that were saved by Aristides Sousa Mendes? Perhaps soon we will have some answers."