Portuguese American Journal

Heritage: Jewish cultural and religious revival underway – Portugal

The Isaac Cardoso Center, the first Jewish cultural and religious center in Portugal, was inaugurated in the city of Trancoso last week after Jews were expelled from Portugal 500 years ago.

The new complex, which houses the new synagogue called Beit Mayim Hayim [House of Living Waters], was co-sponsored by the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel and the Trancoso Municipality.

“This is an historic moment,” said Shavei Israel in his speech at the inaugural ceremony. “The new Jewish center will commemorate the countless Portuguese Jews who were persecuted, forcibly converted or expelled more than five centuries ago,” he said.

The event was marked with a Torah dedication ceremony followed by “mezuzot” being attached to doors. Over 100 people participated in the event.

The Isaac Cardoso Center is dedicated to the many local Bnei Anousim (descendants of converso Jews) and to the renewal of Jewish life in the region. The center will promote Jewish cultural and religious activities and hold a permanent exhibition about the Jewish history of Portugal. Rabbi Elisha Salas and Jose Levy Domingos will oversee and administer the center.

The Sefarad Route project was also launched in Lisbon, Portugal, last week dedicated to reviving the Portuguese Jewish identity in the country. Developed in partnership with a Norway-based group, the project was created with the mission to attracting tourists from the Jewish diaspora interested in visiting Jewish historic sites in Portugal. The project is expected to attract 300,000 new visitors a year generating an estimated €60 million annually.