Kosher in Belmonte – under Shavei Israel supervision
Kosher travelers to Belmonte, Portugal may soon no longer have to worry about checking ingredients, avoiding foods that mix milk and meat, or steering clear of treife. Shavei Israel’s emissary to the region, Rabbi Elisha Salas is working with the 27-room three-star Har Sinai (Mount Sinai) Hotel in Belmonte with the intention to make it kosher. The hotel is aimed at tourists for whom Belmonte is increasingly becoming a travel destination.
Five hundred years ago, the central Portuguese town of Belmonte had a thriving Jewish community – that was until its members were forced into hiding or to convert to Catholicism. Today, the descendants of those Jews – the Bnei Anousim – are increasingly re-discovering and re-embracing their hidden heritage. These include the Morao family whom we profiled here.
Luis Morao’s father Antonio helped to re-establish the community in 1976. Twenty-five years later, the town’s synagogue re-opened to serve the 100 Jews in Belmonte, as well as visitors seeking to dive deeper into this fascinating slice of Portuguese Jewish history. The synagogue is open to the public, as is the town’s small Jewish museum.
In addition to tourists, the Har Sinai Hotel is intended to be used by Rabbi Salas’s students, who come from around Portugal to study Torah with him and to learn more about their roots. Located near the Bnei Anousim community in Belmonte, the hotel will offer special rates to students for lodging and meals and will sponsor special activities on Shabbat and holidays.
Rabbi Salas met with the hotel’s management last month. Members of the Jewish community came out to welcome Rabbi Salas. We have a picture here.
In addition to his work with the hotel, Rabbi Salas also provides kosher supervision to a local baker to ensure the community has fresh challot every Friday, and he supervises a number of other kosher products including oil, wine and cheese.
Belmonte is a two-hour drive north from the capital of Lisbon. If you’re interested in touring central Portugal and learning more about its Jewish history, Belmonte makes an excellent base.
More information here.