1st Congress of Sephardic identity and memory in Portugal

1st Congress of Sephardic identity and memory in Portugal

Last month, an unprecedented congress took place in Portugal: three days of academic conferences, led by renowned historians, about the Jewish past in Portugal.

The event took place in Braganza, a Portuguese city with a great Jewish past. Captain Arthur Barros Bastos, known as the “Portuguese Dreyfus”, was extremely active in Braganza in his efforts to rescue the Marranos (as recorded in the books of his memoirs). Barros Bastos also activated in the surroundings, in places like Vinhaes, Macedo de Cavaleiros, Vimioso, Mirandela (place of the birth of the famous Alheiras, a type of sausage prepared with chicken instead of pig, to confuse the old Christians and the Inquisition) , Torre de Moncorvo, Freixo de Espada a Cinta, and a village of great Jewish past: Viper Field.

The congress reached out to some descendants of Conversos who knew their Jewish past, but always maintained secrecy and took the opportunity to connect.

The congress was produced in honor of the inauguration of the Historic Museum of the Autos de Fe de la zona, a must-see museum where you can hear shocking and impactful stories of the ‘New Christians.’


After many years, when there no longer was the Jewish influence of Captain Barros Bastos, for the first time a kabalat Shabbat service took place at the community center in the small town..

The municipality inaugurated a space in the center of the city, which they call a “memorial,” that will provide information services to tourists. They designated a small ‘synagogue’ area whose walls are beautifully decorated and in the center there is a display of the Ten Commandments written in Hebrew but there is no Torah scroll.

The ceremony included affixing a mezuzah by the entrance door, which was attended by Mr. Hernani Dias, President of the municipality; the Israeli Ambassador Tzipora Rimón, representatives of the Israeli Community of Lisbon, Bnei Anusim of the area and the general public.

Rav Elisha Salas of Shavei Israel recalled: “When I spoke, I mentioned the importance of the mezuzah, its meaning and its return to Braganza. I reminded everyone of the efforts of Captain Barros Bastos, for maintaining Torah in this city, and spontaneous applause erupted from the excited public, and everyone had tears in their eyes. Just as the small bit of Torah is in the mezuzah, may one day a complete Torah scroll return to illuminate the souls of the bnei anusim who dwell in those lands.”

Due to the lack of space in the synagogue and due to the presence of many Jews of Israel, the religious service took place in a hall of the Posada.


For the first time, an exhibition of certified kosher products was held in Braganza, thanks to the efforts of Luis Morao and his family, the community of Belmonte, Pedro Diogo, president of the Community of Belmonte, representing the Network of Jewish Quarters Of Portugal, of the Network of Jewish Quarries of Spain and of several producers who presented their products, and that with the proper supervision and certificate of kashrut, were present on that hot day inPortugal, offering a Jewish environment in Braganza.

A wonderful town, with people who appreciate its legacy; certainly worth a visit.