Aufruf for Naomi Hurvitz & Cody Bond
at a Special Musical Shabbat on Friday, June 28 at 8:00 pm
Click here for more details. Kindly RSVP here.
Rabbi's Weekly Teaching
June 21, 2019
 Yesterday I had the opportunity to officiate for a Bar Mitzvah in Portugal.

The family is of Sephardic heritage and they wanted to journey "home" so as to celebrate their son formally embracing his own Judaism as a young adult.

Jews lived in the Iberian Peninsula long before Portugal itself became a country, and Portuguese Jews made significant contributions to the arts, philosophy, commerce and sciences, helping Portugal to create its own meaningful and rich cultural

Prior to 1496, Jews composed approximately 20 percent of the general Portuguese population.

However, with the Spanish Inquisition arriving to Portugal's borders, the Jews of Portugal were expelled from the country.

Now, over 500 years later, we had the opportunity to return "home" and try to uncover some of that which was lost to our the Jewish People.

We had an opportunity to visit some of the Portuguese places that held meaningful historical connections.

Jewish heritage in Lisbon can be traced beginning with the Alfama quarter.

A large Jewish community included the Judiaria Grande and the Rua da Judiaria.
These narrow streets still evoke the spirit of the generations of Portuguese Jews who once lived and flourished there. 
A s the Jewish community grew more, a new Judiaria Pequena was formed in the 13th century near what is now known as the central Praça do Comércio. 
Unfortunately, the entire area was completely destroyed because of a devastating earthquake in 1755.
We visited the Rossio square.  It was there that the court of the Inquisition convicted Jews and many others accused of heresy.
Both before and after conviction they were jailed and tortured, and many ultimately burned at the stake. 
Jews who didn't leave Portugal avoided expulsion because they converted to Christianity.
Many of the Jews continued to secretly practice their Judaism and the "New Christians" were always suspected of continued heresy.
We visited the site of the Jewish Lisbon Memorial, which commemorates the victims of the 1506 Jewish Massacre "Lisbon Pogrom," or the "1506 Easter Slaughter".
The Memorial is located at the historic square Largo de Sao Domingos.
The square is adjacent to the Igreja de Sao Domingos church.
The Blood Libel was commonly utilized by the Church during the time of Passover/ Easter.
Accusing Jews of being the "Killers of Christ"...utilizing blood in the baking of the matzah...causing plague and drought...all were commonly taught by Catholic priests within church walls.
In 1506, this prompted the massacre of the "New Christians" with approximately 4000 Jews murdered.
On April 19, 2006, the very small Jewish community of Portugal presented a simple memorial, a perfectly round travertine stone cut in half.
On the flat surface, there is a bronze Star of David monument, its plaque reading: 
In memory of the thousands of Jews who were victimized by intolerance and religious fanaticism, killed in the massacre that started on 19 April 1506, on this square.  
The base has a verse from the Book of Job 16:18 King James version etched into it:
"O earth, cover not thou my blood, and let my cry have no place."  
At the memorial we had the time to reflect about all the death and destruction caused by intolerance. 
We were then able to visit the Lisbon Synagogue that was built in the early 20th century.
Less than 1000 Jews then and now comprise the Portuguese Jewish community, but they maintain a sacred House of Worship and a living memorial to the once great Sephardic Jewish presence that once thrived within this geographic area.
Above the Ark is the Hebrew that declares: 
"Know before whom you stand".
On the Ark is written the 10 Commandments.
Gathering in the Synagogue; celebrating Bar Mitzvah in Portugal; we all have become part of the Living Memorial.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Mitch
For an archive of past columns, click  here.