From the President Nov. 7 2019

A couple of last episodes of Portuguese Jewish history.

In Lisbon and Évora, there are no visible signs of the medieval Jewish quarters – just historical references to where they were. In Évora, however, the street names give clues. Because the Jews were businessmen, they lived around what is still called Rua da Mercadores (Merchants) and Rua das Moedas (Money or coins).

In northeastern Portugal, there is a small town called Belmonte. In 1917, Austrian businessman Samuel Schwartz (who revived the synagogue at Tomar) became aware of another Jewish community possibly existing in Belmonte. He went there, and met people who knew that it existed but would not confirm that they were in fact Jewish. Only after conversations about Torah, when Schwartz spoke the word Adonai, did the people acknowledge that they were Jews. When asked why they told him that they believed the Inquisition was still in effect. They had been hiding for more than 400 years.

Even with the danger we face from active anti-semitism in today’s United States (as in the thwarted attack on a synagogue in Colorado this week), we can still outwardly show our pride in our faith and community.

We are what we do.

Neil Zarchin