Jewish Cemetery of Belmonte

Jewish Cemetery of Belmonte

For a long time, while the Belmonte community was exclusively Marrano, funeral rites were performed in the home. In the 1980s, although Marranism was still in force (mixing Catholic and Jewish rites and practices), the wake moved to the funeral home. The priest accompanied the funeral, although by that time some of the Marranos began abstaining from the Catholic rites. In the late 1980s, early 1990s, 85 people (within a Marrano community numbering about 250 souls) decided to deliver themselves body and soul to official Judaism. A time for conversions to Judaism, which were performed in the early 1990s.

Earlier, in 1988, the association known as the Jewish Community of Belmonte had been officially incorporated, which despite its name consisted only of Marranos.

This new association immediately expressed its desire to acquire land to bury its dead. Rabbi Yosef Sebag, an emissary from the Chief Rabbi of Israel, whose labours involved trying to convert those 85 Marranos to Judaism, considered that it was urgent to build the cemetery.

On 4 December 1996, the cornerstone of the Jewish cemetery was laid by the Moroccan Jew Salomon Azoulay, who financed this holy place that took the name Fortuna Azoulay, as a tribute to his late wife. The following year, again with his sponsorship, the community witnessed the moving reality of Belmonte synagogue, named Beit Eliyahu.

On Sunday, 11 February 2001, at a time when history was being made, the Jewish Community of Belmonte inaugurated its cemetery. It consists of fifty plots with space for three hundred graves and the appropriate infrastructures required in the protocols inherent to Jewish funeral services. It shares a party wall with the Christian cemetery, the burial place of Rafael Mourão, who died in a motorcar accident. His burial, in 1988, was accompanied by Rabbi Abraham Assor, my beloved father, together with a committee from the Jewish Community of Lisbon. At the inaugural ceremony, the words of Ambassador Yehiel Yativ, at the time Israeli ambassador to Lisbon, and the sponsor, Salomon Azoulay, still echo today: "Belmonte is an example to the world and a source of pride for all Jews”. “Here, in Belmonte, we feel the resurgence of Judaism in the strength and unity shown by the Community”.