"Operation Open Door" is the theme that most impresses astonished tourists at the Jewish museum of Oporto

The room of "Modern Antisemitism" of the Jewish museum of Oporto completes one year of existence. It was inaugurated in June 2022 and shows the growth of anti-Semitism in Portugal over the last eight years.

Vivian Groisman, from the cultural department of the Jewish Community of Oporto was responsible for the first months of visits to the new space.

She was interviewed by PJN.

Vivian, what was the result of the first year of work?

I managed the visits until a few months ago. The "Modern Antisemitism" room received around 20,000 visitors, mostly Jewish tourists. We avoided opening the room to Portuguese school students, because the portrait of their country's elites is very distressing.

What content do tourists like the most?

"Operation Open Door" is the theme that most impresses astonished tourists. Visitors always ask when the anonymous denunciations and the miserable faces of the anonymous slanderers will be exposed.

One year after the "Operation Open Door", what are your conclusions on the whole affair?

Usually the people associate antisemites only with skin-heads and jihadists. However, they belong to all elite factions. The community must celebrate always the "Day of Shame" on March 11th, the day fifty police officers (following orders) came to trample our holy temple, our Jewish museum, our community and our families.

Were you at the museum with those cops?

I was there really in shock. Those people didn't even know what they were looking for, they wanted to take everything to try to find anything against the community.

Did they mention the anonymous denunciations?

Yes. They were only based on slanderous anonymous denunciations that today are known to have been made by robbers and convicts for defaming people in the community. Those servants of the state repeated the same things they had done centuries ago. It was an attempt to murder the only strong Jewish community in the country, and to steal its assets, and to expel our members who are Sephardim and whose nationalities they wanted to cancel.

But would these officers know the history of Portugal?

I couldn't figure it out. The Inquisition has always used anonymous denunciations of criminals against the Jewish community and its most relevant families.

Is it believable that a synagogue is invaded based on anonymous denunciations?

Those possecutors and police officers from Lisbon showed us what a country with no future is. They tried to “purify” the Jewish community of Oporto, to teach the rabbi what was a Sephardic Jew, to say what is a good Jewish community, to investigate its members, who did what, who earned what, who deserved it or not, and so on and so forth. Even the granddaughter of our founder (the "Portuguese Dreyfus", Captain Barros Basto, who was himself destroyed himself by anonymous denunciations!) was attacked at her house, where the police were looking for suitcases of money. This is not excusable.

Will you ever be able to live a similar experience again?

Never again do we wish to see these people belittling the religious, cultural and philanthropic life of our community, trampling holy ground, putting their hands on the haron kodesh, spitting in the face of the legitimate leaders, insulting the more representative families in the newspapers, researching bank accounts and illegally seizing millions of documents and communications to try to concoct other lawsuit – any lawsuit, because all the initial claims fabricated by criminals were false.

How was the scandal possible?

The board of directors has already explained this very well. It was a case of Soviet anti-Semitism. In the Soviet Union, only strong communities were destroyed, because weak ones were spared, to avoid bad international publicity.

What are the most worrying expressions of anti-Semitism in Portugal?

The worst expressions of anti-Semitism can be found in some elites in Lisbon and not in the general population. The European Commission has a plan to promote Jewish life and culture, but this seems a joke. In the last decade, the Oporto community has created synagogues, achdut centres, kosher restaurants, a cemetery, a painting gallery, a Jewish museum, a Holocaust museum and even produced history films, one of which is the most awarded Portuguese film ever. Rather than being satisfied with these developments, some media and political agents characterized everything as "opulence" and "signs of enrichment". These were the ones who spread antisemitism in Portugal, much more than the skinheads.

How does Portugal compare with other European countries in terms of anti-Semitism?

Unlike European countries, from Spain to Ukraine, in Portugal there were no signs of anti-Semitism because there were no Jews, except for three or four hundred who had become very assimilated. As soon as the community began to be visible, anti-Semitism began to grow more and more, year after year, until it culminated in a great attack against the strongest Jewish community.

What do you think about the Coordinator of the fight against anti-Semitism in Portugal?

Board reports are positive. It seems that in the past Mr. Vasconcelos was alone in defending the Gypsies against angry populations. He is an independent man who is not afraid.

What is the future of the Jewish community in Oporto?

I believe it will always be a cosmopolitan community connected to the whole world. See the last century. In the 1920s, Captain Barros Basto managed to gain the support of the world Sephardic Diaspora, which built the largest synagogue in Sepharad in Oporto. The promising future of the community crashed in 1934 because of anonymous denunciations by the scum of society, which antisemitic agents of the State seized on to try to destroy the captain and the organisation he headed, and whose regulatory legality he controlled. And they were successful. The organisation was moribund for 80 years. But it was reborn.

Did history repeat itself?

Yes. In the 21st century, when the community again renewed its links to the Jewish world on all continents, when it became a centre of attraction for chief rabbis and financial officials from all over the world, when it became one of the strongest Jewish organisations in Europe, when it became by far the strongest community in Portugal in terms of numbers, religion and culture, then the scum of society, the anonymous denunciations and antisemitic agents of the State clubbed together again with the sole object of destroying it completely, in moral, material and human terms.

Does the "modern anti-Semitism" room have lessons for the future?

Yes. The future will not be easy, but it has been like this for two millennia. We always had few friends. But sometimes they are few but they are good.