Oporto celebrates the European Day of Jewish Culture with a packed programme

Oporto celebrates the European Day of Jewish Culture with a packed programme

The initiative revisits the Jewish Diaspora and also takes in the community’s kosher winery and restaurants.

The European Day of Jewish Culture is commemorated next 3 September in Oporto. There is a special programme that involves several Jewish institutions in the city: the Kadoorie Synagogue will be partially open to the general public, and there is free admission to the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Museum. On this tour of the Jewish Diaspora you will also get to know the kosher winery and taste the menus of the city’s kosher restaurants. This initiative is organised in close cooperation with the European Jewish Association, which brings together Jewish communities from Portugal to Ukraine. It hopes to welcome 10 thousand participants during an enriching and educational experience that takes in the past of the city of Oporto itself and is designed to preserve Jewish history, culture and memory.

“This is the biggest and most intensive event of its kind in Europe”, says Isabel Lopes, Vice-President of the Jewish Community of Oporto and granddaughter of its founder, Captain Barros Basto. “The programme includes visits to Kadoorie Synagogue (the largest in the Iberian Peninsula), namely areas such as the art gallery and the library, but also the Holocaust Museum and the Jewish Museum of Oporto”. According to Isabel Lopes, the aim is for people to “become acquainted with the history, religion, laws, customs, principles, symbology and philosophy of the Jewish people. This is a rare opportunity for the public to get to know the city’s Jewish institutions as the rest of the year they are only open to school children, teachers and members of the Jewish community. The Holocaust Museum received over 100 thousand adolescents in two years, corresponding to 10% of the adolescent population of Portugal”.

The Jewish Museum of Oporto takes visitors on a voyage through two millennia of Jewish history in Portugal and throughout its time in the world. “The public can attend conferences and get to know different arts such as Jewish music, painting, literature, cinema, videography, photography and gastronomy. On that day, we will be inaugurating the Tribute Memorial to all Oporto citizens persecuted by the Inquisition for alleged Judaising practices. It will bear the names of about one thousand victims aged between 10 and 110 years old”, she goes on to say.

Similarly, the Holocaust Museum, repository of the individual files and objects left behind by refugees in Oporto in 1940 and 1941, will be open to the public, free of charge. There, you can visit the room of names of the Jews who were assassinated and the famous replica of the Auschwitz dormitories.

Throughout the day, Isabel Lopes will be engaging with the public, after a showing of the film “Sefarad”, whose main character is her grandfather, Captain Barros Basto. Time, also to hear the testimony of Josef Lassmann, whose mother was in Block 10” at Auschwitz, to view a painting exhibition with the history of two millennia of the Jewish community in Oporto and to hear the liturgical choir "Mekor Haim", in the main prayer room at the synagogue.

Jewish culture goes hand in hand with good kosher gastronomy (following the laws of Judaism). Accordingly, those of you who are more adventurous and curious may try a meal in one of the city’s restaurants: Kosher Ibéria (on Rua do Campo Alegre) and the Kosher Restaurant at Hotel da Música (in Bom Sucesso Market).

The European Day of Jewish Culture is celebrated in the main European cities, with many activities coordinated by the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage, by B’nai B’rith Europe and by the National Library of Israel.

Full programme:

(Oporto, Sunday 3 September 2023, 10h00-17h30)

Jewish Museum of Oporto

Admission free. The Jewish Museum of Oporto showcases four millennia of Jewish history in the world and about two millennia on the territory that is now Portugal, up to the present day. Valuable objects, documents and films are dedicated to the brightest era of the Oporto Jewish community, to the Edict of D. Manuel, the times of the Inquisition and the return of the community in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. In addition to the rooms in the museum with the community’s millenary history, the Museum has a room with film awards granted to the Community, a room on modern antisemitism, a room dedicated to Operation Yonathan, a wine room with kosher Port wine and even a cinema.

Three attractions at the Jewish Museum are: the replica of the prison carriage that featured in the film "1618" (the Portuguese film produced by the Community, that won the most international awards ever), the book “Sentinela Contra os Judeus” by Frei de Torrejoncillo (who described the Jews as being dangerous and having a tail) and, lastly, the new Tribute Memorial to all Oporto citizens persecuted by the Inquisition for alleged Judaising practices. It bears the names of more than one thousand victims aged between 10 and 110 years old. The memorial will be inaugurated at 10.30 and guest speakers are Rui Moreira, the Mayor of Oporto, and Pedro Bacelar Vasconcelos, the coordinator of the European Strategy for Promotion of Jewish Life and Culture.

The film “Sefarad” in the cinema of the Jewish Museum

Admission free. Screening of the film “Sefarad”. Showings at 10h30, 12h30 and 15h00. “Sefarad” tells the story of the Jewish community in the city of Oporto from 1923 to the present day, highlighting the action of Captain Barros Basto who, together with about thirty Ashkenazi Jews, tried to build a strong Jewish organisation in the city. The Captain was slandered by anonymous denunciations which led to him being expelled from the army. He became known as the “Portuguese Dreyfus”.

The public talks with Isabel Lopes, granddaughter of the “Portuguese Dreyfus”

Each showing of the film “Sefarad” is followed by a talk between the audience and the granddaughter of Captain Barros Basto, Isabel Lopes, current Vice-President of the Jewish Community of Oporto.

Holocaust Museum of Oporto

Admission free. The Holocaust Museum of Oporto, the only one of its kind in the Iberian Peninsula, exhibits objects left behind in the city by the refugees in 1940 and depicts Jewish life before, during and after the Holocaust.

Film “The Light of Judah” at the Holocaust Museum

During the visit to the Holocaust Museum part of the feature film “The Light of Judah” will be shown, focusing on the Jewish refugees who passed through the city of Oporto. Their lives in tatters, these men, women, children and old people wished to leave Europe as soon as possible and go as far away as they could. “Europe, never again!”, they said.

A talk with Josef Lassmann, whose mother was in “Block 10” at Auschwitz

During the day, community member Josef Lassmann will be present to talk with visitors about his mother’s experience in the block run by the “Angel of Death”. In a video, the survivor Nacha Lassmann explains what she lived through. As for Josef’s father, he never said one word about what he experienced in the Holocaust. He only looked ahead. He was 19 years old and his whole family was dead.

Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue

Admission free. Inaugurated in 1938, the Kadoorie Synagogue is the largest in the Iberian Peninsula, a Jewish centre with two prayer rooms, patios for sukkot, library, study room, mikvah for ritual bathing, restaurant, grocery, and others. On 3rd September, the main prayer room, the library and the gallery will be open to the public.

Painting Exhibition on the 1st floor of the Synagogue

Admission free. 15 large paintings  portray the millenary history of the Jewish community of Oporto. Many Portuguese and foreign artists worked under the coordination of the artist of the Jewish Community of Oporto, Flor Mizhahi – a Sephardic Jewess born in Venezuela.

Performance by the Mekor Haim Choir in the Synagogue’s Prayer Room

Admission free. The Mekor Haim male choir will perform in the main prayer room of Kadoorie Synagogue, singing liturgical music from its vast repertoire. The aim is to share Jewish melodies with the city’s friendly population.

Ibéria kosher Restaurant 

Admission free. Located on Rua do Campo Alegre n.º 676, this kosher restaurant of the Jewish community of Oporto will be open to the general public, inviting visitors to taste Israeli kosher cuisine.

Hotel da Música kosher restaurant

Located in Bom Sucesso Market, the Hotel da Música kosher restaurant which will be open to the general public, inviting all those who are interested to taste strictly prepared kosher food.