The extraordinary stories of two men who have enriched the library at Oporto’s synagogue

The extraordinary stories of two men who have enriched the library at Oporto’s synagogue

Story One: 2015. At the age of 90, an unassuming citizen died in the city of Oporto. He was not Jewish but had always been enthusiastic about all things Jewish and had amassed a vast and excellent library on the subject. Members of the Jewish Community of Oporto visited the house of the deceased and were impressed with what they saw. It was not just a question of the riches represented by those hundreds of books.

Every nook and cranny of the house pointed to extreme penury. Yet, unbelievably, this poor soul had built up a lavish library on a unique, almost forbidden subject. Who was he? A devout man, who went through several religions (Catholic, Evangelic and others linked to Spiritism) and was once a slave of a totalitarian Christian sect.

Quite probably his soul never found its true mission in life, yet it obviously involved creating this fabulous collection of books, one decade after another. In 2015 this collection was added to the library in Oporto synagogue, most of whose contents had been stolen in a robbery some years earlier.

Story Two: 2019. At the age of 82, an unassuming citizen died in a small town near Oporto, leaving his vast library to the city’s synagogue. He was a second-hand bookseller by trade and member nº 483 of the National Inventors’ Association. He visited fairs on a regular basis. He was a sort of Mr. Oliveira da Figueira in the Tintin books, calling to mind old Jews in 15 th century markets. Collecting was his passion: “old and rare” books (actually, neither very old, nor very rare) and other mostly superfluous objects of little or no value.

The boot of his car was always crammed with stuff and he always had something to sell. His very old car hailed from the golden era of motor vehicles. When it finally gave up the ghost, he mourned the old jalopy’s “roomy boot”. The members of the Jewish Community of Oporto gave him another car. He could not have been happier. Indeed, he was always a happy man, although over the years he witnessed the death of his son, two daughters, a granddaughter and a son in law. He never lost faith in the Eternal Father.

A month before he died, frail and forgetful, he said that Adonai would cure him of his ills and put him in charge of a perfume factory “maybe in another life or who knows, still in this one!”

Source: Mazal News - Gabriela Cantergi