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(Washington, D.C., Feb. 27, 2020)—On the latest episode of the B’nai B’rith podcast, CEO Daniel. S. Mariaschin talks with Dara Jeffries, representative of the Jewish community of Oporto, Portugal. The community recently created a film entitled “Sefarad,” a sweeping history of Oporto’s Jews.
The movie is “personal in the sense that it tells the story from the perspective of Oporto, as opposed to all of Portugal or all of Iberia, because that’s where we’re from and that’s what we knew,” Jeffries said. “And we think that Oporto’s a very unique place. In Oporto, we’ve done a lot of work with the local Catholic community and the Muslim community as well…It’s always had a very unique dynamic with other religions and is [a] very ecumenical community.”
Oporto’s history of religious tolerance has not always made it safe for Jews. “Sefarad” opens in 1492 with an exodus of Jewish refugees fleeing Castile, from where they have just been expelled, for Portugal. Their stay is short-lived; soon after their arrival, the Portuguese king expels them, and cross-wielding mobs drive Jews out of the country. The narrative then skips to 1923, when the Jewish community of Oporto has been rebuilt under the leadership of military officer Barros Basto. Basto famously revived Oporto’s Jewish community, building the largest synagogue in the Iberian Peninsula in 1938. He was eventually expelled from the military for conduct unbecoming an officer, though many believe he was unjustly accused.
“[Barros Basto] had a vision that he would go and find all these descendants of the hidden Jews and that they would want to come back and become part of mainstream Judaism, but that didn’t happen for a lot of reasons, some of which are told in the movie,” Jeffries said. “But he built this enormous synagogue because he thought that that is what would happen, that he would be able to fill it. So it’s a very large space.”
Click here for Episode 64 of the B’nai B’rith Podcast.
B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. Visit