Coverage of B'nai B'rith Co-Sponsoring New Initiative Marking Routes Taken by Jews Fleeing 15th Century Persecution
B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider is co-sponsoring an initiative by Mayor Antonio Pita of the town of Castelo de Vide in eastern Portugal that will mark the paths taken by Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 and the Portuguese Inquisition in 1496. Schneider attended and addressed a formal gathering in Castelo de Vide where the initiative was announced.
See how the media covered the news and the event:
Portuguese Town to Sponsor Country-Wide Initiative Marking Routes Taken by Jews Fleeing 15th Century Persecution
Castelo de Vide City Council – YouTube (Portuguese)
Portugal em Direto - Encontro Rede de Judiarias de Portugal e Espanha
Israel Hayom (English):
Portuguese City Marking Routes Taken by Jews Fleeing Inquisition
Israel Hayom (Hebrew):
First-of-its-Kind Initiative in Portugal: Restoration of the "Spanish Deportees"
The Jerusalem Post – Grapevine Column (English)
Grapevine August 9, 2021: A Time to Remember
Grapevine columnist Greer Fay Cashman notes that both Portugal and Spain have made great strides in trying to make amends for the expulsion of Jews from their respective countries more than 500 years ago. Aside from entering into diplomatic relations with Israel, restoring citizenship to people who can prove direct descent from those who were expelled, acknowledging ancient antisemitism, permitting the revival of Jewish communities, and more, the town of Castelo de Vide in western Portugal will sponsor an initiative tracing the paths taken by Jews fleeing the Spanish inquisition in 1492 and the Portuguese Inquisition of 1496. An announcement to this effect was made last week by Castelo de Vide Mayor Antonio Pita, who also serves as vice president of the Jewish Cities Network in Portugal.
The multiyear project, which was jointly initiated with Alan Schneider, director of the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, will be coordinated by Walter Wasercier, vice president of the Hispanic-Israeli Chamber of Commerce and former El Al director in Spain and Portugal.
Supporters of the project include outgoing Ambassador to Portugal Raphael Gamzou; Assumpcio Hosta Rebes, secretary-general of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage; Marta Puig Qixal, managing director of Caminos de Sefarad; and officials of the local and regional governments, among them Caceres and Tui in Spain and Braganza and Porto Alegre in Portugal.
Remnants of Castelo de Vide’s Jewish history are carefully maintained by the municipality, including a synagogue and Jewish quarter, and the town will shortly inaugurate the first museum in the world dedicated to the memory of the Inquisition that led to the expulsion of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula and to untold suffering of Jews who clandestinely continued to cling to their religious beliefs and practices (“conversos”).
As envisioned by its initiators, the project – titled El Kamino De Sefarad al muevo mundo (The Sepharad Route to the New World) – will eventually cover thousands of kilometers from areas of major Jewish population in Spain in the Middle Ages, over the border into Portugal, concluding in Lisbon and Porto, where Jews were forcibly converted or departed for other destinations in North Africa, Holland, the Land of Israel and the New World. The initiative was inspired by the Kamino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.
Schneider envisioned that many Israeli and Jewish organizations would become party to the effort, and that the marked routes will be an attraction for Jewish visitors, among others.
Puig said that besides the economic development that all the participants hope the project will bring, it also will make an important institutional contribution by better transmitting Jewish history in the Iberian Peninsula.
Schneider noted that B’nai B’rith has a long history of commemorating the Inquisition. Among other things, its lodge in Jerusalem established the first sustained library in Israel in 1892, naming it for Rabbi Don Isaac Abravanel, the leader of the Jewish community in Spain at the time of the Inquisition, who led his followers into exile. This library formed the foundation of the National Library of Israel.
Meeting Between the Jewish Networks of Spain and Portugal
Red de Juderías
Meeting between the Jewish Networks of Spain and Portugal
Tui Participated in the Meeting Between the Jewish Networks of Spain and Portugal
JNS and the Cleveland Jewish News covered the opening of a permanent exhibit on the historic Entebbe raid at the Jewish Museum of Oporto, which was inspired by a B'nai B'rith Portugal Jewish young adults conference in Oporto in June that B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and President Charles O. Kaufman attended.
The Jewish Museum of Oporto in Portugal on July 19 opened a permanent exhibit dedicated to “Operation Thunderbolt,” Israel’s historic 1976 hostage-rescue raid in Entebbe, B’nai B’rith International announced.
“The [exhibit] is aimed at educating young Jews who lack awareness of the many counter-terrorism actions that the Israel Defense Forces and Mossad have undertaken in the past and are prepared to undertake in the future,” said B’nai B’rith Portugal president Gabriela Cantergi.
“The idea of building a room dedicated to the Entebbe operation arose out of an event on June 21 in Oporto that brought together young Jewish leaders of various nationalities, and their main concern was whether Israel could stop a new Holocaust in any country in the world,” she explained.
Israeli Ambassador to Portugal Raphael Gamzou said that the exhibit teaches “that neither distance, logistics nor any other challenge would ever prevent Israel from doing the utmost to save the lives of its citizens.”
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin concurred.
“The hostage-rescue operation in Entebbe exemplified Israel’s strength and resolve,” he said, adding, “Dedicating an exhibit to that historic moment enables all visitors to the museum to know that Israel protects its people, wherever they may be.”
B’nai B’rith International President Charles Kaufman said the raid was not only the greatest hostage-rescue operation in Israel’s history, but also represents Judaism’s “commitment to the value of preserving life.”
“’Operation Thunderbolt’ in Entebbe ushered in a new high watermark of recognition and admiration for the Jewish state throughout the world,” said Kaufman.
“Operation Thunderbolt” was carried out on July 4, 1976, by an elite unit of Israeli commandos, led by Yonatan Netanyahu, at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. Netanyahu, the brother of Benjamin Netanyahu—who would become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister—was killed during the operation.
The Jewish Museum of Oporto says that its mission “is to inform about the historic and cultural importance of the Jews in Portugal and of Portuguese Jews worldwide, with particular emphasis on the Diaspora of Sephardic Portuguese Jews and the history of the Jewish community in Oporto that is older than the foundation of Portugal.”
JNS noted B'nai B'rith International's support of the Oporto, Portugal Jewish community and the Holocaust Museum of Oporto in its coverage of the Holocaust Museum donating its guestbooks to Yad Vashem in Israel.
(July 19, 2021 / JNS) The Holocaust Museum of Oporto is donating its guestbooks to Israel’s Yad Vashem via the Israeli embassy in Portugal, according to a museum representative.
“Two reasons led the museum to donate the guestbooks to Yad Vashem,” said Gabriela Cantergi. “The first is that there are many people who say they will defend Jews throughout their lives; the second is that there is great popular support for Israel [in Portugal].”
Opened to the public in April, the Holocaust Museum in Oporto has already welcomed 22,000 people, most of them young, according to Cantergi. In the first month, it was the most visited museum in Portugal. Seventy percent of visitors are young people, for whom the museum is free.
“Of [those] 22,000 people, and guestbooks with thousands of comments from the visitors, there isn’t a single criticism of Israel,” said Cantergi. “On the contrary, there is a lot of praise for the small state.”
A video released by the museum features some of these comments, such as: “A great nation has grown, after being nearly decimated by enemies in 1948”; “Let not a single day go past that we do not remember Israel”; “I feel pain for the suffering inflicted then and now on the Jews”; “Those who still today silence the Holocaust perpetuate it.”
In the same video, which also includes statements by leaders of the Portuguese-Jewish communities, the chief rabbi of Oporto’s Jewish community says that 80 percent of the families in the community were expelled from Arab or Muslim countries in the 20th century, while the rest of the families suffered the horrors of the Holocaust firsthand. Some were victims of infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele’s experiments, and others were forced to dig their own graves before being shot, he says.
Under the auspices of members of the Oporto Jewish community whose parents, grandparents and relatives were victims of the Holocaust, the Oporto Holocaust Museum has cooperation partnerships with Holocaust museums in Washington, Moscow, Hong Kong and Europe.
The Jewish community of Oporto includes about 500 Jews originally from more than 30 countries and has a beit din, synagogues, mikvahs (ritual baths), kosher restaurants, a Holocaust museum, the Oporto Jewish Museum and cooperation protocols with the Israeli embassy in Portugal, Keren Hayesod, B’nai B’rith International and the Anti-Defamation League.
In JNS, Miriam Assor, a member of the Portuguese Jewish community in Lisbon, highlighted B'nai B'rith's involvement in the creation of the Oporto Holocaust Museum – the city's first Holocaust museum.
(April 11, 2021 / JNS) The new Oporto Holocaust Museum, the only one in the Iberian Peninsula, has already been referred to by Timeout magazine as the best museum in the city. Oporto is one of Europe’s oldest and most popular tourist destinations, and before the COVID-19 pandemic, it received hundreds of thousands of European tourists every year.
As a daughter of the rabbi who led the Jewish community of Lisbon for 50 years, born in a country where Jews were expelled five centuries ago—and living in a Europe where more and more people hate Jews, Judaism and Israel—I am infused with a sense of security from the museum. It is a reminder that the phrase “Never again”—about the savage murder of six million Jews in a genocide designed down to the last millimeter—cannot and must not be reduced to an epigraph.
I have read the works of Elie Wiesel, Samuel Pisar, Primo Levy and Anne Frank. I was privileged to be friends with someone who breached the Warsaw Ghetto wall. I have interviewed survivors. I met Imre Kertész.
I have visited the Nazi extermination camps, where the air smells of corpses and remnants of dead Jews were on display: stacks of suitcases, shoes, artificial limbs, glasses, crutches, human hair used for fabrics. I have been to Yad Vashem and Kibbutz Lohamei HaGeta’ot in Israel, and many other Holocaust museums elsewhere in the world, viewing photos of so many tattooed arms with deadly numbers. I have pored over archives and scoured libraries, examining blood-stained documents.
To be remembered, the Shoah needs to be known and deeply understood. Understanding is perhaps the only way not to allow the crime to be repeated. “Never again” translates into solidifying the truth with justice, with the strength that does not come from weapons, but from actions such as the building of the Holocaust museum, run by Oporto’s Jewish community, whose parents, grandparents and other family members were direct victims of that tragedy: enslaved, gassed, shot, buried in mass graves, forced to play the violin in Theresienstadt, subject to Mengele’s experiments, escaping Treblinka in the middle of the night.
Built by complementary teams of experts in areas as diverse as history, design, architecture, civil construction and carpentry, under the direction of the board and local rabbinate, the Oporto Holocaust Museum was erected in just two months. In cooperation with B’nai B’rith International and Holocaust museums around the world, it portrays Jewish life before the Holocaust; Nazism and Nazi expansion in Europe; the ghettos, refugees, concentration, labor and extermination camps; liberation; the Jewish population in the post-war period; the foundation of the State of Israel; and the Righteous Among the Nations.
Visitors will have the opportunity to see a reproduction of the Auschwitz dormitories, a room of names, a memorial flame, a study center and, in the image of the Washington Holocaust Museum, photographs and video footage of the period before, during and after the tragedy.
The museum also contains archives relating to refugees who passed through the city of Oporto, including official documents, testimonies, letters and hundreds of individual files. Two Torah scrolls offered to the synagogue in Oporto by refugees who had arrived in the city after the war are also on display.
The new museum is part of a strategy of the local Jewish community to combat anti-Semitism—a strategy that also includes school visits to the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue; four films about the history of Jews in Portugal (as part of an interfaith project with the Diocese of Oporto); pedagogical training programs for secondary-school teachers and other civil servants on themes related to Judaism, the history of the Jews and the Holocaust; and visits to the city’s Jewish Museum to observe the historic and cultural importance of the Jews in Portugal and of Portuguese Jews worldwide, with particular emphasis on the Jewish community in Oporto, which is older than the foundation of Portugal.
The board of directors of the Jewish community of Oporto has it right when it says, “Jews are off the political agenda in many countries, as they are seen as plutocrats of an obscurantist religion and culture with their own state in Israel. Jews don’t count, and the Holocaust itself has been instrumentalized mainly to combat discrimination in general, although nine out of 10 victims were Jewish. Nazism also persecuted other minorities, but it just feared the Jewish culture that was 3,000 years old and present on all continents. The Jews were considered as the greatest threat to the ‘Master Race.’ Hatred of Jews extended far beyond the territories occupied by Germany. The Holocaust aimed to exterminate the Jewish people!”
Israel Hayom quoted B'nai B'rith International President Charles Kaufman in its coverage of the Holocaust Museum of Oporto (Porto) opening its doors, something B'nai B'rith has been encouraging for several years.
The Holocaust Museum of Oporto (Porto) opened its doors to the public on April 5th, the first day after Portugal eased lockdown measures and allowed cultural institutions to reopen, all the while adhering to coronavirus restrictions.
Within two days, 500 visitors made it to the museum, among them young people, senior citizens, Jews, and members of other religions. This is the first time a museum dedicated to the Holocaust is inaugurated in Portugal.
The museum portrays Jewish life spanning decades, from before the Holocaust, during the Nazi era, including life in ghettos, labor and concentration camps, the Final Solution, the death marches, and the liberation, all the way to the establishment of the State of Israel.
The museum has reproductions of Auschwitz barracks, a name room, a flame memorial, a study center, and photographs and screens showing actual footage of before, during, and after the genocide.
It also exhibits archives relating to refugees who passed through Oporto, including official documents, testimonies, letters, and hundreds of individual files.
Moreover, the museum has signed a cooperation protocol with Oporto's Jewish Museum to combat antisemitism in Europe.
"These museums in Oporto should serve as a beacon of light to the rest of Europe, a land darkened today by resurgent antisemitism," President of B'nai B'rith International Charles Kaufman said.
"For the growing Jewish community of Portugal, we urge you to teach future generations the glory of our past and the Holocaust as they repel attempts to disparage us in the future," he said.
In a letter read to the lobby’s inaugural gathering, President Reuven Rivlin stated that while in “Spain precious communities were forced leave their faith, their life and the values they grew up and raised their families” five hundred years ago, “Spanish Jews are still with us, and we must not forget them.”
According to lobby founders MK Robert Ilatov and Ashley Perry, increasing numbers of the descendants of Jews around the world have become interested in exploring their heritage and reconnecting with the Jewish people.
“For many of us in this room who are the descendants of those persecuted and forcibly converted in Spain and Portugal, we know that it would have been impossible for our ancestors to have even dreamed of this moment,” said Perry, a former advisor to erstwhile Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and the founder of the Reconnectar NGO.
According to Spanish Ambassador Fernando Carderera, more than the requests of more than 4,300 Sephardic Jews for citizenship have been approved since the recent passage of a bill providing the descendants of the expellees with the opportunity to reconnect with Spain.
B’nai B’rith’s Alan Schneider told the Post that he believes that the new initiative sends a message to interested parties that Israel and the Jewish people reciprocate their desires and that “its going to be easier for them now to investigate their Jewish roots, to find out about Jewish tradition, learn about their traditions and how they relate to Judaism and eventually to decide if they want to take the greater leap of rejoining in a formal way with the Jewish people.”
“I think it also sends a message to the Jews in Israel and Jews around the world that there potentially is a much deeper margin of potential supporters, of family actually, there who feel close toward the Jewish people and the state of Israel and eventually can be called upon to be our supporters even if they choose to stay in their current status,” he said.
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