On the eve of the International Day in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, the Jewish Community of the Algarve announces its rooting as official Religious Community.
On January 4 2022, Jewish Community of the Algarve became the 4th official Jewish community in Portugal to be registered as a Religious Collective in the National Register of Legal Persons. The organization’s ongoing recognition process was the subject of a favorable opinion from the Religious Freedom Commission, chaired by Dr. José Vera Jardim. It is the first time a Jewish community has been granted this status since the 20-year-old Religious Freedom Act entered into force.
The most recent community with this specific legal recognition, it also has a close proximity to an extraordinary and ancient legacy of Jewish presence in Portugal. The traces of the confirmed presence of these Jewish communities date back at least to the 4th century. The discovery in Silves of the tombstone of Yehiel (dated 390 CE) demonstrates that Jewish communities are among the oldest of the Iberian Peninsula.
The Jewish Community of the Algarve (JCA) gathers at its Ezra & Sasson Synagogue in Albufeira, in the presence of a Sephardic Torah from Morocco (which was the place of escape for many Portuguese Jews at the time of the edict of expulsion). The synagogue has a certified kosher kitchen and also has the support of a shop that sells kosher food and religious items, to fundamentally ensure the needs of the community. JCA will also provide a wide range of support services to its community and to the external community, following a policy of cultural connection.
A community of Sephardic tradition, it counts among its members Jews with Ashkenazi ancestry and attracts congregants from all over the world. The Algarve, and Portugal in general, is a territory considered safe by Jews who can enjoy their religious life here without feeling the pressure of antisemitism, despite the growth of some organizations who take advantage of the moment of crisis to discriminate against minorities based on their religion, race, ethnicity, nationality or migration status.
The Jewish people were a formative presence in localities such as Vale Judeu or Sinagoga, and there were community centers in the main cities of the Algarve; in Faro, Tavira, and Silves. In Lagos the Hebrew inscriptions from the 7th-8th century still exist. It was also in the Algarve, in Faro, where the first Portuguese book – a Tora (Pentateuch) – was printed by a Jew, Samuel Gacon, in 1487. Many of these vestiges were lost in the earthquake of 1755, but there are important nineteenth century markers that are visitable such as the Jewish cemetery of Faro and the small museum nucleus.
In addition to the Jewish Community of the Algarve, the Jewish communities already present in Portugal are those of Belmonte, Lisbon and Porto.