The Portuguese Jewsof Faro Algarve, Portugal
By Manuel Luciano da Silva, M. D.

THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF FARO (Information from the tourist pamphlet of the City Faro)
The Jews fled the Iberian Peninsula to escape the inquisition at the end of the XV Century. Their descendants, traders and businessmen in Gibraltar and North Africa, were invited back to Portugal by the Marquise de Pombal to help rebuild the economy after the devastating earthquake in 1755. They settled in Faro, a thriving 60 family community, known as "Little Jerusalem". They had 2 synagogues of which neither remain . The community became defunct due to the migration of the young to the cities and the aged dying.
The Faro Jewish Cemetery is the only remaining vestige of the first post inquisition Jewish presence in the Algarve. The first burial was that of Rabbi Joseph Toledano in 1838. The last burial was in 1932.
The entire cemetery is paved with Portuguese calçada and two large shady trees provide a serene ambience. There is a Tahara House in which bodies were washed and prayers were said and is now a Museum.
The land of the Cemetery was purchased in 1851 by three community leaders, Joseph Sicsu the Chazan (cantor), Moses Sequerra and Samuel Amram. The Jewish calendar date 5638 (1887) above the entrance gates is thought to be when the wall was constructed.

The cemetery fell victim to neglect due to the demise of the Jewish Community. The graves were inventoried in 79/80 by Samuel Levy, José and Lawrence Abecassis and the inscriptions were translated by the Reverend Abraham Assor, of the Comunidade Israelita de Lisboa.
1984 saw the establishment of the Faro Cemetery Restoration Fund inc. which was registered by Mr. Isaac "lke" Bitton, native of Lisbon who realized that there was a distinct possibility of the Cemetery, now on prime land, making way for development. His fund raising efforts provided the money for the actual restoration which was arranged by Ralf Pinto of the Jewish Community of Algarve in 1992/93.
A rededication ceremony took place on the 16th of May 1993, in the presence of Dr. Mário Soares, President of Portugal, and some 400 Dignitaries and invited guests.
The international guest list included all denominations, including the Bishop of Algarve. Dr. Soares ceremonially planted the first of 78 trees in honor of the late Dr. Aristides de Sousa Mendes. Dr. Mendes was the Portuguese Consul in Bordeaux, France, in the 1940’s. He saved the lives of thousands of Jews fleeing from Nazi Germany, by issuing transit visas through Lisbon against the direct orders of his Government.
He was demoted for this. The trees were donated by Leonard Oblowitz. A plaque commemorating Gacon was unveiled by Dr. Botelheiro, Mayor of the Faro City Hall.
The first book printed in Portugal, was in Faro in 1487, by Samuel Porteira Gacon. A copy of his first book exits in the British Museum in London, England.
For additional information: Faro Jewish Cemetery