Portugal, Kislev, 14, 5767
m. lopes azevedo

In 1497, the year of the forced baptism, there were Jewish neighbourhoods in just about every city and town in Portugal. Some cities, such as Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra had several Judiarias, each with their own house of worship. King Manuel ordered the Judiarias dismantled, the gates taken down, the street names changed and he directed his magistrates to seize the synagogues and their contents. Many synagogues were converted to churches, others given or sold to the king`s favourites. Few examples known today are the Luso-Hebraic Abraham Zacuto museum in Tomar and the former synagogue In Evora which is now used for tourist accomodation . In Castelo Vide, the former synagogue is being transformed into a museum.
In Lisbon, there were probably five synagogues at the time (watch for Ladina`s upcoming posts on the synagogues of Lisbon before 1497) but the Great synagogue in the Judiaria Grande or Velha was the grandest of all. It even had silk upholstered benches. There is no public signage of any of the synagogues of Lisbon (except for an erroneous sign in front of the church on Rua Alfandega), or of its four Judiarias. The situation is much the same throughout the country, with a few exceptions.
Ladina is dedicated to rescuing the memory of the Portuguese Jewish people and has embarked on a campaign to persuade elected officials to identify and erect public signage in former Judiarias. It would be helpful if elected officials such as mayors, councilors and ministers were made aware of the merits of recognizing the Jewish heritage of Portugal, especially for people living in the diaspora.
Our first letter is to the mayor of Lisbon regarding a development application involving a building located at the site of one of the 10 or so former gates of the Judiaria Grande, close to the the former Great synagogue. We invite you to make your views known , and don't forget that if your Portuguese is a little rusty, English is one of the official languages of the E.U.(unfortunately Portuguese is not).