Sivan 5767 ז״סשת ןויס – 3 June 2007

Vol 2 - Nº 4 - First published in April 1995.

Copies of JCA NEWSLETTER are archived at the British Library, Hebrew Section

Isaac Bitton Synagogue Museum Opening Ceremony

at the

Historic Faro Jewish Cemetery

Sunday the 3rd of June 2007 was a warm and sunny day in Faro. Approximately 200 people from as far afield as England and Ireland, Ilinois and even Jacksonville U.S.A., also a contingent from Lisbon and of course the Algarve, were present to witness this milestone event to honour the memory of Isaac “Ike” Bitton. One of Ike’s memorable philosophies was that ”if you do not honour the dead, you cannot respect the living! The Câmara Municipal de Faro (CMF), as at previous ceremonies, provided the sound system, awnings with seating and arranged covers for the monuments that were to be unveiled. The CMF also put down a permanent calçada’d pavement from the Rua Leão Penedo, along the cemetery wall, round the front lawns, providing proper access to the entrance of the Cemetery. This, combined with a decorative new fence enclosing the well-kept front lawns backed by 18 tall cypress trees, give visitors and tourists a new appreciation of the beauty and serenity of this historic site. This cemetery is after all the only remaining vestige of the 1st post inquisition Jewish presence in Portugal !

Our sincere thanks also go to the parking area concessionaries, Sient, for allowing free parking for all those attending our ceremony!

The M.C., Dr. Arnaldo José Guerreiro, welcomed those present. He called on Dr José Oulman Carp, President of the Comunidade Israelita de Lisboa, to speak before the 3 new flagpoles respectively flying flags for the Faro Cemetery Restoration Fund Inc.: the Comunidade Israelita de Lisboa: and the Jewish Community of Algarve. Dr Oulman Carp expressed his pleasure at seeing the progress made in keeping this important Jewish Heritage in Faro alive for future generations. He recorded his community’s appreciation for the work being done.

The next speaker was the Vice President of the Restoration Fund, Eng. Ralf Pinto, who unveiled a new signpost, listing the new Museum, the monuments and the all the homages paid at the Cemetery. He pointed out that the additions and developments at the site during 15 years since it’s restoration had turned it into a true tourist attraction and this demanded that it be appropriately renamed to “The Faro Jewish Heritage Centre”. He also mentioned that the Ministry of Culture would now include the site in the official “ Portuguese Cultural Route ”. It was his wife, Judith that had, in December 1991, in his absence, held a small Channuka party at their flat in Portimão, and that in lighting the Menorah that day she had rekindled the



Flame of Judaism and established the Jewish Community of Algarve (JCA) and that she is the true driving force that keeps it going. He thanked the members of the JCA for their constant support of this project, mentioning that the Faro Jewish Heritage Centre and the JCA were interdependent.

Eng. José Saul Pinto then unveiled a replica of the tombstone of Joseph de Tomar, who had died in 1315. It is mounted on a granite pillar sculpted by Fernanda Assis, The stone was found in a military embattlement (near the present cemetery), in c. 1870, whence it was moved to the cemetery wall and later to the Tomar Museum . In Portugal it is one of only 7 remaining ancient stones with Hebrew lettering, José expressed his pride at being his father’s son.

The Ceremony then moved to the tiled Monument to Samuel Gacon. This was a gift from the Câmara of Faro and was unveiled by its President, Dr. José Apolinário. The President explained that it was Gacon, who had in his shop in Faro carried out the first ever printing in Portugal – The Pentateuch (5 books of Moses) in Hebrew, which was published on the 30th of June 1487! The monument was designed in traditional Portuguese tiles (azuleijos), painted by D. Célia Mendes of Quartro Elementos in Faro. It depicts a Guttenberg press and the 1st page of the Pentateuch, comfortably legible to the Hebrew reader. The British Library has the only known original edition of this book in its Hebrew section and in 1991, the Civil Governor of Faro commissioned a limited facsimile edition – a copy of which may be viewed at the Museum.

David and Joseph, Ike Bitton’s grandsons, also directors of the FCRFInc., then unveiled a memorial plaque honouring their late grandfather with reference to a new hand wash fountain, an indispensable facility for persons leaving the cemetery.

Late Ike’s son, Michael I. Bitton, cut the ribbon for the Isaac Bitton Synagogue Museum. He expressed his thanks for all the effort that had been made over 15 years, since his father’s dream of seeing the cemetery restored, become reality.

The furniture of the original 1820 synagogue at Rua Castilho nº4 in downtown Faro were now restored, and safe in their new home. The fact of their preservation over 40 years since the demolition of the Synagogue was the tireless effort of Advocate, the late, Semtob Dreiblatt Sequerra – we owe him a great debt of gratitude! A Jewish wedding is depicted before the Ark with suitably attired mannequins under a real hand painted chupa (canopy) and with wedding music adding to the occasion.

The closing speech was by the Hon. Aaron Ram, Israeli Ambassador to Portugal . He expressed his pleasure at having been invited to this important event. He thanked all the persons involved, from the donors to the well-wishers, for what had been achieved!

Michelle Pinto then presented copies of Isaac Bitton’s award winning DVD “Without the Past” and a souvenir escudo coin set to each, the Mayor and the Ambassador.

Jewish Community of Algarve Rua Júdice Biker 11 – 5º 8500-701 Portimão

tel +351 282 416 710 fax +351282416515 Móbile 968440414

Cemetery 351 289 829 525



Se full list of Graves athttp://www.commandvideo.com/Faro/default.asp

www.cilisboa.com (see sub-headings: tourism/Algarve)