Algarve welcomes Portugal’s fourth official Jewish community

The Jewish Community of the Algarve (JCA) was officially created on January 4, making it the fourth official Jewish community registered in Portugal.

The announcement was made this week after the JCA was registered as a “religious collective” in the National Register of Legal Persons.

According to the region’s latest religious community, it is the first time a Jewish community has been granted this status since the 20-year-old Religious Freedom Act came into force.

“The Jewish Community of the Algarve 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),” says the JCA.

“Our new synagogue is a new beginning and that is celebrated by an appropriate new name. A name in remembrance of a great and inspiring man, the ”Chacham” Ezra Sasoon of Baghdad (our President Ido Itshaik’s great grandfather). A name that also offers a gesture of appreciation to his parents for their generosity and kindness to offer us the premises for the Synagogue,” the community adds.

The synagogue has a “certified kosher kitchen” and 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,” it adds.

The JCA is self-described as a “community of Sephardic tradition” which features 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 organisations which take advantage of the moment of crisis to discriminate against minorities based on their religion, race, ethnicity, nationality or migration status,” the new community states.

As the JCA points out, Jewish people have had an impact on the Algarve and inspired the naming of some areas in the region, such as Vale Judeu (which translates into Jewish Valley) and Sinagoga (Synagogue). There have also been community centres in Faro, Tavira and Silves.

It was also in Faro where the Torah was printed in 1487 – the first book ever to be printed in Portugal.

“Many of these vestiges were lost in the earthquake of 1755, but there are important 19th century markers that are visitable such as the Jewish cemetery of Faro and the small museum nucleus,” says the JCA.

There is also “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 fourth century. The discovery in Silves of the tombstone of Yehiel demonstrates that Jewish communities are among the oldest of the Iberian Peninsula.”

In addition to the Jewish Community of the Algarve, there are also Jewish communities in Belmonte, Lisbon and Porto.

The Ezra & Sasson synagogue in Albufeira is located on Rua Movimento das Forças Armadas, no. 72.

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