Dona Gracia Mendes, described as one of the greatest women in Portuguese Jewish history, was the topic of a recent lecture in Albufeira, arranged by the Jewish Community of Southern Portugal.
The lecture, delivered by visiting historian Dr Zvika Shayek from Israel, was an opportunity to learn about the woman who devoted her life to helping her people
In 1522, at the age of 12 and after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Dona Gracia first learned that she was a Jew. At 18, she married wealthy banker Francisco Mendes, but after their Catholic wedding, they were secretly married by a Rabbi under a ‘chuppah’ (the ceremonial marriage canopy).
She and her husband helped to save many of those targeted by the Inquisition and, after Francisco died, Dona Gracia used her wealth to continue protecting fellow Jews.
This latest event on the Community’s schedule of activities served to further cement the work of this growing group, first started by Judy and the late Ralf Pinto some 20 years ago.