New York Rabbi Urges Support for Small Jewish Community in Portugal

A New York rabbi today urged the Jewish communities of the United States, Israel and Western Europe to help preserve the tiny Jewish community in Portugal by ending its isolation. Rabbi Arthur Schneier of Park Synagogue said that the Jewish community in Portugal today numbers 700 including every man, woman and child. While it possesses all of the necessary facilities to conduct a Jewish religious life, its numbers have been diminished by assimilation and the exodus of its youth to Israel and other countries to live and study.

Rabbi Schneier recently spent seven weeks in Portugal in his capacity as president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an inter-faith group concerned with religious freedom for all denominations. He met with leaders of the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish communities and had an audience with the Primate of Portugal, Cardinal Cerejera. He said there were no social restrictions imposed on Portuguese Jews who are to be found in business, banking, law, medicine and the academic community. But the Jewish population itself generally desires to remain inconspicuous, he said. With the exception of 50 who live in Oporto, the second largest city, the Jews live in Lisbon, the capital.

He said they are mostly of Sephardic origin who came to Portugal from North Africa and Gibraltar only 150 years ago. During World War II, Portugal was the point of exit from Europe for tens of thousands of European Jewish refugees.

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