LISBON, Portugal (JTA) – Conservative rabbis performed what were being called the movement’s first conversions to Judaism in Portugal.
A rabbinical court, or beit din, of three judges, on April 26 in Lisbon recognized Juliana Fernandes da Silva and her life partner, Edgard Pimentel, as Jews.
Though the Conservative, or Masorti, movement has performed conversions of several Portuguese Jews, it was the first time the rabbinical court convened in Portugal, according to Rabbi Chaim Weiner of London, who oversaw the court proceedings.
European Conservative converts typically travel to London, Weiner said, but it was decided to hold the court in Lisbon because several rabbis already were in Portugal on a monthlong study trip on the country’s Jewish heritage.
Da Silva, a 26-year-old Brazilian mathematician who grew up in a Catholic home, took a ritual dip in the mikvah following the court’s decision. She and Pimentel — a Brazilian born to an atheist father and a Catholic, non-observant mother — were welcomed at a reception the following day into the Portuguese capital’s Conservative community of a few dozen people.
Also officiating at the beit din was Rabbi Jules Harlow of Lisbon’s Conservative synagogue, Ohel Jacob. He and his wife, Navah Harlow, guided the Brazilians through two years of studies for the conversion, Pimentel said.
Weiner noted that Spain has a much larger Masorti community than Portugal with several hundred members, many of them Argentinians.