2010 - March : Visit to the Faro Jewish Cemetery
16 members visited the Jewish Heritage Museum and cemetery in Faro - guided by Sr. António, the curator.
At the entrance he pointed out the 18 cypress trees that were planted in 1993 in honour of the late Dr. Aristides de Sousa Mendes who was the Portuguese Consul in Bordeaux. He had been instrumental in saving the lives of thousands of Jews fleeing from Nazi Germany.
Over the entrance a stone shows the Jewish calendar date of 5638 (1887) – the construction of the cemetery. On entering the cemetery we were struck by the sensation of peace, so near the busy hospital of faro. There are 71 inscribed marble graves and 35 small pebble graves in the ‘calçada’ courtyard which is shaded by two huge tees.
The area had fallen into disrepair until 1992 when Isaac ‘Ike’ Bitton raised funds to preserve the only remaining vestige of post Inquisition Jewish presence in Portugal. The Bitton Synagogue Museum was built to commemorate him and houses a wedding with models of a bride and groom with the Rabbi. There is also a facsimile of Gacon’s 1487 Pentateuch in Hebrew.
In the Tahara Museum there are many documents and artefacts on display and there is an excellent video of the history of Jews in Portugal. It was a very interesting visit.