Portugal Town Gets First Torah Scroll in 500 Years

5,000-Strong Village Trancoso Was Once Half Jewish

Remnants of Culture: Artifacts are all that remain of Jewish life in many Portuguese towns.
getty images
Remnants of Culture: Artifacts are all that remain of Jewish life in many Portuguese towns.

By JTA

Published July 21, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

For the first time in centuries, a Torah scroll will be installed in the northern Portuguese town of Trancoso, where many Jews lived before the 16th century.

The Torah scroll was scheduled to be installed Sunday during the dedication of a new Jewish learning center, the Isaac Cardoso Center for Jewish Interpretation, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported.

The Torah scroll is to be placed in the newly-built Bet Mayim Hayim synagogue within the Cardoso center, which the Trancoso municipality built with an investment of about $1.5 million, according to the Gazeta de Viseu local daily. The daily reported that the city hoped the center would attract tourists.

The center opened its doors on Friday, at an event co-organized by the Jerusalem-based nonprofit organization Shavei Israel, which does outreach to people with Jewish origins in Portugal and other countries.

“This is an historic event. More than five centuries after the expulsion of Portuguese Jewry, the streets of Trancoso, Portugal, will once again be filled with Jewish singing and dancing as we bring a Sefer Torah to its new home,” Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund told JTA.

Today, none of Trancoso’s 5,000 residents are Jewish but the town used to be half Jewish, according to Freund. He added Trancoso and the surrounding area are home to a large number of Bnei Anousim, or “marranos” — people whose Jewish ancestors were compelled to leave the country or convert to Catholicism during the Portuguese Inquisition, which began in the 16th century.

“The dedication of this Torah scroll symbolizes the rebirth that is taking place in Portugal as growing numbers of Bnei Anousim emerge from the shadows of history and seek to reconnect with the Jewish people,” Freund said.

Earlier this month Portugal’s parliament enacted an amendment which makes Jews of Sephardic Portuguese origins eligible for Portuguese nationality.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.