Portuguese Priest Prompts Protest With Plan To Open Jewish Museum

Local Rabbi Urges Catholic Church To Block Plan

Inquisition-era objects shown in the museum of the Jewish community of Belmonte, Portugal.
Getty Images
Inquisition-era objects shown in the museum of the Jewish community of Belmonte, Portugal.

By JTA

Published January 07, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The rabbi of Porto urged the Catholic Church of Portugal to block a local priest’s plan to open a museum commemorating Jewish presence in the city.

Rabbi Daniel Litvak made the appeal in a letter this week to the Patriarchate of Lisbon against a plan promoted by Father Agostinho Jardim Moreira to open The Center for Jewish Memory.

“It would be improper and a travesty for a Catholic priest to try to distort history and possibly benefit financially from a museum in memory of the very people whom the church expelled,” Litvak told JTA on Tuesday.

Porto, which has a Jewish community of several dozen, used to have tens of thousands of Jews before their 16th century expulsion and forced conversion into Christianity.

Moreira wants to open the museum inside a building that once belonged to Jewish owners before its confiscation, Litvak said.

“Porto has a Jewish community with Jews from 14 nations and if anyone should be running a museum, it should be that community,” he said.

But Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Israel — an Israeli NGO that runs a Jewish heritage center in Trancoso near Porto as part of its outreach to former Jews — offered a passionate defense of Moreira and condemned Litvak’s letter.

Moreira’s project “is a welcome and long-overdue initiative, and it has won the support of Portuguese Jewry,” Freund said, adding it would help raise awareness to that community’s endurance and revival despite persecution.

“It is disgraceful that Daniel Litvak has taken the inexcusable step of criticizing Father Moreira and this project, and I think his criticism is completely without merit,” Freund told JTA.

Moreira told the Lusa news agency that his plan was backed by the Jewish community of Lisbon, the country’s largest with a few hundred members, and of Belmonte.

Lisbon’s Jewish community declined to comment on Litvak’s letter. However, a prominent member of the community spoke to JTA on condition of anonymity.

“We believe that every initiative which relates to religious dialogue should be encouraged,” the community member said, “and that attitudes such as the ones taken by the Porto community are negative and conducive to creating anti-Semitism.”


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!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • 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.