For the first time in the history of the Masorti movement, its rabbis performed conversions to Judaism in Portugal.
The two conversions were performed in the Portuguese capital at a beit din, or rabbinical court, of three judges, who on April 26 recognized Juliana Fernandes da Silva and her life partner, Edgard Pimentel, as Jews.
Though the Masorti movement – the smallest of the three major streams of Judaism – has performed conversions of several Portuguese Jews, this was the first time that the rabbinical court convened in Portugal, according to Rabbi Chaim Weiner of London, who oversaw the proceedings of the court.
Usually European Masorti converts travel to London, he added, but this time it was decided to hold the court in Lisbon because several rabbis were already in Portugal on a month-long study trip of 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 Lisbon’s small Masorti community of a few dozen people.
Also officiating at the beit din was Rabbi Jules Harlow of Lisbon’s Masorti synagogue, Ohel Jacob. He and his wife, Navah Harlow, guided the Brazilian couple through two years of studies for the conversion, Pimentel said.
Spain’s Masorti community is much larger than Portugal’s and has several hundred members, many of them Argentinians, Weiner said.