Portugal: Faro Jewish Heritage Center

Jewish history is found in surprising places, often by visitors who simply stumble by chance onto something rather interesting.

Tortoise Tales (a diary of motor home adventures) is a blog covering slow travel in a motorhome through Europe by two rather adventurous UK retirees Frances and Bernard Platman, who began their travels in October 2003.

In this post, they discuss their December 2009 visit to Faro, Portugal, in the Algarve region.

The Faro Jewish Heritage Center is the focus of this post.

The site covers the center, the cemetery, the museum and much more, as well as activities and events for the tiny permanent Jewish community (augmented by visitors) in this area – all thanks to former South Africans Ralf and Judy Pinto, who host holiday celebrations and other activities. If you’re planning a trip to the Algarve, contact them.

At right, see a photo of the Faro Jewish cemetery.

How did Frances Platman learn about the Pintos?

Shortly after arriving at Armacoa de Pera, on the Algarve in Portugal, I was reading the Portuguese English paper and noticed in the “what’s on” columns for 13th December a snippet saying if we wanted an invite to a Chanukah party just phone….. So I did and spoke to a charming man who originally hailed from South Africa but had been living full time in Portimao on the Algarve for a number of years.

He and his wife are instrumental in setting up the Algarve Jewish Community,

They have been organising events for special occasions since their arrival in Portugal. He is also the director of the Faro Jewish Heritage Centre, Cemetery and Museum, and offered to take us there.

The Centre is the only remaining vestige of the first post Inquisition Jewish presence in Portugal and the cemetery contains marble gravestones from the period 1838 to 1932. The small museum has many artefacts and original furniture from an 1820 synagogue together with a video, “Without the Past”.

There’s more in her blog post and much more on the Faro Jewish Heritage Center.

How was the Chanukah party?

The Chanukah party on the 13th December was very jolly, held in our hosts’ apartment. There were people there who were visiting just like us but also residents from all over the Algarve , some permanent and some who come and go from their country of origin. Fried foods were eaten, candles were lit and songs sang to remember the miracle of the holy oil in the temple which lasted for eight days although there was only enough for one when the Jewish people were besieged.

Jewish visitors to the area are always welcomed by this enthusiastic couple. We intend to keep in touch with them in the future as we have enjoyed our new friendship.

Thanks, Frances, for this post.

Readers interested in mobile home travel will also find Tortoise Tales interesting.

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