A Tribute to the Jewish Cemetery of Faro, Portugal

 

The Faro Jewish Cemetery served the Comunidade Israelita de Faro from 1838 to 1932. The 1st Burial was that of Rabbi Josef Toledano. The Community were Retornados or returnees from Gibraltar and North Africa after fleeing the inquisition some centuries earlier. They were a thriving community in Faro, but became defunct in the 1930´s, and the cemetery became abandoned. In the mid 80’s the now late Isaac “Ike” Bitton (for whom the Museum at the cemetery is named), collected the money, which enabled Ralf and Judith Pinto to do the restoration of the premises in 1992/3. Thousands of tourists have visited the cemetery to date. The site was officially listed as an I.I.P. (National Monument) in 1978.

 

The 18 cypress trees planted in 1993, in honour of Portuguese humanitarian Aristides de Sousa Mendes, now stand taller than the 4-meter high walls. A recent development at the Cemetery is the establishment of a Synagogue Museum, next to the old Tahara House. It contains the original furniture from the 1820 Rua Castilho synagogue which was demolished c. 1960. A hupah (Jewish wedding) is depicted in the synagogue, with dressed mannequins and wedding music. A monument was recently erected to honour Samuel Gacon, who did the 1st printing in Portugal at his Faro workshop in 1487. The book is the Pentateuch in Hebrew. The front lawn now also has a replica of a 1315 gravestone of Josef de Tomar, found in Faro in the 1930’s.

 

These developments and interest by researchers and students have prompted the renaming of the site to Centro Hisórico Judaico de Faro or “The Faro Historic Jewish Heritage Centre.

 

It is  well worth a visit!

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