Tribute to the Jewish Cemetery of Faro, Portugal
The Faro Jewish
Cemetery served the Comunidade
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.
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.