Discover Jewish Heritage in Portugal

The Jewish community in Portugal, of unquestionable cultural and financial value, contributed actively to the development of the country. From the late fifteenth century, persecutions, convictions, and forced conversions, destroyed this community. However, many of those who were then nicknamed “New Christians” continued, in the secrecy of their homes, to honor their religion and to impart orally prayers resisting assimilation.

The Portuguese Jewish heritage is more than just the history behind it, or the simple fact of its existence before Portugal became a nation. In fact before 1147 in Lisbon, there was a large nucleus of Jews with synagogues and infrastructure to support their Jewish life. In the 5th century the Jews were already expelled by the Visigoths or forced to be converted and only in the 7th century some communities were re-established between, Leiria and Lisbon. Some Jews were military leaders in Morocco, Ibn Yachya, then for the 1st King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques he was rewarded for services fighting against the moors, and became the Lord of a village colonized by the Jewish warriors who followed him who fought alongside the Christians and their Portuguese brothers after the taking of Obidos in 1148. By the time all the mosques all along Portugal were changed to Cathedrals, something that will happen later on in the 15th century, when King Manuel ordered the transformation of all Synagogues into churches, the extinction of all Jewish quarters and the Jews began to be called New Christians.

The truth is that they never stop to attend their own believes or the quest for a better life always supported and with the purpose to keep their own religious traditions in secrecy, to preserve their Jewish identity. These religious traditions in secrecy were the key to survive to all of them. These secret Jews started a secret Hebrew culture that would become, the Crypto-Judaism, a unique Jewish culture that defines the Portuguese Jews over the inquisitorial centuries.

Discover the hidden gems of Jewish Portugal! Experience the hidden history of the Crypto-Jews, how they managed to escape the Portuguese inquisition and somehow kept their religious traditions century after century to the next generations! Explore with us the unique places of Jewish communities, the secret Synagogues, and find out how they have managed to communicate between them using the Kabbala; numbers, letters, symbols, like secret codes engraved on the frame doors. These religious traditions in secrecy were always with the purpose to preserve their Jewish identity. These secret Jews started a secret Hebrew culture that would become, the Crypto-Judaism, a unique Jewish culture that defines the Portuguese Jews over the inquisitorial centuries. 

Some of these communities were hidden for more than 400th years resisting and being resilient to the persecutions and still kept their faith in spite of showing to the outside that they were Christians. Marriages were done inside the community that results in some handicap problems for some of the newborns.  

Travelling all along this hidden legacy, through the most unexpected places is a unique chance for you to explore the Jewish History in Portugal. Let us guide you through a magnificent historical legacy, discovering your ancestral routes and walking in the footsteps of your ancestors. Learn the ancient traditions and ways of life of your ancestors, whilst discovering the lands they called, and still call, home.

10 responses to “Discover Jewish Heritage in Portugal

  1. Thank you very much for an interesting and pleasant tour of Jewish and general Lisbon . We enjoyed meeting Paulo and hope to return to Portugal another time.

    1. Thank you Nicole Strassman for your words regarding our work showing the unique Jewish Portuguese Culture.
      Travel regards

  2. Paola of Real Embrace Portugal was my guide for Jewish Portugal in Lisbon and took our group to all the important Jewish places as he described the history and Jewish experience of Lisbon and Portugal. His knowledge of the Jews and his passion for our history makes him a wonderful and relevant guide for anyone who wants an in depth tour of Jewish Lisbon!!! I would never have known all the locations and important stories without his guidance!

    1. Thank you Ariel for your comment on our Jewish Heritage tours. It’s great to know that you enjoyed our unique Jewish experience.
      Looking forward to meet you again.
      Travel regards

  3. I highly recommend Real Embrace Portugal for Jewish tours in Portugal. During our full day Jewish tour of Lisbon, Paulo took us to – and explained – literally every major area and sight there is to see in Lisbon (including the Belem and Alfama districts) as well as to the important points of interest relating to Jewish history (including the Lisbon synagogue, the Lisbon Jewish Memorial in Rossio Square, and the Jewish quarters in the different areas we visited). Paulo made the city and its sights come alive with his exceptional knowledge of Portuguese history. Paolo is very passionate about his country and is an excellent host and tour guide. We can’t wait to return to Portugal, and when we do, we will definitely call Paolo for his Jewish heritage tours in other cities. Obrigada, Paolo!!!!

    1. Thank you Iris and Eric for your comment.
      It was very interesting to meet you both and a fantastic time showing you the Jewish Lisbon Heritage as well Portuguese History and Culture.
      Thank you again!
      Travel regards

  4. Paulo is the BEST! We loved every minute of our tour with him. We highly recommend using him for a Jewish Heritage Tour. He is so knowledgeable and we saw saw so many places! Loved it and will call him when we return!

    1. Thank you Diane Burman for your words and for your always interested and avid mind regarding the portuguese Jewish Culture and history.

  5. My family and I were very lucky to have Paulo as our guide as he was very insightful and passionate about Jewish heritage in Portugal. Everywhere we went Paulo was able to point out every little detail that came from Jewish origin such as Star of David patterns in floor tiles created by Jewish masons. We were especially lucky when Paulo took us to an Ashkenazi Crypto-Jewish synagogue. We experienced the pride that they held in their heritage and strong faith in their religion at the synagogue. Coming to Portugal, my family and I knew very little about the Jewish heritage and after touring with Paulo we will think of Portugal in a new light. Paulo really made our experience with Portugal like no other and we greatly appreciate that. He will definitely be a recommendation for other friends and family looking to travel to Portugal and we hope to tour with him when we come again. Thank you for a wonderful time, Paulo!!

    1. Thank you for your words Zachary Yasinov.
      It was a great time to be with all of you. Thank for sharing your experience with us. This is in fact our passion, showing you the unique Portuguese Jewish culture.
      Thanks again for everything.

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