Portugal’s Jewish Identity

Portugal – visiting Belmontes new-old Jewish community

Portugal Jewish history

Portuguese Jewish history reaches back over 2.000 years ago. Jewish populations have existed in the area before Portugal became a nation, back to the Roman era.

In Portugal Jewish history, since ancient times, there were Jews. Unlike what happened in other European countries, here they found some balance and peace. Some of our Kings provided them social and economic prosperity in return of services to the Portuguese Crown. Off course they have had violent episodes such as massacres and prohibitions from the Inquisition period. Some of this episodes were the forced conversions to other religions. But, the most important prohibition of all was the fact that they couldn’t position themselves as Jewish.

Portuguese Jewish Culture In the North center area of Portugal named by Beiras is the region that Jews have lived as communities. Here they stayed for hundreds of years practicing their religion and culture in secrecy. These secret communities have created a unique Hebrew culture that would become the Crypto-Judaism. The Portuguese Jewish Culture. This phenomenon of Crypto-Jews will remain until the twentieth century. The Jewish legacy left by this people in this region is undeniable and part of Portugal’s history. From Jewish typical products, buildings and old traditions there is a Jewish historical legacy as a testimony of Portugal Jewish history. This Jewish identity is still visible in Portugal in the present days.

Jewish Portugal, the Crypto-Jew Heritage
Book here your Jewish Cultural route in Portugal

Jews and New Christians

Jews in Portugal as well New Christians are a prove in this ancient region by the high number of cruciform inscriptions. This is a testemony of their “Christianization” in Portugal and Jewish identity.

Different sets of houses stand out from the main churches, dating from the 15th-16th century. Inside the one closest to the Catholic temple we can find a Hekhal or Aron-ah-Kodesh (Law Cabinet) adapted by the Jews in Portugal.

Some types of cruciformes are for example, a fact of Jewish presence in different urban groups. But however, the Latin Cross, has a double interpretation in it’s decoration – Jewish and Catholic.  In adition and consequently, the Star of David can be seen in manor and emblazoned houses, bridges and fountains of medieval architecture.


  • Nicole Strassman

    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.

    • Paulo Moreira

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

  • Ariel

    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!

    • Paulo Moreira

      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

  • Iris and Eric Assouline

    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!!!!

    • Paulo Moreira

      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

  • Diane Burman

    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!

    • Paulo Moreira

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

  • Zachary Yasinov

    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!!

    • Paulo Moreira

      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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