The Jewish community in Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, inaugurated its new cemetery this week. The community's previous cemetery was destroyed in 1497 as a result of the decree that banned Judaism in Portugal.
"We do not forget that in the past we were robbed of all our assets, houses, even the cemetery was destroyed," said Rabbi Asaf Portal, one of the rabbis of Porto's community.
The cemetery is called the Isaac Aboab Field of Equality. Aboab was the last Gaon of Castile, who lived and died in Porto following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain.
"Unfortunately, we don't even know where the last Gaon is buried, because the persecution destroyed all traces of the Jewish community of the time,” stated Porto community Rabbi Daniel Litvak.
The beautiful cemetery is located amidst trees, grass, and a lake. In Porto, it was not possible to establish a private cemetery in a quiet and discreet location. The community decided to buy land outside the city, in a quiet location in Maia, eight kilometers from Porto.
The mayor of Maia, António Silva Tiago, attended the event and said that "Jews are and will always be very well received in Maia, a city close to Porto with a long Jewish tradition that is currently increasingly cosmopolitan and thriving.”
The new cemetery has room for about 300 grave sites and a mikveh (ritual bath). The president of Chabad Portugal, Rabbi Eli Rosenfeld, said that “the new Porto Jewish community cemetery is proof that the Jews always regenerate.
Having a Jewish burial is something of utmost importance in Jewish tradition. The dedication of the new Jewish cemetery is therefore a truly monumental occasion.”