The center is a joint collaborative effort between the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization and the Trancoso Municipality. Over 100 people participated in the center’s "chanukat bayit" (inauguration ceremony), at which mezuzot were affixed to the doors.
The highlight of the event was the celebratory dedication of a Torah scroll which was brought from Israel and will be used in the center’s synagogue. It was carried into the center amid energetic singing and dancing.
“This is a historic moment,” said Shavei Israel founder and Chairman Michael Freund in his speech at the inaugural ceremony. “More than five centuries after the expulsion of Portuguese Jewry, the streets of Trancoso, Portugal, once again filled with the sounds of Jewish song as we brought a Torah scroll to its new home here at the center.”
Inside new center (photo courtesy of Shavei Israel)
Freund noted that, “Trancoso’s new Jewish center will commemorate the countless Portuguese Jews who were persecuted, forcibly converted or expelled more than five centuries ago. Today’s dedication ceremony symbolizes the rebirth that is taking place in Portugal as growing numbers of Bnei Anousim emerge from the shadows of history and seek to reconnect with the Jewish people.
"Working together in partnership with the Trancoso Municipality, we hope to provide the Bnei Anousim with a wide variety of cultural, educational and spiritual programming in the years to come. I believe that the Jewish people owe it to the Bnei Anousim to reach out to them, extend a welcoming hand and enable as many of them as possible to return,” he said.
Celebratory dedication of Torah scroll brought from Israel (Photo courtesy of Shavei Israel)
The Isaac Cardoso Center for Jewish Interpretation will be administered by Shavei Israel, which will organize various Jewish activities on its premises, all of which will be overseen by the group’s emissary to Portugal, Rabbi Elisha Salas. Jose Levy Domingos, who serves as an advisor to the mayor of Trancoso, will administer the center for the municipality and work in conjunction with Rabbi Salas.
The center will focus on outreach work to the many Bnei Anousim (descendants of Iberian Jews who were compelled to convert to Catholicism in the 14th and 15th centuries and whom historians refer to as "Marranos") who reside in the area.
The center will also include an exhibition about the Jewish history of Portugal and the renewal of Jewish life in the region in recent years. It also contains a new synagogue called Beit Mayim Hayim - “the House of Living Waters.”