In a letter sent Wednesday, the Jewish Community of Oporto has called on Portuguese President H.E. Marcelo Rebelo Sousa to issue a public apology to the community and its representatives for what has been described as an anti-Semitic ‘witchhunt’ against it.
The letter details how on 11th March 2022, the Oporto Synagogue, the Jewish Museum, and the houses of community leaders were unlawfully invaded by a large number of police officers, based on anonymous denunciations by criminals.
Last Saturday night, for the first time ever, the Jewish Community of Oporto marked the “Day of Shame” by lighting the candles of a menorah in front of the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue and launching a YouTube video titled “Soviet-style Antisemitism in Portugal”.
The letter sent to the President reads: “The heads of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Judiciary Police, shamefully instrumentalized the accusations, for political purposes, and told the world they were investigating possible crimes of active corruption, influence-trafficking, tax fraud, money laundering, forgery of documents and others.”
According to the President of the Community, Gabriel Senderowicz, “The accusations against the Community were technically impossible, and the authorities knew they had no evidence of such charges.”
The response of the Community was backed up when, on 27th September of last year, a Court of Appeals ruled that the investigations were “based on nothing”.
“This whole episode has been dealt with in a very callous and humiliating fashion in the public eye, leading to many see anti-Semitic motives at the heart of this ‘witchhunt’,” said Gabriel Senderowicz, President of the Oporto Jewish Community. “We know the President is very sympathetic to the Jewish community and is a well-respected public figure, so such a pronouncement from his office will hopefully end this sordid episode.”
“The accusations against the Community were technically impossible, and the authorities knew they had no evidence for such charges. The prosecutors said that our Rabbi had bribed officials of the Registry Offices which he had in fact never visited, nor did he know anyone there and that he had no technical knowledge about who is and who isn’t Sephardi. In addition, they said he ‘had forged the Sephardic origin of a French Israeli who had in fact been certified, and rightly so, but by the Lisbon Community, and of a Russian Israeli who had in fact been certified, and rightly so, by his community of origin.”
The Jewish Community of Oporto comprises around one thousand Jews who originate from 30 countries. It has three synagogues, a Holocaust Museum, a Jewish Museum, and kosher restaurants. This year, the Community will inaugurate its own cemetery, with the last one destroyed in 1497 at the time of the Edict of King Manuel I when the entire Portuguese Jewish community was forcibly converted and Judaism was banned in Portugal.