European Jewish Congress
Portugal
"We must recognize and cherish our Jewish heritage", said the President of the Portuguese Republic

The President of the Portuguese Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, visited today the Lisbon Synagogue and considered that Portugal should recognize and cherish its Jewish heritage, emphasizing its role in shaping national identity.

"It is never too much to express a word of gratitude to this inheritance, which enriched us in the past and which played an important role in shaping our identity." said Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, at the end of a religious ceremony that included prayers for the President, for the Prime Minister and its ministers and for peace in Israel.

In an address before leaders and members of the Jewish Community of Lisbon, the head of state added: "We must recognize it and cherish it, because we know how much we lost for not doing it in the past." As mentioned by Antero de Quental, the expulsion of the Jews from Portugal was a “national calamity."

Bearing a "kippah" on his head, like the rest of the men, the President of the Republic finished his speech with  meaningful words in Hebrew: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one." 

During this ceremony at the "Shaaré Tikvá" synagogue, located near Largo do Rato in Lisbon, a memorial prayer was also recited in memory of Shimon Peres, former President and Prime Minister of Israel, who died last September. President Rebelo de Sousa has also unveiled a memorial stone in his honor.

In his speech, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa recalled him as "a humanist" and "an exceptional being who fought without ceasing for peace, for dialogue, for the ecumenical vision of the relationship between people, peoples and nations", expressing the desire that " the legacy of Shimon Peres stands and deepens. "

The President of the Republic recalled that the two had met "briefly" in Israel 35 years ago and that they had agreed to meet in Portugal on October 20, lamenting: "Unfortunately, he has left us in the meantime. God bless his soul. " 

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said that he was in the Lisbon Synagogue "with great pleasure" and "in a spirit of openness, peace and also of reunion", following the visits of his predecessors Jorge Sampaio, Mário Soares and Cavaco Silva.

The Vice President of the Assembly of the Republic, Teresa Caeiro, and deputies of the Parliamentary Portugal-Israel Friendship Association also attended this ceremony.

After the prayers, the president of the Jewish Community of Lisbon, Gabriel Steinhardt, spoke about the history of the Jews in Portugal and asked: "Who in Portugal can be absolutely certain that they do not have a secret rib of their descendants in their genealogy?"

Then the President of the Republic also mentioned Jews who were figures in Portuguese history and those who were forced to convert to Christianity, but "still managed to preserve their religious identity," and added that he too has "Jewish blood" in its maternal lineage. 

On the Jews who left Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said that many "kept the hope of returning to Portuguese lands alive, a hope which has been passed on from generation to generation." 

"It is with some emotion that I realize that this connection still exists today, a little throughout the world, as demonstrated by the interest manifested by many of these descendants in acquiring Portuguese nationality, resorting to the recent legislation that allows it," he added.

Monday, December 19, 2016
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