Last week we reported on the planned Shabbaton that was to take place at the newly kosher Har Sinai Hotel in Belmonte, Portugal. Now we have pictures from the event itself.
Shavei Israeli’semissary Rabbi Elisha Salas and Rabbi Isroel Nachum from Safed hosted a group of 120 Hassidic Jews from New York for what Rabbi Salas called “an extraordinary and unique experience in Portugal.”
Members of the local Bnei Anousim community joined their American brethren for a weekend of gourmet food, inspiring classes, jubilant prayer, and plenty of over the top singing – as you can see in these videos.
“It was a wonderful spectacle for our eyes and an elevation of our souls to see and hear so many Jews singing Shabbat songs and psalms here in Belmonte,” Rabbi Salas said. “For the first time in nearly 600 years, the voices of the Jewish people returned to our town. The synagogue was full and there was not one person who was not dancing in the streets to the wonderful Shabbat melodies.”
Rabbi Salas described what is happening in Portugal these days as “a great blessing and a new beginning. It was a beautiful Sabbath, full of joy, conversations, hugs, handshakes and happiness in our hearts.”
Belmonte had a thriving Jewish community until the 15thcentury when its members were forced to either go into hiding or convert to Catholicism. Today, the descendants of those Jews – the Bnei Anousim – are increasingly re-discovering and re-embracing their hidden heritage.
Belmonte, where Rabbi Salas is based, is at the center of that revival. But for members of the burgeoning Portuguese Bnei Anousim community, this past Shabbat felt – for a brief moment and with a little help from some new friends who journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean – like the very center of the Jewish world.