Sefarad (2019) the Portuguese movie directed by Luis Ismael.


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Hidden Legacies Unveiled: A Tale of Resilience in ‘Oporto’s Lost Jews’

In the vast landscape of historical dramas, one gem has recently surfaced on YouTube, captivating audiences with its rich narrative and compelling depiction of a little-known chapter in Portuguese history. “Oporto’s Lost Jews” immerses viewers in the intriguing journey of a Jewish community in Oporto, Portugal, starting in 1923. This sumptuous and absorbing film unfolds the true story of Captain Barros Basto, a Portuguese army officer who converted to Judaism, and his quest to revive and reunite a scattered group of Jews.

The Birth of the Jewish Community:

The film begins by shedding light on the origins of the Jewish Community in Oporto, which saw its inception in 1923. Captain Barros Basto, along with around twenty Jewish merchants from central and eastern Europe, laid the foundation of this community. As the members strived to establish their identity and practices, a seismic revelation shook their world.

The Marranos’ Legacy:

News spread that scattered across Portuguese villages were descendants of 15th-century Jews who still adhered to Jewish rites, believing themselves to be the last Jews on earth. Captain Basto, impassioned by the prospect of reconnecting these crypto-Jews with their heritage, embarked on a tireless journey. Whether by train, on foot, or on horseback, he traversed villages, seeking to rescue the Marranos and reintegrate them into the official Jewish community.

Challenges and Unfulfilled Rescue:

Despite Captain Basto’s noble efforts, the “rescue work” faced significant challenges. The Marranos, entrenched in centuries-old practices influenced by Christianity, were unwilling to amend their rituals. The clash between tradition and the desire for a unified Jewish identity posed a formidable obstacle, leaving the huge synagogue in Oporto largely empty for decades.

A Dormant Synagogue and an Unexpected Turn:

The film poignantly captures the desolation of the grand synagogue, echoing with untold stories and unfulfilled dreams. However, as the narrative unfolds into the 21st century, an unexpected turn of events revives the dormant synagogue. The once-empty halls resonate with life, breathing new vigor into a community that had struggled for decades.

“Oporto’s Lost Jews” serves not only as a captivating historical drama but also as a testament to the resilience of a community striving to reclaim its identity. The film’s narrative, grounded in the true story of Captain Barros Basto and the challenges faced by the Jewish community in Oporto, invites viewers to reflect on the enduring power of heritage and the pursuit of one’s roots. As the once-silent synagogue becomes a symbol of revival, the film leaves audiences with a profound message about the strength that lies in embracing and preserving one’s cultural legacy.

Iris Lavan
Iris Lavan
With a background as a consultant in the medical industry, Iris Lavan brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to Portugal Pulse. Iris also runs a company in Tel Aviv offering marketing, business development, content creation and public relations services. She holds a degree in economics and management, giving her a solid grounding in business strategy and financial planning. Iris' commitment to Portugal Pulse is reflected not only in her consulting career, but also in her impact on the Portugale media landscape in Israel. She was an interviewer for Hadshot Portugal חדשות פורטוגל, a media outlet that broadcasts news about Portugal in Hebrew, where she provided valuable information on current affairs, healthcare and the economy. Since July 2023, Iris has also been part of the Portugal Pulse team.

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