(1.º Museu Judaico de Portugal)
O museu é composto por três pisos. A partir da entrada principal, no piso 1, acede-se a um átrio/recepção, onde se localizam os serviços de atendimento, a loja do museu e um auditório. Por escadaria e elevador, sobe-se ao piso 2, destinado à exposição permanente. Aqui, o percurso inicia-se por uma visão abrangente dos conteúdos do Judaísmo. Depois, o trajecto continua com um núcleo dedicado à história e cultura judaica em Portugal. Destacam-se registos importantes, como o movimento da diáspora e os tempos mais atribulados, que serão recordados, em especial, por um Memorial às vítimas da Inquisição. Aspectos do criptojudaísmo e da Obra do Resgate farão a relação com o espaço dedicado à comunidade judaica de Belmonte, revelando, assim, a sua singularidade histórica. Merecem referência particular as principais festas do calendário litúrgico (Sabath, Purim, Pessah, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kipur, Sucoth, Hanuká…), cerimónias religiosas associadas ao ciclo da vida (circuncisão, casamento, morte…). O piso 3 é reservado para exposições temporárias, para a área da direcção e administração e ainda para o Centro de Estudos Judaicos.
It is located in an eighteenth-century Catholic school, purchased by the municipality and totally restored to transform it into a modern Jewish museum, with a dramatic and original design. It is situated at the heart of the oldest neighborhood, where many Jewish families still live in carefully preserved stone houses. It lies just down the hill from the town’s medieval castle and the modern synagogue. The museum can be divided into three principle components, each with a diverse set of objects linked to Judaism. The most interesting of these centers on a collection of personal objects once owned by crypto-Jewish families, some of them very old, loaned by Prof. Adriano Vasco Rodrigues and his wife’s family, the Carquejas. These objects provide an exceptional record of daily life during and after the Inquisition, for example a primitively-carved wooden mezuzah that could be carried in one’s pocket. The 170-page exhibition catalog, which contains essays by eminent scholars of crypto-Jewish issues, is indispensable for understanding the original context and meaning of these objects. The second component deals with the Jewish presence in the region of Belmonte from the Roman era through the Middle Ages, with Roman-era coins from Jerusalem, a tombstone from the same period bearing an engraved menorah, and a reproduction of an engraved stone from the town’s long-gone thirteenth-century synagogue. Belmonte’s modern crypto-Jewish community is also evoked here, through a small ethnographic display on Passover rituals. The final and most moving component is a memorial, in the form of an enormous black plaque, with the full names and even ages of victims of the Inquisition from the Belmonte region. As I was able to see from visitors’ reactions, this is among the most powerful parts of the museum, and it provides one of the first public manifestations of the duty to remember, in Portugal, to bring justice to the victims of the “Holy” Inquisition’s executioners. The museum seems to have also been intended to convey aspects of the Jewish religion in general, as it contains modern and even new items of Judaica, some of them with no obvious connection to the region. It also contains an auditorium, a small library, and an embryonic Jewish studies center, named for Prof. Rodrigues, which may serve as the future seat of Jewish studies for a nearby university. The sole negative point in the museum is the lack of explanatory information in the exhibition hall. The panels give little historical context, and none are translated into English. This is also a shortcoming of the otherwise outstanding catalog, which is written in Portuguese and followed by a short Hebrew summary. It is worthy of note that this entire project was carried out by non-Jews, it was financed by non-Jews, and all of the work that made the museum’s opening possible came from non-Jews, in particular the new “Route of Ancient Jewish Quarters,” a project of the regional Tourism Board. Regardless of whether their motives were political or economic, we can consider the museum’s creators among the great friends of the Jewish people and their history, and thank them heartily for their efforts .
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