In a city with a long history of antisemitism, the Jewish Community of Oporto encountered a scenario on March 11th, 2022, that was all too familiar. Police raided major community members’ residences, a museum, and a synagogue on that day without any justification and without even conducting a preliminary inquiry. As if this scenario wasn’t disturbing enough, it was discovered that the orders for these raids came from anonymous complaints. The Jewish Community of Oporto held a “Day of Shame” last Saturday night where they lit candles at the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue and released a YouTube video titled “Soviet-style Antisemitism in Portugal” in protest of this outrage and to honor their ancestors who endured similar mistreatment in the past.
These incidents show that, despite Portugal’s reputation as one of the most friendly nations in Europe toward its Jewish population today, antisemitic beliefs nevertheless persist there. A Court of Appeals decision that the investigations were “based on nothing” supports Gabriel Senderowicz’s testimony, which he provided in his capacity as President of the Oporto Jewish Community. He claimed that authorities had no proof of the allegations made against his community. In response to this crime, he wrote to the president of Portugal, H.E. Marcelo Rebelo Sousa, requesting an official public apology from him and his administration for conducting such a witch hunt against defenseless individuals only because they are Jewish.
The episode serves as a warning to people all across the world about how ingrained anti-Semitism may appear, especially in ostensibly progressive nations like Portugal, which value equality and religious liberty. It highlights our responsibility as citizens—both individually and collectively—to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes we did in the past and instead fight for justice whenever we see it being threatened or violated—against anyone, regardless of their faith or ethnicity. In order to jointly build a space where everyone feels secure and respected regardless of who they are or where they are from, we must also hold our leaders accountable and demand that they take concrete steps to combat any direct or indirect manifestation of hatred or discrimination.