What's truly unique about Jewish tourism is the common thread of faith that colors each destination. Judaism, although prevalent in many cultures, has not always been an accepted faith in many global settings. Take, for example, the Jewish presence in Portugal. Its oldest synagogue dates back to 1836, but unfortunately, it hadn’t been utilized for years until its recent refurbishment. Luckily, a Massachusetts synagogue identified the importance of maintaining the presence of Jewish faith in the Ponta Delgada, Portugal.
Sahar Hassamain Synagogue, a 67-seat sanctuary, was restored on April 15, 2015. Its doors reopened to host a lively Shabbat service, complete with about 40 participants, only half of whom were Jewish. Currently, there are no practicing Jews on this island, so the synagogue is not used for Sabbath observances or holidays. Although it’s unused for common services, it serves as an attraction that has welcomed over 6,000 visitors to tour it, as it’s complete with a mikvah, a bimah, and four Torahs in its ark.
Due to the horrific Spanish Inquisition, much of the Jewish population was tragically forced to convert, or their children would be seized from them and sold into slavery. Sahar Hassamain Synagogue bears importance to early Jewish history in Portugal, serving as a relic of early Portuguese-Jewish faith. Sahar Hassamain translates into “The Gates of Heaven,” and certainly, this preservation is an essential landmark of a religious sanctuary in Portugal.