A Jewish Museum in Lisbon

Lisbon, one of the oldest and most vibrant capital cities in Europe, will soon have a museum dedicated to Portugal’s long and very rich Jewish history.

The future Jewish Museum Lisbon is a partnership between Lisbon Municipal Council (CML) and Associação Hagadá, a private nonprofit organisation whose aim is to promote its creation, construction, installation and management.

The Museum will be built on land in Belém with views of the River Tagus and one of Portugal’s most symbolic monuments: the Tower of Belém. CML will transfer the right of use to the land to Associação Hagadá for an initial renewable period of 75 years. The prestigious international architect Daniel Libeskind was invited to design the building, which he enthusiastically accepted. His plans will undoubtedly be a tremendous asset for the museum and the city of Lisbon as a whole.

Plot in Belém where the future museum will be built

A history dating back millennia

Judaism in the land we now know as Portugal has existed for almost two thousand years: a thousand years under the Romans, Visigoths and Moors, prior to the founding of the nation, and nearly another thousand years afterwards. The Jewish presence in Portugal is a uniquely long and culturally diverse story that confers an originality and specificity on Portuguese Judaism that is unparalleled anywhere in the world.

Despite the significant Jewish presence throughout the history of Portugal, until now Lisbon has been one of the few European capital cities without a museum to collect, preserve and disseminate this heritage. Tikva Jewish Museum Lisbon has filled a gap in the city’s cultural scene that “unveils” and gives form to part of a history that remains ignored by many, thus attracting those in Portugal and abroad who are interested in the multicultural dimension of Portuguese Judaism’s extremely rich history.

What is required is a work of memory. But something more than that. It also needs to be a project focused on the future, above all on the younger generations, that will inform people not only about the reality of Jewish culture in Portugal and the world but also about a history of light and dark, of hope and tragedy, that teaches us the value of cultural diversity and warns us of the risks of ethnic and religious intolerance. The name of the museum – Tikva, the Hebrew word for “hope” – has been carefully chosen.

How to tell the history?

The history of a people is also the history of its interaction with others. The life of the Jews in Portugal is a combined Jewish and Portuguese history. We will look at both based on moments, episodes and personalities that recount this close connection underlined by tolerance and persecution, love and hatred, banishment and longing, and return and reconciliation.
Tikva Jewish Museum Lisbon will tell the millenary history of the Jewish presence in the land we now call Portugal, emphasising the contribution that the Jews have made to their country and showing that Jewish history and culture are an intrinsic part of the history of Portugal.

Jewish culture as part of the Portuguese identity

Jewish culture has played an important role in Portugal, above all between the 12th and 15th centuries. Jews were artisans, doctors, mathematicians, astrologers and astronomers; they devoted themselves to trade and finance, and left an indelible mark on the history of the country.
In spite of the discriminatory measures imposed on the Portuguese Jews, during these centuries a period of coexistence reigned between the Jewish minority and the Christain majority. The Jewish community enjoyed religious freedom and was active within the economic, scientific and cultural fields, contributing to the country’s development.

This climate of tolerance was brutally interrupted at the end of the 15th century when King Manuel I signed the Edict of Expulsion, forcibly converted the Jews and established the Court of Inquisition in 1536. The Jewish neighbourhoods were abandoned, the synagogues, schools and bookshops destroyed and the cemeteries desecrated. The persecutions and the passage of time gradually erased the marks of over three hundred years of coexistence from the life and memory of the Portuguese people.

Stone tablet from the Great Synagogue of Lisbon, 1307

Nevertheless, the signs of the Jewish presence in Portugal survive all around the country – in the architecture, street names, language, customs, culture and mentality – and all around the world through the Portuguese Jewish diaspora. The contribution to the countries where they were welcomed is extraordinary, but they never forgot their “lost paradise”, which was remembered through the language and the names they gave to the synagogues and communities they rebuilt.

Judaism has undergone a slow resurgence and a new Jewish presence exists in Portugal today. It consists partly of the descendants of former Iberian Jews, or marranos, who kept their faith over the centuries; by Jews of Moroccan origin who began to settle in Portugal at the end of the 18th century after the abolition of the Inquisition; of Jews from Central and Eastern Europe who arrived in the 20th century in the wake of the anti-semitic persecutions and the Nazis, enriching the Portuguese Jewish community with the Ashkenazi culture; and, more recently, of the descendants of Portuguese Jews expelled by the Inquisition, who, after the re-establishment of democracy in the country and the approval of Portugal’s naturalisation laws, were able to acquire Portuguese nationality.

Meet the Team

Esther Mucznik

CHAIR
HAGADÁ ASSOCIATION

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Jean-Jacques Salomon

VICE-CHAIR
HAGADÁ ASSOCIATION

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Diana Ettner

BOARD MEMBER
HAGADÁ ASSOCIATION

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Daniel-Libeskind

Daniel Libeskind

PRINCIPAL DESIGN ARCHITECT
STUDIO LIBESKIND NEW YORK

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Sofia-Kahn

Sofia K Paiva Raposo

DESIGN & COMMUNICATION
KAHN DESIGN

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Manuela Fernandes

MUSEOLOGY

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HAGADÁ ASSOCIATION

In order to set up and run the museum, a private non-profit association was created and this was given the name Hagadá. Why Hagadá? This word comes from the Hebrew verb leagid, which means ‘to say’, ‘to tell’ and ‘to narrate’. It is precisely this that the museum will do. It will tell a story – the story and the culture of the Portuguese Jews and their contribution to the nation to which they belong.

General Assembly
Paulo Almeida Fernandes · chair
Clara Kopejka Cassuto · vice-chair
João Schwarz · board member

Board of Directors
Esther Mucznik · chair
Jean-Jacques Salomon · vice-chair
Diana Ettner · board member

Audit Board
Samuel Tuati · chair
Jean-Claude Gofard · vice-chair
Ricardo Maissa · board member

SCIENTIFIC COUNCIL

The story that will be told at the Tikvá Museu Judaico Lisboa is validated by a Scientific Council that includes the best historians of the Jewish presence in Portugal.

Historians (Portugal)

Maria José Pimenta Ferro Tavares

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José Alberto Rodrigues da Silva Tavim

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Elvira Mea

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Lúcia Liba Mucznik

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Irene Pimentel

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Advisory/Scientific Council (international)

under constitution

A new project, a new image, a new logo

The preparation for the Jewish Museum of Lisbon and the constitution of its collection began in 2016. Throughout these years we did a national research that resulted in numerous short videos that were posted on the Facebook page of the Association of Friends of the Museum and that we reproduce here, on our website, with the previous logo that we decided not to remove, because it is part of our history.
Today our logo and the background image of our page has changed because when we left Alfama and “emigrated” to Belém, the architecture project of the Tikvá Museu Judaico is different, as well as its author and the logo that was based on it.But we leave here our homage to Graça Bachmann, the first architect of the Jewish Museum of Lisbon, author and donor of the project for Alfama that also inspired the old logo.