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.