Jewish Studies Program at the University of Beira, Portugal

I am pleased to share with all of you that in our combined Saudades/Kulanu/Root & Branch Conference-Tour to Portugal in June 2002 we were fortunate to have Professor Maria Antonieta Garcia give a lecture. It was at this time that she excitedly told us about this new Jewish Studies Program she helped introduce at The University of Beira Interior in Covilhã.

For me on a personal level, it is a “dream come true”; the fact that (in my life-time) we are witnessing the acceptance and acknowledgement of the Jewish influence on Portuguese History and culture (Rufina PS Maybe we can include a series of lectures or a two-day course at the Beira University in our next conference-tour to Portugal?) rufina @

Celebrating our Portuguese — Jewish heritage

Exma. Sra. Rufina Silva

The University of Beira Interior in Covilhã, Portugal, opened in the last month of May a New Center dedicated to the study of Judaism, with the direction of the teacher that is specialized in Judaism, Maria Antonieta Garcia. She has published many books in this area. As you know the presence in Portugal of Judaic community assumed a very important role in the economic, social and politc history of this country. In Beira Interior that presence still exist nowadays through the community of Belmonte, a village from the center of Portugal, situated in Beira Interior. This community continues to practice the judaic traditions and they have also a synagogue — Bet Eliahou — as a place of devotion. The history of Judaism in Portugal is deeply connected with the history of Judaism in Spain. The fluctuation of the peninsular Jewish people beetween the different territories was the warrant for the survival, when intolerance was applied in some places with a big intensity. The proximity with the border was favorable to the constructions of affection networks at the same time that supported professional activities. In the Archives of Portugal and Spain there are documents that contain proofs of the existence of elements from peninsular Jewish communities and the interchange between Universities and between scientists will allow a rich comprehension of the Jewish culture and a deep knowledge of its influence in the construction of the Luso-Spanish culture. Areas of investigation:

Jewish-Peninsular History and Culture

  • Middle-Age
  • Inquisition
  • Diaspora
  • Interchange Portugal-Spain
  • Contemporaneous judaism

Jewish Culture and Identity

  • The Jewish Thought
  • The Holocaust
  • Biblic Exegesis
  • The Hebraic Language

The scientific study of the jewish presence and culture is the answer to the necessity of knowing better the memory and the tradition of the jews. In Portugal and in region of Beira that memory and tradition are a very important part of the historic/cultural patrimony. In this context we pretend to continue the studying of the judaic past in a sistematic and permanent way; search the border reciprocity, know symbols, ceremonies, myths, costumes, traditions, the heritage (preserved, restored, sincretized) that made the union between successive generations, analyse the cultural reconstruction of the Jews just after the government of Pombal and understand/interpretate the contemporaneity. Having the support of different areas of the Science, History, Philosophy, Sociology, Antropology, Literature, Linguistic, Art, Religion, this line of investigation wants to:

  • Contribute to the development of the investigation in this context
  • Increase the continuous formation of its members and the interchange between them; — Promote our own programs and projects of investigation
  • Conform projects of investigation that aim the prosecution of generic and specific goals; — Co-operate with Universities and other institutions in activities of specialized education, and in modernization courses; — Contribute to the scientific interchange between congenerous institutions, giving the privilege to the spanish universities; — Convene scientific meetings;
  • Establish contacts with national and international congenerous centers;
  • Create a periodical publication;
  • Publish studies that have been already executed;
  • Share with non academic world the investigations, maximizing the acquired results, using the internet as a means of divulgation;

External Memberships

Cȃmaras Municipais de:

  • Castelo-Branco – Idanha-a-Nova – Penamacor – Fundo – Belmonte – Covilhã – Guarda-Seia – Gouveia Meda – Vila Nova de Foz Côa – Pinhel Almeida – Celorico – Sabugal – Trancoso – Região de Turismo da Serra da Estrela
  • Embaixada de Israel
  • Elementos da Comunidade Israelita de Lisboa
  • Elementos da Comunidade Judaica de Belmonte
  • Associação de Amizade Portugal/Israel

Nlia Sousa — Centro de Estudos Judaicos da Universidade da Beira Interior