Lisbon to Open Jewish Museum in 2017

The new museum is scheduled to open in the vicinity of Sao Miguel Square in Alfama, home to medieval Lisbon’s largest Jewish population.

A Jewish woman reads a book at the main Jewish synagogue in Lisbon, Portugal.

Lisbon’s city council said that a Jewish museum will open in the Portuguese capital next year.

The new museum is scheduled to open in the first three months of 2017 in the vicinity of Sao Miguel Square in Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest quarter, according to a report Tuesday by the Lusa news agency based on correspondence with unnamed city officials.

A municipal spokesperson told Lusa the quarter was selected because it is “emblematic for the Jewish community and for Lisbon itself, because it was home to medieval Lisbon’s largest Jewish population.”

But the municipality declined to say when and exactly where construction or renovation will begin, Lusa reported. Queries as to the new museum’s cost and funding were also unanswered.

Jose Oulman Carp, president of the Jewish Community of Lisbon and a longtime promoter of plans to open the first Jewish museum in Lisbon, told JTA Thursday that the plan announced by the city was a “private initiative” involving some members of his community, the municipality and private donors.

He said the project is important because Lisbon “is the only European capital” of its caliber without a Jewish museum.

The announcement about the plan comes months after the completion and application of legislation from 2013, which grants Portuguese nationality to descendants of Sephardic Jews.

Portugal, where about 1,000 Jews live today, had hundreds of thousands of Jews before their expulsion or conversion to Christianity in the 15th and 16th centuries.

In recent decades, both Portugal and Spain have restored dozens of Jewish heritage sites in municipalities eager to preserve their Jewish history and draw tourists.