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VOLUME IX, NUMBER 4
FEBRUARY 25, 2016
New citizenship law has Jews worldwide flocking to tiny Portugal city BY CNAAN LIPHSHIZ PORTO, Portugal (JTA) – Five years ago, this city’s tiny Jewish community was so strapped for cash it couldn’t afford to fix the deep cracks in its synagogue’s moldy ceiling. The Jewish Community of Porto was also too poor to hire a full-time rabbi because of its small size (50 members) and the paucity of donors in a country gripped by a financial crisis. But in January, the community, situated 200 miles north of Lisbon, showcased its stunning turn-around. Hosting the biggest event in its history, it drew hundreds of guests from all over the world to the city’s newly opened kosher hotel and newly renovated synagogue. The community also has a new Jewish museum and mikvah ritual bath, and there are plans to build a kosher shop, Jewish kindergarten and school. The money, community members say, came from a massive influx of Jewish tourists that coincided with the implementation of Portugal’s 2013 law of return for Sephardic Jews and their descendants. The law named the Porto community, founded by a handful of converts to Judaism, one of two institutions responsible for vetting
a similar law aimed at descendants of Sephardic Jews.) Each application must be checked by one of the two Jewish communities against their records and lists of lineages. Some of the hundreds of applicants to Porto have added handsome donations on top of the required fee. So far, only three of the hundreds of citizenship applications have been approved, a wrinkle that Leon Amiras, an Israeli attorney handling citizenship requests and chairman of the Association of Olim from Latin America, Spain and Portugal, attributed to bureaucratic complications connected to last November’s elections in Portugal. Amiras said he expects hundreds Congregants introduced a new Torah scroll to their synagogue in Porto, Portugal, of applications to be approved this year. Meanwhile, Porto is becoming a more on January 29. (Photo by Cnaan Liphshiz) attractive prospective home for Jews with citizenship applications, providing the from a tiny group struggling to exist to a European Union passports, who can move Jews in this little-known city of 230,000 well-to-do congregation with local and here without obtaining citizenship. Yoel Zewith tens of thousands of dollars in income international standing. I never thought I kri, a French Jewish student in his 20s who temporarily moved here last year from Marand turning Porto into a destination for would live to see this.” Applying for membership in Lisbon seille, where five Jews have been assaulted Jews from around the world. “This law not only gave us new funds, and Porto’s official Jewish community in three stabbing attacks since October, said but put us on the world map,” said Em- costs $300-$560 and is a required step he’s considering staying on after his studies manuel Fonseca, a 53-year-old Orthodox for a Jew to become a Portuguese citizen “to help build the community.” See “Portugal” on page 7 convert to Judaism. “In no time, we went under the 2013 law. (Spain recently passed
Spotlight on Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month
Green therapy: an oasis in Israel’s Negev Desert for people with disabilities Stav Herling-Gosher, an Aleh BY MEGAN E. TURNER Negev spokeswoman, says the JNS.org participants are “very dependent The latest blooming in Israel’s on their surroundings and get asNegev Desert is particularly relsistance through the help of others,” evant in February, which is Jewish yet through green therapy, they are Disability Awareness and Inclusion “able to see that other living things Month. At Aleh Negev-Nahalat are dependent on them.” By showing Eran – a rehabilitation village in concern for their creations, such as southern Israel that serves people by checking on whether the plants with severe disabilities – residents have been sufficiently watered or benefit from green therapy, which had enough sunlight, Aleh Negev uses gardening and nature to help residents can see and feel the results give the special needs community of their labor when their plants grow a higher quality of life. and thrive – much like themselves. Green therapy participants are Aleh Negev works in partnership brought to a greenhouse on the with Israel-based Derech HaYadiim, Aleh Negev campus, where they Green therapy at the Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran are greeted with flowers, shrubs and rehabilitation village in southern Israel. (Photo an organization that provides green therapy. “Many of the patients comherbs that they work to plant and courtesy Jewish National Fund) ing in are low-functioning, and we care for. It is also a therapeutic haven work with them at the most basic level. where all of the senses are stimulated. of those who participate. “Residents can smell the flowers, taste the “These are people who are usually un- They may not know what they are doing, plants and feel the earth and leaves between settled and we notice that they are calmer, but we provide this humane warmth and their fingers,” says Osher Cohen, coordinator more relaxed and more engaged,” Cohen inclusion that greatly helps,” says Ishay of culture and recreation at Aleh Negev. says, noting that for some of them, this type Zamiri, one of the group leaders for Derech The greenhouse only uses non-toxic of therapy has brought their participation HaYadiim’s green therapy. “We receive them as they are and make plants and those without seeds or pits, in level from non-existent to very active. no special requests,” he says, as he gently order to keep the environment safe for all “If we don’t give them a way to engage, the participants. Since the village started patients’ behavior and overall well being strokes a participant’s hand with a soft leaf using this form of therapy, staffers have drastically regress,” he says, adding that from one of the nearby plants. See “Therapy” on page 10 noted a dramatic change in the behavior green therapy addresses this need.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE Scientific finds
Jewish food scene
News in brief...
2016 UJA paign Update Cam
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Candle lighting February 26..................................5:31 pm March 4......................................... 5:39 pm March 11........................................5:47 pm
A breakthrough cancer study An Israeli chef brings Mideast Lithuanians commemorate Nazi PLUS has Israeli roots; Einstein’s cuisine to Vietnam; Israelis make collaborators; Britain plans to outgravitational waves; and more. their culinary mark in Vienna. law Israeli boycotts; and more. Opinion........................................................2 Stories on page 5 Stories on pages 6-7 Stories on page 11 D’var Torah................................................8
February 25, 2016 Edition of The Reporter