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Virtual Jewish World: Madeira, Portugal

With its mild climate and its scenic backdrop of flowers, waterfalls, and mountains, the archipelago of Madeira, parallel to the West African coast, is a tourist’s delight. It was also a haven for many Jewish refugees.

Porto Santo
Other Places of Interest


The capital of the island of Madeira, with its rows of houses and gardens running down the hillside to the sea, Funchal not only has a great profusion of ornate churches and beautiful examples of civil architecture (such as the Town Hall, the Customs House and the Fortress-Palace of Sao Lourenco), but it also has several important museums. At the Museum of Sacred Art, the visitor will be pleasantly surprised by the remarkable collection of Flemish art. Other interesting museums are the Museu da Quinta (Las Cruzes (furniture and decorative art), the Museu Vicente (photography), and the Case-Museu Frederio de Freitas (azulejos, religious sculpture and furniture). The city’s great wealth and natural advantages attracted the Jews, who arrived there in 1819 from Morocco, setting themselves up in the cloth trade. The synagogue was built in 1836, and Rabbi David Zaguri became its spiritual leader in 1857. Another period of immigration followed in the 20th century, with the arrival of refugees from the First and Second World Wars. The "Shaar Hashamain" Synagogue, which has since closed down, and the cemetery of the same name still evoke memories of the Jewish community.

Porto Santo

With its nine kilometers of’ magnificent beach, Porto Santo has its main center of population at Vila Baleira, where it is possible to visit the house in which Christopher Columbus is said to have lived.

Other places of interest

Island of Madeira: Camara de Lobos, Chiral das Freiras, Machico,Paul da Serra, Porto Moniz and Santana.

Source: Journey to Jewish Portugal courtesy of the Portuguese National Tourist Office.