The historic Shaar Hashomayum Synagogue in Ponta Delgada in the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago of nine islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, has been rededicated after a fullscale renovation process.
As we reported earlier, it will serve as a museum and archive devoted to Jewish history in the Azores.
The synagogue, which last held services in the 1950s, is located on an upper floor of a building that also included the rabbi’s residence and whose exterior appearance is that of a normal house. The narrow sanctuary has plain walls, arched windows, an ornate chandelier and wooden fixtures including the Ark, benches, bimah and wall panelling. In 2009, the Lisbon Jewish Community donated the synagogue to Ponta Delgada City Hall on a 99-year concession in exchange for guarantees that it would be restored.
Michael Holtzman reported in the Fall River Herald News that hundreds of people including the local bishop, the ambassadors to Portugal from America and Israel, and other VIPS attended the gala rededication ceremony April 23, many inside the synagogue but nearly 200 watching on four TV monitors set up outside the building.
Attendees, Holtzman wrote, included about 80 people, many with ties to the Azorean or Jewish communities in Greater Fall River and New England.
“This effort highlights the important Jewish legacy that exists in the Azores in this synagogue, now transformed into a cultural center and museum for our city,” Ponta Delgada Mayor José Manuel Bolieiro said. He said that the restoration meant that the city, which once had five synagogues, “can now be included among the world’s cities with a Jewish legacy. […] Putting Ponta Delgada on the map of Jewish heritage cities is the next step, which is sure to impact our tourism.”
The restoration, kicked off in February 2014, was coordinated by José de Almeida Mello, an Azorean history professor and scholar and directed by Azorean architect Igor França, with Professor Susana Goulart Costa, from the University of the Azores, responsible for the museum project.
The Portuguese American Journali estimated that the project cost about $250,000.