The oldest existing synagogue in Portugal is set to become a museum, after a campaign to have the old shul restored and preserved.

The Portuguese municipality of Sao Miguel has officially launched the restoration project of the Sabar Hassamain synagogue, following a ceremony yesterday to kick the campaign off.


The plans entail $290,000 worth of restoration on the 19th century site, which will be completed in an estimated eight months. European Union groups that protect historical spots will contribute the sum.

“This intervention is not limited to recovering the architectural features [of the building],” said local Mayor Jose Manuel Bolieiro. “We plan to create the necessary conditions for the preservation of the memory of Jewish presence in the Azores through turning it into a museum.”

At the kickoff event was Massachusetts State Sen. Michael Rodrigues, who works with the Azorean Jewish Heritage Foundation, a US group that pushed for the restoration.

The Sabar Hassamain synagogue last operated as a shul some 50 years ago, under the care of the Jewish Community of Lisbon. In 2009, the community transferred ownership to the local municipality for the next 99 years.