Irene’s Virtual Portuguese Lecture on January 9, 2024

Images from Portugal

Hello dear friends, readers, and followers! And happy, healthy, safe, and joyous New Year to you all!

As many of you know, I have not been presenting much for most of 2023 due to us traveling, researching, and working on our books. I am opening up the New Year with one of my Portuguese lectures. Here are the details, if any of you would like and be able to attend.

Title: “Rediscovering Portuguese Secrets: Little-Known Jewish History that Changed the World”

Date January 9th

Time: 11:00 AM EST

Booking institution: Baltimore Zionist District (BZD)

Portuguese Lecture Description:

Venture on a journey with the BZD and renowned author and historian Irene Shaland as we delve into the enchanting tapestry of Portugal’s Jewish history, a narrative often overlooked by many.

Uncover the fascinating yet lesser-known stories of Jewish presence in the Iberian Peninsula since Biblical times. From the rich Sephardic or Spanish-Portuguese Jewish heritage influencing Portugal’s evolution during the Roman and Visigoth eras to the remarkable Age of Discovery and navigating the shadowy epochs of the Inquisition and persecution.

Explore the resilience of Jewish faith and traditions as they endured in secrecy, extending to World War II when Portugal emerged as a safe haven for countless European refugees. We’ll also touch upon the contemporary landscape, highlighting the modest yet flourishing Jewish community thriving in present-day Portugal.

Join us to explore the Portuguese secrets that have shaped history, weaving a tale of survival, resilience, and cultural evolution.

To learn more about the organization and to register, go to the BZD website: or call: 410-484-4510


Learn more about Irene Shaland’s new book “Shaland’s Lisbon: An Illustrated Guide to Jewish History and Sites In and Around Lisbon” 


Learn more about the presenter Irene Shaland.

Announcing New Jewish Portugal Lectures

Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue in Porto, Portugal


Dear friends, readers, and followers,

Many of you asked us when you would finally learn about our exploration of Portugal. Well, the wait is (almost) over!

Please save the dates in your busy calendars for Irene’s Portuguese Jewish History Series lectures, hosted by our great supporter, the New City New York Library.

Part I 
Day/Date: Tuesday, November 8th
Time: 7:00 PM EST
Title:  Rediscovering Portuguese Secrets: How the Jews of Iberia Changed the Course of World History

Travel with the author and historian Irene Shaland to Portugal and discover the most fascinating Jewish history, which is largely unknownThe Jews are believed to have been present in the Iberian Peninsula since Biblical times. The Sephardic or Spanish-Portuguese Jewish heritage in Portugal has greatly influenced the country’s development throughout the ages: from the Roman and Visigoth times to the brilliant Age of Discovery; through the dark centuries of Inquisition and persecution, when the Jewish faith and traditions survived in secret, to World War II, when the country became a safe haven for thousands of European refugees; and to today’s small but blossoming Jewish community.

Discover remarkable stories of courage, resilience, and survival: the enduring legacy of the Sephardic Jews. Embark on the search for legends and evidence of Jewish history in Portugal within a broader history of the world. Follow the Shalands from Lisbon and Belem to Mafra and Evora, from Sagres and Tomar to Coimbra and Guarda, from Castelo de Vide to Belmonte and tiny mountain villages, and even crossing the border to Tui in Galicia, Spain.  

To register for Part I of the Series, please click the link below:

Link to register for Part I

Part II
Day/Date: Tuesday, December 20th 
Time: 7:00 PM ES
Title:  The Hidden History of Jewish People on the Islands of Madeira and Azores and the Unsolved Mystery of a Sefer Torah

     Follow Irene Shaland in her exploration of two Portuguese autonomous regions in the Atlantic: Madeira and Azores. With their mild climate, dramatic waterfalls, and mountains, both archipelagos are popular tourist destinations with over five million visitors arriving annually. Few of the tourists though know that the two islands of Madeira and the nine islands of Azores have a hidden Jewish history, and the archipelagos tightly guard their secrets. The Jewish presence on the islands, still under the radar of most historians, spans the entire length of recorded history beginning with their discovery by the Portuguese in the 14th and 15th centuries. It is even thought that the explorer who discovered Madeira, Joao Zarco, was of Crypto-Jewish ancestry.

Learn about the unsolved mystery of the ancient Sephardic Torah with an Ashkenazi cover. First given by a local man to an American Jewish officer serving on the US Army base on Terceira Island of the Azores, the Torah reappeared 40 years later on Sao Miguel Island inside a sea cave. Follow Irene on a virtual visit to the synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in Madeira and Azores and delve deeper into the archipelagos’ hidden Jewish history.

To register for Part II, please follow the link: Link to Register for Part II

If you have any questions, please contact Program Manager Veronica Reynolds at

[email protected]

Phone Number: (845) 634-4997 ext. 139

medieval mountain village Monsaraz, Alentejo, Portugal
On the streets of medieval mountain village Monsaraz, Alentejo, Portugal.
Former Synagogue Building in Funghal, Madeira.
Former Synagogue building in Funghal, Madeira.
Marina on Madeira Island
Madeira Island Marina.
Synagogue Interior, Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel Island, Azores
Synagogue Interior, Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel Island, Azores.

Learn more about Irene Shaland and her books.

Read more blog posts by Irene and Alex.