The Oporto Jewish Community has released its latest project on the anniversary of the creation of the Portuguese Inquisition at an event attended by around a thousand Portuguese schoolchildren.

Representatives of the community announced that it is producing the film "The 2,000 Exiled Jewish Children" which will premiere by the end of 2024 and will tell the largely unknown story of how 2,000 Jewish children from Portugal up to the age of eight years old were stolen from their families by King D. João II of Portugal in 1493 and exiled to the African island of Sao Tome 7,500km away.

A year after being deported to the islands, only 600 children had survived the conditions and wild animals.

“This dark episode demonstrates the depths that many went to in order to try and defeat and destroy our people,” said Michael Rothwell, the director of the Oporto Jewish Museum which hosted the event. “We are once again living in a dark time when the Jewish People are under attack around the world. That is why education is so important, especially targeting young schoolchildren. They must be taught tolerance and acceptance, and how to identify and combat Antisemitism, because it is a sad but true part of our history here in Portugal and around Europe.”

The event took place on the 23rd of May which is the exact date the Portuguese Inquisition was founded in 1536. The schoolchildren were given a tour of the Oporto Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Museum to teach them about the history of Jews in Portugal and the Antisemitism that they experienced. This event is part of the community’s strategy to fight Antisemitism in Portugal by regularly hosting school visits to the synagogue, creating courses for teachers and historical films, and charity missions in partnership with the Oporto Catholic Diocese.

On April 19, the Community released the free short film "1506 - The Lisbon Genocide" which already has over two million views in its various languages and aims to show that the Shoah was not a singular event, but that Jews were victims of terrible pogroms, massacres and genocides throughout the Diaspora, especially in Europe and Eurasia.

“Today, children react more to visual media, so it is vital to create tools that depict with historical accuracy the pain and suffering Jews went through in the past so they can recognize it in the present,” said Gabriel Senderowicz, the President of the Oporto Jewish Community. “We have found these children very receptive to these films, and that is why we are now embarking on our latest film which shows one of the most brutal and heartbreaking chapters in Jewish history. It is important to show the context of current Antisemitism as a continuation of what has gone before. Sadly, there is nothing new under the sun, and even today, Jewish children were hunted and kidnapped as we saw in the south of Israel on October 7th.”

The script of the film had the technical support of the "Cátedra de Estudos Sefarditas Alberto Benveniste" at the University of Lisbon.