Photo Credit: BBP/Dadon
L-R: Luis Andrade, President of the International Observatory of Human Rights, Gabriela Cantergi, President of B'nai B'rith International Portugal, and the Bishop of Oporto, D. Manuel Linda.

In Portugal, where once the Inquisition did its best to annihilate the Jewish People, a Catholic nun ensured that the Kaddish — the traditional Jewish Prayer for the Dead — was recited for the soul of a Jewish man she cared for in his final months of life.

Not only did she summon a Jewish man — someone who knew the deceased — to recite the Kaddish at the man’s graveside, but the nun then asked for the prayerbook and personally recited the prayer at the grave, flawlessly.


The Kaddish is written not in Hebrew but rather, in Aramaic, the ancient language that was spoken by the Jews and others in the region more than three thousand years ago.

Bnai Brith International Portugal and the International Observatory of Human Rights held an event earlier this week to commemorate the kindness of the nun who recited the Kaddish for the Jewish man in her care.

The Bishop of Oporto, D. Manuel Linda, was also honored, to remember individual acts of kindness by Catholics in Portugal towards Jews.

In 1982, Oporto’s Jewish community was reduced to around twenty very divided Jews.

When German refugee Emil Oppenheim died, he was given a proper Christian funeral, which upset the two Catholic nuns who had cared for him during the last years of his life.

With the assistance of the German Consulate, a meeting was arranged at the cemetery between the nuns and a Jewish man from the community, also originally German, Rudolf Lemchen, who brought a siddur with him and had known the man himself.

After Lemchem recited the Kaddish, one of the nuns took the siddur and recited the prayer as well: “Yitgadál veyitcadash shemé rabá…”

The episode was remembered in a short film that the Jewish Community of Oporto produced, entitled “The Nun’s Kaddish” (see above).

At the remembrance event, which took place at the headquarters of Bnai Brith Portugal, the speakers remembered individual Catholic acts of kindness throughout history that took place even as the larger Christian community fiercely persecuted the Jews.

The speakers paid tribute to the bishop for his role in defending Jewish rights, and human rights in general, honoring Bishop Linda as “an ambassador of peace”.

“It is my privilege to express my friendship with the Portuguese Jewish community. I always learn much from them,” the bishop said.

“Jewish human rights are often denied in a world that targets Jews and the only Jewish State and associates them with deeply negative connotations, ignoring all the good Jews and Israel have done,” Gabriela Cantergi, President of Bnai Brith International Portugal noted.

“That is why we must recognize, remember, and thank those who stand with the Jewish People and defend our human rights. Our relationship with the Catholic Church has not been easy historically, but we must remember those individuals who did good for individual Jews, like the nun and the bishop.”

“We dare not ignore the growth of discrimination against Jews, because as we have seen throughout history, antisemitism is a good barometer for the sickness of our societies, and what starts with Jews never ends with them,” added Luis Andrade, president of the International Observatory of Human Rights.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.