21 Jan Ytzjak López de Oliveira: A personal Story
Behind every story are the personalities that make them happen. The story of the Shavei Israel visitor center in Belmonte, Portugal is no exception. The personality behind it is Ytzjak López de Oliveira.
Ytzjak López de Oliveira is in charge of Casa Anusim, the Shavei Israel visitor center in Belmonte, Portugal. Ytzjak was born in A Coruña, Galicia, Spain. He is descended of Conversos (also called ‘marranos’) from the ” A Raia”, the Portugal–Spain border.
After founding the Ner Tamid Jewish Community of A Coruña, and knowing his irregular situation in Judaism, Ytzjak, a landscape architect by profession, connected with Shavei Israel through Rabbi Elisha Salas, who was the rabbi of the community of Belmonte, Portugal, at the time.With the guidance and tutelage of Rabbi Elisha Salas, and the unwavering support of Shavei Israel,
Ytzjak returned to Judaism, and continues to study to expand his knowledge and further his connection to his heritage.
“My house,” explains Ytzjak, “which was originally the center for Shavei Israel in Belmonte, is still a meeting point for students in the process of conversion, Jews in transit, who here, as Rabbi Elisha taught me, will always receive a warm welcome on Shabbat, holidays, and any day of the week. I offer them (mainly) Sephardic food, family recipes and songs – even in Ladino – so that they have good memories of their visit thanks to Shavei Israel.”