Access to forests is our privilege?
1 de Setembro de 2017.
A Madeira na nossa Europa
7 de Setembro de 2017.
A brief exploration of the hidden history of Jewish people on the island of Madeira.

For as long as Madeira has existed as a territory under Portuguese control there has been a notable, if hidden, Jewish population living on the island. During the time following the island’s discovery this primarily comprised of Crypto-Jews, who hid their faith publicly due to the ongoing Spanish Inquisition. The city of Funchal was established in 1508, less than 20 years after the Alhambra Decree which ordered all practicing Jews to be expelled from Spain. In this context it is interesting that many Portuguese historians speculate that Zarco, the official discoverer of the island and first captain of Funchal, was himself of Crypto-Jewish ancestry.

In later centuries Madeira was home to many notable practising Jews. Menasseh ben Israel, a pioneer in the printing press and later a diplomat, was born in Madeira to Portuguese Jewish parents who had fled Europe to escape the Inquisition. The Aburdaham family, who arrived in Madeira in the 19th century from Morocco by way of Gibraltar, were heavily involved in the trade of Madeira wine to Europe and the New World. The graves of the Aburdahams can be found in the Jewish Cemetery on Rua do Lazareto.

In 1940 the civilian population of Gibraltar was evacuated by the British in order to strengthen their military presence on the island. Many Gibraltarians were sent to Madeira, and around 200 of these evacuees were Jewish. It was these Gibraltarians that built the aforementioned cemetery in addition to the now disused Sha’ar Hashamayim Synagogue on Rua do Carmo.
While Catholicism does dominate both the architectural history and public imagination of the island, it is important to remember the role other faiths played in Madeiran heritage. From the Islamic Mudejar design influences that appear frequently in Funchal to the legacy of the Presbyterian church’s brief incursion on the island, many religions have helped form Madeira as we know it today.

Short Bio

Josef Butler is a volunteer from London. History and Politics graduate from the University of Leicester. Currently living in Funchal and collaborating with AAUMa as part of the History Tellers programme.


Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing for a diverse and rich Europe.

Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.

In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3, which is for the support of reformation policies.

European Voluntary Service

Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.
We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.

Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.