During the Minchah prayer service at the ancient Kadoorie Synagogue in Porto, Portugal, the elders of the community were astonished and overcome by the scene that unfolded in front of their eyes. The synagogue was packed to capacity, with hundreds of respected rabbis in attendance. “Never since the great expulsion have we seen such a gathering of rabbis in this holy synagogue,” they whispered amongst themselves in awe. “Truly, we are blessed to witness this moment,” they added with tears of gratitude. This poignant moment was one of the highlights of the European Kashrut Conference, organized by the RCE and held in Portugal. Esteemed rabbis and experts convened under one roof for three days of insightful and meaningful discussions on pressing issues and important topics in modern rabbinic training.

This is the fifth European Kashrut Conference organized by the RCE. The aim of the conference is to support rabbis from communities across Europe, particularly those from smaller and more distant areas, by equipping them with practical tools to tackle their daily challenges.

The conference was opened by RCE CEO, Rabbi Arie Goldberg. After gracious acknowledgments to the hosting community in Porto, Rabbi Goldberg expressed gratitude to the esteemed rabbis and kashrut experts who had taken the time and made the effort to gather from across Europe to participate in the event. He also extended appreciation to the Chairman of the RCE, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, whose tireless efforts have propelled the RCE to its current status, and to the Deputy CEO of the RCE, Rabbi Yosef Bainhaker, who orchestrated the array of complex logistics to ensure the success of the conference.

The conference discussions were moderated by Rabbi Avraham Aba Torezki, Secretary of the Rabbinical Council of Europe. During the sessions, significant matters concerning kosher certification were addressed by eminent rabbis, including: Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Landau, Chief Rabbi of Bnei Brak; Rabbi Yehuda Deri, Chief Rabbi and Av Beit Din of Be’er Sheva; Rabbi Eliezer Liber Schneebalg, Av Beit Din of Machzikei Hadas – Edgware, England  and member of the Rabbinical Council; Rabbi Pinchas Leibush Padwa, Chief Rabbi and Av Beit Din of Shomrei Hadas in Antwerp, Belgium and member of the Rabbinical Council; Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman, Rabbi and Av Beit Din of the Federation Synagogue, London; Rabbi Michoel Szmerla Av Beit Din of Strasbourg, France and Member of RCE Presidium; Rabbi Yehuda Osher Steiner, Av Beit Din at BDZ Manchester, England; Rabbi Shulem Landau, Head of the Badatz Iggud Rabbonim (BIR) Manchester, England and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Cohen, Member of the Beit Din of Lubavitch Rabbis in Paris, France, and RCE Council Member.

Leading kashrus experts in Europe addressed the audience; they included Rabbi Akiva Asher Padwa, head of the KLBD Kosher Supervision System, England; Rabbi Yaakov David Schmahl, Dayan of “Shomrei Hadas” Antwerp, Member of RCE Presidium, Rabbi Aharon Wulkan, Director of the Mehadrin Committee at Tnuva and an expert in the kosher certification of fish; Rabbi Yosef Dorffman, kashrut expert in the food industry and an expert on insects, and Rabbi Yisrael Moshe Guttentag, Head of the kashrut network of the Federation, London, England

During the conference, the rabbis visited the new Jewish cemetery in the city, which was acquired after extensive efforts by the local Jewish community in Porto. This was historic event, as since the expulsion from Portugal, no Jewish cemetery has been consecrated in Porto.

At the ceremony, a memorial monument was dedicated to the memory of the holy martyrs of the October 7th massacre. Rabbi Yoel Zekri, Assistant Rabbi of the Jewish Community in Porto, delivered opening remarks. He expressed the community’s profound excitement, because since the expulsion, the country has never seen so many rabbis visiting. In recent years, the community has seen significant growth. The recitation of the prayer Kel Malei Rachamim was led by Cantor Rabbi Simcha Steinberg, Rabbi of the Eindhoven community in the Netherlands, whose voice moved those in attendance profoundly.

Rabbi Yehuda Deri, the Chief Rabbi of Be’er Sheva, deeply moved the participants with his eulogy for the severe tragedy that befell the entire Jewish nation. He called for unity and strength.

Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands, Rabbi Binyamin Jacobs, addressed the spiking anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world. He urged the rabbis not to succumb to despair but rather to increase their activities, as a little light dispels much darkness.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience as Rabbi Natanel Lev, Rosh Kollel of Yerres, member of the rabbinical committee of Lubavitch, Paris and father of Binyamin Lev, Hy”d, who was murdered as he shielded innocent civilians during the massacre, spoke. He related that thousands of people have undertaken to strengthen themselves in various areas in memory of his son. He called on the community to participate in these initiatives.

Chief Chabad shaliach to Portugal, Rabbi Eliyahu Rosenfeld, discussed the impressive Jewish development in the country in recent years, and expressed great appreciation for the Porto community’s efforts in reviving Judaism in Portugal.

After the recitation of Kaddish, the rabbis davened an emotional Minchah at the ancient Mekor ChaimKadoorie Synagogue in Porto. Dozens of Jewish medical students studying in Porto and members of the Jewish Student Center, established by the community and headed by Chabad shaliach to Porto Rabbi Haim Chettrit, joined in prayer.

In the evening, a special event was held with the participation of leaders of the Jewish community in Portugal. Chairman of the RCE Rabbi Menachem Margolin spoke about the ongoing efforts to support community rabbis and expressed heartfelt gratitude to CEO Rabbi Arie Goldberg and Deputy CEO Rabbi Yosef Bainhaker. President of the Jewish community in Porto, Mr. Gabriel Senderowicz, conveyed the community’s sentiments and recounted the immense impact of the rabbis’ visit to the country. Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Landau, Chief Rabbi of Bnei Brak, emphasized the educational mission of the rabbis.

At the conclusion of three inspiring and enlightening days, the rabbis returned to their respective countries and communities across Europe. The Jewish community of Portugal was also left uplifted and empowered by the visit. After the conference, efforts commenced to establish the first Jewish school in Portugal for the community’s children, in collaboration with the Rabbinical Centre of Europe.