Beth Torah Synagogue in Aventura, Florida, has dedicated one of their benches in memory of Portuguese Consul General Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who served in Bordeaux, France during World War II and issued more than 30,000 life-saving Portuguese visas.
The initiative was inspired after the granddaughter of the Portuguese savior, Sheila Abranches, spoke at the Temple on a Shabbat morning on occasion of the anniversary of Sousa Mendes unprecedented deed as part of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation’s annual commemorations to honor the diplomat. ”The Consul’s heroism and the impact of his granddaughter’s words during our Shabbat religious service inspired the members of our Synagogue to dedicate one of our benches to the Aristides de Sousa Mendes for his valuable contribution to human dignity,” said Rabbi Mario Rojzman about the venture.
As a result of his disobedience, Sousa Mendes was expelled from the Portuguese Foreign Service and deprived of an income and for decades his name could not be uttered publicly in Portugal. He lived the rest of his life as an outcast, eventually losing his family home and dying in almost abject poverty on April 3rd, 1954.