Porto, Portugal
m lopes azevedo

Ladina, a registered non-profit society based in Porto, Portugal launched its fall series of “tertulias” (ie salons) with the first session on Captain Barros Basto aka Ben Rosh, the “Apostle of the Marranos”, according to noted historian Cecil Roth. The event which took place at the recently opened Literary Club of Porto on the banks of the Douro river, featured guest speakers professor Elvira Mea (co-author of “Biografia de Barros Basto…”, 1997, Porto, Afrontemento), Antonio Melo (veteran investigative journalist), Rabbi Elisha Salas of Shavei Israel, and the Captain’s granddaughter, Isabel. The meeting room was elegantly decorated with a lovely bouquet of flowers courtesy, Mr. F. Morais, president of the Luis Araujo Foundation which operates the club. On display were the Captains medals from the first World War along with his sword and hat as well as various copies of many of his publications. There was also a large black and white framed picture of the Captain in uniform. His presence radiated amongst the full capacity crowd.
The guest panel was introduced by Alexandre Teixeira Mendes, a Marrano poet. He briefly commented on the evolving ambivelant nature of Marranism in a Christian world which professor Yosef Haym Yerushalmi’s characterizates as a uniquely Portuguese phenonenum.
Professor Mea, a noted authourity on Portuguese Jewish history, decribed the Captain as a visionary who took on the task of rescuing the secretive Marranos of Northern Portugal from obscurity. She described his life long work and eventual persectution by Salazar’s fascist dictatorship and its accomplice, the Catholic Church. More importantly, she described the Captain as an intellectual in his own right, a professor of Hebrew at the University of Porto before it too was shut down and of the Captain’s valuable original research into the origins and social history of the Jews of Northen Portugal. She spoke of the Captains courage in continuing with his lifes work despite the finacial difficulties his family faced when he was expelled from the army on spurious grounds. Notwithtanding, the Captain continued to publish “Halapid” until 1958, an educative journal he founded to dessiminate information on the Torah, Marrano history and liturgy and international Jewish issues. Lastly, she said that the Captain’s work was misunderstood, even in certain Jewish communities because it did not fit pre-conceived notions of normative Judaism.
The next speaker, journalist Antonio Melo who launched a public campaign in the mid 1990’s in the national newspaper, “O Publico” to rehabilitate the Captain, spoke of the Kafkauesque nature of the case, of the obstinancy of the Military and political ministers. The Captain’s democratic Republican leanings and association with masonry had so permeated the case that nobody wants to deal with the issue. Further, even though the civil police and a military tribunal had cleared the Captain of trumped up charges of immoral homosexual acts, the decision by Salazar’s Interior Minister to expell him from the army in 1937 has been successivily upheld after the April 25th revolution, in some cases by officials who have not even bothered to read the file.
After some eloquent words from rabbi Elisha Salas, who is conducting return clasess for Marranos as well as conducting services at Mekor Hayem synagogue, the Captain’s granddaughter Isabel Barros Basto expressed her pride that despite the continuos and relentess persecution of her family, her grandfather’s magnificant synagogue stands as a beacon for the emerging Marrano reinassance of today.
Upcoming tertulias:
October 30th- The Jews of medieval Porto
November 27 (tbc) Uriel da Costa-the first secular Jew