Spain & Portugal's genetic "Pintele Yid"

Michael Freund msfreund@netvision.net.il

A recent genetic study revealed that one out of every five Spaniards & Portuguese - more than 10 million people! - are of Jewish descent.

This is the biological equivalent of the pintele Yid, the eternal and unbreakable Jewish spark that can never be extinguished.
As I argue in the column below from the Jerusalem Post, if Israel and the Jewish people undertake a concerted outreach effort toward our genetic brethren in Iberia, it could have a profound impact in a variety of fields, ranging from anti-Semitism in Europe to the future of Jewish demography.
If just 5% or even 10% of Spanish and Portuguese descendants of Jews were to return to Judaism, it would mean an additional 500,000 to 1 million Jews in the world.

http://www.jpost. com/servlet/ Satellite? cid=122872812890 5&pagename= JPost%2FJPArticl e%2FShowFull

The Jerusalem Post, December 10, 2008

The genetic "Pintele Yid" in Iberia

By Michael Freund

More than five centuries after the expulsion and forced conversion of Spanish and Portuguese Jewry, the results of a new genetic study might just spur a return of historic proportions to Israel and the Jewish people.

In a paper published in the latest issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, a team of biologists dropped a DNA bombshell, declaring that 20% of the population of Iberia has Sephardic Jewish ancestry.

Since the combined populations of Spain and Portugal exceed 50 million, that means more than 10 million Spaniards and Portuguese are descendants of Jews.

These are not the wild-eyed speculations of a newspaper columnist, but rather cold, hard results straight out of a petri dish in a laboratory.

The study, led by Mark Jobling of the University of Leicester in England and Francesc Calafell of the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, analyzed the Y chromosomes of Sephardim in communities where Jews had migrated after the expulsion from Spain in 1492. Their chromosomal signatures were then compared with the Y chromosomes of more than 1,000 men living throughout Spain and Portugal.

Since the Y chromosome is passed from father to son, the geneticists were able to measure the two groups up against each other, leading to the remarkable finding that one-fifth of Iberians are of Jewish descent.

THIS RESULT underlines the extent to which our ancestors suffered so long ago in Spain and Portugal.

From the historical record, we know that as early as 1391, a century before the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, widespread anti-Semitic pogroms swept across the country, leaving thousands dead and many communities devastated.

In the decades that followed, there were waves of forced conversions as part of an increasingly hostile and dangerous environment for Jews. This reached a climax in 1492, when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella gave Spain's remaining Jews a dire choice: convert or leave forever.

Large numbers chose exile. American historian Howard Morley Sachar has estimated the number of Spain's Jewish exiles at around 100,000, while Hebrew University's Haim Beinart has put the total at 200,000. Others have spoken of even more.

But untold numbers of forcibly converted Jews, as well as those who voluntarily underwent baptism, remained.

THESE INCLUDE, of course, the Anousim (Hebrew for "those who were coerced"), many of whom bravely continued to cling to Jewish practice, covertly passing down their heritage from generation to generation. In recent years, a growing number of Anousim from across Europe, South America and parts of the US have begun to return to Israel and the Jewish people.

But what makes the findings of the genetic study so important is that they attest to the Spanish monarchs' terrible success in subjugating their Jewish subjects and compelling the bulk of those forced to convert to eventually assimilate into the Catholic majority.

For centuries thereafter, the ruthless arm of the Inquisition hunted down and killed suspected "Judaizers" or "secret Jews," ultimately forcing many to abandon the faith to which they had remained so heroically, and secretly, loyal. According to the late historian Cecil Roth, the Inquisition' s henchmen murdered more than 30,000 "secret Jews." Some were burned alive in front of cheering crowds, while countless others were condemned for preserving Jewish practices.

It is no wonder, then, that many of them eventually succumbed to despair and seemingly disappeared as Jews.

Until now, that is.

THE FINDING that 20% of the population of Iberia is descended from Jews will likely take Spain and Portugal by storm.

The results, as The New York Times put it last Friday, "provide new and explicit evidence of the mass conversions of Sephardic Jews" which took place over 500 years ago on Spanish and Portuguese soil.

It is the biological equivalent of the pintele Yid, the eternal and unbreakable Jewish spark that can never be extinguished.

Indeed, it is as if a large mirror were suddenly being held up in front of every Spanish and Portuguese person, forcing them to look at themselves and see the reality of their national, and individual, history.

But even more compelling than what it says about the past is what it might just say about the future. If Israel and the Jewish people undertake a concerted outreach effort toward our genetic brethren in Iberia, it could have a profound impact in a variety of fields, ranging from anti-Semitism in Europe to the future of Jewish demography.

Imagine if just 5% or even 10% of Spanish and Portuguese descendants of Jews were to return to Judaism. It would mean an additional 500,000 to 1 million Jews in the world.

And even if many or most choose not to return, it still behooves us to reach out to them. The very fact that such large numbers of Spaniards and Portuguese have Jewish ancestry could have a significant impact on their attitudes toward Jews and Israel, possibly dampening their anti-Semitism and anti-Israel slant.

For when someone discovers they are of Jewish descent, it is likely to create a greater sense of kinship for Jewish causes. Hence, we should seek to promote and cultivate their affinity for Israel and the Jewish people.

Moreover, I believe we have a historical responsibility to reach out to the descendants of the victims of the forced conversions and the Inquisition, and to facilitate their return.

Through no fault of their own, their ancestors were cruelly taken from us. Centuries ago, the Catholic Church devoted enormous resources to tearing them away from the Jewish people, and it nearly succeeded.

Our task now should be to show the same level of determination to welcome them back into our midst.

------------ --------- ---

The writer is the founder and chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei. org), which assists Anousim in Spain, Portugal and South America to return to the Jewish people.


Why Jewish Blood Runs in Modern Spaniards

By Shelomo Alfassa / December 7, 2008

On December 5, 2008, the New York Times reported that 20% of the population
of the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) had Sephardic Jewish
ancestry and 11% had DNA markers reflecting Islamic ancestors. To those
familiar with the long and dark history of the Jews of Spain and Portugal,
this is not of tremendous surprise. To understand the history of the
Sephardic Jews is to understand why the genetic testing returned such

Jews most likely arrived in what is today Spain, sailing from the holy land
with both the Phoenician sea traders and later with the Greeks. Prior to the
Phoenicians arriving on the shores of Iberia, many different groups
inhabited the peninsula. The Greeks took up sea going trade, much like the
Phoenicians, sometime between 500 and 800 BCE. The potential for the Greeks,
much like the Phoenicians, to have carried along Ioudaios (Jews) on their
sailing vessels is quite plausible. The Greeks set up emporiums (trade
centers) in Iberia and traditional Greek-style colonies in at least one city
as early as 800-700 BCE. Among these Hellenistic city-states, it is known
Jews made up a considerable portion of the population.

Long before the Spanish language came into being or before the Catholic
religion ever came to the Iberian Peninsula, Jews existed there. Jews lived
under oppressive and successive dominant societies, including the Romans,
the Germanic tribes (Vandals, Visigoths and others), the Islamic tribes
consisting of Arabs and Berbers, and eventually under the Catholic Kings,
the ancestors of the modern monarchy of Spain.

The Jews in Spain, prior to the Expulsion of 1492, were a successful people,
many were part of the aristocracy of the country. If we look at a
comparison, the Spanish Jews of 1340, were no less influential and vital to
cities in Spain as were the Jews to New York City in 1940; the same can be
said of the Jews of Baghdad of the same year. They were judicial and
political leaders, heads of government, they held legislative power, and
they either controlled or could at least influence those, which were in
charge of communal infrastructure. Like the Jews of Baghdad and New York
City of 1940, the Jewish community in Spain some 600 years earlier possessed
many wealthy and powerful individuals, both serving in the private sector as
well as for the government.

The events leading up to the final Expulsion of the Jews from Iberia between
1492-1497 are written in the book of the darkest days of the Jewish people;
this period was the worst period for the Jewish people since the destruction
of ancient Jerusalem and prior to the Holocaust. If they did not leave by
threat of expulsion, those Jews which did not straightforwardly welcome
Christianity into their lives (and those that were accused by the Catholic
Church of being heretics) were often sentenced to lifelong punishment and
occasionally sentenced to death by burning or asphyxiation. Burning and
looting Jewish homes, property, stores, community buildings and houses of
prayer were common place for hundreds of years. These attacks were often
brought about by Catholic clergyman which preached fire and brimstone
against the Jewish communities. Not being able to observe their religion,
scores of Jews fled, many others converted to Christianity, ahead of and
during the Spanish and Portuguese Inquistions. Near 50,000 or more were said to
have outright converted in Barcelona alone during the pogroms of
1391-this-in a city which a couple hundred years earlier was the Western
center of all Diaspora Jewry!

The late editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia Judaica, the Oxford historian
Prof. Cecil Roth, said that in Spain, on some occasions, entire Jewish
communities led by their rabbis, converted to Christianity instead of facing
punishment and surrendering everything they possessed. In Portugal, Roth
indicated that Jews made up such a large population, that to be called a
"Portuguese" meant that you were a Jew. Roth made a proclamation in the
1930's indicating that there was probably no one in present Spanish society
of which a tincture of Jewish blood did not run.

In addition of conversion of Jews (and Muslims) to Christianity, centuries
of rape and intermarriage certainly have clouded the gene pool of those
living on Iberia. Genetic research technology is evolving at an exponential
rate. The science of genetics remains a subject which continues to develop
rapidly in both scientific terms as well as societal. In this branch of
biology that deals with heredity, especially the mechanisms of hereditary
transmission and the variation of inherited characteristics among similar or
related organisms, the genetic constitution of an individual, class, or
group (in this case the Sephardim) is being increasingly explored. The
report that 20% of the population of the Iberian Peninsula has Sephardic
Jewish ancestry is not surprising. Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews were
geographically and religiously separate populations, these two populations
often display significant differences in the incidence of genetic diseases
and medical conditions, as well as markers which can be isolated through testing of
their blood groups, chromosomal testing and through the examination of
maternal mitochondrial DNA.

The Sephardic Jews make up the second largest division of the Jewish
population; they have their historic roots in Spain, Portugal, as well as
due to migrations, in North Africa. Sephardic Jews comprise the second
largest group in the worldwide Jewish population after Ashkenazic Jews that
stem from Central and Eastern Europe. They have developed and possess a
shared relationship based upon unique religious traditions, collective
ideals, customs and ethnicity. Today, Sephardic Jews inhabit all corners of
the earth, with large populations living in North and South America as well
as France, Turkey and Israel. Smaller populations exist in The Netherlands,
Britain and the Balkans.

Shelomo Alfassa is a historian and writer concentrating on Sephardic Jewry.

He has written several books, including: "Ethnic Sephardic Jews in the
Medical Literature." www.alfassa. com

This essay is available for syndication

C Shelomo Alfassa

http://www.alfassa. com/dna.html


In an article in Publico, Portugal's premier national newspaper, reporter Ana Gerschenfeld quotes João Lavinha, a co-author of a recent report in the American Journal of Human genetics entitled, The Genetic Legacy of Religious Diversity and Intolerance: Paternal Lineages of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula. Mr. Lavinha of the Centre for Human Genetics in Lisbon, Portugal, was surprised at the percentage of Portuguese men possessing the Sephardic gene, 35% in the south and 25% in the North.

A nossa grande mestiçagem
Ana Gerschenfeld

Se aprendeu na escola que os judeus e os mouros foram expulsos da Península Ibérica pela Inquisição, desengane-se. A população actual da Península Ibérica, e de Portugal em especial, revela uma enorme mestiçagem com estes dois povos, promovida precisamente... pela intolerância religiosa. Os genes contam a história. Por Ana Gerschenfeld

a Não é raro ouvir um português dizer, falando com algum orgulho das suas hipotéticas mas exóticas raízes, que "tem um avô judeu" - e isso, apesar de não haver, oficialmente, muitos judeus a residir em Portugal desde há uns 500 anos. Mas a acreditar num estudo genético dos homens da Península Ibérica agora publicado, esta afirmação, que até aqui era mais uma boutade do que outra coisa, revela-se muito mais certeira do que se pensava. O estudo sugere que o tetra-tetra-tetra-avô de muitos portugueses terá sido um judeu sefardita - ou um muçulmano do Norte de África - que, para escapar à morte e à deportação, à "limpeza étnica", para usar um termo moderno, promovida pela Inquisição, se terá convertido ao cristianismo, forçado ou por vontade própria. Fundiu-se na população geral e abandonou a sua fé e cultura originais, para depois acabar por esquecê-las.
O estudo, ontem publicado on-line no American Journal of Human Genetics, tem por título O Legado Genético da Diversidade Religiosa e da Intolerância: Linhagens paternas dos cristãos, judeus e muçulmanos na Península Ibérica e abrange a totalidade do que são hoje Espanha, Portugal e as ilhas Baleares. Mostra que a mestiçagem dos povos ibéricos ancestrais com os judeus e com populações do Magrebe deixou marcas detectáveis nos genes das populações ibéricas actuais. E, neste contexto, Portugal surge como o campeão: é por cá, especialmente no Sul do país, que a presença de genes "não-ibéricos" atinge os seus máximos - máximos que se revelam, aliás, inesperadamente elevados.
Em linhas gerais, os judeus chegaram à Península Ibérica no início da era cristã, no tempo do Império Romano, vindos do Médio Oriente, e permaneceram até ao final do século XV: esses judeus são os chamados judeus sefarditas (Sefarad, em hebreu, significa Espanha). Os povos berberes do Norte de África, por seu lado, vieram para a península no século VIII e permaneceram até ao século XV-XVI. Tanto os sefarditas como os magrebinos foram expulsos ou obrigados a converter-se ao cristianismo pela Inquisição, num processo que na realidade demorou séculos e foi marcado por várias ondas de intolerância religiosa.
A equipa internacional de cientistas que fez o estudo - e que inclui investigadores portugueses - analisou a genealogia genética de mais de mil homens da Península Ibérica através da evolução do seu cromossoma Y (o cromossoma do sexo masculino). Como este cromossoma é transmitido, ao longo das gerações, de pai para filho, é muito útil nos estudos deste tipo (embora só nos homens, claro). O ADN do cromossoma vai sofrendo mutações ao longo do tempo e essas mutações constituem "marcadores" que permitem reconstituir as linhagens paternas. Dois tipos de marcadores no cromossoma Y serviram neste estudo. Os primeiros, ditos STR (short tandem repeats), são feitos da repetição de um mesmo pequeno fragmento de ADN. São alterações genéticas que surgem com muita frequência aquando da transmissão do cromossoma Y de pai para filho, e como a taxa dessas mutações, que é relativamente constante, é conhecida, funcionam como um "relógio" molecular. Como uma "escala do tempo", disse ao P2 João Lavinha, responsável pela unidade de investigação do Departamento de Genética do Instituto de Saúde Ricardo Jorge, em Lisboa - e um dos co-autores do estudo: "Permitem saber há quantos anos aqueles Y cá estão." O segundo tipo de marcadores, ditos binários, são mutações muito menos frequentes que consistem quer em alterações pontuais do ADN (numa só "letra" desta imensa molécula), quer em fragmentos que são apagados ou acrescentados. "São detalhes na sequência [neste caso, do cromossoma Y] que, pela sua presença ou ausência, informam sobre a origem geográfica desse Y", acrescenta João Lavinha. "No estudo, utilizámos 28 marcadores binários."
Populações parentais
Os cientistas, liderados por Mark Jobling, da Universidade de Leicester, no Reino Unido, partiram de três populações ancestrais ou "parentais" de referência: a dos "ibéricos" (constituída pelos cromossomas Y de 116 bascos, considerados como os mais próximos parentes das populações ibéricas mais antigas); a dos magrebinos (os cromossomas Y de 361 homens do Sara Ocidental, Marrocos, Argélia, Tunísia); e a dos judeus sefarditas (174 homens que se autodesignam como tal, entre os quais 16 de Belmonte e o resto da Bulgária, Grécia, Espanha, Turquia e da ilha de Djerba).
Em cada uma destas populações, existe uma combinação predominante de marcadores binários - isto é, de presenças/ausências ou alterações pontuais no ADN -, o que faz com que seja fácil "diagnosticar" a ascendência de um cromossoma Y escolhido ao acaso. "Há quatro tipos de combinações de marcadores binários do cromossoma Y com valor de diagnóstico", confirma João Lavinha. "O resto é ruído." Desses quatro, três são mesmo característicos de apenas uma das três populações consideradas, pois não existem em nenhuma das duas outras. Têm nomes de código que parecem sopas de letras: a dos "ibéricos" chama-se R1b3, a dos magrebinos E3b2 e a dos judeus J2. São estas combinações de marcadores que serviram de base para a comparação com as populações actuais, permitindo determinar a contribuição de cada um dos três "antepassados" aos descendentes de hoje em dia.
Quem foram os "descendentes" utilizados no estudo? Foram 1140 homens da Península Ibérica e das ilhas Baleares - ou melhor, o seu cromossoma Y. Em Portugal, a amostra consistia em 62 cromossomas Y de homens do "Norte" (definido, para o efeito, como a região a norte do sistema montanhoso Montejunto-Estrela) e 78 de homens do "Sul", explica João Lavinha. "Considerámos que esse sistema montanhoso é uma barreira geográfica que terá feito com que as respectivas populações se cruzassem menos", frisa. O material genético oriundo de Portugal fora recolhido em inícios dos anos 90 e o critério de selecção para o actual estudo foi que os homens tivessem um avô paterno nascido na mesma região que eles (Norte/Sul). "Isso significa que estas linhagens estão no mesmo sítio desde o ano 1900", faz notar João Lavinha.
A última fase consistiu em calcular as contribuições das três populações parentais ao cromossoma Y dos homens actuais. "Essas proporções são uma medida da mestiçagem", diz ainda o geneticista.
Conclusão: em média, os homens ibéricos actuais tem 20 por cento de ascendência judia sefardita e 11 por cento de ascendência magrebina. E para Portugal, em particular, os números são impressionantes. Os cromossomas Y analisados apresentam, em média, 15 por cento de ascendência norte-africana no Sul e 10 por cento no Norte. "É mais do que se esperaria", reflecte João Lavinha. Mas é em relação aos judeus sefarditas que as proporções são "enormes", salienta: em média, 35 por cento dos homens no Sul têm genes sefarditas e, no Norte, 25 por cento. "Os cristãos-novos são uma realidade", reflecte João Lavinha. "Muita gente não fugiu nem foi expulsa; misturou-se. Nós não temos essa noção, mas eles sobreviveram à intolerância religiosa."


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Gene Test Shows Spain’s Jewish and Muslim Mix


Published: December 4, 2008

The genetic signatures of people in Spain and Portugal provide new and explicit evidence of the mass conversions of Sephardic Jews and Muslims to Catholicism in the 15th and 16th centuries after Christian armies wrested Spain back from Muslim control, a team of geneticists reports.

Twenty percent of the population of the Iberian Peninsula has Sephardic Jewish ancestry and 11 percent have DNA reflecting Moorish ancestors, the geneticists have found. Historians have debated how many Jews converted and how many chose exile. “One wing grossly underestimates the number of conversions,” said Jane S. Gerber, an expert on Sephardic history at the City University of New York.

The finding bears on two different views of Spanish history, said Jonathan S. Ray, a professor of Jewish studies at Georgetown University. One, proposed by the 20th-century historian Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz, holds that Spanish civilization is Catholic and other influences are foreign; the other sees Spain as having been enriched by drawing from all three of its historical cultures, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim.

The study, based on an analysis of Y chromosomes, was conducted by biologists led by Mark A. Jobling of the University of Leicester in England and Francesc Calafell of the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. They developed a Y chromosome signature for Sephardic men by studying Sephardic Jewish communities in places where Jews migrated after being expelled from Spain in 1492 to 1496. They also characterized the Y chromosomes of the Arab and Berber army that invaded Spain in A.D. 711 from data on people living in Morocco and Western Sahara.

After a period of forbearance under the Arab Umayyad dynasty, Spain entered a period of religious intolerance, with its Muslim Berber dynasties forcing Christians and Jews to convert to Islam, and the victorious Christians then expelling Jews and Muslims or forcing them to convert. The new genetic study, reported online on Thursday in the American Journal of Human Genetics, indicates there was a high level of conversion among Jews.

Because most of the Y chromosome remains unchanged from father to son, the proportions of Sephardic and Moorish ancestry detected in the present population are probably the same as those just after the 1492 expulsions. A high proportion of people with Sephardic ancestry was to be expected, Dr. Ray said. “Jews formed a very large part of the urban population up until the great conversions,” he said.

Dr. Ray raised the question of what the DNA evidence might mean personally. “If four generations on I have no knowledge of my genetic past, how does that affect my understanding of my own religious association?”

The issue is one that has confronted Dr. Calafell, an author of the study. His own Y chromosome may be of Sephardic ancestry — the test is not definitive for individuals — and his surname is from a town in Catalonia; Jews undergoing conversion often took surnames from place names. But he does not regard his Y chromosome as a strong link to the Sephardic heritage. Assuming no in-breeding, he would have had more than one million living ancestors in A.D. 1500. “My full ancestry is made of many different individuals, and my Y chromosome tells me just about one of them,” he said.


(Municipal Museum/tower of Almedina)

Exposition and guided walking tours of Jewish Coimbra (Portugal's Oxford) includes:

-Exposition of Jewish culture in the Middle Ages through the use of graphics and objects.

-Jewish professions and economic activity.

-a Guided walking tour of the former Jewish neighbourhoods ("Judiarias") ending at the patio of the Inquisition.

-"The web of the Inquisition"-a guided tour.

Programa Pedagógico da exposição “Coimbra Judaica”

Museu Municipal | Torre de Almedina (Pátio do Castilho)

O programa pedagógico da exposição “Coimbra Judaica” foi definido em estreita
relação com as orientações curriculares e com os programas em vigor.
Procura complementar as propostas dos manuais assim como desenvolver hábitos
culturais nos alunos e criar-lhes o gosto pela aprendizagem, através do contacto com
os objectos reais que integram as exposições.
A metodologia de trabalho compreende, de acordo com os grupos etários, visitasguiadas, dinamização de ateliês, elaboração de fichas pedagógicas e um percurso
pedonal pelas judiarias de Coimbra que complementa a exposição.

Ateliê_ As Profissões!

Quais as profissões dos teus pais?
O que gostarias de ser quando fores grande?
Vem ter connosco à exposição “Coimbra Judaica” e ficarás a saber que algumas das
profissões que conheces já existem há muitos, muitos anos!
Público-alvo_ Jardim de Infância (a partir dos 4 anos)
Terça a sexta-feira_ Das 10h00 às 12h00 e das 14h00 às 17h00 (cadência regular de

Ateliê_ À Descoberta de Novas Culturas!

Sefer Tora, Hanukia e Mezuzah!
O que será?
Vem responder a estas e outras questões na exposição “Coimbra Judaica”
Público-alvo_ 1º Ciclo e ATL’s
Terça a sexta-feira_ Das 10h00 às 12h00 e das 14h00 às 17h00 (cadência regular de

Ateliê_ Judeu influente, perigo iminente!

A riqueza e instrução dos judeus sempre foi aproveitada pelo poder régio mas
simultaneamente mal interpretada pela nobreza e pelo povo.
Na exposição Coimbra Judaica ficarás a conhecer as vivências e a cultura judaica
percebendo o seu percurso ao longo da história.
Público-alvo_ 2º Ciclo
Terça a sexta-feira_ Das 10h00 às 12h00 e das 14h00 às 17h00 (cadência regular de 1h)

Programa_ As teias da Inquisição!

A Inquisição, tribunal da Igreja destinado a julgar os crimes contra a fé católica e os
bons costumes, foi criado no reinado de D. João III e teve como alvo preferencial os
Na exposição “Coimbra Judaica” poderás conhecer melhor a dinâmica económicosocial e religiosa que influenciou a vivência medieval no burgo de Coimbra e as
adversidades daí decorrentes.
A reflexão que se propõe sobre este importante período da história pode ser
complementada com um percurso pedonal pelas judiarias de Coimbra terminando no
Pátio da Inquisição.
Público-alvo_ 3º Ciclo
Terça a sexta-feira
Visita-guiada_ Das 10h00 às 12h00 e das 14h00 às 17h00 (aprox. 40 min)
Percurso Pedonal (alternativo) _ Das 10h00 às 12h00 e das 14h00 às 17h00 (aprox. 1h30)

Programa_ A Cultura Judaica na Coimbra Medieval

A exposição “Coimbra Judaica” trata um tema não só de reconhecido interesse local e
regional mas também de âmbito nacional. A mostra patente na Torre de Almedina –
Núcleo da Cidade Muralhada, ilustra a história dos judeus, através de um registo
gráfico e objectual das suas vivências culturais e económicas desde a formação do
primeiro bairro judeu até à perseguição instaurada pelo Tribunal do Santo Oficio.
A reflexão que se propõe sobre este importante período da história pode ser
complementado com um percurso pedonal pelas judiarias de Coimbra terminando no
Pátio da Inquisição.
Público-alvo_ Ensino Secundário
Visita-guiada_ Das 10h00 às 12h00 e das 14h00 às 17h00 (aprox. 40 min)
Percurso Pedonal (alternativo) _ Das 10h00 às 12h00 e das 14h00 às 17h00 (aprox. 1h30)

Informações gerais

Disponível a partir do dia 28 de Outubro
Horário para marcações:
Segunda a Sexta-feira (Das 9h00 às 12h30 e das 14h00
às 17h30), através do contacto: 239 833 771
Número de inscrições: Min. 5 | Máx. 20



by Philip Graham (Lisbon Dispatch No. 18)

(Philip Graham, a writer who teaches at the University of Illinois recently spent a year in Lisbon. His other dispatches appear at, http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/philipgraham/index.html)

A huge banner runs down the length of the Church of Saint Stephen’s white-stoned exterior, advertising a miracle that took place here 760 years ago. Over the centuries kings and queens have visited this church in Santarém, a pedigree that only adds to the legend of the Shrine of the Most Holy Miracle. While Alma snaps a few photos, Hannah shades her eyes from the noonday sun. As for me, I’d much better appreciate the surrounding whitewashed buildings, their balconies lush with flowers, if I weren’t still twitchy after navigating narrow cobblestone streets first designed when the internal combustion engine was an impossible leap of imagination.

“Ready?” Alma asks, grinning. She still can’t hide her pleasure at having found a website account of a miracle that goes back to 1247. A local woman, driven to despair by a philandering husband, consulted a sorceress in her cavern lair (and only after the usual rosary prayers had gone unanswered), in the hopes that M-A-G-I-C might spell marital relief. The price? The unhappy wife merely had to supply a communion wafer, blessed by a priest and so transformed into the actual flesh and blood of Christ. Oh, how desperation in love can lead to uncharted territory.

The following Sunday service, after receiving communion, that determined wife slipped the wafer from her mouth and bundled it into her veil, then scooted from the church. But a trail of bloody drops followed the woman on her way to the witch (waiting patiently in her cave outside of town), so she made a spooked bee-line home instead and hid the bleeding wafer in a wooden chest. When her husband returned home late that night from his latest binge of someone else, great beams of blinding light shone through the planks of the trunk. Instantly terrified into fidelity, the husband knelt beside his wife and they prayed together until morning. The miracle wafer has been preserved in the church ever since.

When Alma first read this story she knew that her unreconstructed animist husband would want to come here. The local variety of spiritual quirks is yet another reason Portugal makes a cozy fit inside me. Even Lisbon newspapers are chock-a-block with classified ads that tout the services of African diviners from the former Portuguese colonies of Guinea or Angola, as well as more homegrown spiritualists. Our friend Fernanda tells us that unusual indeed is the Portuguese woman who hasn’t consulted one of these guides. Alma once picked up from a pasteleria ladies room the flier of a “Consultora Espiritual” boasting expertise in the subjects of love, sexual impotence, and “mal olhado”—the evil eye. More than once I’ve stood before the urinal of some Lisbon restaurant and read from a poster on the wall about the skills of Professor Sissé or Professor Ali, each well-versed in the “segredos de magia negra ou branca”—secrets of black or white magic.

“Ready?” Alma repeats, and I nod, though I have to confess that my half-spoonful of unlapsed Catholic is just enough to fill me with a ripple of vestigial anxiety. Whenever I’m about to enter a church, I imagine my long absence might trigger an alarm.

No siren wails when we enter, just the roar of a huge Death-to-all-Dust vacuum pushed back and forth by an old woman in a corner of the modest interior: white walls, a geometric pattern of azulejo tiles, and a series of dark-hued paintings lining both sides of the church that depict the major plot turns of the miracle. But where’s the magic wafer?

Alma approaches the old gal in charge of that rumbling behemoth and gestures that she has a question. The woman frowns, fiddles with a switch, and the sudden silence almost hurts. While Alma warms up her latest informant, I take the opportunity to walk beneath the paintings and point out details to Hannah. “See there?” I say, “The wife is still in the church, but the wafer’s already bleeding,” and then, a few steps down, “And here’s where she and her rotten husband are kneeling in front of the magical wafer.” Hannah, who never indulged in the Harry Potter habit (preferring to gobble up the down-to-earth social dilemmas of tween novels), is only mildly interested in this spiritual drama.

Alma returns to report that the tabernacle housing the wafer is only opened during special religious holidays. Anticipating my disappointment, she’s already picked up a devotional card from the souvenir stand in the back. One side of the card features a photo of a golden monstrance shaped like a sunburst, encircling a clear crystal where some gunk that once might have been a wafer is smeared with what once might have been dark blood. While Alma continues the tour of the paintings with Hannah, I stay behind and turn the card over to read a version of the story that’s nearly identical to what Alma had read to me from the website. I’m about to set it aside when I notice a crucial difference: in this retelling, the scheming witch is a “Jewish sorceress.”

I’d laugh out loud, but I’m too appalled. Though I’m not the kind of guy who willingly undermines someone else’s religion, this particular miracle needs one big whopping asterisk. Unless you believe in transubstantiation—and no Jew believes in that—a communion wafer is nothing more than a little cracker. Where’s the motivation to steal one? So, you can scratch the “Jewish” bit from the sorceress. But the kicker, and I think I speak with some authority here, is that no self-respecting Jewish girl would ever, ever live in a cave. Never happened, never will.

I feel as depressed as if I’d just uncovered a friend’s awful sleazy secret. At least someone felt guilty enough to scrub the slur from the website. And then I wonder, what happened to that so-called sorceress? I hope she didn’t turn out to be some hapless scapegoat, providing dry run fodder for the Inquisition looming two centuries down the line.

After her tour of the paintings, Alma sidles up beside me and says, “Pretty wild, huh?”

“Oh, you have no idea.”

She gives me her And so? arched eyebrow, because my wife always knows when a juicy story is in the offing.


We cut across the broad oval of the Rossio, Lisbon’s popular praça lined with cafés catering to the tourist set, then linger for a moment before Peruvian musicians strumming guitars and tootling panpipes in front of the statue of Dom Pedro IV, until Hannah (who’s discovered her shy self this year) whispers that I should drop a euro in the waiting guitar case. That contribution accomplished, we continue past a tiny hole-in-the-wall bar that serves ginjinha, a potent cherry liqueur that will, if you don’t stop at one small glass, effect a secular version of transubstantiation by turning your legs into rubber.

Then we’re standing before the Church of São Domingos. My asterisk to the miracle in Santarém has encouraged Alma to finally overcome her hesitancy about visiting this church, which holds an even grimmer story. In April of 1506, the church was packed with people praying before a statue of the Virgin Mary, whose eyes appeared to be dripping tears. Perhaps the worshippers hoped this was a sign that the plague raging through the country might soon end. So when some New Christians—recent forcibly converted Jews—expressed doubts about the mechanics of the miracle, they were killed in the church aisles. The melee spread out into the Rossio, and then throughout Lisbon, the mad three-day spree only ending after some two thousand Jews and New Christian converts had been killed. Decades later, the sentences of the Inquisition were announced in front of this church, just before the public roastings.

Again, no alarm trips off as I enter; instead, the recorded voices of monks intoning Gregorian chants hover in the air. Which is a good idea, since in the absence of such calming music I might want to run from the place. Beneath the rose-colored curved ceiling, the church’s stone pillars stand cracked and gouged, pieces missing—scars of the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755. Worse, the walls exude a faint scent of smoke, a lingering souvenir from a fire that ravaged São Domingos in the 1950s. If you were the sort to give God a mean-spirited street cred, you might say that he’s taken revenge on this church.

A few worshippers sit in the wooden pews, but most stand by the sides of the church, where a series of tables display little red cups holding stubby white candles, the flames’ flickers adding extra light to the dim surroundings. Hannah is immediately drawn to these candles, and when I explain that people light them in the memory of loved ones who have passed away, she nods at the need for this; all her grandparents are long gone, three before she was born, and their absence has always loomed large for her. Alma, as subdued as I’ve ever seen her, walks with Hannah to one of the tables, her hand already in her purse for the small change that bestows lighting privileges.

I stay behind and instead begin to make my way through the church as quickly as possible. The place contains too much of what chased me from the religion of my birth, its promise of peace mucked up with the mess of the world. I pass alcoves where statues of saints offer the standard devotional gaze, cross before the church’s elaborate altar, and then stop, surprised.

Elevated halfway up a corner alcove and lit from above, a golden stature of the resurrected Christ seems to float in the air, his long robe draped over a body as lean as a Modigliani figure. His face bent down slightly with the gentle peace of a Buddha, it seems that compassion could truly erase suffering. It’s perhaps the calmest version of Jesus I’ve ever seen, and I feel I could stand here for hours—in this church, of all places—or at least long enough to reduce the heat on the bubbling stew beneath my mask of Everything’s Okie-Dokie: my brooding and fits of anger, my need to please, and a self-pity that too easily shifts to self-importance.

Behind me, a woman sobs. I turn to watch her twisted face, framed by tangled, graying hair, as she lights a candle and ineffectually dabs at her eyes. Then she crosses the altar to weep before a statue of Jesus that’s nestled in the opposite corner alcove—just released from the cross, he’s cradled in his mother’s arms, the sculpted marble realism of his dead body a landscape of pain and suffering that seems as far from the statue hovering above me as one could imagine. Why, I wonder, did she choose that Jesus? And why am I lingering here? I stare up again at my preferred version, and it hits me that Jesus is an ever-morphing, all-purpose avatar. He’s no longer himself—hasn’t been, I guess, since the very beginning. If you want peace, then Jesus wants peace too, but he’s also not above underwriting fear, paranoia or hatred, if you’re so inclined. He’s a chalice, waiting to be filled.

Before this visit I thought I’d pegged how I would react, but the world holds it own mysteries, doesn’t it? Down the length of this church, with its scars and scarred history, Alma still stands beside Hannah, who lights another candle, grateful for a chance to connect with relatives she’s never met.


Sitting and waiting beside Alma in the vast interior of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, I can’t quite believe this church managed to survive the earthquake of 1755 with nary a scratch. The stone pillars, reaching to the heights of the intricately sculpted vault, appear far more delicate than they really are. The Portuguese, it seems, can work miracles with engineering skills in the service of the miraculous.

A thin bald priest is halfway through intoning the mass, with a voice so gentle and slow that I can understand most of his well-worn phrases of love and forgiveness, even as they echo in the enormous space of the church. Beside us sits Maria-José, a short woman with a wide, pleasant face that can shift from laughter to complaint and back again in an instant. The mother of Hannah’s best friend Sara, she patiently endures our attempts to whisper chit chat in Portuguese during the occasional downtime of the mass. In a few minutes, both girls will march to the altar and sing, as members of Os Pequeños Cantores de Belém, a children’s chorus that performs in some of the classiest venues in Lisbon—they’re even scheduled to record a couple of songs with a Portuguese opera star, Teresa Cardoso de Menezes. Hannah loves this chorus, even if rehearsals before a performance can stretch to four or more grueling hours. Alma, in perfect Jewish mother mode, allows her pride in Hannah’s voice and accomplishments to overlook the small detail of her daughter performing devotional songs in Latin.

While waiting, I glance about at the stained-glass windows, the endlessly rising pillars, and the church’s entrance, where the tombs of Vasco da Gama and Luís de Camões lie side by side. They make a fitting pair, since Comões’ epic, The Lusiads, glorifies da Gama’s maritime discoveries; but if you ask me, the bones of the playwright Gil Vicente should spend their eternal rest here too. Often compared to Shakespeare (who wrote nearly a century after him), Vicente’s trilogy of plays about life’s end-game boats bound for heaven, hell, or purgatory is a masterpiece of acid wit, stunningly skeptical about the corrupt underpinnings of Portugal’s then still-budding empire. Flip open a page and you’ll find an angel berating a nobleman who benefited from the country’s then growing colonial holdings:

“You despised lesser folk, looked down on them,

and as you grew prouder, became less than them.”

Flip open another page and there’s the devil, accusing a cardinal of emotional complicity in the crimes of the Inquisition:

“Your auto da fe,

your act of faith,

was an act of hatred,

of a tortured soul

that knew only how to torture,

of twisted desire

that knew only

how to twist

and break.”

Beats me how a fellow could write like that in the early 16th century and still keep his head.

A side door opens, and the children walk in a line to the altar, wearing dark red robes topped with white collars. They settle into two small groups on either side, like the separate wings of a bird, Hannah and Sara standing together. On the opening day of that awful first school Hannah briefly attended, she noticed Sara guiding a fellow student’s wheelchair through the between-class chaos of the hallway. From that moment their friendship began, and months later the two girls, now in at least the shallows of adolescent sensitivity to the world’s gaze, can still jostle and joke with each other like kids. Sara’s easy empathy is even more striking because she lived in an orphanage until the age of ten, when Maria-José, a retired plastic surgeon, adopted her. For the past two years, Sara’s new mother has been introducing her to the wider world.

Across the altar from Hannah and Sara stands the bully who so tormented our daughter in that same first school. She’s parked in the other half of the chorus because months ago, Hannah took the choral director aside and bravely requested that they be kept separated. Though this girl (who we’ve heard once provoked her younger sister to the point of writing a suicide note) has long since minded her Ps and Qs, I still feel a flicker of rage at the sight of her.

Such a hard road, forgiveness.

The choral director raises her arms, holds them in the air, and when she nods the children’s voices unfold a melody that balances somewhere between languid and stately. I close my eyes and try to make out the thread of my daughter’s singing, and though a word, a phrase seems to briefly hold her stamp, I soon give in to the full blend of those young voices.

Each song seems flecked with something I can’t exactly place, something beyond the Latin words of worship. Eventually, I think I can hear, in the colors of those harmonies, the weaving backstories of Sara’s orphanage, Hannah’s challenging year, the bully’s twisted talents, and even secrets of the other children that I know nothing about. Maybe that’s what shapes this music’s not quite tranquil beauty, the tangled stories these joined voices express and yet rise from, nearly untethered from trouble as the echoes in this vast church lift them just a little higher.

(Quotations from the work of Gil Vicente are from The Boat Plays, translated by David Johnsto (Oberon Books))



A new book (in Portuguese), entitled, Carção, The Capital of Marranismo, was recently launched in the village of Carção, in the province of Tras-os-Montes (behind the mountains), in north-eastern Portugal.
The book, 198 pages long, is based on primary research of 50 Inquisition files out of 250 cases from Carção held at the national archives at Torre de Tombo in Lisbon. Written by Maria Fernanda Guimarães and Julio Andrade, the work is based on Fernanda's research at the archives. Fernanda, a retired travel executive works full time studying and transcribing archival records at Torre de Tombo.
The Inquisition files are quite detailed and in most cases in excellent condition. The files, totalling approximately 40,000 cases read like modern day court transcripts, rich in details of family geneology, assets and business interests of the accused, Jewish rituals the accused allegedly participated in, the food they ate, the torture they underwent, particulars of sentencing etc. The records survived the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 because they were housed in St. Jorge's castle high up on a hill east of downtown (baixa)Lisbon which was destroyed by successive quakes, a tsunami and 3 days of fire starting November 1, 1755. The largest judaria in Portugal had been located in the area destroyed.
To see the cover of the book and read more about its contents, see the blog of the friends of Carção (http://almocreve.blogs.sapo.pt/24786.html).
Also, Portugal's national educational Tv channel, RTP2, filmed a 10 minute segment on the story about the Jews of Carção with some exceptional images of older local people who still identify themselves as Jews to this day. The book launch, attended by over 100 people in a village of 400 include the local reeve and mayor who are sponsoring Fernanda in further research and who wish to reclaim the area's Jewish heritage to promote cultural tourism.
The interview with the book's authors relates the story of a secret rabbi who travelled to Livorno to get instruction and bring back books to Carção. He was the head of a Catholic 'confraria' (ie. a fraternity) which was a cover for the secret Jews of Carção to carry out their rituals, including one entitled 'missa seca', (ie. dry mass). See (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eDlkoY5S6M)


(For English version see friendsofmarranos.blogspot.com)


(aprovado por unanimidade no dia 30 de Janeiro, 2008- referente ao memorial às vítimas do massacre judaico de Lisboa de 1506.)

PROPOSTA N.º 423 /2007


Considerando que:

1. No ano de 1506, a cidade de Lisboa foi palco do mais dramático e sanguinário episódio antijudaico de todos os que são conhecidos no nosso território;

2. Durante três dias, 19, 20 e 21 de Abril, estes acontecimentos, que tiveram início junto ao Convento de S. Domingos (actual Largo de S. Domingos), levaram a que cerca de dois mil lisboetas, por mera suspeita de professarem o judaísmo, tivessem sido barbaramente assassinados e queimados em duas enormes fogueiras no Rossio e na Ribeira;

3. Evocar este hediondo crime em que consistiu o massacre de 1506, inscrito numa política de intolerância que, segundo Antero de Quental, contribuiu para a decadência deste povo peninsular, será fazer justiça póstuma a todas as vítimas da intolerância e constituirá uma afirmação inequívoca de Lisboa como cidade cosmopolita, multiétnica e multicultural.

4. A pedagogia de combate ao racismo, à discriminação, à xenofobia e a todas as formas análogas de intolerância, constitui um eixo fundamental da democracia e da coexistência pacífica entre os povos.

Os vereadores do Partido Socialista, da Lista “Cidadãos por Lisboa” e do Bloco de Esquerda, ao abrigo da alínea b) do n.º 7 do art.º 64.º da Lei 169/99 de 18 de Setembro, com a redacção dada pela Lei 5-A/2002 de 11 de Janeiro, têm a honra de propor que a Câmara Municipal de Lisboa, na sua reunião de 30 de Janeiro de 2007, delibere:

1. Instalar na cidade de Lisboa um Memorial às Vítimas da Intolerância, evocativo do massacre judaico de Lisboa de 1506 e de todas as vítimas que sofreram a discriminação e o aviltamento pessoal pelas suas origens, convicções ou ideias;
a) O Memorial localizar-se-á no Largo de S. Domingos e deverá ser composto por um mural evocativo das vítimas da intolerância, cuja concepção, execução e instalação competirá aos serviços municipais;
b) Esta intervenção contemplará, igualmente, o arranjo da área envolvente e incluirá a colocação, no mesmo Largo, de elementos escultóricos contributos das comunidades católica e judaica;
c) A inauguração do Memorial terá lugar no dia 19 de Abril de 2008, em cerimónia promovida pela Câmara Municipal de Lisboa, para a qual serão convidadas todas as comunidades étnicas e religiosas da Cidade.

Os Vereadores