BOOK LAUNCH

 17.30  DECEMBER 14, 2012,

The ISIDROS - An epic of a family of New Christians from Torre de Moncorvo (Tras-os-Montes, northern Portugal) is a work of historical research, in which the authors follow this family over several generations, almost throughout the entire Inquisition (1536-1821).
It is a family with origins in Torre de Moncorvo but which by its dynamism and entrepreneurship, some of their descendants stand out in the social context of the time, even in times of persecution. Many of them were imprisoned in the Inquisition and eventually left strong marks of Marranism during their lifetimes.

Os Isidros
Os Isidros
A epopeia de uma família de cristãos-novos de Torre de Moncorvo
Edição/reimpressão: 2012
Páginas: 128
Editor: Lema d`Origem
ISBN: 9789898342126
Normalmente segue para o correio em 10 dias 

OS ISIDROS – A epopeia de uma família de cristãos-novos de Torre de Moncorvo, de António Júlio Andrade e Maria Fernanda Guimarães, é uma obra de investigação histórica, na qual os autores seguem esta família ao longo de várias gerações, praticamente ao longo da Inquisição. É uma família que tem origem em Torre de Moncorvo mas que, pelo seu dinamismo e empreendedorismo, alguns dos seus descendentes acabam por se destacar no contexto social da época, mesmo em período de perseguição. Muitos deles estiveram presos nos cárceres da Inquisição e acabaram por deixar marcas fortes do marranismo ao longo das suas existências.


H A P P Y   H A N U K K A H !

The True Meaning of Hanukkah

WHEN my brother was in kindergarten, where he was the only Jewish student, a parent organizing enrichment activities asked my mother to tell the class the story of Hanukkah. My mother obligingly brought in a picture book and began to read about foreign conquerors who were not letting Jews in ancient Israel worship freely, even defiling their temple, until a scrappy group led by the Maccabee family overthrew one of the most powerful armies in the world and won their liberty.
The woman was horrified.
The Hanukkah story, she interrupted, was not about war. It was about the miracle of an oil lamp that burned for eight days without replenishing. She urged my mother to close the book. My mother refused.
The woman wasn’t alone. Many Americans, Jews as well as Christians, think that the legend of the long-lasting oil is the root of Hanukkah’s commemoration. And perhaps that mistake is no surprise, given that for many the holiday has morphed into “Christmas for Jews,” echoing the message of peace on earth accompanied by gift giving. In doing so, the holiday’s own message of Jewish survival and faith has been diluted.
Hanukkah is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays in America. But unlike Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Passover (or even the lesser-known Sukkot and Shavuot), all of which are explicitly mentioned in the Torah, Hanukkah gets only a brief, sketchy reference in the Talmud, the voluminous collection of Jewish oral law and tradition written down hundreds of years after the Maccabees’ revolt.
There for the first time the miracle of the oil is recorded: the ancient temple in Jerusalem held an eternal flame, but after the desecration by the foreign invaders — including the sacrificing of pigs, a non-kosher animal, on the altar — only one day’s worth of purified oil remained. Yet the faithful went ahead and lighted it.
The oil burned in the rededicated temple for eight days, long enough for a new supply to arrive. Hence the practice of lighting candles for eight nights to observe Hanukkah, which means dedication in Hebrew. (Perhaps just as significantly, the reference to oil also gave rise to a holiday tradition of eating foods like potato pancakes and doughnuts  that had been cooked in it.)
Though Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday, 19th-century activists in America promoted it to encourage their coreligionists to take pride in their heritage. During the 20th century it was embraced more broadly by Jews who wanted to fit in with other Americans celebrating the holiday season — and to make their kids feel better about not getting anything from Santa.
It helped, of course, that Hanukkah falls near Christmas on the calendar and traditionally involved candles and small monetary gifts. Over time, children began receiving grander presents, and Hanukkah-themed season’s greeting cards proliferated. Some families even started to purchase “Hanukkah bushes,” small trees often decked out with Stars of David and miniature Maccabees.
By the 1980s, when I was a child, menorahs had been placed next to mangers in the public square and Hanukkah songs had been incorporated into winter holiday concerts. Despite this recognition, I still felt excluded enough to brag to classmates that my holiday was better than Christmas, since it had eight days of gift giving, instead of one.
While elevating Hanukkah does a lot of good for children’s morale, ignoring or sanitizing its historical basis does a great disservice to the Jewish past and present.
The original miracle of Hanukkah was that a committed band of people led a successful uprising against a much larger force, paving the way for Jewish independence and perhaps keeping Judaism itself from disappearing. It’s an amazing story, resonant with America’s own founding, that offers powerful lessons about standing up for one’s convictions and challenging those in power.
Many believe the rabbis in the Talmud recounted the miracle of the light alongside the military victory because they did not want to glorify war. That in itself is an important teaching, as are the holiday’s related messages of renewal, hope and turning away from darkness.
But it’s a story with dark chapters as well, including the Maccabean leaders’ religious zealotry, forced conversions and deadly attacks on their neighbors. These transgressions need to be grappled with. And that is precisely what the most important Jewish holidays do: Jews on Passover spill out wine from their glasses to acknowledge Egyptian suffering caused by the 10 plagues, and congregations at Rosh Hashana read and struggle with God’s order to Abraham to bind his son Isaac as a sacrifice.
If we’re going to magnify Hanukkah, we should do so because it offers the deeper meaning and opportunity for introspection that the major Jewish holidays provide.
Hilary Leila Krieger is the Washington bureau chief for The Jerusalem Post. 



Emanuel Baker, vice-president, Congregation Kehilat Ma'arav, Santa Monica California

My wife, Judy, and I, when we travel, often will visit Jewish sites of interest, particularly in foreign countries.  I sometimes get to do the same thing when I travel on business.  My visit to Dachau and attendance at a bar mitzvah at the Great Synagogue in Sydney, Australia, occurred while I was out of the country on business.  Many of the places we’ve visited are ones that just about every Jew who goes abroad has visited, such as the synagogues in Prague.  However, we have had the good fortune in some places to see things or participate in events that often aren’t available to the casual tourist.  For example, we attended a wedding at the Dohanyi Street Synagogue in Budapest, an event that had an unreal feeling to it.  The sound of the hazzan’s and rabbi’s voices filling the cavernous interior of the shul as they conducted the ceremony was for me an emotional event.  Here was a wedding ceremony taking place in a shul that the Nazis surely would have destroyed, and the ceremony was being conducted by people whose forebears were marked for annihilation.  What a stark reminder of the ability of the Jewish people to survive as a people.
Another memorable occasion was attending Rosh Hashanah services at the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, followed by attending Yom Kippur services in Tokyo ten days later.  Services in the Portuguese Synagogue were memorable.  The synagogue was built in the mid 1600s and to this day remains candlelit.  Reading a machzur by candlelight on Erev Rosh Hashanah while listening to an excellent hazzan leading the service with Sephardic intonation was quite an experience.  It was almost mystic.  On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, after services, we were invited by a member of the congregation to attend a brit milah at the Synagogue for his new-born son.
Perhaps the most memorable Jewish experience was during our trip to Portugal.  Several years back, we had committed to going to Portugal on vacation, and coincidentally, Vanessa Paloma, who was one of our Religious School teachers at the time, had presented a video about a study she was doing about the Marrano Jews in Portugal.  Through her, she put us in touch with Manny Azevedo, a Portuguese-Canadian Jew living in Lisbon, who is very active in helping the Portuguese Marrano Jewish community return to their Jewish roots.  He agreed to be our “tour guide”, taking us on a tour of Jewish Lisbon.  Among the places we went that day was to a university library where research was being done into the records of Jews convicted of heresy during the Portuguese Inquisition.  He showed us an original file comprised of parchment documents written with a quill pen and compiled by the Inquisition authorities back in the 1600s for a woman whose last name was Coelho.  It was a complete record of her investigation, trial, and judgment.  Can you imagine holding a 450 year-old record like that in your hands?
We also went to Porto on that trip, and Manny Azevedo arranged for us to have a private tour of the shul in Porto, which included a museum that featured the life story of one of its founders, Captain Arthur Barros Basto.  He was born in 1887 into a Christian family that had descended from Jews forcibly baptized in 1497 during the Inquisition.  In the 1920s, Captain Basto, a decorated Portuguese WW1 veteran who survived gas attacks in Flanders, began a quasi-messianic movement in northern Portugal to “out” Marranos and bring them back into the Jewish fold.  Captain Basto was wrongly and unjustly drummed out of the Portuguese military.  In 1937, the Portuguese military summarily expelled him from its ranks, unjustly humiliating him all because he launched a public campaign to reawaken Portugal's Bnei Anousim to return to their Jewish roots.  He became known as the “Portuguese Dreyfus”.  Within the last two years, a petition to the Portuguese government was successfully circulated worlwide, beginning the rehabilitation of Captain Basto.
An incidental piece of information is that the great great niece of Captain Basto is the actress Daniela Ruah, one of the stars of TV’s “NCIS: Los Angeles”.
 The Spanish Inquisition is better known by many Jews, but probably more from an academic perspective.  What made this trip especially memorable was getting deeply immersed in the Portuguese Inquisition, something I knew little about before this trip.  What better evidence exists of the ability of the Jewish people to survive than the existence and growth of the Jewish people in Portugal, many of whom have descended, like Captain Basto, from Jews forcibly baptized during the Inquisition?


Another book by Maria Fernanda Guimarães and António Júlio Andrade

The Isidros

Os Isidros

The ISIDROS - An epic of a family of New Christians from Torre de Moncorvo (Tras-os-Montes, northern Portugal) is a work of historical research, in which the authors follow this family over several generations, almost throughout the entire Inquisition (1536-1821).
It is a family with origins in Torre de Moncorvo but which by its dynamism and entrepreneurship, some of their descendants stand out in the social context of the time, even in times of persecution. Many of them were imprisoned in the Inquisition and eventually left strong marks of Marranism during their lifetimes.

Os Isidros
Os Isidros
A epopeia de uma família de cristãos-novos de Torre de Moncorvo
Edição/reimpressão: 2012
Páginas: 128
Editor: Lema d`Origem
ISBN: 9789898342126
Normalmente segue para o correio em 10 dias

OS ISIDROS – A epopeia de uma família de cristãos-novos de Torre de Moncorvo, de António Júlio Andrade e Maria Fernanda Guimarães, é uma obra de investigação histórica, na qual os autores seguem esta família ao longo de várias gerações, praticamente ao longo da Inquisição. É uma família que tem origem em Torre de Moncorvo mas que, pelo seu dinamismo e empreendedorismo, alguns dos seus descendentes acabam por se destacar no contexto social da época, mesmo em período de perseguição. Muitos deles estiveram presos nos cárceres da Inquisição e acabaram por deixar marcas fortes do marranismo ao longo das suas existências.


 Portuguese American Journal http://portuguese-american-journal.com/

Heritage: Interfaith group launches the Sabar Hassamain Synagogue restoration project – Azores

flattr this!
By Carolina Matos, Editor (*)
The Azorean-Jewish Heritage Foundation, an interfaith delegation from Massachusetts, is in Ponta Delgada, São Miguel island, Azores, to launch the Sabar Hassamain Synagogue restoration project.
The non-profit group is hoping to restore the only remaining synagogue in the Azores.  The delegation met Monday with José Manuel Bolieiro, Ponta Delgada’s acting Mayor.
To find support to accomplish their goal, the Massachusetts based Azorean-Jewish Heritage Foundation is joining efforts with  Azores based sister organization, the Associação Cultural – Amigos da Sinagoga de Ponta Delgada, established on September  28, 2012, by José de Almeida Mello, Jorge Delmar Soares and Nuno Bettencourt Raposo,
The Ponta Delgada synagogue is the oldest known on the islands and the oldest of Portugal’s remaining synagogues. It was built around 1820, and consecrated by Abraão Bensaúde, in 1836. He was the head the Jewish community in the Azores, a group of Jewish entrepreneurs and their families who settled on the island in early19th century.
According to author Fátima Sequeira Dias, professor of Economic History at the University of the Azores, beginning in 1818, a group of Jewish immigrants came to the Azores, after the Bensaúde family moved from Morocco to the islands. They traded with England and transported emigrants to Brazil. In the process, they made a fortune while changing the economy of the Azores and the Azorean way of life.
The Sabar Hassamain Synagogue was later abandoned in the 1950s, following the departure from the island of the last members of the resident Jewish community, and has fallen into disrepair since then. Currently, the Sabar Hassamain Synagogue is owned by the Jewish Community of Lisbon.
The last religious service took place in 1966, with a group of Jewish soldiers stationed at the US Military Base on Lajes, Terceira island, celebrating Yom Kippur. At one point, the island of São Miguel was home to five synagogues. There are five Jewish cemeteries on the islands; two on São Miguel island, one on Terceira, one on Faial and one on Graciosa island.
The city of Ponta Delgada named historian José de Almeida Mello, from the University of the Azores and a member of Ponta Delgada’s City Council, to coordinate the synagogue restoration project.
According to an agreement signed in 2009, the project includes restoring the sanctuary and developing an on-site library and lecture hall. Azorean architect, Igor França, will be in charge of the restoration project details.
Scholars from the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard University will identify, research and catalogue the many documents and artifacts found in the Sabar Hassamain Synagogue, some of them dating back to the 15th century.
The Azorean-Jewish Heritage Foundation was formed in Massachusetts, earlier this year. The Foundation hopes to recruit people in the Azores and the United States to help support the project.
In a statement in Ponta Delgada, for the Portuguese American Journal, Sen. Michael Rodrigues, the head of the Massachusetts delegation, expressed his enthusiasm for the project. He said, “It is an honor and a pleasure to work with the municipality of Ponta Delgada to restore this historically significant Synagogue. I look forward to working with both the Azorean and Jewish communities to help this dream become a reality.” A delegation from Massachusetts, which included state Sen. Michael Rodrigues, had visited the Azores last year.
The Azorean Jewish Heritage Foundation is presided by Gideon Gradman with Donald Berube as treasurer and Lisa Rosen secretary. The board of directors include Paula Raposo, Fernando Garcia, Michael J. Rodrigues, Robert Waxler and Pedro Amaral.
(*) Carolina Matos is the founder and editor of Portuguese American Journal online. She was the Editor–in-Chief for The Portuguese American Journal, in print, from 1985 to 1995. From 1995 to 2010, she was a consultant for Lisbon based Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD). She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts and a Master’s Degree in English and Education from Brown University and holds a Doctorate in Education from Lesley University. She is also an adjunct professor at Lesley University where she has taught undergraduate and graduate courses. In 2004, Carolina Matos was honored with the Comenda da Ordem do Infante D. Henrique presented by Jorge Sampaio, President of Portugal.



"Henriquez has an interesting history himself. He's of Portuguese-Jewish descent, from a family that left their home in the 17th century to escape the Portuguese Inquisition."

John Mackie, Vancouver Sun, Canada

 Architect adds new gallery to career

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG , Vancouver Sun

Richard Henriquez is one of Vancouver's most acclaimed architects. He designed the condo tower with the tree on the roof near the Sylvia Hotel in the West End, as well as the BC Cancer Agency building with the groovy round petri dish windows near Vancouver General Hospital. He even revitalized several historic structures by melding them into the Sinclair Centre at Granville and Hastings.
But architecture isn't his only creative outlet: he's also an artist. And at 71, he's having his first show in a commercial gallery.
Narrative Fragments brings together Henriquez's sculptures, drawings and computer-animated "digital collages." The opening at the Winsor Gallery last Thurs-day drew a crowd of about 400 of Henriquez's friends and admirers, including one who spent $8,000 for the mixed media collage Violin in Richmond.
"I'm an old guy, I've got lots of friends," Henriquez chuck-led when asked about the big turnout.
The first thing you notice about Henriquez's art is the tripods. He's been collecting them for years, then adding found objects to turn them into sculptures.
"I have maybe 60 of them now." he notes. "They come in two varieties: they're either for cameras or they're for surveying instruments. They're a very primitive, stable form of structure that was used to lift stone blocks, probably in the Roman times. I just love the look of them, the materiality of them and so on.
"I started collecting them, and started to think about what they really represented. They sup-ported instruments, very technical instruments that measured things or recorded things. So I thought I would replace these technical things with intuitively created objects that came from the other side of the brain."
Hence you get tripods affixed with toy bulls, surveyor's boxes, old animal skulls, fans, driftwood, and paper mâche creatures. The funkiest one might be Toy Trumpet, which actually features a toy saxophone.
"It's a little [instrument] that comes with a scroll," he explains. "I took the scroll off. I guess you wound it up and it made a sound, like a toy player piano. I found it on Main Street in a junk shop."
Violin in Richmond is a collage with a toy violin at the centre, reminiscent of something by the great Spanish artist Juan Gris.
"It's got a little toy violin, it's got a soup bone, and it's got part of an architectural model," Henriquez relates.
"I saved it because I liked the look of it, and started applying things, putting [bits of] newspaper on it. Each piece in a collage has its own story, you see. These fragments represent history.
"Think about this violin, where it comes from. Wood was grown somewhere in Southeast Asia, someone cut it down. Someone sold it from a wholesaler to some-one who made toy violins, some guy carved the thing, and it found its way to Vancouver into a junk shop."
Henriquez has an interesting history himself. He's of Portuguese-Jewish descent, from a family that left their home in the 17th century to escape the Portuguese Inquisition.
"I grew up in Jamaica," he explains. "My family [first] moved there in 1690. They lived in one little corner of Jamaica from 1690 till when I was born, on the north coast, near Ocho Rios. They had plantations, or they were merchants, things like that."
He fell in love with architecture as a kid.
"I had a grand-uncle who was an architect and an engineer and a sculptor/painter, a really neat guy," he says. "When I was 10 I decided [to become an architect]."
His uncle's son was studying architecture at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, so that's where Henriquez went, too.
"It was kind of exciting when the snow came for the first time," he laughs.
"I made angels in the snow and all that. But then the cold set in. I remember standing at a bus stop in front of the Great West Life Building on Osborne one night thinking I was going to die. I was sure I was going to die."
After he graduated in 1964, he moved back to Jamaica with his wife Carol and son Gregory. Gregory is now a prominent architect, while Carol founded and ran Arts Umbrella for 25 years. But he left to get a master's degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), then came to Vancouver in 1967.
"My wife's from Saskatoon," he says. "She wasn't that keen on Jamaica, so we decided to come back, and settled in the warmest place we could find in the country."
A classmate from Winnipeg, Bob Todd, helped him land a job at Rhone & Iredale. Two years later he and Todd set up their own firm.
"We were together for eight years," he says. "We did little houses, cabins on the Gulf Islands. What starting architects do, houses, renovations. Optical shops.
"The Gaslight Square project [on Water Street in Gastown], the courtyard, was the first sort of significant project that we got. Then I did a building for Bob Lee in Chinatown, the Lee Building."
Henriquez thrived in the 1980s, when he worked on the tower beside the Sylvia Hotel (1984), the Sinclair Centre (1986) and Eugenia Place (1987), the condo with the tree on the roof.
"I got interested in trying to combine narrative with architecture," says Henriquez, who won the gold medal from the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada in 2005.
"I thought if we could somehow think of [Eugenia Place] as an archeological site, with layers of history, trying to represent every-thing that has ever been on the site, [you could] give people the idea that they live in a historical continuum.
"The first thing on the site was the first-growth forest. Then they built four little cabins at the turn of the century, and in 1947 they built a three-storey wood frame building that we tore down to build the tower. So if you look at the site, you'll see the footprints of all of them."
How? He had a sculptor create concrete stumps to represent the trees that had been cut, then he put a tree on the roof, to represent the height of the old-growth forest before Europeans arrived to chop it all down.
"But just to stick it up there didn't seem kind of right," he says. "So there's this screw-like thing [in the front] that looks like it could have lifted it up to the height of the first-growth forest."
It's a cool little feature, like a futuristic 19-storey high bay window. Like a screw, it tapers at the bottom and has a big head at the top. Unlike a screw, it looks like it has a tree growing out of it. Which is one of the most distinctive architectural touches on any recent building in Vancouver - and is historically appropriate, to boot.
"The forest was about a couple hundred feet tall," he says with a smile. "They were big trees."

Where: Winsor Gallery, 3025 Granville
Info: http: //winsorgallery.com http: //henriquezpartners.com/

Richard Henriquez | Henriquez Partners Architects




 The Canadian Jeiwsh News


Canada to chair Holocaust task force in 2013

Tags: Canada
Mario Silva
TORONTO — Canada will assume the chairmanship of the Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research in 2013.
Former Davenport Liberal MP Mario Silva will chair the organization for that year. Chair countries hold the position for 12 months, during which time it hosts meetings for member states.
Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, made the announcement Dec. 15. “I am proud of the leadership role that Canada is taking to further Holocaust education and combat antisemitism together with all forms of racism and xenophobia,” Kenney said in a statement.
Established in 1998, the task force is composed of 31 member countries. Canada became involved with the organization in 2007 and was made a full member in 2009.
Silva has been active in Holocaust education for years. He was chair of the inquiry committee and vice-chair of the steering committee of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA).
He also helped ensure the success of the 2010 Ottawa conference of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA), which brought together parliamentarians and experts from around the world to “lead the fight against global antisemitism,” Kenney said.
The 2010 ICCA Conference produced the Ottawa Protocol, which called for leaders of faith groups to combat all hatred and discrimination, including antisemitism, “which is inextricably linked to the universal lessons of the Holocaust,” the task force’s website states.
Both Kenney and Liberal MP for Mount Royal Irwin Cotler are ex-officio members of the steering committee of CPCCA.
Cotler, who has championed human rights issues throughout his career, lauded Silva’s appointment.
“This is an important responsibility and Mario will be an excellent chair,” Cotler wrote to The CJN in an e-mail. “Canada will be playing a major role in Holocaust remembrance, education and research during its chairmanship in 2013 and Mario will be the right person to exercise leadership on Canada’s behalf.”
Silva, who lost his seat in the 2011 election to NDPer Andrew Cash, said he was inspired to become involved in combating antisemitism because of his personal history as an immigrant to Canada from Portugal.
“I see myself as a minority… and I see this [appointment] as part and parcel of my work on and support of human rights around the world,” Silva said. “We cannot be complacent when we have leaders like [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad spewing hatred and targeting [Israel] with destruction. We can’t stand by when an ally like Israel is being made out to be the scapegoat for every problem in the world.”
He said it is crucial to take on antisemitism around the world because it attempts to “dehumanize” the Jewish people and by extension “vilify” and “delegitimize” the State of Israel.
“I look forward to working with [Kenney and Cotler] to help define what Canada’s objectives will be while chairing the task force,” Silva told The CJN in a phone interview a day after his appointment.
He noted that both Kenney and Cotler encouraged him to accept the chair of the task force, believing him to be the best candidate for the job.


(completed 1938, the year of Kristallnacht)



by J. Cooper

For 500 years
They hid
In the mountains of Belmonte
Along narrow streets
Among pretty flowers,
olive trees, and apple orchards

For 500 years
They hid -
Their religion
Forbidden by law

For 500 years
They prayed to their God
With tears in their eyes
Prayed to be allowed to pray

For 500 years
They lit the Sabbath candles
And drank the sacramental wine
In the cellars of their homes
Mothers passed on rituals
to daughters and grand-daughters

For 500 years they hid their belief
For 500 years they kept their faith

A knock on the door brought fear
A stranger could not be trusted

Forbidden by law
For 500 years
The flame was not extinguished

Today they walk with heads held high
To their house of worship

Magen David firmly planted in the garden
Menorah standing proudly in the garden
Outside Sinagoga Bet Eliyahu

Their voices sing the liturgy
Their voices sing
Sephardi melodies

For 500 years they hid
Behind closed doors
                                                                             Belmonte esnoga


Portugal Through a Jewish Lens (2006)
by J. Cooper

J. Cooper, Dr. Harold Michal-Smith (philanthropist), Jorge Balles, Eduardo Lopes, Isabel Lopes Barros Basto, Yaacov Gladstone, J. Cooper

Most tourists in Portugal enjoy the beautiful Algarve region and perhaps see Lisbon. My trip there was vastly different. My husband and I learned about the history of the country, its Jewish communities and saw many relevant sites. We visited and interacted with three unique Jewish communities of B'nai Anousim, that is, descendants of Jews forcibly baptized in 1497. 
The trip was organized by our friend Yankle Gladstone, a tireless activist who has spent much time and effort reaching out to Jews in remote areas and helping them. In our group of seven, there were three “returnees”. One of them was our friend and guide - himself born in the Azores to a Catholic family.
(j cooper, mlopesazevedo)

Portugal is a country with little anti-Semitism. It is generally believed that  a good deal of the population have Jewish  antecedents. Recent DNA studies have borne this out. The Jewish presence in Portugal is noteworthy. 

The first treasurer of Portugal in 1147 under the founding king Afonso I, was the chief rabbi, Yahia Ben Yahi. From the founding of the country, until the forced baptism of 1497, Jewish communities flourished in Portugal with its members formed an important part of the king's advisors and ministers, engaged in the professions such as medicine and astronomy, were involved in trade and commerce, and also engaged in large scale agricultural production.  Discriminatory laws, such as the Lateran Council requirement to wear a distinctive symbol (a yellow badge or hat) were often disregarded or dispensed with, often to the great consternation of the local church hierarchy. Jews were an integral part of Portuguese medieval society often  protected by royalty.

In 1492, the year of the expulsion from Spain, a large contigent of Jewish refugees crossed the border to Portugal on a temporary "visa" allowing them to stay six months. The wealthiest 600 families were able to purchase permanent residency. However, the estimated 100,000 refugees were unable to find refuge elsewhere and  King John II made them slaves after six months.  The cruel king took an estimated 2,000 young children from theses refugees and sent them  to the island of "crocodiles" where many perished (Sao Tome off the coast of Africa). In 1495 John died and his successor, king Manuel I granted the Jewish slaves their freedom, afterwards refusing a generous donation from the Jewish community. 

However, by 1496 king Manuel  had his eyes on the Spanish throne, and as a condition of marrying the daughter of the Catholic monarchs of Spain, he agreed to order the expulsion of Jews from Portugal, decreeing on December 5, 1492 that they leave within 10 months. King Manuel, a Miachevelian prince before his time, did his best to convince the Jews he had ordered to leave to stay and convert to Catholicism. He applied pressure by taking minor children away from their parents in the spring of 1497, promising to return them if they converted. 

Ultimately he allowed only 40 or so Jews to leave Portugal, including his personal physician and astronomer, rabbi Abrahma Zacuto, inventor of the navigational tables that allowed Portuguese sailors to sail to India. The remaining Jews, estimated to comprise anywhere from 10 to 25 per cent of the population, (estimated to be 1 million), were forcibly converted to Catholicism by royal decree, dragged to the baptismal fount and  given Christian names and godparents.

The king thought that he had solved the Jewish "problem" with a stroke of the pen, hence there would be no more Jews in Portugal, only New Christians who, promised the king, would not be persecuted as long as they conducted their religious affairs in the privacy of their own homes. Those New Christians who continued to observe the essentials of Judaism in secret became known as Marranos, considered by some to be a perjorative term. Some still deliberately call themselves that – particularly in the emerging Lisbon community. (One member of our group, a noted sociologist, explained the term “stigma conversion” as deliberately converting the negative stigma into something positive).

King Manuel's policy of turning a blind eye to Jewish practices failed when in 1506 a rioting mob killed between two to four thousand New Christia in Lisbon during a three day spree. (see The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler). Eventually the dreaded inquisition was established in Portugal in 1536 and the Marranos were forced to flee or live secret lives. A few candlestine communities survived right into the 20th century, Belmonte being the most well known.

There are 40,000 inquisition files in the national archives, most of which deal with accusations of secretly observing Jewish rites. About 3,000 people were burned at the stake, or more accuretely roasted, for it took approximately two hours to die from the licking flames of the pyre. All those burned, with few exceptions,  were accused of being secret Jews.


Notwithstanding that we were sleep-deprived, our guide  arrived early to take us on our first walk through Lisbon. We started at the square honouring the prime minister  Marques de Pombal who rebuilt Lisbon after the earthquake of 1755. He also abolished the distinction between “New Christians” and old Christians. We saw the National Theatre (Dona Maria II), built on the site of the former  Palace of the Inquisition. Next to the theatre, we visited  the church belonging to the Dominican friars where the  terrible massacre of New Christians occurred on  April 5, 1506.  It started when two New Christians debunked a miracle giving a scientific  explanation for it. Then we saw “Praca do Commercio” (Blackhorse Square), the huge square where some of the autos-da-fes  were carried out.

The first evening was enjoyed with Beit Yisroel, a community of B’nai Anousim. Their shul, Ohel Ya’akov, a fourt fourth floor walk-up, is a magnificent improvement over their former premises. The look of pride in the eyes of Joseph and Adriana is a highlight of this trip! We heard their stories. For example, Marco and Anabella, formally converted in London by the Masorti Conservative movement, immediately married under the Chuppah! We feel connected to Beit Yisroel especially because we are members of Beth Israel in Peterborough, Canada!

 Beit Yisroel, Lisboa


Belmonte, high on a hill in the north, is where we spent our first Shabbat. Belmonte is unique, for 500 years they maintmaintained their Crypto-Judaism. Women kept the faith alive, passing on rituals to daughters and grand-daugdaughters. They traditionally lit candles in the cellar and observed dates like Yom Kippur a few days late.

When Samuel Schwartz, a Polish engineer, visited Belmonte in 1917, they didn’t believe he was Jewish. They thought they were the only Jews left in the world and didn’t know one could practice Judaism openly. Only when he recited the “Shema” did he gain their confidence.

Most  have since “returned” to normative Judaism, have a beautiful synagogue and want to learn as much as they can. They, of course, have a problem getting the resources they need to accomplish this.The synagogue, Beit Eliahu, is in a picturesque location high up in the hills and has pretty gardens. The grass is arranged to form a Magen David, and  a large menorah too. 
We returned for a moving Havdalah.


Porto has a story if its own. We had a touching meeting with Isabel Basto Lopes, grand-daughter of Captain Barros- Basto. Of crypto-Jewish ancestry, he was known as the Captain, the "Portuguese Dreyfus", described by the noted historian Cecil Roth as the “Apostle of the Marranos". A highly-decorated officer during Worl War I, in 1923 he organized a Jewish community in Porto bringing back to Judaism many of those who had remainned Jews in spirit.

 His dreams were indestructible. He established a Yeshiva, the journal “Halapid” and in 1938 (the year of Kristallnacht!) the "Mekor Haim" Synagogue. Because of his “Judaising”, Basto was expelled from army service*, and defamed amid false accusations. Yet he carried on. He made the Porto community a shelter for refugees of WWII; some of whom, redeemed, are there to testify.  

We later made a side trip to Amarante because Barros Basto is buried there beside his grandfather, albeit in a Christian cemetery (There was no Jewish cemetery). We recited Kaddish and the prayer We Remember Them.

 In Porto the rabbi is from Italy. His wife is also the Jewish studies teacher. We visited the beautiful Mekor Haim synagogue and stayed for Mincha. Standing around talking, someone complained that Ashkenazim are alienated from the Marranos issue. That prompted some indignation and our singing, in Yiddish, of “Zog Maran” a song that talks of how Crypto-Jews prepared for Passover and hid their matzos! (which surprised and sort of amused them).

 Kadoorie Mekor Haim esnoga in Porto built by Captain Barros Basto, completed 1939

 Lisbon Again

Back in Lisbon, the members of Ohel Ya’akov felt like old friends. Shabbat with them was so, so meaningful! Certain prayers were omitted because, they said, there wasn’t a minyan. In our culture that usually means they don’t include the women. Here it means that some in the assembled congregation had not yet completed their conversion or return.

They treated us like visiting Royalty. We were served a great meal that never ended. Some local dishes were codfish cakes replacing gefilte fish and Portuguese “biscuit cake” and flan. Birkat Hamazon began about 11:30! After hugs and more and more kisses, they drove us all home.
Their determination is inspiring, but the needs of Jewish Portugal are great. It is our responsibility to somehow help with Jewish resources and education.
We brought home wonderful souvenirs- friends…

Belmonte, (Dr. Abe Lavender, former president of Society for Crypto Judaic Studies, USA in the background)

*Captain Barros Basto was posthumously rehabilitated by a unanimous vote of the Portuguese National Assembly in 2012.



Book launch in Lisboa



Apresentação do livro
Raízes dos Judeus em Portugal, de Inácio Steinhardt

14 de Junho de 2012, 5ªFeira
pelas 21h00
na Sinagoga Kadoorie Mekor Haim
Rua de Guerra Junqueiro, 340
4150-386 PORTO

Apresentadores: Prof. Doutora Elvira Azevedo Mea e Prof. Doutor Carlos Abreu Amorim



Högskolan på Gotland: Idéhistoria
Miriam Bodian on the Sephardic Jews of Amsterdam
The Portuguese conversos who made their way to Amsterdam in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries would not have been conspicuous upon arrival, despite their ignorance of Dutch and their Iberian dress. Foreign immigration to the United Provinces was at a peak in these years. In at least one quarter of the city, around the Bloemstraat, it was easier to make oneself understood in French or Flemish than in Dutch. Later in the seventeenth century the German poet Philipp von Zesen described the Amsterdam Exchange as a place where "almost the whole world trades" - one could find there "Poles, Hungarians, Walloons, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Muscovites, Persians, Turks, and even, occasionally, Hindus." Some of the foreigners were temporary residents, but by the late sixteenth century thousands of foreigners had already settled permanently in Amsterdam. Some had fled war, some religious persecution; others were drawn by economic opportunities in the bustling metropolis on the Amstel.
It was into this milieu that a few Portuguese converso merchants and their families introduced themselves in the last years of the sixteenth century. By 1603 one could speak of a tiny ex-converso community which had established Jewish worship with the aid of a rabbi from Emden. Not long thereafter, in 1609, the community entered a period of extremely rapid growth. In that year the Twelve Years Truce ended a Spanish embargo on Dutch commerce and shipping which had also blocked Dutch trade with Portugal, then under Spanish rule. The truce opened up rich possibilities in Amsterdam for "Portuguese" immigrants, who brought with them experience in Portuguese colonial trade.
What had begun as a small nucleus of merchant families had developed by 1639 into a relatively conspicuous community of well over a thousand persons. Portuguese Jews could be seen entering and leaving the public synagogue they had built, burying their dead at the cemetery they had established just outside the city, and negotiating on the Stock Exchange floor.
During its heyday in the 1670s, the community had a population of about 2,500; its wealth was given concrete expression in the form of an elegant and monumental new synagogue (still a landmark in Amsterdam); and with its Hebrew printing press, diaspora-wide welfare activity, and distinguished rabbis, its reputation in the Jewish world was firmly established. It would have taken a canny observer indeed to perceive that the community was in fact facing a precipitous decline. (pp. 1-2)
[The Sephardim] - generally, in the first half of the seventeenth century, they tended to specialize in Portuguese colonial wares such as sugar, tobacco, spices, and diamonds, trading almost exclusively with Lisbon, Porto, Madeira, and the Azores. Being engaged in this branch of commerce, it was highly advantageous for them to be located in Amsterdam, which was the main northern entrepôt for colonial commodities. But as a result they were also highly vulnerable to the vicissitudes of Dutch-Iberian relations. This situation changed, however, in the second half of the century (after the signing of the Treaty of Münster in 1648), when Spanish and Spanish-American ports were opened to Dutch "Portuguese" merchants. The focus of their activity shifted in this period to two new routes: trade between the Caribbean and Spanish America, and the wool trade between Spain and Amsterdam.
Once communal institutions had been firmly established, the city became a magnet for other Jews. Yiddish-speaking Ashkenzi Jews trickled in - then flooded in - from Germany and Poland, most of them poor and unlearned. They were not welcomed by the Portuguese Jews and lived, for all practical purposes, a separate collective existence. The "Portuguese" community grew almost entirely from converso immigration. (p. 4)
Settlement in Amsterdam was an act of liberation and an opportunity to repossess the past. From this point of view, the efforts of the Amsterdam "Portuguese" to reconstitute their Jewishness bear comparison to the efforts in modern times of once-colonialized or otherwise culturally dominated peoples to restore an "authentic" lost heritage. (p. 18)
Miriam Bodian: Hebrews of the Portuguese Nation: Conversos and Community in Early Modern Amsterdam (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1997), pp. 1,2, 4 and 18.