Legends say that Jews first came to the Iberian peninsula during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar in the 6thcentury BCE or maybe even beforehand during the reign of King Solomon in 900s BCE. Jews lived and remain active in social and commercial life of the peninsula during the Visigoth and Muslim periods of occupation 5th -8th century C.E.
Several important Jewish communities were already active when the kingdom of Portugal was founded in the 12th century. During the first dynasty, Jews enjoy relative protection from the crown. The crown recognized the Jewish community as a distinct legal entity and appointed specific rulers to adjucate their cases. King Affonso Henriques (1139-85) entrusted Yahia ben Yahi III, a Jew, with the role of royal tax collector and supervisor; Yahia be Yahi III also became the first chief Rabbi of the Portugese Jewish community. Yahia ben Yahi's grandson,
Jose ben Yahi was appointed High Steward of the Realm, by Henriques' successor, King Sancho I (1185-1211).
Tensions arose between the Jewish community, who choose to remain faithful to their religion, and the local clergy and middle/lower classes. The clergy wanted to invoke restrictions of the Lateran Council against the Jews, but King Dinis (1279-1235) resisted and reassured the Jews that they did not have to pay tithes to the church.
Golden Age of Discovery
The 13th and 14th centuries were known as Portugal's Golden Age of Discovery, in which Jews made a major contribution to Portugal's success. In the early 14th century, more than 200,000 Jews lived in Portugal, which was about 20 percent of the total population.
Jews lived in separate quarters, but had freedom to move within the country; these quarters remained until the Jewish expulsion from Portugal. Each of these quarters had its own synagogue, slaughter house, hospital, jails, bath houses and other institutions. A rabbi served as the administrative and legal authority within the commune.
Portugal was home to many famous Jews during this period. Abraham Zacuto wrote tables that provided the principal base for Portugese navigation, including those used by Vasco Da Gama on his trip to India. Guedelha-Master Guedelha served as a rabbi and doctor and astrologer for both King Duarte and King Alfonso V. Isaac Abravanel was one of the principal merchants and a member of one the most influential Jewish families in Portugal. Another figure, Jose Vizinho, served as doctor and astrologer to King Joao II. Joao II also sent the Jew, Abraham de Beja, on many voyages to the East.
Jews became the intellectual and economic elite of the country. Jews were involved in all aspects of the explorations, from financing the sailing fleets to making scientific discoveries in the fields of mathematics, medicine and cartography. Many were employed as physicians and astronomers as well royal treasurers, tax collectors and advisors. It was common to see Jews adorned in silk clothing, carrying gilt swords and riding beautiful horses. They were given preferential treatment by the kings.
Jealous of the Jews success, anti-Jewish sentiment arose in the peasant and middle classes. Fights between Jews and Christians became more common after the influx of Jews from Spain into Portugal, in 1391.
During the reign of King Joao I (1385-1432), Jews were forced to wear a special habit and to obey a curfew. Joao's successor, King Duarte (1433-1438), introduced laws forbidding Jews from employing Christians. A reprieve took place during King's Alfonso V's rule, when many of these restrictions were repealed.
In 1492, King Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain expelled all the Jews from Spain. More than 150,000 Spanish Jews came to Portugal seeking permanent refuge. King Joao II of Portugal allowed them to enter because he was preparing for war against the Moors and wanted to take advantage of their wealth and expertise in weapon-making. At a price of 100 Cruzados a family, 630 wealthy Jewish families were granted permanent residence. A number of craftsmen, skilled in making weapons, were also allowed to become permanent residence. The rest were permitted to stay in Portugal for eight months, upon payment of
8 cruzados per adult. At the end of those eight months, shipping was still not available, so the King forfeited Jewish liberty and declared the remaining Jews slaves.
Another tragedy befell the Jewish community in 1493, when the King ordered the separation of Jewish children from their parents. Seven hundred children were sent to the newly discovered island of Sao Tome, off west coast of Africa. In 1993, descendants of those children held a ceremony commemorating the event.
Expulsion from Portugal
Following King Joao's death in 1494, Manuel I ascended to the throne and restored the Jews freedom. His legitimacy as heir to the throne was challenged, so he decided to solidify his position by marrying Princess Isabel of Spain. Isabel told Manuel that she would only marry him if he expelled the Jews. Their marriage contract was signed on November 30, 1496, and, five days later, he issued a decree forcing all Jews to leave Portugal by October 1497.
Manuel was never content with his decision, mainly because he appreciated the economic value of the Jews to the country. To make it more difficult for Jews to leave, he made Lisbon the only viable port of exit. He also tried to convert as many Jews to Christianity as he could to keep them in Portugal.
On March 19, 1497 (the first day of Passover), Jewish parents were ordered to take their children, between the ages of four and fourteen, to Lisbon. Upon arrival, the parents were informed that their children were going to be taken away from them and were to be given to Catholic families to be raised as good Catholics. Children were literally torn from their parents and others were smothered, some parents chose to kill themselves and their kids rather than be separated. After awhile, some parents agreed to be baptized, along with their children,
while others succumbed and handed over their babies.
In October 1497, about 20,000 Jews came to Lisbon to prepare for departure to other lands. They were herded into the courtyard of Os estaos, a palace and were approached by priests trying to convert them. Some capitulated, while the rest waited around until the time of departure had passed. Those who did not convert were told they forfeited their freedom and would become slaves. More succumbed. Finally the rest were sprinkled with baptismal waters and were declared "New Christians."
While many of the New Christians accepted their religion, many chose to continue practicing Judaism behind closed doors, while publicly practicing Catholic rituals; they became known as Marranos or crypto-Jews. The Portugese majority still considered the "New Christians" Jews, despite their outward affiliation with Christianity. Claims against the Marranos were presented to the King, along with a list of crypto-Jews.
In 1506, 3,000 "New Christians" were massacred in Lisbon. Afterward, King Manuel executed 45 of the main culprits who had incited the mob.
Popular support for a Portugese Inquisition surfaced in 1531, when many Christians blamed the New Christians for the recent earthquake. Pope Clement VII authorized the Inquisition and the first auto-da-fe (trial) took place in Lisbon on September 20, 1540.
The right to seize and confiscate the property of the accused led to the arrest of every prominent "New Christian" family. Once arrested, death was only escaped if one admitted to Judaizing and implicated friends and family. Other sentences included public admission of the alleged sins, the obligatory wearing of a special penitential habit and burning at the stake. Urged by greed, eventually even genuine Christians were martyred.
Among those murdered were many famous Jews of the period, including Isaac de Castro Tartas, Antonio Serrao de Castro and Antonio Jose da Silva,
who was later known as "The Jew."
Attempting to evade the Inquisition, many Portugese Marrano families fled to Amsterdam, Salonika and other places across the Old and New worlds. In 1654, 23 Portugese Jews arrived in New Amsterdam (New York) and became the first Jewish settlers in the United States. The stream of refugees did not stop until the end of the Inquisition in the late 18th century. The last public auto-de-fe took place in 1765; however, the Inquisition was not formally disbanded until after the liberal revolt in 1821.
Around 1800, Portugal decided to "invite Jews" back into the country and reverse Portugal's economic decline. The first Jewish settlers to come were British. Tombstones, written in Hebrew and dating back to 1804, can be found in a corner of the British cemetery in Lisbon. Other Jewish immigrants came from Morocco, Tangiers and Gibraltar. Official recognition to the Jewish community was not granted until 1892.
After granting the community recognition, Shaare Tikvah synagogue was built in Lisbon, however, the synagogue was not allowed to face the street.
In 1912, the new Portugese Republic reaffirmed the community's rights. The Jewish community was able to maintain places of worship, a cemetery and a hevra kadisha (burial society) and could slaughter animals in accordance to Jewish law, register births, deaths, and marriages and collect charity.
Conversions to Catholicism were still frequent though in the 1920's, splitting families; this tendency declined by the 1950's.
Marrano Rennaissance & Customs
A brief Marrano renaissance occurred in the early 1930's led by Artur Carlos de Barros Basto. Basto, a Marrano Jew, decided to convert to Orthodox Judaism at the age of 33. He became an engineer, served as a professional soldier, was decorated after World War I for his bravery and eventually was promoted to captain. Known as the "Portugese Dreyfus," Basto was dismissed from the army because he was a Jew.
After leaving the army, Captain Basto established a synagogue in the city of Oporto. He also began writing a weekly newspaper and began visiting remote villages, often in full military regalia. Accompanying him on these trips were two medical doctors who performed circumcisions when needed. (Circumcision was one of the first Jewish customs to be dropped because of its identifying nature.)
The synagogue of Oporto grew and moved into a new building donated by Ellie Kadoorie, a wealthy Sephardic Jew. The "Kadoorie" synagogue was built on property bought and donated by Baron Edmond de Rothschild of Paris. Another synagogue was established in Braganca, with its own Rabbi.
Basto also established a yeshiva in Oporto, which ran for nine years educating more than 90 students. These activities did not go unnoticed by the government, especially after an estimated 10,000 families across Portugal admitted to practicing Judaism in secret. Trumped up charges were brought against the Captain and he was court-martialed, stripped of his rank and was forced to close the yeshiva. Thus the Marrano renaissance was brought to an end.
Marranos practiced Judaism privately in their own homes, however, they abandoned any obvious identifying Jewish practice, such as circumcision, mikveh and the celebration of any public holiday. The celebration of Yom Kippur and Passover were done a couple days late to confuse the Inquisitors. Shabbat lamps were hidden inside clay pots, so those outside could not see the light burning. Jewish women also led prayer services, since this was the job normally performed by males.
If a community member died, a minyan gathered at the home of the families members, but made it appear as if their attendance was just done to consol the mourners.
Catholicism did make some inroads into the lives of the Marranos, resulting in a unique combination of Jewish and Christian rituals and terms. For example, Marranos worshiped Saint Moses and Saint Queen Esther and celebrated Little Christmas (which roughly coincided with Hanukkah. Marranos also prayed with a Judaized version of the Lord's prayer.
The phrase, "I enter this house, but I do not adore sticks or stones , only the G-d of Israel," was muttered before entering a Catholic Church and is still stated by Marrano Jews.
Because sacred Jewish texts could not be used, the Marrano community created their own prayer books, one of these is called the Rebordelo manuscript (Rebordelo is a remote village in Portugal). Inside this handwritten prayer book are prayers for different occasions, which seem to date to the early 18thcentury. The book also contains a list of recommendations on how to live an ethical life. Also, there is a folk ballad about a wandering Jewish troubadour who elopes with a girl trying to avoid a marriage to a rich man.
Besides for books like these, the only references available to the Marrano community about Jewish life and history is the Old Testament.
Many of these Marrano practices are still being performed behind closed doors and shaded windows. In 1920, in the town of Braganca, no child under the age of 12 was permitted to attend religious meetings, out of fear of the child innocently exposing their secret faith.
In 1987, David Augusto Canelo, a non-Jew,
wanted to write a book about the last Crypto-Jews and was only able to obtain interviews with the community members if he agreed not to use their names. Community members still fear being "tried" by the Inquisition.
In 1991 a French TV crew wanted to film the ceremony of matzah preparation performed by the Marrano community to be seen in a French documentary. The crew was allowed to tape the ceremony, which was still performed secretly. A door knock in the middle of the filming scared many of the participants, despite the fact that the Inquisition had ended more than 150 years earlier.
World War II & the Holocaust
Approximately 380 Jews were living in Portugal during the outbreak of World War II and an additional 650 Jewish refugees from Central Europe were granted "resident" status. After France fell to Nazi Germany, Portugal adopted a liberal visa policy allowing thousands of Jewish refugees to enter the country, however, those of Russian origin or birth were excluded. More stringent restrictions were made in immigration policy, from late 1940 to spring 1941, resulting in decrease usage of its ports.
During the Holocaust, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, disobeyed government orders and issues visas enabling Jews to travel from France to Portugal.
He was dismissed for disobedience and died impoverished. For his efforts, he was later recognized as one of the "Righteous Among the Nations," Portugal's only honoree.
During the second part of the war, Portugal agreed to give entry visas to those coming via rescue operations, on the condition that Portugal would only be used as a transit point. Portugal also joined other neutral countries in the efforts made to save Hungarian Jewry. More than 100,000 Jews and refuges were able to flee Nazi Germany into freedom via Lisbon. All of Portugal's Jews and Jewish refugees living there survived the war.
Portugal and Israel had low level ties in the 1950's. In 1959 the Bank of Portugal and the Bank of Israel established financial relations. Diplomatic relations were not established though until 1977.
Following the revolution in Portugal in 1974 and the ensuing unrest, about half of Portugal's Jewish population left the country and immigrated to Israel, Brazil, Canada and the U.S.
Today there are about 600 Jews living in Portugal, as well as a Marrano community numbering close to 100 individuals. Marrano communities were discovered by Samuel Schwartz, a Polish mining engineer, in remote mountain villages. Many of the Marranos did not believe Schwartz was Jewish because he openly identified himself as a Jew and they believed they were the only Jews still living. The communities were only convinced of his Jewish identity after he recited the Shema prayer. In recent years, many members of the Marrano community decided to reconvert to Orthodox Judaism.
In 1997, Portugal's National Assembly marked the expulsion from Portugal and commemorated the development of exile Portugese communities throughout the world. A special session attended by dignitaries was held in the capitol.
Also in 1997, Portugal's Prime Minister announced that he would conduct an investigation into government documents relating to the transfer of gold from Nazi Germany into Portugese banks.
The largest Jewish community of about 300 can be found in Lisbon, where there are two synagogues, one Sephardic, Shaare Tikva and one Ashkenazi, Ohel Yaacov (Ohel Jacob). Lisbon's Jewish community is centered around the Comunidade Israelita de Lisboa, or the Jewish Community of Lisbon, a community center that houses Shaare Tikva. The Sephardic synagogue offers traditional services, study groups, children's activities, and cultural events and houses documents and religious objects dating back to the 1300s.
Ohel Jacob is the only Ashkenazi synagogue in the Iberian Peninsula and was originally established as an Orthodox congregation. The synagogue was inactive for a period, but following its reconstitution in the 1990's the Bnei-anussim, or children of Marranos, who were interested in returning to Judaism, were welcomed at the Ohel Jacob synagogue.
Ohel Jacob is housed on the second floor of a rundown building at Avenida Elias Garcia 110. The HeHaver Jewish Association, which currently administers the Ohel Jacob building, allows Kehilat Beit Israel to use the synagogue for the practice of Masorti, or Conservative, Judaism, which has welcomed Bnei-anussim back to the community. Beit Israel is under the rabbinical authority of Rabbi Jules Harlow. Today, the Bnei-anussim make up about one third of this Ashkenazi congregation in Lisbon. Ohel Jacob will be rededicated on December 17th, 2006. This will be the first synagogue dedication in Portugal since the opening of the Belmonte synagogue in 1997.
There is also a Jewish cultural center, a kosher butcher, a special slaughtering house and a home for the aged in Lisbon. Jewish visitors to Lisbon may be interested in visiting the remains of the medieval Jewish quarter and Rossio Square, the site of the Palace of the Inquisition, where 1,300 Jews were burned at the stake. A collection of Jewish tombstones, with inscriptions written in Hebrew, can be found at the Archaeological Museum. In the National Museum of Ancient Art, there is a painting of Grao Vasco, a 16th century Jew.
Located about 80 kilometers north of Lisbon is the seaside village of Obidos, in the Costa de Prata region. A Jewish community lived in Obidos between the fifth and seventh centuries, when the city was occupied by the Visigoth. Another Jewish community lived there between the eighth and twelfth centuries, while it was under Arab rule. In Obidos's Jewish quarter, a synagogue can be found that dates to the end of the 12th century.
Also in the Costa de Prata region, in the city of Tomar, an ancient 15th century Jewish synagogue and mikveh, one of the two surviving monuments of medieval Jewish heritage, can be found. The synagogue has become a national museum and features historic remains of medieval Portugese communities. In 1993 a Yom Kippur service was held at the synagogue because of the large number of Jewish tourists.
In the Costa Verde region, a small Jewish community can be found in the city of Porto, which served as a major center for Jewish traders during the Middle Ages. One of the sites is the earliest known Jewish Quarter found in Portugal, now Rua de Santa Ana. Visitors can also visit the Kadoorie Synagogue as well.
In the mountainous village of Belmonte, the last Marrano community can be found. In 1997, Portugal's first new synagogue in 70 years was dedicated in Belmonte. The dedication ceremony was attended by Israeli President Ezer Weizman and Portugal's President Jorge Sampaio. Many of members Belmonte's Marrano community have reconverted to Orthodox Judaism. In Belmonte there is also a mikveh.
Excavations of possible 15th century synagogues are being undertaken in Evora, in the mountain village of Castelo de Vide and in Valencia de Alcantara, which is on the Spanish side of the border.
In Evora, there is a stone with Hebrew inscriptions on it, dated 1378, which can be found in the Evora Museum along with a money box and bench from the Inquisition. Across the street from the Evora Museum in the Public library is a rare 1st edition copy of the "Almanac Perpetuum" written by Abraham Zacuto.
In April 2013, the Portuguese Parliament introduced legislation entitling descendants of Jews who left Portugal during the Inquisition period Portuguese citizenship. Also that month, Portuguese researchers discovered and catalogued hundreds of secret markings that Jews left on buildings in Seia, a municipality in north Portugal, during the 16th century after their forced conversion to Christianity. Researcher Alberto Martinho said the findings "elucidate the Jewish presence" in the region at that time.
Portuguese officials worked on the legislation for 2 years, and in January 2015 Portugal announced the introduction of the final legislation that would grant Portuguese citizenship rights to descendents of those Jewish individuals who were expelled from and persecuted by Portugal over 500 years ago. This means that Sephardic Jews who can prove their relation to Portuguese Jews who were expelled and mistreated by the Portuguese government can apply for dual nationality. Applicants are not required to travel to Portugal, however they will have to produce some sort of evidence that demonstrates a full and traditional connection to ancient Portuguese Jewry, which will then be scrutinized by Portuguese Jewish community institutions and government agencies. The application and review procedure is expected to take anywhere from four to six months. Three months after the passing of the law, in June 2015, 250 applicants were informed by the Portuguese government that they qualify for citizenship rights under the new law. As of October 2015, only 3 of these individuals have actually gone through the process and received their citizenship. The majority of these 250 approved applicants came from Turkey, but 15 applications were also sent from Israel, and an equal number from the United States. These individuals are not required to relocate to Portugal to receive their citizenship status. This noble plan to reconnect Sephardic Jews with their Portuguese roots inspired Israel Foreign Ministry Advisor Ashley Perry to launch the Knesset Caucus for the Reconnection with the Descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities in October 2015. As of October 2016, 292 out of 3,838 applications - just 8% - had been approved.
Following the example set by Britain, Spain, Sweden, and France, on December 12 2014 Portugal's Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the government to unilaterally recognize the state of Palestine. The Parliamentary motion proposed "recognising, in coordination with the European Union, the state of Palestine as independent and sovereign". After the vote Portugal's Foreign Minister Rui Machete clarified that the government "will choose the moment best suited" for recognition of a Palestinian state. Similar to the previous recognitions of Palestinian statehood earlier in 2014 from Portugal's European neighbors, this vote is largely symbolic, has no bearing on policy, and is inconsequential.
Hundreds of people including Jews from all around the world attended the rededication ceremony for Portugal's oldest standing synagogue on April 23, 2015. The Sahar Hassamain synagogue is located on Sao Miguel Island, 900 miles from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, and was rededicated following a restoration project started in 2014. Jose Oulman Carp, the president of the Jewish Community of Lisbon, stated at the dedication ceremony that "the renovation has been completed in a very thorough and professional manner with a lot of help from the United States, and from descendants of the big community of Jews from the Azores archipelago there". The building was restored to function as an Orthodox synagogue, but since there is only one Jewish resident of the Island it will mostly be used as a museum and library specializing in Jewish heritage and literature. Oulman Carp said that he hopes the synagogue restoration encourages Jewish tourism to the area, and encourages local people to explore their Jewish heritage and the Jewish history of their island. The Sahar Hassamain synagogue functioned as a place of worship for more than 50 years at one point, but had fallen into great disrepair.
Thanks to recent legislation granting Portuguese citizenship to descendants of Jews who were expelled during the Inquisition period, the Jewish community in Porto has experienced a renaissance of involvement and interest. The Porto Jewish community was designated by the Portuguese government as one of two institutions tasked with vetting the citizenship applicants, bringing thousands of dollars in income and tourists from all over the globe. Most of the new income has been generated by citizenship application fees, which are required and can cost anywhere from $300-$600.
(c.1450-c.1522) Author of the famous "Almanach Perpetuum" published in Leiria in 1496, with tables which provided the principal base for Portuguese navigation at the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th. He belonged to a family of French origin, which had emigrated to Castille in the 14th century. The expulsion decree of 1492 brought them to Portugal, where his expertise was immediately employed in the preparation of the voyage of Vasco da Gama to India. He made a sterling contribution to the development of navigation and was greatly respected as "Mathematician to the king."
(1432-c.1453) A member of the Negros family (Ibn Yahia), one of the most important and influential in the Jewish community in Portugal. In the reign of King Fernando, his father, Solomon Guedelha, founded a hospital in the Grande Judiaria in Lisbon. Master Guedelha was a rabbi and also doctor and astrologer to both King Duarte and King Afonso V. One of his sons, Abraham Guedelha (1450-1471), also became a chief rabbi and doctor to King Afonso V, which further increased the influence of the family.
(second half of the 15th century) A leading merchant, holder of a number of special prerogatives, he had considerable influence at Court. He played an important role in the history of the kingdom, by loaning huge sums to the Crown, on many occasions he financed royal activities. In 1478, he and Isaac Abravanel lent the sum of 3,384,615 reales to D. Afonso V. Guedelha Palacano was known as a loyal supporter of Prince Henry, having financed a number of overseas expeditions and justly deserved his honors and special treatment at Court.
(second half of the 15th century) One of the principal merchants in the kingdom and a member of one of the most important Jewish families in Portugal. In 1478, along with Guedelha Palacano, he made a hugh loan to King Afonso V. He was greatly respected as a man of learning, a doctor and philosopher.
(second half of the 15th century) Born in Viseu, he was a doctor and astrologer to King Joao II. Colombus and Joao de Barros knew him as Master Jose and he was considered to be one of the most outstanding figures in the scientific context of the great feats of navigation. He translated the "Almanach Perpetuum" by Zacuto into Castillian and Latin and navigated to Guinea to test the regiment of latitudes by meridional observation of the sun.
(16th century) Born in Portugal and given the Christian name of Duarte Pinhel, he fled from the Inquisition and settled in Ferrara about 1543, where he was associated with Yom-Tob Ven Levi Athias (Jerome de Vargas), a New-Christian of Spanish origin who owned a typography. His name is linked to the publication of the "Biblia de Ferrara" (The Ferrara Bible) in 1553. He published other books which included "Menina e Moca" by Bernardim Ribeiro and "Consolaco as Tribulacoes de Israel" ("Consolation for the Tribulations of Israel") by Samuel Usque.
(1502-1578) A great Portuguese mathematician and cosmographer-major, author of "Tratado da Esfera", published in Lisbon in 1537, he was a first generation New-Christian. Born in Alcacer do Sal, he studied philosophy and mathermatics at the University of Lison, where he obtained his degree and became a teacher in 1529.
Antonio Jose da Silva
(1705-1739) Known as "the Jew", he was born in Rio de Janeiro, the son of a wealthy colonial family, and was one of the victims of the Inquisition. One of the great Portuguese playwrites of the 18th century, he wrote operas and satrical plays which were tremendously critical and entertaining, one of the most interesting being "The Jew." Other well-known works include: "Guerras de Alecrim e da Manjerona" and "Vida do grande D. Quixote de la Mancha e do gordo Sancho Panca." He was imprisoned for the first time in 1726 but, after being tortured, was released. He was sent to prison again and condemned to death at the stake in a dramatic auto-de fe which took place in Lisbon on October 18th. 1739
The Algarve is the southernmost region of mainland Portugal. Maritime discoveries in this region in the 15th century attracted many Jewish merchants. Today, visitors from all over the world are drawn to the Algarve by the reputation of its white sandy beaches and golden cliffs.
Located in Southern Portugal, Beja is capital of the region of Alemtejo; one of the seats of the subordinate rabbinates set up under the general control of the *Arraby Moor in the 15th century. When the kingdom of Portugal was established in the 12th century, Jews are said to have been living already in Beja. In the charter (foro) granted to the town in the 13th century, nine clauses deal with the Jews, both resident and transient; most of them speak of established local usage. A tombstone found in the castle of Beja has a fragment of a Hebrew inscription referring to the death of R. Judah. Another tombstone from Beha was found in the 18th century and was brought to Evora in 1868. It is probably from 1378. After the expulsion of the Jews from Portugal in 1496–97, Beja became a center of crypto-Judaism and many natives of the city appeared at autos-da-fé or escaped abroad. In the early years of the 18th century, a physician named Francisco de Sá e Mesquita spitefully denounced persons from Beja – on one occasion 66, on another 92 – who, he said, had come together to observe Jewish rites. The name Beja was common among the Sephardim of the Orient: e.g., Ḥayyim Beja (c. 1810–1870) of Salonika, who subsequently became rabbi of Tyria in Asia Minor; and the scholar-preacher Isaac b. Moses.
This remote and beautiful region of Portugal is rich in the history and traditions of crypto-Jews, who practiced their religion in secret for centuries. The local Serra da Estrela tourism office has prepared an excellent tour of the region's Jewish heritage. It was in towns like Belmonte that Portugal's Jews practiced their religion in secret after the abolition of Judaism in 1496. The village was already famed for being the birthplace of Pedro Alvares Cabral, the first Portuguese captain to sight Brazil in 1500. But, in the 20th century a significant community of cryptic Jews, sometimes called Marranos, emerged. Although they had practiced many of the rituals of Judaism for centuries, they were unaware of their true heritage. Jewish communities around the world came to their aid to help them rediscover their roots, and in 1993 the community welcomed its first rabbi in more that four centuries. In 1996 the synagogue "Beit Eliahu" (Son of Elijah) was inaugurated in the old Jewish quarter. The Jewish cemetery was opened in 2001. Since 2005 the Jewish Museum is also open to the public, which depicts the history of Sephardic presence in Portugal, traditions, customs, which includes a memorial on the inquisition. Amazingly, may of the Jewish families still live in the town's charming Judiaria, called the Bairro de Marrocos.
Other strong Jewish ties may be found at the near by town of Trancoso, where a Lion of Judea relief is still well preserved on the facade of the Casa do Gato Negro, the Medieval Home of wealthy Jewish merchant, and perhaps the local synagogue. The Jewish quarter is well also reserved in this living museum.
CASTELO BRANCO, city in central Portugal, S. of *Covilhã . A Jewish community existed there until the expulsion and forcible conversions of 1496–97. In 1384/85, one Lopo Vasques was granted the rights to all the taxes paid by the Jews of Castelo Branco and the revenues from their contracting activities. In 1393 the same privileges were transferred to the commander of the citadel of Obidos. After 1496–97 Castelo Branco became an important *Marrano center. Some of the most distinguished Portuguese Marranos of the 16th and 17th centuries were born there, among them *Amatus Lusitanus , Elijah Montalto, and Antonio *Ribeiro Sanchez . Amatus Lusitanus left Castelo to study medicine in Salamanca, returned to Portugal to practice medicine, moved to the Low Countries, and finally arrived in Salonica in 1559, where he lived and died as a Jew. The celebrated Portuguese author, Camillo Castello-Branco (1825–1890), was a descendant of the Marranos of Castelo Branco. When in the 1920s the Portuguese Marranos had renewed contacts with Judaism a number of Marranos in Castelo Branco returned to the faith. The local museum contains a stone with a Hebrew inscription from the synagogue of *Belmonte dated 1297.
Castelo de Vide (Alentejo)
Scenic and charming, this small town welcomes the visitor with its white houses clinging to a castle on a hill. By the 14th century a large Jewish community existed here, and fascinating remains document its importance today. The Judiaria ran from the castle gate, down to the village fountain (Fonte da Vila) and on to the Rua Nova (a common name for post-1496 areas of New-Christians). An amazing medieval synagogue stands at the corner of the Rua da Judiaria and Rua da Fonte. Restored to its original appearance, the museum today features the original 14th century stone ark for the Torah, and baths. Many nearby houses have markings or Mezuzot slots on the doors as evidence to their former Jewish owners.
Nearby, the impressive fortress town of Marvão served as an entry point to the thousands of Jews who fled Spain in the 15th and 14th centuries. Alpalhão, today a tiny village has a remarkable Judiaria where the Mezuzots on the doors are next to later crosses, added to demonstrate that the family who lived there had converted to Christianity.
Chaves is a city in N. Portugal, W. of Bragança. A large Jewish community existed there in the Middle Ages noted for its bet midrash, said to have been named Genesim, after the Book of Genesis. The community was granted a charter of privileges in 1434. Before the expulsion of the Jews from Portugal in 1496/97, the community paid the crown an annual tax of 31,000 reis. Subsequently a Marrano community continued to exist in Chaves. When in the 20th century the Marranos in Portugal renewed contact with Judaism, some openly returned to Judaism in Chaves. In 1930 a committee of "New Jews" was established there, with Lieutenant Augusto Nuñes, himself a former Marrano, acting as chairman. With the establishment of the dictatorship in 1932, Jewish missionary activities among the local Marranos decreased.
This monumental city and capital of the Alentejo prospered in the late middle ages. It had been a major Roman city, and a well-defended Moorish center until its capture by the Portuguese in the late 12th century. It was here that one of the largest Jewish communities existed up to the 15th century. The Judiaria had two synagogues, a hospital, a Midrash, baths, and lively commerce. The building that once housed the synagogue and the surrounding Judiaria runs in the historic quarter on the Teresa de Cimanear to the Convento de Mer's. A plaque commemorates the Jewish community, and the Jewish-born of the 16th century humanist, Diogo Pires. The former Place of the Inquisition stands near the city museum, with the coat of arms of the Inquisition clearly visible over the main door.
Dominated by its proud castle, the former royal palace conquered from the Moors in 1135, the city developed at the foot of the hill, bordered by the river Lis and spreading out from the old Rua Dur in keeping with the typical structure of mediaeval towns. The Jewish quarter was to be found in the area now occupied by Rua Dom Afonso Henriques, Rua Dom Dinis and Largo da Se and would have dated back to the 14th century, in the reign of Dom Dinis (1279-1325). It was in this old part of the city, close to the Cathedral (begun in 1550 with an Archeological Museum now attached to it), that one of the first Jewish works in Portugal was published: the "Almanach Perpetuum" by Abraao Zacuto, printed by the equally Jewish Arbaao d'Ortas. Other interesting places to visit are the Igreja da Misericordia, under which the Old Synagogue is thought to lie, the Igraja de Sao Pedro (a 12th century Romanesque church), the Municipal Museum and the 16th-17th century shrine of Nossa Senhora da Encarnacao with its panoramic views.
Portugal's capital owes its name to the legend that it was Ulysses himself who founded the city on a series of hills on the estuary of the river Tejo. Jewish life probably began here not long after the city fell to the Moors in the 8th century. It remained a major port and market up to the time that Portugal's first king, D. Afonso Henriques, seized it in 1147. The Alfama quarter, hugging a slope between the river and the castle is one of the city's oldest areas, and a large Jewish community flourished here in the Middle Ages. Known as the Judiaria Grande, it encompassed the Rua da Judiaria. These narrow streets still evoke the spirit of the generations of Portuguese Jews who lived and flourish here. As the community grew, and more Jewish refugees came to Lisbon, a new Judiaria Pequena formed in the 13th century near what is today the central Praca do Comercio. This entire area was totally destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. The nearby Rossio square, before the earthquake, was the site of the court of the Inquisition. It was here that Jews and other accused heretics were burnt at the stake. Above the square looms the ruined 14th century Carmo church that house the Archaeological Museum. Here, one can view the ancient "Monchique Stone," unearthed in Porto with Hebrew inscriptions. Lisbon's main synagogue is found at number 57 Rua Alexandre Herculano. It was built in the early 20th century as Jews of Portuguese descent returned to Portugal from Gibraltar and North Africa. Called Shaare Tikva, or Gates of Hope.
This walled town, with its narrow streets spreading from the foot of the castle, still preserves all the atmosphere of a 16th century mediaeval town. The Jewish quarter, an area was once inhabited by traders, artists and scientists, was in the centre of the town, close to the Rua Direita and the beautiful 16th century Renaissance church of Santa Maria, where it is possible to appreciate the paintings of Josefa d'Obidos, one of the most important 17th century Portuguese artists. Since it was the property of the queens of Portugal, Obidos always enjoyed special protection from the royal court and at one time had a school of arts and sciences. The effects of all this culture are clearly evident in its artistic heritage, in particular the Manueline palace that was built inside the castle walls (now converted into the Obidos Pousada).
Once a major community of Jewish merchants thrived in this great city of the north. The city's first Jewish area was along the Rua de Santa Ana. In 1386 King D. John I gave the community land near church of Nossa Senhora da Vitûria. The main synagogue stood on the Escadas da Vitûria; a place still locally called "Escadas da Esnoga." A plaque marks the site. Nearby, there is an ancient Jewish cemetery at Passeio das Virtudes. Many Jewish merchants had their offices along the famed Porto riverfront in the Ribeira area along the Rua da Alfandega. Another Jewish community once flourished at the Rua Monte dos Jude's, where in 1826 an important ancient Hebrew plaque was unearthed. Recently, the main synagogue for the Jewish quarter was discovered during renovation to an ancient building. Behind a false wall, workers stumbled on to an ark thought to be from the 15th century. This important discovery is being carefully preserved and researched to learn more about he once sizable Jewish population of Porto. The modern Jewish community worships at the 1929 Mekro Haim, or Fountain of Life Temple, number 340 Rua Guerra Junqueiro.
This monumental city of the Templars is a true jewel. Here, the famed Order of the Knights Templar (followed by the Knights of the Order of Christ) built their headquarters in a massive castle, while a prosperous Jewish community grew in the 14th and 15th centuries in the town below. The Judiaria ran along the Rua Dr. Joaquim Jacinto, and the synagogue survived the centuries to become the Abraham Zacuto Museum. The complex ceiling and elegant columns of the synagogue's worship area give it astounding acoustics. The Museum displays numerous ancient tablets, gravestones, texts, and artifacts from all aspects of Jewish life in old Portugal. Recent excavations have reveled a water heating system and ritual baths. With its Convent of Christ, river parks, and numerous historic monuments Tomar is a wonderful place to learn more about Portugal's history.
This town was the headquarters of the Order of the Knights Templar in Portugal until the 14th century, when the order was extinguished and replaced by the Order of Christ, founded at that same time. The first jewish settlement in the town also took place in the 14th century. The Jewish quarter only occupied one street: the present-day Rua Dr. Joaquim Jacinto. Nonetheless, despite its small size, it was a prosperous community and its influence was to increse greatly in the 15th century, in the period of the Discoveries, when Tomar was already the headquarters of the Order of Christ and its governor was Prince Henry the Navigator.
At #73 on the same street was the synagogue, which remained in use until 1496, the date when the order was given to expelthe Jews from Portugal. Today it houses the Abraao Zacuto Portugueuse-Hebrew Museum. Even today, clay pots are still kept embedded high in the four corners of the chamber of worship, as part of a traditional technique for improving the room's acoustics. In the 20th century, through the efforts of Samuel Schwartz, the synagogue was restored and given to the State, and, since 1921 it has collected not only the local heritage of documents and epigraphs but also tombstones with Hebraic inscriptions from other parts of the country. In 1985, fresh excavation work was undertaken at the synagogue, leading to the discovery of an oven for the heating of water and a wall which gave access to the holy baths designed for purification purposes.
Classified as World Heritage by UNESCO, the Convento de Cristo surrounded by mediaeval walls, with its seven cloisters and emblematic Manueline window is an essential part of any visitor's itinerary. In Tomar, the best way to gain an impression of the three separate moments in the history of Portuguese architecture is to visit the churches of Santa Maria do Olival (Gothic), Sao Joao Baptista (with its Munueline doorway and important 16th century paintings inside the church) and, on the road to the castle, the church of Nossa Senhora da Conceicao (a Renaissance chapel). In the surrounding district, nature lovers will appreciate the great lake created by the dam of Castelo de Bode, with its magnificent views and the chance to enjoy water sports.