Women of Sefarad Series: Heroines

Women of Sefarad Series:


On October 31, 2021, Jewish Heritage Alliance and their participating co-hosting partners presented "Heroines", the 4th in the Women of Sefarad Series, celebrating the courage and determination of the Women of Sefarad who played a unique and special role during Medieval and Early Modern times.

Following the 1492 Edict of Expulsion of Spanish Jewry and 1497 forced conversions of Portuguese Jewry, Jewish communal institutions such as synagogues and study halls were closed, and prayer books and ritual objects were confiscated. Against this backdrop crypto-Judaism developed (people that tried to hold on to their Jewish traditions in secret).

The dismantling of communal institutions rendered the home as the gatekeeper of Jewish traditions, thus elevating women to primary guardians of rituals, traditions, and customs. In transmitting ancestral practices across the generations, women (as mothers and daughters) became the primary target of the Inquisition in its attempt to eradicate Crypto-Judaism.

Program Introduction:
Michael Steinberger, CEO & Founder of Jewish Heritage Alliance.

Program Moderator:
Dr. Isaac Amon, Director, Academic Research & Program Development at Jewish Heritage Alliance. Dr. Amon is an attorney and counselor at law and graduated summa cum laude with highest honors in history for his thesis on the Spanish Inquisition.

Key Presenter:
Dr. Gretchen Starr-LeBeau is the Jeanne and George Todd Professor of Religious Studies at Principia College. Dr. Starr-LeBeau's research addresses the interactions of Christians, conversos, and Jews around the world between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. She has published on individuals tried by the Spanish and Roman Inquisitions and on the experiences of conversa and crypto-Jewish women.

Guest Speakers:

Edith Scott Saavedra earned a Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, from Harvard University and a Juris Doctor cum laude from the Harvard Law School. She has had a distinguished career as an international lawyer, business consultant and author. A descendant of conversos, she wrote an historical fiction novel ("The Lamps of Albarracín"), recounting the arrival of the Spanish Inquisition as seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl.

Dr. Eliton Souto de Medeiros graduated from Federal University of Paraiba in Brazil. He is a descendant of Branca Dias, one of the many heroines sought by the Inquisition across continents and oceans. Eliton brings his in-depth research of his ancestral legacy to our event.

Dr. Mark A. Schneegurt is an educator, scientist, entrepreneur, and author of over 80 publications, including "Anthology of the Religious Poetry from the Mexican Inquisition Trials of 16th-Century Crypto Jews." During this webinar, short excerpts of liturgical poetry written by the sisters of the famous crypto-Jewish martyr Luis de Carvajal El Mozo will be read from this anthology.

This program was presented by the Jewish Heritage Alliance in partnership with ANU Museum of the Jewish People, the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, The American Sephardi Federation's Institute of Jewish Experience, Fundación HispanoJudía, EJCC European Jewish Community Center, University of Miami (Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies and the George Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies), Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and Kulanu.

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