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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘New Christians’

Anusim/Crypto Jewish Conference Scheduled

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

On January 2, 1492 the queen and king of Spain, Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, signed the Edict of Expulsion of the Jews. It is estimated that 300,000 Jews lived in the country and only one third managed to get out and continue practicing their faith.

One hundred thousand crossed the border to Portugal, where they considered to being safe, but only five years later they were forcibly converted to Christianity. One hundred thousand others were unable to leave Spain either took their faith underground or adopted the Catholic faith. The Church called them New Christians, but many of these New Christians were not so observant of their forced new faith, practicing their true Jewish beliefs secretly and within their homes.

Caminos de Israel is organizing its second annual Anusim and Crypto Jewish Conference, with experts in the field and Orthodox rabbis participating, on Sunday, February 12, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Marriot Dadeland in Miami. This year’s special speaker is a woman from Cuba who has traced her family’s Jewish ancestry all the way back to the 1400.

Due to limited seating, organizers ask that reservations be made in advance. Reservation in advance is $20 per person (at the door it’s $25 per person).

You can e-mail your reservation request to Loscaminosdeisrael@yahoo.com and you will receive a PayPal-secured link to make your reservation. If you wish to make your reservation over the phone, call 786-306-8211.

For more information, or to schedule this type of event in your synagogue or community, call Rabbi Moshe Otero at 786-306-8211.

Escape From The Inquisition

Thursday, December 1st, 2005

 The Inquisition

“In 1478 at the request of the Spanish sovereigns Ferdinand and Isabella, Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84) issued a papal bull allowing for the creation of the Spanish Inquisition. It lasted until it was “abolished” in 1834, although its most fervent activity was during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Spanish Inquisition is the notorious for two reasons. First, it was more cruel precisely because it was administered by the secular government. Second, it was concerned, in large part, with the conversos. These were Jews who had converted either under duress or out of social convenience, and were suspected of secretly practicing the Jewish faith.”[1]

“The Spanish Inquisition was particularly terrifying because of its inherent characteristics. The accused never knew who their accusers were. Once arrested, the accused heretic’s properties were seized. These properties were then administered at first by the Crown, and later by the General Inquisitor. This fostered the means for anyone to accuse for personal reasons, or to get gain. In many areas, ‘. . . men began to wonder whether a man’s worldly wealth, as well as his descent, was now become [sic] an incriminating circumstance’ (Roth, 1964, The Spanish Inquisition. United States of America: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.  p. 60). The Inquisition certainly did not limit itself to purifying only those of the Jewish faith. This was especially true if the accused was found to have any Jewish blood in his ancestry. Even if the accused was now a devout Christian, he was tried as severely as possible because of his roots. The accused was also not allowed to have a lawyer or counsel for his defense, and the names of all witnesses were kept secret from him.”[2]

“More than 13,000 Conversos were put on trial during the first 12 years of the Spanish Inquisition. Hoping to eliminate ties between the Jewish community and Conversos, the Jews of Spain were expelled in 1492.

“The next phase of the Inquisition began around 1531, when Pope Leo X extended the Inquisition to Portugal. Thousands of Jews came to Portugal after the 1492 expulsion. A Spanish style Inquisition was constituted and tribunals were set up in Lisbon and other cities. Among the Jews who died at the hands of the Inquisition were well-known figures of the period such as Isaac de Castro Tartas, Antonio Serrao de Castro and Antonio Jose da Silva. The Inquisition never stopped in Spain and continued until the late 18th century.

“By the second half of the 18th century, the Inquisition abated, due to the spread of enlightened ideas and lack of resources. The last auto-da-fe in Portugal took place on October 27, 1765. Not until 1808, during the brief reign of Joseph Bonaparte, was the Inquisition abolished in Spain. An estimated 31,912 heretics were burned at the stake, 17,659 were burned in effigy and 291,450 made reconciliations in the Spanish Inquisition. In Portugal, about 40,000 cases were tried, although only 1,800 were burned, the rest made penance.”[3]

In 1497 all Jews living in Portugal were forced to convert to Christianity. These Jews were known as “New Christians” or Marranos. Despite the obvious dangers involved, a considerable number of these New Christians while outwardly professing to be devout Catholics, secretly kept as many mitzvos as possible. They remained loyal Jews for hundreds of years, and married only other “New Christians” who did the same. Of course, if at all possible, these New Christians sought ways to flee from Portugal. Their goal was to go to a country that would allow them to openly practice Judaism. Very few families actually succeeded in doing this.

A Daring Escape

“Dr. Samuel Nunez – was an eminent physician in Lisbon during the Inquisition. They, although of the Jewish persuasion - had long been professing Christianity, but by pursuing their religious devotions privately, were enabled to remain secretly true to the faith of their ancestors.
The Doctor was one of the court physicians, but even this did not save him from the wrath of the Grand Inquisitor when it was ascertained that his Christianity was but a pretense; he, with the members of his family, was cast into prison, and remained there until the medical services of the Doctor being called into requisition, they were liberated by the Ecclesiastical Council upon the advice of the Grand Inquisitor, on condition, however, that two officials of the Inquisition should reside in the family as spies upon their religious practices.”[4] “The Doctor had a large and elegant mansion on the banks of the Tagus, and being a man of large
fortune he was in the habit of entertaining the principal families of Lisbon. On a pleasant summer day (in 1726) he invited a party to dinner, and among the guests was a captain of an English brigantine anchored at some distance in the river.  While the company were amusing themselves on the lawn,   the captain invited the family and part of the company to accompany him on board the brigantine and partake of a lunch prepared for the occasion. All the family, together with the spies of the Inquisition and a portion of the guests, repaired on board the vessel, and while they were below in the cabin enjoying the hospitality of the captain, the
anchor was weighed, the sails unfurled, and the wind being fair, the brigantine shot out of the Tagus, and was soon at sea, and carried the whole party to England. It had been previously arranged between the Doctor and the captain, who had agreed for a thousand moidores in gold to convey the family to England, and who were under the painful necessity of adopting this plan of escape to avoid detection. The ladies had secreted all their diamonds and. jewels, which were quilted in their dresses, and the Doctor having previously changed all his securities into gold, it was distributed among the gentlemen of the family and carried around them in leathern belts. His house, plate, furniture, servants, equipage, and even the dinner cooked for the occasion were all left, and were subsequently seized by the Inquisition and confiscated to the state.”[5]

In this manner Dr. Nunez, his wife Rebecca, his mother Zipporah, his two sons Daniel and Moshe, and his daughter Sipra (Zipporah) escaped from Portugal to London. As was the case with many New Christian men who escaped from the Iberian Peninsula, he and his sons were no doubt circumcised shortly after their arrival. On the 11th of Av, 1726, Dr. Nunez remarried his wife Rebecca according to Halacha.[6] On July 11, 1733 Dr. Nunez and his family (except for his wife who had apparently died while they were living in London) arrived in Savannah, Georgia.

Zipporah Nunez (1714-1799[7]) “was a young lady nineteen years of age when she arrived from abroad with her father. Zipporah [apparently originally named Maria] had been born in Portugal, a Catholic, and she grew up in this land to marry [in 1733] a ‘rabbi,’ Mr. [David Mendez] Machado, the hazzan of Shearith Israel [Synagogue in New York]. Her contemporaries agreed that Zipporah Machado was an unusual woman, charming and cultured, mistress of six languages. Her charity, which she bestowed as her means permitted, was ‘unbiased by national or sectarian prejudices.’”[8] Zipporah “was a woman of many accomplishments, conversant with several languages, and until her death maintained a lofty
dignity, and was known in her earlier years as a great beauty.”[9] “She was the mother-in-law of a Revolutionary veteran (Jonas Phillips) and the great-grandmother of a commodore in the United States Navy (Uriah P. Levy) and of a Grand Sachem of Tammany Hall (Mordechai M. Noah), all Jews.”[10] She was also the great-grandmother of Raphael Jacob Moses.[11] Raphael Moses was a successful businessman and a staunch fighter for the South during the Civil War. He had the distinction of carrying out the last order issued by the Confederacy. Many members of his extended family were all observant Jews.


[1]
http://www.geocities.com/iberianinquisition/

[2] http://www.bibletopics.com/biblestudy/64.htm

[3] http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Inquisition.html

[4] Family History of the Reverend David Mendez Machado, N. Taylor Phillips, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, 1894; 2, AJHS Journal page 45. This article is available online from AJHA at http://www.ajhs.org/reference/adaje.cfm.
 
[5] Ibid., pages 46 – 47 quoting Statistics Of The State Of Georgia: Including an account of Its Natural, Civil, and Ecclesiastical History; Together with a Particular Description of Each County, Notices of the Manners and customs of Its Aboriginal tribes, and a Correct Map of the State, George White. Savannah: W. Thorne Williams, 1849.

[6] New Light on the Jewish Settlement of Savannah, Malcolm H. Stern, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, volume 52, 1963. Reprinted in The Jewish Experience in America edited by Abraham J. Karp, Ktav Publishing House, New York, 1969, page 72.

[7] The Record Book of the Reverend Jacob Raphael Cohen, Allen D. Corr? with biographical annotations by Malcolm H. Stern, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, volume 59, 1969, footnote 105. This article is available online from AJHA at
http://www.ajhs.org/reference/adaje.cfm.

[8] Early American Jewry, Volume II: The Jews of Pennsylvania and the South, 1655 – 1790, Jacob Rader Marcus, The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1953, page 335.

[9] Family History of the Reverend David Mendez Machado, page 50.

[10] Early American Jewry, Volume II: The Jews of Pennsylvania and the South, 1655 – 1790, page 335.

[11] The Last Order Of The Lost Cause: The Civil War Memoirs Of A Jewish Family From The ‘Old South’: Raphael Jacob Moses, Major, C.S.A., 1812-1893, Mel Young,  University Press of America, 1995, New York, page 334.

 
Dr. Yitzchak Levine, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor in the department of Mathematical Sciences Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. He may be contacted at llevine@stevens-tech.edu.

Aaron Lopez, Colonial American Merchant Prince

Wednesday, October 5th, 2005
Note: Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from Lopez of Newport, Colonial American Merchant Prince, Stanley F. Chyet, Wayne State University Press, 1970.

One cannot fully appreciate the life and accomplishments of Aaron Lopez (1731-1782) unless one is familiar with the history of the Inquisition. “The story of the 1492 expulsion of the Jews from Span is well known.  Not so well known is what happened five years later in the neighboring country of Portugal. Of those Jews who chose to flee Spain in 1492, large numbers went to Morocco, Italy and to the Ottoman Empire.  But, the greatest number, perhaps half of the total went to Portugal. King Jo?o II, of Portugal, allowed them to enter.  He was preparing for war against the Moors, and he needed the taxes collected from these Jews to finance that war.

“Permanent residence was granted only to 630 wealthy families who were allowed to establish themselves in several parts of the country upon payment of 100 cruzados.  Others were allowed to settle for only eight months upon payment of eight cruzados for each adult.  The king then bound himself to provide shipping so that they could leave.   One hundred thousand refugees may have entered under these conditions.  At the end of eight months, however, the king saw to it that little shipping was available and few could leave.  Those left behind were declared forfeit of their liberty and were declared slaves of the king.”[1]

The situation of the Jews continued to deteriorate. Pressure was exerted upon them to convert to Christianity. Those who did not were told that they had to leave Portugal. However, in the end, the vast majority of Jews were not allowed to leave, and any who had not undergone conversion were forcibly converted. “Holy water was sprinkled on them and they were declared to be Christians. King Manoel (the successor to King Jo?o II) then informed the Catholic Kings of Spain, ‘There are no more Jews in Portugal.’”[2]

“If any of these New Christians, as the Portuguese contemptuously designated them, thought to find security in their new status, events proved them frighteningly mistaken.” Even two centuries later those ‘of the Jewish race’ in Lisbon still had occasion to dread the threat of
persecution. A day of wrath dawned for one of their number on October 19, 1739, some 203 years after the establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal.”  On that day, Antonio Jos? da Silva, one of Portugal’s outstanding poets and dramatists, was garroted (strangled) and burned in an auto da f? (the burning of a heretic). The “crime” that led to his death was his heresy for secretly “observing the Mosaic laws.”[3]

Despite the obvious dangers that New Christians who secretly practiced Judaism were subjected to, hundreds of years after their forced conversion in 1497 one could still find families tenaciously clinging to the faith of their fathers and willing to risk their lives for Judaism. “Among the New Christians in Lisbon at the time (of Dom Antonio’s execution) was the family of Diego Jos?Lopez, born and twice-married in Portugal.” Dom Diego “remained a loyal Jew, outwardly devout Catholic professions notwithstanding.”

Duarte (Edward) Lopez was born into this well-to-do family in 1731. “Raised to practice Judaism only in secret, while maintaining outward conformity with Catholicism to all appearances, Lopez reached maturity, married and had a baby daughter before deciding to leave Portugal for a new, openly Jewish life in British North America, where he joined his older brother Moses. Moses Lopez, who had himself left Portugal in his teens, had come of age in New York City before establishing himself in Newport, Rhode Island, in the early 1740s.”[4]

“Arriving in Newport (on October 13, 1752) the Lopezes lost no time in availing themselves of their new freedom.” Duarte had himself circumcised at the age of 21. He and his wife Anna “were remarried, with the traditional Jewish ceremony. His name was changed to Aaron, and hers to Abigail. Their daughter’s name (Catherine) they changed to Sarah.”[5]  “With the help of his brother Moses (Aaron) set himself up in business. By 1760, his efforts to engage in the wholesale commodities trade had also proved successful. His business activities grew widely over the next 15 years to include whaling and a few ventures in the slave trade, as well as the export of Newport manufactures such as furniture, axes, plank and board, flour, barrel staves and salt fish.”[6] The Lopezes lived as strictly observant Jews, and Aaron played a key role in the establishment and development of what eventually became known as the Touro Synagogue. He laid the first corner stone[7] and served more than once as parnas (president) of the congregation.  He frequently donated money for the upkeep of the synagogue and in 1770 presented one of the five beautiful candelabra that are suspended from its ceiling.[8]

For Aaron and his family, “The Sabbath was to be taken seriously; ‘It being Friday and late in the day I shall not have time to enlarge.’ His shop would be closed on the Sabbath (and on Sunday as well); no ship of his would depart Newport on a Saturday.  He would not conduct business on the Jewish Festivals either. ‘When I was a[t] Newport least (sic) April,’ an out-of-town client told him, ‘it happened to be on holy days and could not see you.’ Obviously it was Passover which had made Aaron inaccessible. On one occasion Aaron is known to have secured 250 pounds of matsah, unleavened Passover bread, from New York – not such a large order when one considers the size of his m?nage. Even the outbreak of the Revolution and flight from Newport could not persuade the Lopezes to forgo observance of the Passover.”

“Some of the cheese Aaron sold, it is worth noting, was ‘coushir’ (kosher), fit for use on the tables of God-fearing Jews and often shipped to their communities in the Southern colonies and the Caribbean. Not at all infrequently, as it happened, kosher provisions – ‘Jew beef’ and tongues, as well as cheese – were on sale in his shop and included in cargoes to the West Indies. A cargo might even contain so rare a delicacy as ‘chorisas’ (haroses)”[9]

“With the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in 1776, Lopez began to suffer a dramatic downturn in his business, along with most colonial merchants. As the British took Savannah in 1778, Lopez evacuated his family to Leicester, Massachusetts, where he set up a retail shop and a modest commodities trade via overland routes through Salem, Boston and Providence. Over the course of the next four years, he became a key supplier to the American forces, providing such necessities as flour and leather breeches.”In 1782, while on the way to Newport with his family, Aaron Lopez accidentally drowned in Scott’s pond in Smithfield, Rhode Island, while watering his horse. He left behind his grieving (second) wife Sarah, devoted father-in-law and business partner Jacob Rodriguez Rivera, and 15 surviving children. “What sort of a Jew was Aaron? He lived in the world of eighteenth-century American Sephardic orthodoxy and simultaneously in the world of the eighteenth-century Gentile milieu. He belonged as much to the one as to the other, and he appears to have been conscious of no inevitable conflict between the two. ‘All who knew him agree,’ wrote a Massachusetts journalist shortly after Aaron’s death, ‘that he was, in the fullest import of the words, a good citizen and an honest man.’ Nearly all we know or can surmise of Aaron’s life lends substance to this observation.”

Ezras Stiles believed “him to have been ‘without a single enemy and the most universally beloved by an extensive acquaintance of any man I have ever knew.’ Aaron’s ‘beneficence to his fam[ily] and connexions, to his nation [the Jews], and to all the world is almost without parallel.’ Such was the buenafama of Aaron Lopez.”

[1] THE FORCED CONVERSION OF THE JEWS OF PORTUGAL, Arthur Benveniste,
<http://www.cryptojews.com/Portugal.html>http://www.cryptojews.com/Portugal.html

[2] Ibid.

[3]
<http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=714&letter=S>http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=714&letter=S

[4] http://www.cjh.org/academic/findingaids/AJHS/nhprc/AaronLopez.html

[5] The Story of the Jews of Newport (1658 – 1908), Morris A. Gutstein, Bloch Publishing Co., 1936, page 67.

[6]
http://www.cjh.org/academic/findingaids/AJHS/nhprc/AaronLopez.html>http://www.cjh.org/academic/findingaids/AJHS/nhprc/AaronLopez.html

[7] The Story of the Jews of Newport, page 92.

[8]  History of Touro Synagogue by Rabbi Dr. Theodore Lewis, Bulletin of the Newport Historical Society, Number 159, Summer 1975, page 284.

[9] Ibid.,  page 134.

Dr. Yitzchak Levine, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor in the department of Mathematical Sciences Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. He may be contacted at llevine@stevens-tech.edu.

Recife – The First Jewish Community In The New World

Wednesday, June 1st, 2005

Many people know that on September 7, 1654, twenty-three Jews arrived in New Amsterdam (renamed New York after the Dutch left). Most are not, however, aware of the fact that these Jews came to America from Recife, Brazil. Recife, now the capital of the state of Pernambuco, is located on the northeastern shore of Brazil. It has a fascinating Jewish history of its own.

Brazil was originally under Portuguese rule, and Jews first arrived there some time after the year 1500. They were active in making Recife a prosperous center for the production of sugar in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Many if not all of the Jews who came to Recife before 1630 were “New Christians,” that is, Jews forced to convert to Christianity during the Inquisition. These Jews were also known as Marranos. They most likely came to the New World for two reasons. First, there were attractive economic opportunities in Brazil that were not available in Europe. Second, and at least as important to these Jews who secretly clung to the faith of their ancestors, is the fact that until 1580 the Inquisition was not as prevalent in Brazil as it was in countries that Spain controlled.

With the unification of Portugal and Spain in 1580, the Inquisition spread with full force to Portugal and to the areas controlled by it in the New World.

Though the Inquisition was never established in Brazil, it had its “familiars” in that country, who spied upon secret Jews, and, in case of detection, seized them and sent them to Lisbon to be tried by the tribunal there. On the other hand, a favorite method of punishment by the Inquisition of Lisbon was to transport convicted relapsed Jews to the colony of Brazil, it is said, twice every year. The earliest notice of Jews in the country refers to some who had been thus banished in 1548. In the same year, however, several Portuguese Jews transplanted sugar-cane from Madeira to Brazil, and Jews were connected with the sugar industry of the country for the following two centuries. During the twenty years following the arrival of the first Jewish settlers they were joined by many volunteer exiles of the same faith, until their prominence in trade became noticeable; and edicts were issued by Don Henrique, regent of Portugal, on June 20, 1567, and March 15, 1568, forbidding Marranos to settle in Brazil. This edict, however, was repealed for the sum of 1,700,000 crusados ($714,000) given by the Marranos of Lisbon and Brazil, and the privileges of residence and free commerce were granted to Neo-Christians by an edict of May 21, 1577.[1]

New Christian Jews, while forced to practice Christianity publicly, did whatever they could to maintain their Judaism secretly. They attended Catholic mass regularly and did their best to appear as “loyal” Christians to their neighbors. However, whenever possible, they clandestinely gathered to daven. In order to avoid the ever watchful eye of the Inquisition, the servants of New Christians often did not work on either Saturday or Sunday. The simple act of bathing on Fridays or wearing nicer clothes on Shabbos could be construed as “a lapse into Judaism,” possibly setting in motion an inquest certain to end badly for the accused. We should keep in mind that the simplest and safest thing for New Christians to do would have been to forsake Judaism entirely. Yet, despite the risk of barbaric punishments and even a horrible death, many tenaciously clung to as many Jewish practices as they could.

In 1630 the Dutch occupied Pernambuco. Holland had a tradition of granting Jews a good deal of religious freedom, and this same freedom was now extended to Recife and its environs. So promising was the position of the Jews in Brazil that Ephraim Sueiro, brother-in-law of Manasseh ben Israel, emigrated to that country in 1638, and was to have been followed by Manasseh himself, who dedicated the second part of his “Conciliador” to the community at Recife (1640). Two years later no less than 600 Jews from Amsterdam embarked for Recife. Included in this number were Rabbi Isaac Aboab da Fonseca, a well-known Amsterdam rabbi, and scholar Moses Raphael d`Aguilar. They came to Brazil as spiritual leaders to assist the congregations of Kahal Kodesh Tzur Yisroel in Recife and Magen Abraham in Mauricia. By 1645, the Dutch Jewish population of Recife was about 1,500, approximately half of its European population.

Synagogue records show a well-organized Jewish community with a high level of participation by Jews as well as New Christians, who were finally able to openly return to the practice of Judaism. There was an elementary level Talmud Torah and an upper level yeshiva in which Gemara was taught. These records also indicate the existence of a tzedaka fund and an overseeing executive committee. The community was, not surprisingly, in general observant. Each adult male was required to stand guard on a regular basis. There are documents that show that Jews were exempt from doing guard duty on Shabbos. They were, however, required to hire gentiles who served in their stead.

The life story of the Rabbi Aboab is most interesting.

Rabbi Aboab da Fonseca was born in Portugal in 1605 into a family of New Christians. After settling in Amsterdam he returned to Judaism and eventually became a rabbi and a friend of Menashe Ben Israel. (When Rabbi) Aboab joined the Amsterdam Jews in Recife as their hakham, (he became) the first American rabbi.

He continued for 13 years as the spiritual mainstay of the community. After the repulse of the Portuguese attack on the city in 1646, (Rabbi) Aboab composed a thanksgiving narrative hymn… the first known Hebrew composition in the New World that has been preserved.

While in Recife, Rabbi Aboab also wrote his Hebrew grammar, Melekhet ha-Dikduk, still unpublished, and a treatise on the Thirteen Articles of Faith, now untraceable. After the Portuguese victory in 1654, (Rabbi) Aboab and other Jews returned to Amsterdam, where he became a prominent leader of the local Jewish community.[2]

Held in high esteem by his former Amsterdam congregants, (Rabbi) Aboab was reappointed as hocham in the synagogue and made teacher in the city`s talmud torah, principal of its yeshiva and member of the city`s bet din, or rabbinic court. He died in 1693 at the age of 88, having served the Jewish community of Amsterdam for 50 years after his return from Recife.[3]

The bereavement of their spiritual guide was so keenly felt by Amsterdam Jewry that for many years the name of Rabbi Aboab and the date of his death were incorporated in the engraved border of all marriage contracts issued by the community.[4]*

During the twenty-four years that Recife was under Dutch rule the Jews developed a vibrant community. Recife became the first place in the New World where Judaism was practiced openly. Its members were doctors, lawyers, peddlers, and merchants. Many Jews prospered in the tobacco, precious gems, wood, and sugar trades. It even had a street called the Rua dos Judeos (Street of the Jews) on which the synagogue Tzur Yisroel was located. Indeed, in 1999 archeological investigation located the exact site of the synagogue when its bor and mikvah were found. The site has been restored and is now a featured tourist attraction of the Recife community.

Everything changed in 1654 when Portugal reconquered Brazil. Fearing the reenactment of the Inquisition, the Jews of Recife either returned to Holland or fled to Dutch, French, or English colonies in the Caribbean. Jews mainly of Sephardic descent (collectively known as “La Nacion”) had recently established small but flourishing economic enclaves in Parimaribo, Barbados, Curacao, Jamaica, Hispaniola and Cayenne.

A total of sixteen ships transported both Jewish and Dutch colonists from Recife. Fifteen arrived safely; however, the sixteenth was captured by Spanish pirates only to be overtaken by the St. Charles, a French privateer. After much negotiating, the master of the St. Charles agreed to bring a group of twenty-three Jewish men, women and children from the captured ship to New Amsterdam for 900 guilders in advance and 1,600 on arrival.[5]

These twenty-three refugees arrived in New Amsterdam in 1654. They, together with at least two other Jews who had arrived not long before, were the founders of the Jewish Community of New York.

*After finishing this article I discovered that Rabbi Isaac Aboab da Fonseca was apparently a follower of Shabbtai Tzvi. (See www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view. jsp?artid=344&letter=A#810, The Sabbatean Prophets by Matt Goldish page 33, and Sabbatai Sevi by Gershom Scholem, pages 520-522.) To put it mildly, I was shocked, given the greatness of Rabbi Aboab. However, it made me realize how strong the messianic movement in the 17th century must have been to gain adherents of Rabbi Aboab`s caliber.

[1] www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=990&letter=S

[2] www.bh.org.il/Communities/Synagogue/Recife.asp

[3] www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Fonseca.html

[4] http://www.bh.org.il/Communities/Synagogue/Recife.asp

[5] www.cjh.org/about/Forward/view_Forward.cfm?Forwardid=13

Dr. Yitzchak Levine, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor in the department of Mathematical Sciences Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. He may be contacted at llevine@stevens-tech.edu).

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/recife-the-first-jewish-community-in-the-new-world/2005/06/01/

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