Anousim Back Home
Thought & News (Thoughts that ARE News) related to the B'Nai Anousim reality: the proof that past is not but a pathway to continous building, and present is an opportunity for Justice and Tikkun (enmendation): a free gift from Hashem in our hands
- Name: שפתי מבשר Organización Siftei Mevaser (daniEl I. Ginerman)
- Location: Carmiel, Galilea, Israel
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Monday, March 27, 2006
OrTorah: Vote No to Slander - by Rabbi S. Weiss
Vote No to Slander - by Rabbi S. Weiss
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Anousim: Of Anusim and Anti-Jewish Ashkenazi Mishegas: JEWS, LATINOS UNCOVERING THEIR HERITAGE - an article at the LA Times
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Anousim: Remains of a Torah ark discovered during renovations in Portugal
Remains of a Torah ark discovered during renovations in Portugal
Remains of a Torah ark discovered during renovations in Portugal
By Amiram Barkat
Haaretz on line - January 12, 2006 Tevet 12, 5766 /www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/669180.html
A group of citizens from the city of Porto in Portugal who view themselves as descendents of Crypto-Jews want to turn a building in which the remains of an ancient synagogue were found into a museum dedicated to the history of the city's Jews.
Rabbi Aboab, also known as the "last gaon [sage] of Castile," was the head of the Guadalajara yeshiva and one of the last gaonim of Spain. In March 1492, on the eve of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Aboab and a group of Jewish dignitaries managed to obtain political asylum in Portugal.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
OrTorah: Harry Potter is Jewish!
Harry Potter is Jewish!
Harry Potter is Jewish!
(A Useful Metaphor)
by Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
No, sorry to say, the character of Harry Potter is not Jewish. I
think the books are quite clear on that, what with Christmas being
a major plot point what seems like every six weeks. But I think the
theme of the Harry Potter series is quite Jewish.
Some religious people of different faiths, including Judaism and
Christianity, have opposed the Harry Potter series. (I wouldn't be
surprised to find that Moslems, Hindus and others have objected, as
well.) After all, it does appear to glorify a lifestyle quite at odds with
the one they espouse. But I think they're missing the point. Harry
Potter doesn't advocate witchcraft as a lifestyle choice any more
than the Terminator movies advocate the killer android from the
future lifestyle. Harry Potter is about a boy who just happens to be
Personally, I think the Harry Potter story may be a perfect metaphor
for what many Jewish teens encounter in their quest for religious
growth. You see, Hogwarts isn't a school of wizardry. It's a yeshiva.
It's Yarchei Kallah. It's a Shabbaton. It's wherever you want to go to
grow in Torah observance and get closer to G-d. We'll talk more
about Hogwarts specifically soon enough.
All about Harry
Harry is Jewish. His parents died so that he might survive and
carry on their legacy. Voldemort isn't an evil wizard, but he does
represent the forces of evil. He is Egyptian slavery. He is the
Syrian-Greeks. He is Haman. He is the Roman persecution. He is
the Spanish Inquisition. He is pogroms and Crusades and the
Holocaust and the Intifada. He thought he had destroyed the
Potter family, but you know what? They survived in Harry, much the
same way the Jewish people lives on in you.
Harry didn't know the gifts he had. He knew that talking to snakes
at the zoo was a little strange, but he didn't understand the power
he had inside. Maybe you've sometimes felt different from your
peers. Maybe you've felt that spark inside you, but not known what
it was. That's your Jewish soul, baby! It's looking to get out and
So, like you, Harry got his wake-up call. His came by owl post. Yours
probably didn't. But if you're reading this, somehow or some way
G-d sent you an invitation. It didn't say "Hogwarts" on it, but it said
"Torah." G-d invited you to come claim your heritage.
Dealing with the Dursleys
Harry had the Dursleys, his aunt and uncle, who tried to stand in his
way. They were scared of witchcraft. They said it was because it
wasn't "normal," but that wasn't the real reason. It was because Mrs.
Dursley was jealous of her sister, Harry's mother, who was a witch.
Lily Potter had something special that Petunia Dursley lacked and
she hated her for it. Historically, a lot of people have hated the Jews
for exactly the same reason: G-d gave us something special that they
You probably have Dursleys in your life, too. In America in the 21st
Century, your Dursleys probably aren't overt anti-Semitism (thank G-d),
but there are plenty of others. People who belittle your interest in Torah
can be Dursleys. But Dursleys can also come from within. The yetzer
hara can be a big Dursley. ("Yetzer hara" is usually translated "the evil
inclination. If you were a cartoon, the yetzer hara would be a little guy
in a red suit who sits on your shoulder and tells you to keep a wallet
instead of turning it in.) Laziness, fear of change, peer pressure -
Dursleys all. Harry overcame his Dursleys. You can beat yours, too.
(But you have to be careful! Harry goes home every summer and has
to outwit the Dursleys again and again. Your Dursleys will never stop
trying to deter you from growing in your "magic," so you must be
Harry and his Friends at Hogwarts
Harry finally made it to Hogwarts. While he was there, he met other
witches and wizards from all different types of backgrounds. Ron
Weasley's family is all-wizard. He doesn't know any other lifestyle. He
takes for granted so much of what is new and magical to Harry.
Hermione Granger's family is all-muggle (non-wizard), but unlike the
Dursleys, Hermione's family appreciates what being a witch has done
for their daughter and they encourage her growth. Harry is a little
jealous of this positive relationship. After all, Hermione can bring her
muggle relatives to Diagon Alley (sort of like inviting them to your
Shabbos table), something Harry can never do with his family.
At Hogwarts, Harry studies magic. His course of studies includes such
varied courses as the History of Magic, Potions and Care of Magical
Creatures. This is like our study of Torah. (This gets a huge lehavdil,
which is what we say when we compare two things that really aren't
alike.) The Torah is not just a book of laws. It's the history of our
It's self-improvement. It's how to treat other people. Harry's course of
study is diverse and so is ours.
Harry and his friends cast spells, but the charms they cast don't always
turn out as intended. Hermione didn't mean to turn herself into a cat
with the polyjuice potion. Ron didn't want slugs pouring out of his mouth.
Gilderoy Lockhart didn't intend to remove all the bones in Harry's
broken arm. To a degree this can be compared to davening. (No, really.)
We "cast our spells" (a big lehavdil, again) and ask Hashem to do
certain things for us. Sometimes He does as we ask. But, like a spell
gone awry, sometimes G-d says no. Not because He's capricious, but
because He knows what's best for us. (It's like when you refuse to stuff a
three-year-old with candy until they get sick. They think you're "mean,"
but you know that you're doing them a big favor.)
It's not a perfect parallel. Spells will probably succeed or fail based on
the wizard's proficiency, which is not the case with our prayers. But, as
with the spells, when our prayers don't get the results we asked for, that
doesn't mean they dissipate in the atmosphere. They still have an effect.
No, they won't make slugs come out of your mouth. The effect of prayer
is invariably positive, even when G-d says no.
But all is not perfect in Harry's world. Voldemort returns and he's out
for blood. Yet, even with his meager abilities, Harry manages to defeat
him. A little magic can go a long way, but after each year at Hogwarts,
Harry becomes much more proficient! Similarly, whatever Torah we
have is what we need to defeat the forces of evil. Even a little is powerful
stuff, but every step brings us much more "power."
Harry would not have been safer back on Privet Drive, never knowing
he was a wizard. Voldemort still would have come after him, because he
considered Harry's very existence a threat. Without Hogwart's, however,
Harry never would have had the tools to survive.
It's the same with you and Torah. Those who would oppose you because
you are a Jew don't care whether you are learned or ignorant, observant
or assimilated. They consider you a threat simply because you're a Jew.
Without Torah, you lack the basic tools to defend yourself and banish the
darkness. Refusing to take up your arms, i.e. the Torah, is what they want
you to do.
I could go on, but I won't. You can draw your own parallels. A metaphor is
just a metaphor. (Or, as I like to put it, "A metaphor is like a simile.")
Harry Potter is just a book. It may be well-written and critically-acclaimed, but at the end of the day it's the product of human hands and imagination. Like all humans, J.K. Rowling is just dust and ashes. She may have her five
Harry Potter books, but we have the five Books that G-d gave to Moses on
Mount Sinai. (And we saw special effects far greater than anything ever
shown on the silver screen!) Those are the books that count. As much as
we can learn from Harry, Ron and Hermione, there is so much more we
can learn from the examples of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov (our
forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). May we merit to spend as much
effort analyzing the Torah, the true source of our real Jewish "magic."
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Anousim: Y-chromosome Lineages from Portugal, Madeira and Açores
Y-chromosome Lineages from Portugal, Madeira and Açores
Y-chromosome Lineages from Portugal, Madeira and Açores
A very interesting new paper on Portuguese Y-chromosomes. Three important conclusions are derived from the study of Sub-Saharan African, E3b, and J1 lineages in Portugal. The Sub-Saharan component seems to be small (0.7%) unlike the corresponding mtDNA component. The E3b lineages are highly heterogeneous, and include various sub-types, including the Aegean E-M78 cluster α as well as North African E3b2 and Middle Eastern E3b3. Interestingly, the North African component seems to be primarily of earlier Berber rather than historical Moorish origin:
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
OrTorah: "My big fat Amaraic Wedding"
"My big fat Amaraic Wedding"
"My big fat Amaraic Wedding"by Jay Bushinsky
International Jerusalem Post
April 29 - May 5, 2005
There is no better proof of modern Aramaic's vitality
than the spectacular weddings held by the Jewish "Nash
Didan" community, which hails from the remote
foothills of the Caucasus Mountains.
"Nash Didan" means "Our People" and its distinctive
music and dance have been immortalized by Nissan Aviv,
a brilliant composer and orchestrator who arrived in
Israel 55 years ago during the peak of the "Nash
Didan" immigration, and has devoted his life to
preserving and continuing this culture ever since.
Soon after the late Naomi Shemer's Yerushalayim Shel
Zahav ("Jerusalem of Gold") became a hit on the eve of
the Six Day War, Aviv obtained her permission to
render it in Aramaic. Translated as Yerushalayim Ai
Dheba, it is a beloved staple at "Nash Didan"
Aviv was born in Urmia, an ancient city in Iranian
"We spoke Aramaic at home, Turkish on the street and
learned Persian at school," he said.
"I knew a fair amount of Hebrew when we came to Israel
because it was taught in our Jewish schools. And
partly thanks to my Aramaic, I was able to speak like
a sabra in no time."
Aviv's lyrics are written in modern Aramaic and his
songs not only draw audiences from the various
Aramaic-speaking communities in Israel - located in
Holon, Givatayim and Jerusalem -- but also are played
on the Aramaic (or Syriac) radio and TV stations in
Australia, Canada and Sweden.
"Jerusalem of Gold is as popular abroad is it is
here," he said.
Aviv's music is based on three instruments: a drum
known as a dair'a, a five-stringed instrument plucked
like a balalaika or mandolin known as a kar kavkazi
and a Central Asian version of the cello known as a
Aviv has won the unstinting acclaim of one of Israel's
leading experts in cognate Semitic languages, Hezy
Mutzafi, who speaks half a dozen of the Aramaic and
Syriac dialects fluently. Noting that the "Nash
Didan" community consists of "only a few thousand"
Israelis (its members constitute a relatively small
percentage of an influx of nearly 200,000 immigrants
from Iran, Turkey and the Caucasus), Mutzafi points
out that it is also one of the least known Jewish
"Its focus is on culture, folklore and spoken
Aramaic," explained Mutzafi, referring to the latter
as lishan noshan or "our language."
Mutzafi singled out Aviv as one of the outstanding
activits in the "Nash Didan" community, a man who has
contributed mightily to its spiritual and cultural
Privately, Aviv is rather pessimistic about what the
future holds for the language and lifestyle he loves
and has tried to preserve.
"Our Aramaic is being forgotten," he said. "The
younger generation can understand it, but cannot speak
and in time, this too will be lost."
One project that gives Aviv hope is the Tel Aviv
University's development of an Aramaic dictionary.
"The trouble is that the project is enormous and the
funding available for it is miniscule," he said.
OrTorah: "Other" Jewish Languages
"Other" Jewish Languages
For most of their history, Jews have been
multilingual. Hebrew is the language of the Bible, the
principal language of Jewish liturgy, and the language
spoken in modern Israel--but it has been the primary
language of only a small percentage of Jews who have
The geographical diversity of the Jewish people
accounts for its multilingualism. Jews have adopted
the various languages of their homelands and also
spoken numerous Jewish hybrid languages.
By the beginning of the Common Era, Aramaic had
replaced Hebrew as the spoken language of Palestinian
Jews. The causes of Hebrew's decline are not wholly
understood, but it was certainly hastened by the
Babylonian exile in 587 B.C.E. and the continued
foreign rule of Palestine during the Second Temple
period. Aramaic, like Hebrew, is a Semitic language,
and there are many similarities between the two.
Because of Aramaic's prominence during the rabbinic
era, it is arguably the second most important Jewish
language--though it was spoken by non-Jews as well.
The Talmud is written in Aramaic, as is the Zohar, the
great medieval mystical text. One of the most well
known Jewish prayers, the kaddish, also is written in
Aramaic. During the talmudic era, Hebrew illiteracy
was so high that the Shabbat Torah reading was recited
along with a verse-by-verse translation into Aramaic.
Jewish hybrid languages have existed for more than two
millennia. Linguists have long puzzled with little
resolution over whether these tongues should be
considered dialects, unique languages, or Creole
languages (languages that began as pidgins--simplified
forms of speech, often mixtures of two languages--and
are later adopted as primary languages).
During the Second Temple Period Judeo-Greek, also
known as Yevanic, was spoken by Jews in the
Hellenistic world. Over the years many other such
hybrid languages emerged. These languages tended to
adopt structural and lexical elements of the local
languages, mixing them with Hebrew and Aramaic words.
They were usually written in Hebrew script.
The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa spoke
Judeo-Arabic. As early as the eighth century, Jews of
present day Iran and Afghanistan spoke Judeo-Persian.
Many Jews in Italy spoke Judeo-Italian, a language
featuring early South Italian elements and Hebrew
characters. Most of these languages, and many other
Jewish hybrid languages, are extinct or almost
The two most well known Jewish hybrid languages are
Judeo-Spanish -- better known as Ladino -- and
Judeo-Spanish was spoken by the Jews of medieval
Spain, as well as their descendants. It received most
of its linguistic characteristics from early-medieval
Spanish, but it was written in Hebrew characters.
Though Ladino is its earliest documented name, the
language is also known as Judezmo (which is a
linguistic equivalent of Yiddish) and Spanyol.
Today there are still some speakers of Judeo-Spanish
in the Balkans, North Africa, and Israel. The
Holocaust hastened the decline of the language; the
Nazis decimated many Judeo-Spanish speaking
communities--particularly in Greece and the Balkans.
In many ways, Yiddish is the German equivalent of
Judeo-Spanish. Yiddish is almost wholly German in its
linguistic structure and vocabulary, but it is written
in Hebrew characters. Yiddish originated in the
Rhineland cities of Germany in the early Middle Ages,
though the first recognizable Yiddish texts date from
the 14th century. Over the next few centuries, Yiddish
spread all over Europe, from Eastern France to the
More Jews have spoken Yiddish than any other language.
Prior to the Holocaust, Yiddish-speakers accounted for
75 percent of world Jewry, but during the Holocaust,
about 75 percent of the world's Yiddish speakers were
killed. Today, Yiddish is spoken by fewer and fewer
people, though it is still the primary spoken language
of many ultra-Orthodox Jews, and there are still
probably tens of thousands of Yiddish speakers in the
former Soviet states.
In addition, the study of Yiddish language and
literature is enjoying something of a renaissance on
some college campuses. And parts of the language live
on in the many Yiddish words that have become part of
English vernacular in America, such as nosh (which
means to snack) and mentsh (a gentleman).
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By Ruth Almog
Last Update: 18/11/2005 08:34
"Hanotzrim Hakhadashim Beportugal Be'meah Ha'esrim" ("New Christians
in Portugal in the 20th Century") by Samuel Schwarz, translated from
Portuguese and annotated by Claude B. Stuczynski, Dinur Center for
Research in Jewish History & Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History,
It has taken 80 years for a Hebrew translation to come out of Samuel
Schwarz's book on the Cristaos Novos ?(New Christians?), published in
Portugal in 1925, although it deals with one of the most traumatic and
unforgettable chapters in Jewish history.
It is a story whose general lines are familiar to the Israeli public:
the discovery in Portugal of the descendants of the anusim, the crypto
Jews of Iberia, who have secretly practiced Jewish customs, kept
Jewish holidays and continued to recite special prayers until today.
They live in various villages and towns in Portugal, mainly in the
northeast of the country, in Beiras and Tras-os-Montes, but can also
be found in Porto and Coimbra in western Portugal.
This book, with a detailed, in-depth introduction by Dr. Claude B.
Stuczynski, an expert in Portuguese Jewry, is a fascinating read, but
it also strikes an emotional chord. Appended to the text is a
collection of prayers translated into Hebrew ?(a collaborative effort
of the poet Shulamit Halevy and editor Ruth Toeg?), in addition to an
Samuel Schwarz, born in Poland in 1880, received religious instruction
at a traditional "heder" as a child, but went on to study road and
bridge engineering in Paris. At the age of 24, with a degree in mining
engineering, he worked for oil refineries in Baku, Azerbaijan, and in
coal mines in Poland, England and Spain. At 34, he married the
daughter of a Zionist banker, Shmuel Barabash of Odessa. In the wake
of World War I, they fled Russia, finally settling in Lisbon,
Portugal. Working at a tin mine in east Portugal, Schwarz discovered
the New Christians, as the converted Jews of Portugal and its colonies
?(Brazil, Goa and Capo Verde?) were called.
When the kings of Castilla decided to "cleanse" their country of Jews,
members of the Jewish community were given the choice of converting to
Christianity or expulsion. The majority left, but a few converted.
Some of the Jews crossed the border into Portugal. Others went to
Morocco, France and Italy. Many chose to settle in the Ottoman Empire.
Scarcely five years had passed before the scenario repeated itself in
Portugal, when the king sought the hand of a member of the Castillian
royal family. But in this case, the Jews were not allowed to leave.
The entire Jewish population was forcibly baptized. A handful managed
Burned at the stake
If it is true that close to 20 percent of the population of Portugal
was Jewish at the end of the 15th century, as the scholars claim, one
gets an idea of how many of today's Portuguese citizens have Jewish
roots. Over the years, they assimilated in Christian society, except
for small pockets of Jews who continued to practice their religion in
secret. Of those who clung to Judaism, many were tried by the
Inquisition in the 16th and 17th centuries. Such trials were even held
in Brazil. The accused were burned at the stake or imprisoned in
monasteries for the rest of their lives.
Notwithstanding all the persecution, one still finds small groups who
have preserved Jewish customs and recite Jewish prayers, albeit in
Portuguese. Three holidays are observed: Yom Kippur, Passover and the
Fast of Esther. In addition, they keep the Sabbath and pray three
times a day. They have special burial customs and do not eat pork on
the Sabbath or holidays. They marry only within the community.
As Claude Stuczynski observes, quite logically, the New Christian
phenomenon was probably more of a response to prejudice than a
"positive, self-motivated embrace of Jewish identity." The New
Christians were bitterly scorned and hated in Portugal. A pogrom in
Lisbon in the 16th century left more than 2,000 of them dead.
Stuczynski writes that until the early 20th century there were
churches in the northern provinces where New Christians were forced to
sit behind partitions.
"The Awakening," a wonderful novel by Spanish author Ana Maria Matute
published in Hebrew translation many years ago, challenges
Stuczynski's conclusion. In her account of growing up in Majorca in
the 20th century, Matute writes about the despised "chuetas" −
descendants of the local crypto Jews − who were actually devout
Catholics but were still treated with disdain and shunted to the
margins of society.
Samuel Schwarz writes about the New Christians of Belmonte and how
hard it was to gain their trust. He discovered that the women were the
ones who safeguarded these traditions and knew the prayers by heart.
At communal gatherings, they served as cantors and ran the services.
"These poor women did not know Hebrew and were not even aware it
existed," he says, "so they continued to be suspicious of me. This
went on until one evening, as we tried yet again to convince the New
Christians that we were members of the Jewish people, an old woman
asked us to recite at least one prayer in 'the Jewish language you say
is spoken by the Jews.'"
Schwarz chose the Shma prayer ?("Hear O Israel?). Each time he uttered
the word "adonay" ?("the Lord"?) the women covered their eyes with
their hands. "When we finished," he writes, "the old woman turned to
those around her and announced in a tone of great authority: 'The man
is a Jew. He said adonay!'"
Living in the dark
Schwarz, it bears pointing out, was not the first person to "discover"
the New Christians, but his encounter in Belmonte inspired him to
research the phenomenon, and the publication of his book triggered a
wave of writing on the subject, some of it anti-Semitic in tone.
Schwarz breaks new ground with his findings about the wide dispersion
of New Christian communities and the collection of prayers he appends
to the book.
One of these prayers is hauntingly similar to the "Yigdal Elhohim Hai"
?("Exalted is the Living God"?) hymn recited in the morning service −
a lyrical rendition of Maimonides' "Thirteen Principles of Faith." It
is called the "Ani Ma'amin" ?("I Believe"?) prayer and appears in the
original Portuguese, followed by a Hebrew translation, as are all the
prayers in the book. The Portuguese text is not an exact translation
of the Hebrew hymn, which is believed to have been written in Italy in
the 14th century by Emmanuel Haromi, but it is very close.
One cannot help but wonder how this hymn survived. The mind boggles to
think that Maimonides' "Thirteen Principles of Faith," composed in the
12th century and chanted toward the end of the morning service on
weekdays, became part of a Portuguese prayer recited by crypto Jews
who did not even know the Hebrew language existed and refused to talk
to Schwarz because they believed that secrecy was integral to their
religion. Incredibly, Maimonides' "Thirteen Principles," or the hymn
based on it, has survived in Portuguese for 500 years − and they never
even heard of Maimonides. Which shows how cultural values can live in
dark and unknown corners for hundreds of years until one day they
burst forth into the light, virtually unchanged, despite a change of
The Jews of Sicily: Jewish Namesposted by Rufina Bernardetti Silva Mausenbaum to Saudades-Sefarad @YahooGroups
|Sicilian-Americans conducting family research have some excellent published guidelines to follow. Italian Genealogical Records by Trafford R. Cole is one and Finding Italian Roots by John Philip Colleta, is another. By following their suggestions your own research approach would include documenting stateside sources such as: information from relatives, immigration and naturalization records, census records, ship manifests, passports, etc. In Sicily your research would then go to municipal and provincial records which go back as far as the 1820s, then religious records which go back as far as about 1556 and then possibly earlier records such as tax and notary records which go back several hundreds of years farther. |
With Ferdinand's Edict of Expulsion of 1492, all Sicilian Jews who did not want to convert to Christianity had 90 days to get out of the Spanish realm under penalty of death. The fire sale was on. The fraction of the Jewish population that were merchants, and had property, had to sell it, pay the tax that was imposed, and leave. This included the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. They all had to sell their tools and workshops, pay the taxes, and leave.
Of course, all transactions had to be dutifully notarized.
As a result of this painful circumstance, some fragments of notary records going back to 1492 exist in Sicilian Provincial State Archives that record the names of the Jewish sellers and the Christian buyers. Francesco Giunta and Laura Sciascia published a paper in Italia Judaica that contains their transcriptions of some of those fragments.
Here's an alphabetical listing of the Jewish surnames and given names extracted from their paper:
Abrac aurifici Paxi
Attuni (Actuni) Azarono
Aurifice (Laurifice) Abram
Ben Iosep Iacob
Ben Iosep Leone
Ben Iosep Salomon
La Bonavogla Prospero
Lu Medicu Abram
Lu Medicu David
Lu Medicu Salomone
Lu Medicu Samuele
Lu Presti Busacca
Lu Presti Iacob
Lu Presti Scibita
Polizzi Anna (Xanna)
Raskisi (Falichisi) Iuda
|Here's another alphabetical listing of Jewish surnames and given names used in Sicily before 1492. These names were extracted from Professor Martino's paper on The Jews of Messina.|
Abraham Rabbi Jacob ben
Abulafia Abraham ben Shemuel
ben Nachman Mosheh
ben Shalom Rabbi Abraham
Ben Yij˜ Abraham
Ben Yij˜ Mubaschir
Ben Yij˜ Surur
Ben Yij˜ Shamwal
Ben Yij˜ Moshe
Ben Yij˜ Yusuf
Bonavoglia (Heftz) MosË (Mohe)
Chanchio Sacerdote (prob. Rabbi)
da Bertinoro Obadiý
di Dioniso GiosuË
di Minisci. Salomone
di Minisci. Azaria
Hadad Rabbi Nathan ben Sa 'adiah
Sanguinetti Rav Ismaele
Sigilmasi Rabbi Sa 'adiah ben Izahaq
Tzarfati Rabbi Natronay
Community email addresses:
Portuguese-Jewish History: http://www.saudades.org
Celebrating Our Portuguese-Jewish Heritage
November 8, 2005
Way before there were packaged trips to Aruba, Jews
have been visiting the Dutch Caribbean. They didn't
come just for sun and fun. It was for the usual
reason-to escape persecution.
The Dutch have always been benevolent toward the Jews.
So it follows that the Dutch Caribbean Islands would
be a refuge for them. Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao
(pronounced cur-as-ow), Saba (pronounced say-ba), St.
Maarten, St. Eustatius (called Statia and pronounced
Surinam (formerly Dutch Guyana) offered them a better
life. Jews prospered in the fields of commerce, sugar
cultivation and finance.
Ironically, the first Jew to come to the New World was
Christopher Columbus's interpreter, Luis de Torres.
The Inquisition banned the Jews from participating in
an expedition, but de Torres wanted to live and make a
living. He converted to Christianity alongside the
ship, just before it sailed.
De Torres didn't stay, but Marranos did. As early as
1502, they lived secretly in Brazil-many settled in
Recife. Freedom came with the Dutch capture of the
territory. But, in 1654, the Portuguese returned and
resumed the Inquisition. The Jews quickly relocated to
Surinam, Curacao and Statia.
Surinam lies just east of Venezuela. Crypto-Jews
arrived as early as 1536, but another Jewish colony,
Torarica (rich torah), was formed in 1639.
Under the sponsorship of the English governor, Lord
Willoughby, migration from England began in 1652.
Given religious rights, the colony, Joden Savanna,
thrived, and prosperity continued when the Dutch took
over in 1667.
Neve Shalom Synagogue was built in Paramaribo. By
1736, one-fourth of the sugar plantations were owned
by Jews. They even had their own militia. Bitter
disagreements soon arose between the Ashkenazim and
the Sephardim. The Sephardim ceded Neve Shalom and
built Tsedek Ve Shalom, complete with sand floor. (It
is said that sand floors were originally used to
muffle the sound of crypto-Jews' footsteps and
prayers. It also symbolized the desert wanderings.)
The settlement decline is attributed to the plunder of
plantations and the 1832 fire in Joden Savanna. The
bankruptcy of the Amsterdam business house, Dietz, and
the introduction of beet sugar didn't help much
Today there are about 70 Jewish families in Surinam,
many of them high-level civil servants. The entire
contents of Tsedek Ve Shalom are in Israel's Jewish
Museum. Neve Shalom is still used, and alongside it
is a Moslem mosque.
Curacao is the Jewish jewel of the Caribbean. Since
1634, when Samuel Coheno was appointed Chief Steward
of the native Indian population, Jews have called it
home. Refuges escaping Inquisitions in Recife and
began arriving in 1651.
The Dutch totally accepted the Jews. In fact, Jews
were the only foreigners who didn't have to leave the
city at night. Immigration swelled, and by the 19th
century, the island had the largest Jewish population
in the Americas.
Jews began as planters, but were most successful as
merchants and ship owners. Language skills made them
interpreters, which helped to establish commerce
between Europe and the Americas. Ironically, many
dealt in the slave trade.
The first temple, a wooden house founded in 1659 in
the De Hoop (The Hope) area, became Mikve Israel. A
rift in 1864 brought the founding of Temple Emanuel, a
reformed congregation. It took 100 years and two
floundering congregations to solve their differences
The 1920s brought the Ashkenazim. Not surprisingly,
they had differences with the Sephardim. Their
Orthodox shul, Shaarei Tzedek, is located in the
Today, the former Temple Emanuel, with its steeple and
stained glass windows, is a government law office. But
the famous, sand-floored Mikve Israel-Emanuel,
consecrated in 1732, is legendary. Its bima and seats
of the finest mahogany, huge chandelier, organ and
four columns-one for each of the matriarchs-make it
elegant. The Dutch colonial-designed structure is the
Western Hemisphere's oldest synagogue in continuous
use. It is also one of the island's biggest
Involvement ended at Beit Chaim Bleinhelm, located
west of the Joden Kwartier. It is estimated that
between 5,200 and 5,500 people are buried here at the
Western Hemisphere's oldest cemetery. Unfortunately,
many of the elaborately sculptured tombstones have
been damaged by erosion.
The Jewish community, about 600, is still very much a
part of the island. They welcome landsmen.
Not many people are aware of the seven-square-mile St.
Eustatius, affectionately known as Statia. It was a
big deal in the mid-1800s-the hub of commerce between
the Americas and Europe. A free port, it supplied the
U.S. with arms during the Revolution.
David Seraiva and Abraham Henriquea, the isle's first
Jews, came here from Recife in 1660. Other Jews
followed, leaving abruptly each time French pirates
took control of the island. When the Dutch regained
control, they returned, and the Jews prospered. In
1739, they erected their synagogue, Honen Dalim
(Merciful to the Poor), which was so affluent, it had
two rabbis. A hurricane destroyed it in 1772, but it
With an 11-gun salute to the American Brig-of-War, the
"Andrew Doria," on Nov. 16, 1776, Statia became the
first country to recognize U.S. independence. For this
goodwill gesture, British Admiral Rodney raided and
torched the warehouses five years later, which
economically destroyed the island. Merchants, most of
them Jews, were looted and deported to St. Kitts and
Antigua. Ironically, the Pollack brothers, Americans
who escaped to Statia because they were pro-British,
suffered the same fate.
Today the shell of Honen Dalim still stands on "Jews
Way" or "Synagogue Path." It has been refurbished. The
stairs leading to the women's level are still in
place. A mikvah and the cemetery, surrounded by a
stone wall and two iron gates representing the Ten
Commandments, are located at the end of Princessweg
Road. No Jews currently reside on the island.
In 1754, Moses Solomon Levie Maduro sailed to Aruba
from Curacao to established a branch of the Dutch West
India Company. Others followed, but a true Jewish
community never really took hold. Evidence of a Jewish
presence from that time is a small cemetery in
The Holocaust started a Jewish migration in 1938. With
the establishment of Palm Beach's Jewish Country Club
four years later, the community was officially
launched. The club no longer exists, but the community
does. Beth Israel Synagogue was built in 1962. Today
it has a full-time rabbi. And for a little nosh, there
is the Kineret Aruba Kosher Deli.
Rodney's 1781 raid on Statia spurred the Jewish
settlement on the neighboring island of St. Maarten.
It never really thrived. A synagogue erected on
Archerstaat (Back Street) became a pile of rubble
within 40 years. The Guavaberry Emporium is thought to
be the site of an old synagogue and off Front Street
there is a small alley-like street known as Jews
Cemetery Way. The walkway leads past the synagogue and
Tourism has brought a resurgence of the St. Maarten
Jewish community. There is no synagogue, but one is
planned. About 20 Jewish families reside on the island
as well as a Torah which is kept under lock and key.
November 8, 2005, 7:00 PM
RETURN TO JUDAISM: CRYPTO JEWS (ANOUSIM) AROUND THE WORLD
Yaffah daCosta will join Rabbi Marc D. Angel of Congregation Shearith Israel to talk about an extraordinary and growing phenomenon of our time the desire of forcibly converted Jews or anousim from Spain, Portugal, Brazil, and parts of the Americas to return to the religion of their ancestors. Yaffah daCosta is founder and director of Ezra L'Anousim, a Jerusalem-based organization dedicated to reconnecting crypto-Jews with their Jewish heritage. Of "Anousim" background, the story of her discovery of and return to Judaism is fascinating and inspiring. Ezra L'Anousim is playing a vital role in reaching out to crypto-Jews throughout the world.
Co-sponsor: Congregation Shearith Israel
Admission: Free admission
Location: 8 West 70th Street, NYC
An Article about the Early Relations between the Jewish Communities in the Caribbean and the Guianas and Those of the Near East 17th to 19th Centuries
by Mordechaï Arbell
sent to the Saudades-Sefarad forum by Carlos Valencia
The Jewish exodus from Portugal, in the beginning of the 16th century was caused mainly by the installation of the "Holy Office of the Inquisition" there. Since the forced conversion of the Jews to Catholicism in 1497, they had lived as so-called "New Christians." For those who wanted to continue to profess their Judaism in the privacy of their homes, in a quiet, discreet manner, there was no clerical authority that could punish them for doing so. In Spain where the Inquisition was very active throughout the Spanish provinces following the activities of the "conversos" and persecuting them if they were caught continuing their Jewish practices, the newly converted Jews of Portugal could keep their Judaism silently and unobtrusively.
As an exodus of small groups, families, and even individuals, the exodus of the Jews from Portugal was not similar to the massive one from Spain. It continued from the 16th century to well into the 19th. The emigrants from Portugal proceeded mainly to Western Europe - France (Bayonne and Bordeaux); The Netherlands; Germany (Hamburg); Denmark (Copenhagen as well as Altona and Gluckstadt which at that time were in Danish hands); Italy (Leghorn, Venice, and Florence); and to the Mediterranean ports of Ragusa (Dubrovnik), Salonica, Istanbul, and Izmir. Some of the Jewish exiles from Portugal left for North Africa or to the Far East. In most of these places conversos returned to Judaism.
In the beginning of the 17th century interest in the economic potential of the Americas grew among the non-Iberian powers of Europe: France, England, The Netherlands, and later on Denmark. Netherlands started settling parts of Brazil (Recife, Olinda) which was held by Portugal, the so-called Wild Coast (between the Amazon River and the Orinoco), Cayenne (now French Guyana), Pomeroon, Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo
(now the Republic of Guiana), and Curaçao which was held by Spain. England settled the island of Barbados, the island of Jamaica which was held by Spain, the island of Nevis and Surinam on the Wild Coast. France occupied Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Haiti. Denmark settled the Virgin Islands. the new colonizing powers, except France, were Protestant, such that Jews who reconverted from Catholicism to Judaism were not liable to persecution. Jews leaving Portugal saw these colonies as very suitable for their settlement. The colonizing powers saw the Jews as a very positive human element for settlement. Their expertise in trading, shipping, and banking, their knowledge of Spanish and Portuguese was useful for commerce with Spanish and Portuguese America.
With the reoccupation by Portugal of the Dutch-held parts of Brazil, in 1654, the Jews were forced to leave Recife and Olinda, and seek other places of settlement. Now they were also regarded as experienced planters and traders in tropical produce - sugar, cacao, vanilla, and indigo - and people coming from Brazil were used to life in tropical conditions and therefore were very much needed in the American colonies. These exiles from Dutch Brazil took their place among the main producers of sugar in Cayenne, Pomeroon, Surinam, Barbados, Jamaica, Martinique, and Guadeloupe. The "Black Code" promulgated in 1683 by the French king Louis XIV instigated the expulsion of the Jews from the French-held islands.
This fresh diaspora of Jewish exiles from Spain and Portugal formed communities that remained, despite significant distances, very closely linked with the Sephardi centers the world over with sentiments of kinship and brotherhood. The most observant of the exiles made the effort, despite the difficulties and hardship, to return to the Land of Israel and settle there -. they were a minority. Others that left Portugal joined their coreligionists from Spain in the Balkans and in the Eastern Mediterranean, where they could join the centers of Jewish leaning and observance. Those who reached America somehow decided that their return to the land of their forefathers could be postponed. This is very well illustrated in the diary of Jeosua Nunes Netto and Joseph Pereira written in September 1657 on their arrival to the Jewish settlement of New Middelbourg on the Pomeroon river on the Wild Coast:
Thank God who has brought us from hell to the peace of this beautiful land. Here our bodies will lay to rest, until the time comes when they will be transferred to the land of our forefathers - Jerusalem.1
The decision to see America as their more or less permanent place of settlement, their life for several generations as "New Christians" with no Hahams (i.e., rabbis), no Jewish schools, no synagogues, all had taken its toll on their knowledge of Judaism. With their return to the faith of their ancestors, they had a strong desire to observe it fully. At the same time their weakness in religious matters made it impossible for them to produce the necessary spiritual leaders.
The very generous "rights and privileges" given to the Jews of the Caribbean area and in the Guianas in the 17th century allowed the religious leaders to assume special responsibilities. The English in Surinam and the Dutch in Cayenne, Pomeroon, and Curaçao permitted the Jews to administer their own lives, to have their own courts of law for litigation among themselves, to maintain their own schools, to build synagogues, and to observe the Sabbath. Such rights were available to Jews at that time in very few places in the world.
The Haham, with the help of the community leaders - "the Mahamad" - had to take care of the synagogue, the schools, the courts, the cemeteries; to perform circumcisions, marriages, funerals; to arrange for cantors, ritual slaughters, sextons, and community physicians; to provide for widows, orphans, and the needy (haspacoth); to take care of dowries for unmarried women
("santa compania para dotar donzelas"), assistance to transients, ransom of captives, contributions to the Holy Land; and relations with the authorities and other religious groups. They also had to promulgate the rules and regulations of the community (Haskamot).
The communities depended on the religious centers around the Near East or in Amsterdam in their correspondence and on the import of Hahams, preferably originating in the Balkans or the Mediterranean region, or individuals born as conversos in Spain and Portugal who had returned to Judaism, studied in rabbinical academies, and were renowned for their knowledge and piety.
At the time of the expulsion from Spain, those who left the country were the hardcore Jews, not willing to convert. They preferred a life of exile and diaspora to one of genuine or false converts. The largest group left for Portugal where they were condemned to live the life of forced converts while maintaining their Judaism in secret. Jews who headed for the Ottoman Empire were able to continue their Jewish life without restraint and strengthen and enhance their Jewish identity. Those who left Spain and Portugal after living for several generations as secret Jews and wished to bolster their Jewishness turned in their new places of residence in Europe to schools and academies to reimmerse themselves in Jewish studies and expand their Jewish consciousness.
The Caribbean Jews preferred spiritual leaders from the two groups mentioned above as they felt they would obtain better understanding of their special situation as well as leadership that would meet their needs. Responsa, correspondence with a rabbinical authority featuring questions on how to act on religious matters, was usually directed to Istanbul, and in some cases to Salonica (usually when regular contact with Istanbul was very difficult). For instance, we learn from the responsa of Hayim Shabbetai, compiled in 1772, that early settlers in Brazil, having no rabbinical authority among them wrote to Hayim Shabbetai of Salonika, asking whether the seasonal prayer for rain should be altered, given the difference in the seasons in the southern hemisphere.2
When the number of Jewish settlers in Dutch Brazil grew almost to the number of Jews in Amsterdam, the community members saw the need to import a Haham. In 1641 Isaac Aboab da Fonseca arrived in Recife. Aboab was born in 1605 in Castro Daire, Portugal, into a converso family which fled to St. Jean de Luz in France; Aboab had his Jewish upbringing in Amsterdam. He became the first rabbi in the Americas and served in Brazil until 1654 (the Portuguese occupation) when he returned to Amsterdam and followed a brilliant career.
With the foundation of the "Mikve Israel" community on the island of Curaçao in
1659, the community began to expand with the newly arrived Jews from Amsterdam and then with Jews who came after the destruction of the Jewish communities of Cayenne and Pomeroon, and the unsuccessful attempt to have a Jewish settlement on the island of Tobago. The community needed a spiritual leader and the choice fell on the Haham Josiau Pardo, a descendant of a Salonica family of Hahams.
Pardo arrived in Curaçao in 1674. He updated the community regulations
(Haskamot) and founded the first rabbinical academy in the Americas, "Etz Hayim." In 1683 he went to serve as the Haham of Port Royal, Jamaica. It is not known whether he perished in 1692 after the disastrous earthquake and tidal wave that destroyed the city of Port Royal, including its synagogue, or whether he died earlier.
His son David served at the beginning of the 18th century as the Haham of Surinam. Curaçao continued with its custom of preferring Hahams and spiritual leaders who either came from the Near East or were born as conversos in Spain and Portugal. Being the spiritual center of the Jewish communities in the Caribbean area, and often called the "mother" of the Jewish communities of the Americas in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its religious administration and its rabbinical academy influenced all the communities in the area.
At about the same time, the Jewish community of Barbados, "Nidhei Israel," was organized, and here again the members were anxious to have a leader. Their choice was a Haham stemming from Spain, Eliau Lopez. Born as a converso in Malaga in 1648, Lopez returned to Judaism in Amsterdam. His arrival in Barbados in 1678 to serve the two Jewish communities there, Bridgetown and Speighstown, was very remarkable - a tall figure with flowing robes as worn by the Hahams of the Mediterranean area - even the English authorities on the island were impressed.3
Barbados was one of the rare places in the Caribbean where the authorities and the population had distinctly pronounced anti- Jewish feelings. Haham Lopez, however, was held in great respect by all residents. This was the reason that in time of crisis the bigger and more prestigious community of Curaçao, nominated Haham Lopez to serve as their spiritual leader. He arrived in Curaçao in 1693, after a cholera epidemic, and following the exodus of groups of Jews to Newport, Rhode Island,4 and Tucacas, Venezuela.5 He organized the Jewish cemetery, founded the synagogue erected in 1703, and administered the community and its Jewish schools.
A Chief Haham of the same origin Lisbon-born (1699) Samuel Mendes de Sola, who reconverted to Judaism in Amsterdam where he pursued his rabbinical studies. In 1744 he was contacted by the Curaçao community. During his tenure one can see the growing difference between the Hahams, who wanted to introduce customs acquired in Amsterdam, influenced by the proximity to the German communities, and the Caribbean Jews, who had become accustomed to the lax tropical atmosphere in their everyday life and who had no desire to change the familiar traditional ways inherited from their forefathers in Spain and Portugal. Angry exchanges between the Chief Haham and the community lay leaders became more and more common.
These pious Hahams had to adapt themselves to the special conditions of the Caribbean. One issue was how to deal with children born as a result of the not uncommon relations between Jewish men and their servant girls. Another problem was that of the wives of numerous Jewish seafarers who had disappeared or not returned to their homes for many years. In the search for solutions the Hahams had to reconcile strict obligations to Jewish law with the unique conditions of Jewish life in the Caribbean. The fate of the rule promoted by the Surinam community, namely, that every Jew must grow a beard, serves as a typical example. In response to the rule, many Jews presented the Haham medical certificates attesting that the growing of a beard causes rashes and skin diseases to the bearer of the certificate and that he must be exempted from doing so.6 There were strict Hahams who often resorted to the punishment of excommunication (Herem) of those who did not abide by the rules. This was a very severe punishment in a society of islanders who lived in groups who had no external social relations.
These discussions continued during the tenure of the Haham Lopez da Fonseca
(served 1764-1815), the son-in-law of Haham de Sola, and resulted in an open clash with the arrival of Cantor Piza in 1816.
Piza, a descendant of a very prestigious family of Istanbul Hahams, was invited to Curaçao to serve as a cantor and to eventually become the Chief Haham.7 Born and educated in Amsterdam, he was already influenced by the customs and usages of modern European Sephardi Jews. His way of service clashed with the majority of the community members. On one side, angry voices called for his dismissal. On the other, he had a strong group of supporters. The rift degenerated into the secession from the established community of the protesters against Piza. They left the synagogue as well and prayed in private houses. Curaçao Jewry broke into two communities with separate cemeteries, separate administration of Jewish laws
(marriages, births, funerals, ritual slaughter, and so on).
The Jewish population of Curaçao was an important part of this Dutch colony, and at times comprised over half of the white population of the island. Thus it was imperative that the rift be mended. By order of the Royal house of Holland and with the help of the head of the rabbinical court, Daniel Lopez-Penha, reconciliation was achieved, but Cantor Piza had to go. The hunger for religious leaders was so great that Piza obtained a contract to serve the Jewish community of Charlotte Amalie on the island of St. Thomas where he remained for many years.8 His descendants became quite prominent in the Jewish communities of Panama and Costa Rica.
The lack of suitable Hahams forced the Curaçao community to use leaders from their own midst, known as "assessors," as substitute Hahams. The most prominent, Daniel Lopez-Penha, descendant of an Izmir, Turkey, family which played an active role in maintaining Jewish life on the Caribbean coast in Curaçao, Barranquilla (Colombia), and the Dominican Republic.9 For communities smaller than Curaçao and Surinam, the expense of importing and maintaining a Haham was quite high, but when the community felt the need, they did not hesitate to hire a spiritual leader.
A typical example is Barbados. The relatively small community there saw that Jewish observance was waning. They decided to hire Meir Hacohen Belinfante, a descendant of a family of Hahams, cantors, teachers, and writers which had settled in Dalmatia (Dubrovnik and Split)10 when fleeing the Portuguese Inquisition. In this instance, too, there was a clash between the strict, disciplined, pious Haham from the Balkans and the lax tropical life of Barbados (1752). With difficulties, he instituted and orderly religious administration. His death in 1773 found the Barbados community as a whole in mourning. The depression was so all pervasive that when an emissary of the Holy Land, Haham Raphael Haim Isaac Carigal (see below for further information on him), passed through Barbados, the state of the community convinced him to remain there as its Haham until his death in
1777. Other members of the Hacohen Belinfante family served as religious teachers in Jamaica.11 Jamaican Jews were dispersed in at least 13 locations all over the island. Over 16 Jewish cemeteries have been located. A need was felt for a Haham who would be able to serve the entire island. The choice fell on Joshua Hizquiau de Cordova. He was a member of a Sephardi family originating in Istanbul. Born in Amsterdam, he arrived in Curaçao to teach the Bible and Talmud in Ladino translations and also to hold services and preach.12 In 1755 he accepted the invitation of the Jamaican community to serve there as the Chief Haham of all the important communities, "Shaar Hashamaim" in Kingston, "Neve Shalom" in Spanish Town, and "Neve Zedek" in Port Royal. He fulfilled this function until his death in 1797. He wrote several books, the most important being Reason and Faith, considered the first American volume of Jewish apologetics, in which he defended the Jewish religion against the pronouncements of Spinoza, Voltaire, and Hume.
Caribbean communities had to rely on the services of itinerant emissaries from the Holy Land or from the Mediterranean ports for guidance, instruction, and maintenance of Jewish traditions. Sometimes those emissaries remained and serves as rabbis for limited periods of time. Their main aim was to collect funds and donations for the communities in Palestine and for the rabbinical academies there. Their mission was also to maintain the continuation of Jewish life in the Americas.
Portuguese Jews considered contributions to the Holy Land as part of life and as a must. Donations were sent by special carriers through Venice, Vienna, Istanbul, and Izmir. Committees for funds for Holy Land were formed in every Sephardi community as were bodies for community aid "para gozar la morada del Cielo" (to enjoy the place where God is present). The rabbinical academies in Palestine, which in the 16th and 17th centuries were mainly Portuguese Jewish and located in Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and Tiberias, usually reciprocated by sending sand from the Holy Land in the Caribbean (in Surinam, Curaçao, Jamaica, and St. Thomas) where synagogue floors are covered with sand, the sand of the Holy Land was mixed with the local grains.13 Sand from the Holy Land was also used for burials.
Emissaries from the Holy Land were sent to the Americas to collect funds for synagogues, rabbinical academies, and communities in Palestine. These messengers were received with greatest respect and were lodged in the best Jewish homes. Usually accompanied by two local dignitaries, the emissary would visit the contributors, pay official visits to the authorities, and participate in family feasts. At the same time, the emissaries preached in the synagogue, instructed the circumcisers and ritual slaughterers and oversaw their performance, and helped the communities write their rules and regulations.
Usually, the emissaries bore official letters of presentation, which gave them official recognition. The first such document addressed to the "Holy Communities of Israel who had settled in parts of America" was given in 1772 to Shmuel Hacohen of Hebron who went to Barbados. The list of emissaries is quite long: 1749, R. Moshe Haguel; 1750, R. Selomo Zeeli of Hebron;
1757, R. Eliah ben Araya; 1758, R. Moshe Malki of Safed.
The most impressive emissary was Raphael Haim Isaac Carigal. His life is typical of what an emissary had to do in his double capacity of collecting funds and striving to maintain Judaism. Born in Hebron in 1729 to a Portuguese Jewish family, after visiting communities in Asia and Europe he arrived in Curaçao in 1761. There he was also engaged as a Haham for over two years. In 1771 he was in Jamaica where he stayed for a year. After a well-publicized stay of five months with the Portuguese Jewish community in Newport, Rhode Island, founded by Jews from Barbados and Curaçao, he sailed for Surinam (1773), where he remained for half a year before proceeding to Barbados in 1774.14 Special emissaries were sent to the Caribbean if there was a large-scale disaster in the Near East or the Mediterranean. The mutual help flowing between the communities in the Caribbean and those of the Mediterranean was limited to Spanish-Portuguese Jews only.
Haham Yahacob Saul of Izmir came to Curaçao in 1744 to collect funds to "overcome the misfortunes that befell that community";15 in 1759, Haham David Florentin collected funds for Salonica after the plague had struck there;16 Haham Haim Modahi collected funds after the 1765 earthquake in Safed;17 and Haham Abraham Leon was sent as an emissary to Curaçao, St. Eustatius, and St. Thomas to raise funds after a fire destroyed nine synagogues in Izmir in 1774.18 One of the duties of a Jewish community was to obtain the release of Jewish captives, slaves, and hostages. Many Caribbean Jews were shipowners and also captains of their own ships. In the conduct of their business they often acted against the interests of Spain by importing and exporting merchandise from the Spanish colonies in Latin America to Dutch and English territories, activity considered illegal by Spain. Spanish warships in some instances captured these ships, and if on them they caught Jews who had been born Catholic and reconverted to Judaism, the Jews were brought to the tribunals of the Inquisition in Spain itself (to Cadiz or San Sebastian).19 In such cases the Dutch ambassador in Madrid had to intervene, most often with little success. It was the Spanish-Portuguese communities in Gibraltar and Bayonne that invested effort towards obtaining the release of the Caribbean Jewish captives by paying high sums to ransom them. Usually, those communities were reimbursed by the prisoners' home communities.20 Jews lived in Dutch, English, and Danish colonies in the Caribbean. Yet, their language in the 17th and 18th centuries remained Spanish or Portuguese. They physically observed their religion in America, but spiritually they remained in the Mediterranean basin.
The employment of learned individuals from the Near East and the Mediterranean area to serve as Hahams in the Caribbean continued well into the
20th century. With the destruction of most of the Spanish-Portuguese Jewish communities in Europe during the Holocaust and the emigration of the Caribbean Jews to Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic, the Jewish communities in the Caribbean began to diminish in number and could no longer rely on communities in the Balkans or around the Mediterranean to provide spiritual succor.
1. 1 Dr. J. Meijer, Pioneers of Pauroma (Pomeroon), Paramaribo (1954), pp. 23-24, based on the compilation by R. Bijlsma, Archief for Nederlandisch Portugeesch-Israelitsche Gemeente in Suriname, Gravenhage.
2. Hayim Shabbetai, Torat Hayim, Saloniki (1722), p. 192.
3. Wilfred S. Samuel, "A Review of the Jewish Colonists in Barbados in the Year
1680," in Transactions of the Historical Society of England, 13
4. Isaac S. and Suzanne A. Emmanuel, History of the Jews of the Nederlands Antilles, Cincinnati (1970), pp. 90-91.
5. MordechaiArbell, "Rediscovering Tucacas," in American Jewish Archives, 48
6. Robert Cohen, Jews in Another Environment, Leiden (1991), pp. 154-55
7. Vida Lindo Gutherman, "The Chronicle of Joshua Piza and His Descendants," manuscript copy with M. Arbell, pp. 3-4.
8. Lindo, pp. 5-6.
9. Mordechai Arbell, "The Annals of the Lopez Penha Family-1660-1924," in Pe'amim, 48 (1991),
10. Yakir Eventov, A History of Yugoslav Jews from Ancient Times to the End of the 19th Century, Tel Aviv (1971), p. 4.
11. Mordechai Arbell, "The Cohen Belinfante Family of Dubrovnik (Ragusa) and Their Diaspora in Barbados, Jamaica, Amsterdam, and Hamburg-16th to 19th Centuries," manuscript, 1998, p. 11.
12. Bertram W. Korn, AJA,. 18 (1966), 141-50.
13. Gerard Nahon, "Les Relations entre Amsterdam et Constantinople au XVIIIe Siecle d'apres le Copiador de Cartas de la Nation Juive Portuguese d'Amsterdam," in Dutch Jewish History, Jerusalem (1984), p. 165
14. Abraham Yaari, Sheluhei Eretz Israel, Jerusalem (1951), pp. 580-83.
15. Emmanuel, p. 166.
17. Ibid., p. 167.
19. Ibid., p.222-26.
20. Ibid., p. 225.