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Sephardic Jews Leave Genetic Legacy In Spain - HISTORY

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Author Topic: Sephardic Jews Leave Genetic Legacy In Spain - HISTORY  (Read 6242 times)
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« Reply #15 on: December 07, 2008, 12:46:56 pm »

                                           THE SEPHARDIC JEWS IN PORTUGAL

                                                   Crypto Jews of Portugal

The Jews that integrated into Portuguese Christian society were able to retain relative autonomy and their own organization by a delicate balance of compromise, concession and interdependence, until the 15th. century.

According to legend, the first Jews came to the Iberian Peninsula at the time of Nabucodonosor, King of the Chaldeans (6th century) or even before, at the time of Solomon who reigned in Israel from 974B.C. to 937B.C. While these hypotheses may lie in the legendary domain, it has been ascertained that the Jewish presence in Iberia preceded and accompanied that of the Romans.

From the 5th. century onward the Jews reinforced their position and remained active in Peninsular society during the Visigoth and Muslim periods of occupation.

When the kingdom of Portugal was formed, in the 12th century, there were already a number of important Jewish communities in several cities re-conquered by the Christians.

Generally speaking, Portuguese Jews enjoyed the protection of the Crown during the first dynasty. D. Afonso Henriques entrusted Yahia Ben Yahi III with the post of supervisor of tax collection and nominated him the first chief rabbi of Portugal. D. Sancho I (1185-1211)continued the same policy as his father, making Jose Ben Yahia, the grandson of Yahia Ben Yahia, High Steward of the Realm.

The clergy, however, invoking the restrictions of the Lateran Council, brought considerable pressure to bear against the Jews during the reign of D.Dinis (1279-1325), but the monarch maintained a conciliatory position.

Later, anti-Jewish movements became increasingly apparent in the Iberian Peninsula during the political crisis of 1383-1385, which accentuated the rivalries between Portugal and Castile. The crisis culminated in the establishment of the Avis dynasty and the accession of Joao I to the throne. In 1391, serious incidents between Christians and Jews in Seville and other places, provoked a growing wave of Jewish migration from Spain to a welcoming Portugal. Thus, the beginning of the second dynasty (1385) also initiated a new era for the Portuguese-Jewish population which was to embark on a period of great prosperity.

In the period 1279 to 1383, there were some 31 communes in various parts of the country, but in the 15th century this number increased so rapidly that soon there were 135 judiarias or Jewish quarters in different places.

Nevertheless, if this was the golden age of the Jewish community in Portugal, when crucially important contributions were made to the development of the county at the economic, cultural and scientific level, it was also a period during which the first, major social tensions between Jews and Christians were to appear.

Intolerance largely stemmed from the emerging mercantile, middle class which was alarmed by the not inconsiderable competition of Jewish capital.

During the reign of King Joao I (1385-1432) decrees were passed which required Jews to wear a special habit with a distinctive emblem and to obey a curfew at night. In the reign of D. Duarte, from 1433-1438, laws were introduced which prevented Jews from employing Christians. D.Afonso V, however, was to return to the more tolerant policy of the first dynasty and some of the rights that had been withdrawn were restored, particularly those which allowed Jews to hold public office.

In 1492 Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain signed a decree expelling all Jews who refused to be converted to Christianity. A considerable number moved into Portugal where the king authorized their entry on payment of 8 cruzados a head, and on the understanding that after 8 months they would move on elsewhere.

The measures taken by D.Manuel I, (1495-1521) were as complex as they were ambiguous. At first the king maintained a neutral attitude and revoked the decree of his predecessor, freeing Jews who had been made slaves. However, on drawing up his marriage contract with the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabells, he yielded to the demands of Spain and agreed to expel the Jews from the kingdom. The decree, signed in December of 1496, anticipated that the departure of the Jews would take place by October of the following year.

Measures were taken to convert Jews to Christianity and to control the ports of exit. Lisbon was the only permissible port of exit and a completely inadequate number of vessels were provided for a mass exodus. In practical terms, the king was fully aware of the advantage to be gained by the Jewish community remaining in the country and did everything to hinder their departure.

These impositions culminated in the creation of New Christians when thousands of Jews who were waiting to leave the country were baptized in Lisbon. The attitude of the king reflected the vicissitudes and contradictions of the policy of Iberian union, in the ambit of which each of the two kingdoms, Spain and Portugal, sought to play a leading role.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2008, 12:50:32 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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