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How The Jewish Heritage in Portugal

by Kosher River Cruise Kosher Tour Operator
One of the top destinations for a Jewish travel vacation is Portugal. From Porto, Regua, Lisbon, and the Douro River, every corner of Portugal has a hint of Jewish influence, including the food, traditions, names, beliefs, and events.

How could Portugal have such a rich history involving Jewish heritage? The best way to discover that is by tracing back its roots and humble beginnings.

To excite you even more for the Jewish heritage tours that you are planning, let’s have a glimpse of Jewish history in Portugal.

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Early Settlement of the Jews in Portugal

Based on archaeological evidence, Jewish presence in Portugal can be dated back to the time of the Roman Empire, sometime during the 1st century BCE. In 1391, more Jews moved to Portugal due to persecutions and anti-Jewish riots in most parts of Spain.

Another account shows that the Iberian Peninsula Jews, also known as the Sephardic Jewish community, settled in the area that is now known as Portugal sometime between the 5th and 15th centuries.

The Age of Discovery

This growing number of Jews in Portugal resulted in significant contributions to the culture, economy, and scientific discovery in the region. In fact, most Jewish philosophers, scientists, merchants, and even common tradespeople in Portugal made an impact both financially and scientifically during the Age of Discovery.

For instance, 16th century cosmographer and mathematician Pedro Nunes contributed to the field of navigation by inventing the nonius which helps in measuring distance and location.

Social Tensions Between the Jews and the Locals

Settling in Portugal was not that smooth, as tensions and conflicts between the Jews and the predominating Christians brewed.

Most Jews were taken in as slaves by King João until Manuel I took over the throne and set them free. However, the freedom of the Jews were again compromised when Manuel I proposed to the daughter of the King and Queen of Spain, who demanded that Portugal should banish the Jewish people from the kingdom.

The Edict of Expulsion

The Jewish communities in 1496 were faced with a huge dilemma–embrace Christianity or leave the country.

Manuel I thought otherwise; he believed that the Jews contributed much to the development of Portugal. So, he attempted to convert most of them, wherein other accounts reveal that there was some coercion involved, to delay their exile.

Most of these new converts did embrace Catholicism yet kept on practicing their Jewish traditions in secret. They were referred to as the Marranos or the crypto-Jews. They are mostly found in Castelo de Vide, Belmonte, Trancoso, and Guarda.

Reopening of Portugal for the Jews

In 1800, the Jews were allowed to settle in Portugal again, after long debates, hearings, and amendments on decrees.

At present, there are about 1,000 Jews in Portugal. The number might be quite small yet their well preserved history, tradition, and contributions still see it as an important place for Jewish heritage tours.

See the legacy of the Jewish community in Portugal for yourself. Book a Jewish travel tour soon!

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Created on Aug 6th 2020 02:31. Viewed 433 times.

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