“From the Rosh Beit Ben Israel”

The anusim movement (or crypto-Jew) in the 10 years of the twentieth century, received its biggest boost with research engineer Samuel Schwarz, and with the onset of labor “rescue” by Captain Artur Carlos de Barros Basto. Their work, albeit separate in space and time, is however complementary. Schwarz, a Polish engineer hired by the Portuguese republican government, traverses several towns in the borderland, area interested in the history of Judaism in Portugal. Faced with the huge similarities between Jewish culture and the culture of those whom they called “Marranos,” Schwarz decided to present himself as a Jew, but was not well received. However pronouncing the Shema, the confession of faith, in Hebrew, a language that crypto Jews did not even know existed, was recognized word Ad’nai (Lord) and that made Samuel Schwarz were to become accepted as a co-religionist . Then collected several oral traditions and gathered some manuscript books of prayers. Based on these experiences published in 1925 a book entitled The New Christians in Portugal in the Twentieth Century. It counted the intrusion of Catholic elements in Jewish rites and other divergences from orthodoxy.

However, with the aid of Jewish circles abroad, was taking shape in the city of Porto, an active movement of integration of crypto-Jews. The catalyst of this movement was Captain Artur Carlos de Barros Basto, an officer of the Portuguese Army, born in 1887, who had brilliantly distinguished during the Great War in Flanders Fields’ and received the highest national and foreign decorations. Barros Basto came, by his father, a family of New Christians Amarante. His grandfather was even crypto-observant Jew. The desire to revert to the faith of their ancestors, Barros Basto showed up a day in the Sephardic synagogue in Lisbon and declared himself a Jew. He could not, however, be admitted into the congregation. Learned Hebrew and traveled to Morocco to receive religious instruction. Tangier was circumcised and officially accepted into the Jewish religion, adopting the name of Abraham Israel Ben-Rosh. Return to the city of Porto has developed a remarkable action to defend the interests of the small Jewish community living there, some seventeen families originating from Eastern Europe. It was due to his efforts that built a synagogue in the city. Also founded a yeshiva, whose activities began with five young people from the border area. Over ten years received religious instruction there about ninety teenagers crypto-Jews. The yeshiva program included classes in Hebrew, Portuguese, French, Jewish history, theology, apologetics, homiletics and liturgical ceremonial. However never managed to form a single rabbi and students returned to their homelands, soon forgot the teachings received, and some even come to express anti-Semitic sentiments. Barros Basto also organized prayer and enlightenment in Belmonte, Covilha, Bragança and elsewhere sessions, always in their zeal to bring “Marranos” the official Judaism. The first “conversion” took place already in 1926 and was followed by some others in subsequent years. In general, however, the crypto-Jews never felt attracted to Orthodoxy, whose rigor repudiated, and were intent on their form of worship, which they regarded as the only true.

Persecuted for their beliefs, suffering a campaign that Catholic Action launched against him, Barros Basto was eventually tried by a council of war offensive to moral acts. These acts had been to defend the practice of circumcision for crypto to accept the official law. Also their acolytes suffered persecution in some cases lost their jobs and were accused of links with Freemasonry. The movement has been characterized as an attempt to dechristianization by a Catholic newspaper.

Despite the intense commitment of Barros Basto, all attempts to “purify” the faith of crypto failed, not only because of some discrepancies between the leaders of the synagogue of Porto and criticism from foreign Jewish circles but especially because of the huge rooting traditions created by the “Marranos” in the secret system and the deep distrust of contacts with elements outside the group. Towards the end of the thirties these efforts were abandoned.

The anusim movement found itself in a difficult situation after the death of Captain Ben Rosh decades. The movement gets a new lease of life in the 90 century. XX, when the crypto-Jewish community of Belmonte is recognized. In 1997, with the contribution of the Henriques family, Solomon and Clara Mourao Azulay is the first purpose built synagogue in Belmonte, in eight hundred years.

Meanwhile in Lisbon, unhappy that they were not admitted to the Orthodox congregation (as Ben Rosh) crypto Jews of the city decide to join the Association of Israeli Youth Hehaber that although orthodox, does not close the doors. In 1999, already rely on the governing bodies of this crypto-Jewish Association, and in 2004, they are greeted by the Grand Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar, during his visit to Lisbon to celebrate the centenary of the Synagogue Share Tikvá. This historic meeting was the first between the Portuguese crypto-Jews and the Chief Rabbinate, in five hundred years. However the delay in the Grand Rabbi constitute an evaluation committee of the community situation led to a disagreement between the parties.

However Rabbi Leo Abrami visit Lisbon and promises the community an extensive and serious program for it to return to full duty within halachic Judaism and the Jewish nation. The conservative movement, the second largest Jewish movement, solves criptojudaica support the cause in Portugal. In 2006, born under the guidance of Rabbi Jules Harlow, the Kehilat Beit Israel, a place of tolerance and understanding for Jews of all backgrounds. Since then Lisbon has a House of Israel.

Thanks “Todah Rabah”

Alphabetical: Aaron Ram (Israel Ambassador in Lisbon.); April Rosenblum; Israeli Association of Youth Hehaver; (Rab) Boaz Pash; (Rab) Chaim Weiner; Claude M. Erlander; Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs; Harold Michal-Smith; Jocelyn & Jerry Cooper; (Rab) Joseph Wernik; (Rab) Jules Harlow & Harlow Navah; Lana Liner; Masorti Olami; (Rab) Leo Abrami; (Rab) Richard Schachet; Yaakov Gladstone.