Lisbon Jews Demand Protection After Desecration

The Lisbon Jewish community is demanding extra protection after the desecration of a memorial to Jews murdered in massacre.

Yaakov Levi,

Anti-Semitism (illustration)
Anti-Semitism (illustration)
Israel news photo: archive

The Lisbon Jewish community is demanding extra protection and quick police action to find the perpetrators of what they said was a hate crime, when unknown vandals drew the world “ebola” on a memorial to martyred victims of a massacre in Portugal in 1506.

Besides increased patrols, community leaders called for the placing of security cameras at the memorial, considered one of the most prominent Jewish presences in the country.

The 1506 massacre constituted the end of Jewish life in Portugal for hundreds of years – until, in fact, 2013, when a new synagogue and Jewish community center was opened in Lisbon. The center was build at the behest of the Shavei Israel organization to reach out to the several thousand Jews who live in Portugal – as well as to the hundreds of thousands who have traditions of Jewish roots in their families, with many carrying on Jewish customs such as lighting Friday night candles, customs their ancestors hundreds of years ago to remind their descendants that although they were forcible converted to Christianity, they were still Jews.

The Jews of Portugal, like their Spanish neighbors, were expelled in 1492, but like in Spain, many Jews remained behind, “converting” to Christianity for public consumption while remaining Jews in their homes. These people, known as conversos, were the bane of the Church, which sought to stamp them out – setting up the Inquisition, which killed many former Jews accused of “backsliding” to Judaism. Church spies were everywhere, and Jews who were found carrying out Jewish customs – or not appearing Christian “enough” - were mercilessly executed by Church officials.

In Portugal, the Inquisition also thoroughly tracked down Jews, and in the Spring of 1506, Church spies discovered a group that had purchased what appeared to be supplies for Passover. The Jews were arrested, but released several days later – to the hands of a priest-incited mob, which called for their blood. Mobs marched through the streets, killing and murdering conversos, as well as Christians suspected of supporting them. At the end of the three day massacre some 4,000 conversos and “Old Christians” had been murdered, and there were no Jews – loyal or “backsliding” - to be found in the city, a situation that prevailed for hundreds of years, until the years before World War II, when European Jews, seeking to escape from the grip of the Nazis, tentatively took up residence in Portugal.

The Jewish community commemorated the massacre in 2006, on the its 500th anniversary. The memorial was unveiled at that ceremony.




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