Coverage of B'nai B'rith Co-Sponsoring New Initiative Marking Routes Taken by Jews Fleeing 15th Century Persecution
B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider is co-sponsoring an initiative by Mayor Antonio Pita of the town of Castelo de Vide in eastern Portugal that will mark the paths taken by Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 and the Portuguese Inquisition in 1496. Schneider attended and addressed a formal gathering in Castelo de Vide where the initiative was announced.
See how the media covered the news and the event:
Portuguese Town to Sponsor Country-Wide Initiative Marking Routes Taken by Jews Fleeing 15th Century Persecution
Castelo de Vide City Council – YouTube (Portuguese)
Portugal em Direto - Encontro Rede de Judiarias de Portugal e Espanha
Israel Hayom (English):
Portuguese City Marking Routes Taken by Jews Fleeing Inquisition
Israel Hayom (Hebrew):
First-of-its-Kind Initiative in Portugal: Restoration of the "Spanish Deportees"
The Jerusalem Post – Grapevine Column (English)
Grapevine August 9, 2021: A Time to Remember
Grapevine columnist Greer Fay Cashman notes that both Portugal and Spain have made great strides in trying to make amends for the expulsion of Jews from their respective countries more than 500 years ago. Aside from entering into diplomatic relations with Israel, restoring citizenship to people who can prove direct descent from those who were expelled, acknowledging ancient antisemitism, permitting the revival of Jewish communities, and more, the town of Castelo de Vide in western Portugal will sponsor an initiative tracing the paths taken by Jews fleeing the Spanish inquisition in 1492 and the Portuguese Inquisition of 1496. An announcement to this effect was made last week by Castelo de Vide Mayor Antonio Pita, who also serves as vice president of the Jewish Cities Network in Portugal.
The multiyear project, which was jointly initiated with Alan Schneider, director of the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, will be coordinated by Walter Wasercier, vice president of the Hispanic-Israeli Chamber of Commerce and former El Al director in Spain and Portugal.
Supporters of the project include outgoing Ambassador to Portugal Raphael Gamzou; Assumpcio Hosta Rebes, secretary-general of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage; Marta Puig Qixal, managing director of Caminos de Sefarad; and officials of the local and regional governments, among them Caceres and Tui in Spain and Braganza and Porto Alegre in Portugal.
Remnants of Castelo de Vide’s Jewish history are carefully maintained by the municipality, including a synagogue and Jewish quarter, and the town will shortly inaugurate the first museum in the world dedicated to the memory of the Inquisition that led to the expulsion of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula and to untold suffering of Jews who clandestinely continued to cling to their religious beliefs and practices (“conversos”).
As envisioned by its initiators, the project – titled El Kamino De Sefarad al muevo mundo (The Sepharad Route to the New World) – will eventually cover thousands of kilometers from areas of major Jewish population in Spain in the Middle Ages, over the border into Portugal, concluding in Lisbon and Porto, where Jews were forcibly converted or departed for other destinations in North Africa, Holland, the Land of Israel and the New World. The initiative was inspired by the Kamino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.
Schneider envisioned that many Israeli and Jewish organizations would become party to the effort, and that the marked routes will be an attraction for Jewish visitors, among others.
Puig said that besides the economic development that all the participants hope the project will bring, it also will make an important institutional contribution by better transmitting Jewish history in the Iberian Peninsula.
Schneider noted that B’nai B’rith has a long history of commemorating the Inquisition. Among other things, its lodge in Jerusalem established the first sustained library in Israel in 1892, naming it for Rabbi Don Isaac Abravanel, the leader of the Jewish community in Spain at the time of the Inquisition, who led his followers into exile. This library formed the foundation of the National Library of Israel.
Meeting Between the Jewish Networks of Spain and Portugal
Red de Juderías
Meeting between the Jewish Networks of Spain and Portugal
Tui Participated in the Meeting Between the Jewish Networks of Spain and Portugal
In a letter read to the lobby’s inaugural gathering, President Reuven Rivlin stated that while in “Spain precious communities were forced leave their faith, their life and the values they grew up and raised their families” five hundred years ago, “Spanish Jews are still with us, and we must not forget them.”
According to lobby founders MK Robert Ilatov and Ashley Perry, increasing numbers of the descendants of Jews around the world have become interested in exploring their heritage and reconnecting with the Jewish people.
“For many of us in this room who are the descendants of those persecuted and forcibly converted in Spain and Portugal, we know that it would have been impossible for our ancestors to have even dreamed of this moment,” said Perry, a former advisor to erstwhile Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and the founder of the Reconnectar NGO.
According to Spanish Ambassador Fernando Carderera, more than the requests of more than 4,300 Sephardic Jews for citizenship have been approved since the recent passage of a bill providing the descendants of the expellees with the opportunity to reconnect with Spain.
B’nai B’rith’s Alan Schneider told the Post that he believes that the new initiative sends a message to interested parties that Israel and the Jewish people reciprocate their desires and that “its going to be easier for them now to investigate their Jewish roots, to find out about Jewish tradition, learn about their traditions and how they relate to Judaism and eventually to decide if they want to take the greater leap of rejoining in a formal way with the Jewish people.”
“I think it also sends a message to the Jews in Israel and Jews around the world that there potentially is a much deeper margin of potential supporters, of family actually, there who feel close toward the Jewish people and the state of Israel and eventually can be called upon to be our supporters even if they choose to stay in their current status,” he said.
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