Initiative to Mark Routes Taken by Jews Fleeing the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal Launched in Castelo de Vide
Project Jointly Initiated by B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider
(Castelo de Vide, Portugal, July 29, 2021)--Mayor Antonio Pita of the town of Castelo de Vide in eastern Portugal announced on July 23 that the city will sponsor an initiative to mark the paths taken by Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 and the Portuguese Inquisition in 1496. The announcement was made during a meeting of interested parties convened by the Castelo de Vide municipality and chaired by Pita, who also serves as vice president of the Jewish Cities Network in Portugal.
The multi-year project will be coordinated by Walter Wasercier, vice president of Cámara de Comercio Hispano–Israelí (Hispanic-Israeli Chamber of Commerce) and former director of El Al in Spain and Portugal, and was initiated jointly with Alan Schneider, director of the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem, who both addressed the meeting.
The project enjoys the support of Israel’s outgoing Ambassador to Portugal Raphael Gamzou, who attended the meeting. Other participants included Assumpcio Hosta Rebes, secretary general of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage (AEPJ); 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. Traces of Castelo de Vide’s Jewish history are carefully maintained by the municipality, including a synagogue and Jewish quarter (Juderia), 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 continued to cling to their religious beliefs and practices underground (“Conversos”).
The meeting also provided an opportunity for an exchange of experiences between the Jewish Cities Networks in Spain and Portugal.
As envisioned by the initiators, the project—entitled “El Kamino De Sefarad al muevo mundo” (The Sefarad 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.
In his remarks, 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. The library formed the foundation of Israel’s National Library.
In 2019, the B'nai B'rith Leadership Mission to Portugal, led by B'nai B'rith Internationl President Charles O. Kaufman, toured Castelo de Vide.
For further information, contact Susana Machado, Municipality of Castelo de Vide, email@example.com, +351-964-614-678 (Portugal); Walter Wasercier, firstname.lastname@example.org, +34-629-249-054 (Spain); or Alan Schneider, email@example.com, +972-52-5536441 (Israel)
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