A Brief History of the Jews of Brazil

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A Brief History of the Jews of Brazil

The history of Jews in Brazil is a unique case, because we do not know of many other countries in which they have been significantly present in the very first movements of that nationrsquos history, continuously participating in its economic and social development. In fact, since the ldquodiscoveryldquo of Brazil to the present time, the Jews, almost without interval, openly or disguised, have been integrated into the processes of formation of Brazilian nationality.

My aim in this paper is to provide a summary of Jewish history in Brazil by highlighting four major historical periods The First Portuguese Period (1500-1630) The Dutch Period (1630 -1654) The Second Portuguese Period (1654-1822) and The Cosmopolitan Period (1822-1966). br / The First Portuguese Period (1500-1630)br / ?When Portugal was at the height of its expansion in the world, in 1500, Brazil was ldquodiscoveredrdquo by the kingdom. It was then simply military glory, coupled with the desire to enlarge the Catholic faith, that compelled the Portuguese to their grand maritime expeditions (Grinberg 15).

But just these reasons alone would not have sufficed to promote the extraordinary expansion of Portugal. The great cycle of the Portuguese conquests would not have been achieved without the long period of scientific discoveries and improvements that preceded it, in which the Iberian Jews played such a key role. As a prime example of this involvement, in Henry the Navigatorrsquos quotNautical School of Sagresquot, the first Portuguese academy of navigation(founded in 1412), was employed one of the most famous cartographers of the fifteenth century, the Jewish Yehuda Cresques, whose main task was to teach Portuguese pilots the basics of navigation well as the production and handling of nautical instruments (Serebrenick and Lipiner 7).

br / ?The Jewish contribution to the discovery of new routes and new lands to the Portuguese crown was not limited only to the scientific field, however, but also translated into direct participation in these dangerous travels, including the expedition that resulted in the discovery of Brazil. The fleet led by Pedro Alvares Cabral, included at least three Jewish advisers the astronomer Master John, Pedro Nunes the navigator, and Gaspar de Lemos, an interpreter and ship commander, rightly regarded by historians as partly responsible for the discovery of Brazil (Serebrenick and Lipiner 9).

br / ?With increasing incentives of the Portuguese government towards the occupation and settlement of the Brazilian territory, more and more Iberic Jews began migrating to Brazil. Because the wealthier Portuguese and Spanish Jews sustained a lot of the territoryrsquos early economic progress, they were able enjoy considerable freedom of worship and custom (Grinberg 21).

This panorama of tolerance contrasted sharply with the wave of hatred and discrimination that swept Portugal, where, like neighboring Spain, persecution was widespread. It is thus understandable that many Jews of 1 / 3 Portugal, affected by overwhelming religious persecution, felt compelled to try a new life in Brazil,which to them seemed like a safe haven where they could materialize their aspirations for peace and freedom. br / ?

The Jewish community, thanks to strong immigration and natural growth, reached a reasonable proportion in comparison with the general population, enough to counter the risk of assimilation. Around 1570, however, things took a turn for the worse, as there began to appear signs of restrictions on freedom, which only grew with time (Serebrenick and Lipiner 12). The circumstances soon forced the Jews to return, much like those in the motherland, to a life of great caution and alertness. The first official manifestation of intolerance was found in 1573 in the city of Salvador, which installed an auto-de-fe. Paradoxically, but perhaps on purpose, the first victim was not a Jew, but a Frenchman who was accused of heresy, condemned and burned alive.

In Bahia, the Inquisition remained (though inactive for many years) until 1593 (Grinberg 29). br /?In 1618, Bahia was the target of a new visitation of the Holy Office, during which time many Marranos were reported and pursued, among them many wealthy men of the sugar mills. This fact that prompted the first large wave of immigration of Jews within Brazil they left the Northeast in search of the more tolerant South, especially the captaincy of Satildeo Vicente (Satildeo Paulo), which was the most liberal region (Serebrenick and Lipiner 15).

Because of the growing persecution of Jews in Portugal in the last decades of the sixteenth century, they began to emigrate not only to Brazil but also, inlarge numbers, to several countries of Western Europe, especially to Holland, where flourishing trade and religious tolerance prevailed (Grinberg 32). This allowed for the rapid formation of a large Jewish community, centered in the city of Amsterdam, rightly nicknamed the quotNew Jerusalemquot.

The simultaneous emigration of Portuguese Jews to Brazil and the Netherlands, led to the establishment of a commercial and affective link between the Jews of Brazil and those of Holland (Serebrenick and Lipiner 15). br / The Dutch Period (1630-1654)br / ?The hope of the Brazilian Jews that their lot would improve due to some form of Dutch intervention did not fail. Through a series of attempts at the conquest of the Brazilian Northeast in the years 1624 to 1627, the Dutch finally succeeded on February 15, 1630. The city of Pernambuco was attacked by a powerful fleet of 70 ships, effectively beginning the occupation of the Northeast, which would last until 1654.

The years of peaceful Dutch rule were few, but enough to enable the Jews to rapidly flourish economically, socially and culturally, building in Northeast Brazil one of the most thriving communities of the time (Grinberg 35). br / ?With the advent of the Dutch and the consequent deployment of a great religious tolerance, the landscape was changing. Uninterrupted waves of Jews flocked to Pernambuco from several countries, especially from Holland, bringing commercial experience and a wonderful spirit of achievement.

These Jews from the Netherlands ndash who were largely former refugees from Portugal,Spain and France – had the further advantage of speaking several languages Spanish, French, Ladino, Dutch, besides the most important, Portuguese, which was the language spoken in Brazil (Grinberg 35). A great number of them served as interpreters for the thousands of men in the Dutch army and navy, consisting of mercenaries – Dutch, English, French, German, Polish and others – who did not speak Portuguese. From simple interpreters, they increasingly became businessmen, merchants and landowners, coming to, in effect, virtually control the economic life of Brazilrsquos New Holland. The main street of Recife (in Pernambuco) was known as quotStreet of the Jewsquot and the port was called quotpier of the Jewsquot (Serebrenick and Lipiner 17). br /.

The Second Portuguese Period (1654-1822)br / ?With the fall of Recife and subsequent surrender of the Dutch, the Jewish community in northeastern Brazil became largely scattered. A small portion of the people resigned to staying in the country, dispersing through its territory, while the majority opted for emigration. Of these, one group – consisting of the richest and probably most connected in the Netherlands – decided to return to Holland, while most preferred to face the unknown, venturing into more distant stops throughout 2 / 3 the Americas – Guyana, West Indies and New Netherlands in the United States.

Numerous Jewish settlements began to appear to the North, one of which would eventually lead to the extraordinary Jewish community of the United States of America (Grinberg 52). In North America, a group of 23 Jewswho left Recife immediately after its fall, camped on September 12, 1654, on the margins of the Hudson, in the village of New Amsterdam (now New York). br / ?As already mentioned, the exodus that took place after the expulsion of the Dutch did not cover the entire Jewish population of Northeast Brazil, since a good number of Marranos resolved to remain on the land they had learned to love.

These remaining Jews eventually were able to peacefully spread throughout Brazil, including in areas of the Northeast itself, minimizing the appearance of their Jewish origin (Serebrenick and Lipiner 23). Unfortunately, the flames of persecution were to be once again fanned by the Inquisition. This new wave of terror unfolded for about 70 years, especially violent in the periods 1707 to 1711 and from 1729 to 1739, making the first half of the seventeenth century perhaps the darkest period of Jewish history in Brazil (Serebrenick and Lipiner 26).

Only after 1770 would the conditions come to place that would forever eradicate the cancer of the Inquisition. To this day no one knows for sure how many Jews from Brazil fell victim to the Portuguese Inquisition. br / The Cosmopolitan Period (1822-1966)br / ?Once the country was made independent from the Portuguese crown, in 1822, full freedom of conscience was established. In the second half of the century, Jews from various countries of Western Europe – French, English, Austrians and Germans ndash began to come in force to Rio de Janeiro and its neighboring states, especially in Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais(Serebrenick and Lipiner 31).

Another large group emigrated from Morocco to the Amazon region. The two settlements – the Amazon region and Rio de Janeiro – did not seem keep any significant relations and had, moreover, some different characteristics (Grinberg 61). The Amazon community was more stable, while in the South, the Jews originating in Western Europe came in order to flourish and then return to their country of origin, although many would end up staying in Brazil (Grinberg 61). br /

?In the last decade of the nineteenth century Jewish immigration grew, multiplying the diversity in countries of origin and also the in regions where immigrants came to settle. Whereas until then the Jewish immigrants came almost exclusively from North Africa and Western Europe, now there were waves of Jewish immigrants from the Eastern Mediterranean – Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine – as well as Russia and neighboring countries.

These settled mostly in the Southeast (Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais), but also spread out in smaller groups to many other states, both to the South and Northeast. br / ?Though the scope has been very limited and many details necessarily left out, I have sought to give a brief account of Jewish life in Brazilian history. The history of Jews in Brazil is a long and honorable history, dotted undoubtedly suffering, but also full of success, translated into positive and fundamental contributions to the development of the country and the training of its people ndash and that history that is still being written. /body /html POWERED BY TCPDF (WWW. TCPDF. ORG).

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  • Subject:

  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 10 January 2017

  • Words:

  • Pages:

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