“Hopefully, this day will create greater awareness of this dark chapter of Jewish and Portuguese history, which still casts a giant shadow across the world.»
By JEREMY SHARON MARCH 16, 2020 16:53
The Portuguese parliament has approved the passage of a law to officially commemorate the Inquisition of Jews in the country on March 31 every year.
The law, passed earlier this month, received broad support from across the political spectrum.
The date was chosen as the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Inquisition because it was on that day in 1821 that the Inquisition in Portugal was officially disbanded.The expulsion of Jews from Portugal in 1497, subsequent massacres of the Jews there and the Portuguese Inquisition, which began in 1536, brought Jewish life in the country to a catastrophic end, with tens of thousands of Jews fleeing the country.Some Jews, despite being forcibly converted to Christianity, preserved their Jewish practices and traditions in secret throughout the intervening centuries.The expulsion and Inquisition followed similar events in Spain, which began with the Inquisition there in 1478 and the subsequent expulsion in 1492 in which tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Jews fled Spain.Reconectar, an organization that seeks to reconnect the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities with the Jewish world, welcomed the passage of the law.
“This is a historic and important decision, because finally there will be official memorialization of the tens of thousands of victims of the Inquisitorial regime, which hounded and hunted our people for 275 years,” said Ashley Perry (Perez), president of Reconectar.“Hopefully, this day will create greater awareness of this dark chapter of Jewish and Portuguese history, which still casts a giant shadow across the world, with tens of millions of descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities still disconnected from any knowledge of their ancestry.”Perry said many descendants of Jews in Portugal, Spain and Latin America are increasingly interested in their Jewish ancestry and are investigating their roots through DNA tests.He expressed hope that the new Portuguese law will “raise another level of understanding about the deep and shared roots between the Jewish people, the Portuguese people and Latino and Hispanic populations, many of whom are the result of the forced disconnection due to the Inquisition.”The law states that while there were many victims of the Inquisition, it was mainly targeted against Portuguese Jews and their descendants, accusing them of Judaizing or crypto-Jewish practices.The Inquisition operated in Portugal from 1546, during the reign of King João III, until March 31, 1821. Over the course of 275 years, the Portuguese Inquisition alone opened around 45,000 cases, mainly against the Jewish population.