MARRANO BOOKS IN ENGLISH by David Gitlitz and Linda Davidson

Secrecy and Deceit: the religion of the crypto Jews winner of both the National Jewish Book Award and the Lucy Dawidowicz Prize in History.  

A Drizzle of Honey: The Lives and Recipes of Spain's Secret Jews, [with Linda Davidson]. winner of another National Jewish Book Award and the Jane Grigson Prize for Culinary Scholarship. 

The Lost Minyan, a collection of ten stories profiling crypto-Jews from the late 15th to early 17th centuries, just released by the University of New Mexico Press. 


What others say:
 Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of the Crypto-Jews

"Historians and students of comparative and popular religion will be drawing on this work for years."   [Haym Soloveitchik, Yeshiva University]

Drizzle of Honey: The Lives and Recipes of Spain's Crypto-Jews 

"I … was mesmerized. … Easily, this is among the top three Jewish Cookbooks of the year."   [Larry Mark, SeferSafari.com (1999)]


Book Review
Dolores Sloan . The Sephardic Jews of Spain and Portugal : Survival of an Imperiled Culture in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries . Jefferson , North Carolina : McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. 240 pages.
www.mcfarlandpub.com. (800) 253-2187.
from HaLapid, Summer 2009
A lthough the title and subject matter of The Sephardic Jews of Spain and Portugal make it sound like a traditional history book, in fact this book shows Dolly Sloan's skill as a story teller. More than half of the book narrates the personal lives of four of the most important people in history of Sephardic Jews: Isaac Abravanel, Abraham Zacuto, Luís de Santángel, and Doña Gracia Nasi. The remainder of the book discusses subjects ranging from Jewish life to work, clothing, entertainment, and the experiences of Sephardic Jews in the Diaspora.
Don Isaac Abravanel was a prominent financial adviser to the Catholic kings, Ferdinand and Isabelle, and he had lobbied strongly against the Expulsion Proclamation. He was a prominent philosopher and Biblical scholar and wrote extensively on these subjects. The Abravanel family had left Spain following the 1391 attacks that wiped out complete Jewish communities.
Later they faced new problems in their adopted country of Portugal , and Don Isaac and his family returned to Spain itself. After a decade of success they left Spain in 1492 along with the other Jews who choose exile rather than staying and converting to Christianity. After last minute appeals to the King and Queen were denied, Don Isaac Abravanel and his family sailed to Italy where they lived the remainder of their lives.
Abraham Zacuto was a prominent Jewish scholar, astronomer, and inventor of navigational equipment who was also forced into exile by the Expulsion Proclamation. He had been the only Jewish professor at the University of Salamanca , and it was his navigational inventions that permitted
Columbus to sail to the Americas and Vasco de Gama to the East Indies . It can be said that the Spanish Empire could not have developed without the foundation in navigation that Zacuto created. In one of the ironies of history, as Zacuto sailed from Spain into exile, Columbus was leaving on his famous voyage to the west guided by the very instruments of navigation that Zacuto had developed. When Zacuto left Spain with his son in 1492, the insecurity of travel led to their being captured by pirates and held in captivity on two different occasions. It was seven years after the Expulsion that they were finally freed and arrived to Tunis where he lived out the rest of his years in a quiet life of scholarship.
The family of Luís de Santángel took the route of converting to Christianity from Judaism during the time of the Disputation of Tortosa when thousands of Jews converted under pressure. This was a family of wealthy merchants and Luís carried on that tradition as a textile merchant, who settled in the Aragonese port city of Valencia , which was convenient for his frequent travel to Italy on business. Although he was a favorite official at the court of Ferdinand and Isabelle and had wealth and power, he lived under the shadow Inquisition, as did all New Christians. As evidence of his influence at Court, he seems to have been the one who convinced the monarchs of the value of Columbus ' proposed voyage to the west when it had been all but lost.
The story of Doña Gracia Nasi is among the most compelling. She was born into a wealthy family of anousim in Portugal and married into the equally wealthy Mendes family of bankers and traders. Eventually she and the family were able to leave Portugal for the more tolerant environment of Antwerp, and after her husband died she assumed control of the family businesses, becoming one of the wealthiest women of that age which included Queen Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots, and Catherine d'Medici among others. Cecil Roth called her one of the outstanding figures of all Jewish history. Even after the family left Portugal , they had to continue as secret Jews. Eventually, she led the family to the newly emerging Ottoman Empire where they lived openly as Jews.
Prof. Sloan's book tells the stories of Sephardic Jews and the choices they were forced to make as they went through the throes of being rejected and expelled by their home country. She follows them into the Diaspora, looking at what happened to those who went east to the Ottoman Empire and those who went west to Portuguese Brazil. More than a textbook, this is a toryteller's account of what happened to the Spanish Jews who were expelled and built new lives outside of the Sefarad that had been their home for more than 1500 years. It is recommended for general readers and college level students of Spanish Jewry.
Ron Duncan-Hart
Research Associate
Latin American and Iberian Institute
University of New Mexico
Editor of HaLapid


BARROS BASTO, THE MARRANO MIRAGE, by Alexandre Teixeira Mendes


Official book launch, Sunday, Sept. 2, 2007, 18.30 at Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue, Rua Guerra Junqueiro, 340, Porto, Portugal

Alexandre Teixeira Mendes, Ladina Books, Porto 2007

Book Synopsis on Back Cover by Pedro Sinde, philosopher

This book reveals Barros Basto and the Marrano question. Written in a hide
and seek style, it seems to play with the reader, leading him or her to
gradually begin to understand for themselves the author’s thinking. It is not an objective book, in that it is a book with a soul, a passionate book, and impassioned. Only those without a soul are capable of transforming the subject of their study into the object. Alexandre Teixeira Mendes, on the contrary transforms the object of his study into the subject; it is thus that Barros Basto, the Apostle of the Marranos, seems alive, contradictory, honest, a hero that struggled to rescue the Marranos, that is, those Jews who during four centuries concealed themselves, passing and re-creating, from generation to generation, a tradition that could not be expressed in the light of day; night was their day!
We see Barros Basto in the horizon, standing in a struggle against two giants, the Catholic Church and the Jewish “Church”, a David against two Goliaths. We see him give the signal to gather the dispersed ones.
Alexandre Teixeira Mendes does not examine Barros Basto from the outside; he accompanies him in his youth, in his conversion, during the war, in the organization of the mysterious Orymita Institute, in the work of rescue. And we, his readers, accompany him in an unforgettable journey to one of the most important places of the soul of the Portuguese being that only Sampaio Bruno and Antonio Telmo have studied with the same audacity and freedom that we now encounter in the author of this book.

Pedro Sinde


It was here, in Lands End, Sefarad, that were mixed some of the most important elements of human knowledge and understanding. We remember the Zohar (The Book of Splendour), the birth of Kabbala, Marrano cryptic poetry and the pastoral novel, the mercantile spirit, popular capitalism, medical research, maritime navigation, and many other cultural and artistic works expressed through such names as Maimonides, Abraão Zacuto, Bernardim Ribeiro, Luís de Camões, Leão Hebreu, Uriel da Costa, Dona Gracia Mendes, Samuel Usque, rabbi Menasseh ben Israel, Espinosa, Amato Lusitano, Pedro Nunes, Garcia de Orta, Michel de Montaigne, Manuel Fernandes Vila Real, António José da Silva, Guerra Junqueiro, Sampaio Bruno, Fernando Pessoa, and more recently Captain Barros Basto.

Ladina, founded in 2004, seeks to promote and divulge our cultural and religious heritage. It aspires to be an instrument of diffusion of Sephardic culture, for it has always been through this that tolerance and “saudades” expressed themselves in a peaceful co-existence with the rest of the people of the peninsula. We named it Ladina with the double intent of remembering a common language of the Sephardic Jews (Ladino) and keeping its semantic significance, a genuine person, pure, and at the same time sagacious, agile and astute. In this way, our objective of dynamization and agglutination of all those who feel themselves to be Jewish, subjected for over 500 years to Inquisitions, forced conversions and other anti-Semitic practices-who yearn to affirm freely, with an inalienable right to practice their religion and freedom of expression of their religious and cultural heritage, free of any restriction or oppression whatsoever.


Alexandre Teixeira Mendes (Refojos, Cabeceiras de Basto, 1959)
Poet and Essayist.

Works: Dourada A Têmpera (Lisboa, edições tema, 2000); Do Verbo Escuro ou da pronunciação que não cessa (Lisboa, edições fluviais, 2002); Despre uorbirea oculta sal despre pronuntia care nu inceteaza, Editura NEREAIA NAPOCAE, Cluj-Napoca, 2003; Cegueira do Propício (Lisboa, edições do buraco, 2005); Nom Omnis Confundar (Porto, incomunidade, 2006); Até quando o incêndio em Sepharad (Porto, incomunidade, 2007).

Anthologies: Os Outros, Antologia de Poesia Portuguesa Anos 80 e depois, coordenação, prefácio e notas de Leopoldino Serrão, Editora Ausência, 2004.

Jornalist, “O Primeiro de Janeiro” and “Jornal de Notícias”.

Board member of Ladina - Association of Sephardic Culture Culture, and of AJHLP (Association of Journalists and Men of Letters of Porto).

Edited the book, “Cartas a um jovem pensador “ de Kostas Axelos (Estratégias Criativas, Porto, 1991).

Collaborated in various literary publications, such as “Artes e Letras (Primeiro de Janeiro), “Letras & Letras” , “O Tripeiro” e “Agália” (Santiago de Compostela).

Writes regularly for the following blogs: http://incomunidade.blogspot.com e ainda http://ladina.blogspot.com (Portugal).

Panellist in various Portuguese and Galego-Portuguese conferences. Dedicates himself to the study of Portuguese poetry and philosophy.


The co-author Susana Bastos Mateus with Yaacov Gladstone, (founder of friendsofmarranos) at the Alberto Benveniste Centre for Sephardic Studies at the New University of Lisbon.

Authors Susana Bastos Mateus and Paulo Mendes Pinto
at book launch in Lisbon


Lisboa 1506, O Massacre Dos Judeus
Lisbon, 1506, The Massacre of the Jews

Susana Bastos Mateus, Paulo Mendes Pinto, 2007, Alêtheia Editores, Lisboa.

This is the first non-fiction book in Portuguese, about the massacre in Lisbon of 4,000 Marranos*, Jews who were forcibly baptized in Portugal in 1497. During three days at Pessach (Passover), in April 1506 (Nisan, 28,29,30, 5266), an unruly mob, incited by fanatical Dominican monks killed between 1,000 and 4,000 innocent men, women, and children.
Apart from reference in Alexandre Herculano's classic, History of the Origin and Establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal in the mid 19th century, there has been virtually nothing written by modern Portuguese authors on the subject. The massacre was described in one of the earliest books written in Portuguese, Samuel Usque’s Consolação às Tribulações de Israel, Ferrara, 1553,

Among these were two Dominican friars, who went through the city of Lisbon with crucifixes on their shoulders, inciting the people and calling for all to join them to avenge the death of their god…they attacked the weak and defenceless group of ill-baptized New Christians with spears and unsheathed swords. They killed four thousand of them…

(English translation of Martin A. Cohen, Consolation for the Tribulations of Israel, The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1977, p. 205)
The co-authors of this small but well organized book, instructors at the Alberto Beneviste Centre for Sephardic Studies at the New University of Lisbon, refer not only to Usque and other contemporary accounts but also review modern articles and reviews such as Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi’s, Le Massacre de Lisbonne en 1506 et l’image du roi dans le Shebet yehudah, Sefardica, Paris, Chandeigne, 1998.
The book starts with a much needed succinct overall history of Iberian Jews, including their mass migration to Portugal in the 14th and 15th century, especially after the Edict of Expulsion of 1492 by the Catholic Monarchs which resulted in over 100,000 Jews entering Portugal, then with a population of about one million. Although in December 1496, King Manuel, under pressure from his Spanish in-laws, ordered Jews to leave by October 1497, he changed his mind, prohibited their departure and forcibly baptized them in 1497.
The massacre occurred at the height of the plague when over 100 people were dying each day in Lisbon. The Jews were of course blamed for the plague and the prolonged drought. The King had fled Lisbon. During a service on Sunday afternoon at St. Dominic’s church (still standing in Lisbon, next to the Rossio), a New Christian questioned a claim of a supposed miracle involving the crucifix, perhaps pointing out that a piece of wood was incapable of a miracle (the contemporary narrations differ). He was dragged out to the square in front of the church, beaten and quartered before being burned. His brother met the same fate. For three days the rioting and looting continued. The elderly and the young were not spared. At one point there was a mound of over 400 dead bodies in the Rossio (the main square of downtown Lisbon). At one point, German merchants paid for wood for the pyre, which had run out.
Soon after the massacre the King ordered the public execution of the two Dominican monks and about 60 ringleaders. He withdrew certain privileges and imposed sanctions on the city of Lisbon. He renewed for another 20 years, the period in which the former Jews would not be subjected to inquiries about their private religious practices (hence the formation of a unique Marrano culture in Portugal). He also permitted the New Christians to leave the realm and sell their possessions.
The authors offer a historical and political analysis of the consequences of the massacre as well as generous historical explanatory notes throughout the text, making this a useful text to
ordinary readers. A review of Jewish and non-Jewish literature, as well as an extensive bibliography should also appeal to scholars.
The occasional black and white image, mostly of Inquisitorial scenes (there is only one known contemporary image of the massacre itself) lends the work an aura of authenticity and sombreness.
This book a welcome addition to a growing body of recent books on Portuguese Jewish history which are slowly uncovering the constructed memory loss which has concealed the true history of Portugal for far too long. For a fictional account of the Lisbon massacre, see Richard Zimler's 1998 novel, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, available in several languages. The Friends of Marranos (friendsofmarranos.blogspot.com) are accepting donations for the translation and publishing of this book into English.

*Marranos, at one time a pejorative term applied to Jews who were forcibly baptized in Spain in 1391 and in Portugal in 1497, is in common usage by some academics in Portugal who attribute its origin to the Aramaic-Hebrew Mar Anus, forced one, like the widely used Hebrew term today, Anousim. Christianity adopted the nomeclature of Converso or New Christian, who were not necessarily Marrano. The term Marrano is used here because of its association with the forced baptism of 1497 and the Inquisition, its acceptance in Portugal, and its growing meaning as a badge of identity and resistance to the demonic unHoly Office of the Inquisition (which still exists!).


Inquisição e Independência, Um Motim No Fundao-1580
Inquisition and Independence, A Riot in Fundão-1580
by Antonieta Garcia

Cover page

Author, Maria Antonieta Garcia autographing books book launch in Lisbon

Book Comment, Portuguese Jewish history

Inquisição e Independência, Um Motim No Fundao-1580
Inquisition and Independence, A Riot in Fundão-1580

Maria Antonieta Garcia, Alma Azul, Coimbra, 2006, 227pp


This book is about a riot in the 16th century in Fundão (near Belmonte), the only known public act of resistance against the unHoly Office of the Inquisition to have occurred in Portugal.

On November 22, 1580, in the town of Fundão, in the Beira region, not far from Belmonte, Damião Mendes, a bailiff of the unHoly Office of the Inquisition reported that he was received at the door of a church by Estêvão Sampaio, the senior alderman in the town, and armed men who meant to kill him. He said they confronted him with the intention of impeding the work of the unHoly Office of the Inquisition. Bailiff Mendes complained of being pushed and knocked down, that the armed men broke his rod and took away his sword, that he was left without his hat and cape, and that he fell to the ground. They cut loose his horses and roughed up one of his men. He alleged that Sampaio spoke harshly to him and was rude, that he told him that he would take his rod and, lhe meteria pelo cu acima, and other such vulgar words.

As was customary in that period, the bailiff would have arrived in Fundão secretly, then made an announcement to the population to attend church on Sunday in honour of some saint. When the church was full, the doors would be locked by guards and the Old Christians would be called upon to identify the New Christians who would be handcuffed and led away to the subterranean jail cells of the unHoly Office, except this time, the secret was discovered and the bailiff was in for a surprise.

Esther Muznick, vice-president of the Israeli Community of Lisbon described the book as a good crime novel at the launch of the book in Lisbon. There is an excellent bibliography, several annexes of historical and documents, and twenty pages of the names of the victims of the Inquisition from Fundão from 1582 to 1754.

Maria Antonieta Garcia, born in Fundão, a retired professor of Sociology at the the University of Beira Interior where she founded the Centre for Jewish Studies, is the author of numerous books on Portuguese Jewish history including the critically acclaimed, Judaismo no Feminino (1999), an analysis of the community of Belmonte. Regrettably, none of her books have been translated to English, something the Friends of Marranos hopes to change.

Historical Background, and Portugal’s Marrano King*

In 1578, with the disappearance of King D. Sebastian (unmarried) at the ill-fated battle of Alcacer Quibir (yet another attempt to invade Morocco), Cardeal D. Henrique, Inquisidor general, acceded to the throne. The Cardinal was the only brother of King John III who brought the Inquisition to Portugal after Marrano bribes paid to the Pope and Cardinals were no longer effective. In 1580, with the death of Cardinal Henrique, three nephews/nieces claimed the throne, D. Catarina de Bragança, daughter of the Infante (i.e. prince) D. Duarte and D. Isabel of Bragança, Filipe II of Spain, son of D. Isabel of Portugal and Emperor Charles V, and D. Antonio, Prior of Crato, son of the Infante D. Luis, Lord of Covilha, and Violante Gomes, a New Christian.
The major opposition to Filipe II of Spain was D. Antonio, Prior of Crato. He was acclaimed King in Santarem (a city north of Lisbon, the wealthiest Jewish community at the time of the taking of Lisbon in 1147), in June of 1580. He proceeded to Lisbon where he was received with great jubilation. However, the nobles sided with Philip of Spain and Antonio was defeated in August, in Alcantara. His reign lasted two months, although he attempted to rule Portugal from the island of Terceira (with English and French support) until a Spanish fleet defeated him in 1582. It was during this period of uncertainty and political crisis that the riot of Fundão occurred. The author flushes out this historical setting in the book and annexes several historical documents.

From the Back cover of the book

In July, Fundão, the town where the riot occurred, Estêvão de Sampaio, captain, was the eldest alderman. New Christians struggled against the Inquisition, and everyone, New Christians, and Old Christians, opposed the claim of jurisdiction by neighbouring Covilha and Guarda. They defended the autonomy of their municipality. This is the only known episode of resistance to the Inquisition in Portugal.

1. Fundão is in the Beira region (near Belmonte). This area, a refuge for Jews, grew demographically since 1391 after the progroms in Barcelona, Sevilha, Toledo, Valencia and Cordova when entire Jewish communities were wiped out. In Sevilha, in 1391, over 4,000 Jews were killed in one day. Following the Edict of expulsion of 1492, the Jewish population of Portugal, and especially Beira swelled again. The street name, Rua Nova (New Street), found in many towns and cities in Portugal is often associated with expansion of the Judiarias during the 15th century. Antonieta Garcia accepts that no less than 120,000 Jews entered Portugal in 1492.

*Marrano, at one time a pejorative term applied to Jews who were forcibly baptized in Spain in 1391 and in Portugal in 1497, is in common usage by some academics in Portugal who attribute its origin to the Aramaic-Hebrew Mar Anus, a forced one, like the widely used Hebrew term today, Anousim. Converso or New Christian often replaces the term, but not all Conversos or New Christians, a term adopted by Christianity, were necessarily forced. The term Marrano is used because of its acceptance in Portugal, its association with the forced baptism of 1497 and the Inquisition, and its growing meaning as a badge of identity and resistance to the unHoly Office of the Inquisition (which still exists).



Launch of Volume 3rd, of Portugal e os Judeus,by Jorge Martins, evokes the 267th Anniversary of the execution of Antonio Jose da Silva, 'The Jew" of Bernardo Santareno.

Lisbon, Portugal

The launch of the 3rd volume of the, “most complete work on the history of Portuguese Jews in one and a half centuries, since Meyer Kayseling’, according to the renowned historian Anita Novinsky, took place on the anniversary of the execution by the Inquisition of the great playwright, Antonio Jose Da Silva.
The launch took place on Thursday October 18th, exactly 267 years since 1739, when the ‘Portuguese Moliere’ was garrotted, burned and his ashes thrown into the Tejo River. The event took place at the Santiago Alquimista theatre in the Alfama district of Lisboa, spitting distance from the Se or Cathedral. Guests were greeted at the entrance by a hooded Dominican friar holding a sign containing the coat of arms of the Inquisition (head and shoulder picture of Domenic holding a sword in one hand and an olive branch in the other.
The sign attached to the stiff full size monk statute said, “Today there is auto de fe”. On the stage were two women and three men dressed in black. The women came to the fore of the stage, put on black hoods and slowly and methodically read off the names of victims or would be victims of the Inquisition: Antonio Homem, Chancellor of the University of Coimbra, burned alive at Lisbon in 1624, Samuel Usque, author of the Consolation for the Tribulations of Israel, 1553, Ferrara, Uriel Acosta (Gabriel da Costa), committed suicide, Amsterdam 1640, Baruch Spinoza (Bento Espinoza), Manuel Fernandes Villareal, philosopher, burned alive at Lisbon, etc.
Scenes of the torture and confession of Antonio Jose da Silva were dramatized with the pronouncement of his sentence. This was followed by the dramatization of excerpts from the play, ‘O Judeu”, based on the life of Antonio Jose Da Silva, by Bernardo Santareno, which play is celebrating its 40th anniversary (the 1st edition was published in 1969). Portions of the book were burnt on stage in a clay urn with an open flame. This was followed by the booming voice of actor Jorge Sequerra (himself, a Marrano) from the balcony, his voice brimming with indignation, preaching the auto de fe sermon.
The launch of the two previous volumes took place on symbolical charged dates, the start and end of the Inquisition (1536-1821), and on the anniversary of the Lisbon Massacre in April of 1506 when up to 4,000 New Christians (remember, there were no more Jews in Portugal after 1497!). Contemporary accounts describe women, men and children and men butchered and burnt alive by a raging mob led by Dominican friars carrying large wooden crosses. King Manuel ordered the two leading friars hung in public with about another 60 ringleaders.
Author Jorge Martins has produced a milestone work, thoroughly researched, with extensive bibliographies and chronology. Presently, it is available in Portuguese only. To view the books and pictures of the actors visit Portugaleosjudeus.blogspot.com




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