April 13 lec­ture fo­cuses on his­tory of Jews in Por­tu­gal

Record Observer - - News -

CH­ESTER­TOWN — The long, fas­ci­nat­ing—and largely se­cret—his­tory of the Jews of pic­turesque Por­tu­gal will be the sub­ject of a slide lec­ture ti­tled “In Search of Jewish Roots in Por­tu­gal,” pre­sented by Wash­ing­ton Col­lege his­to­rian Gary Schiff. The event on Wed­nes­day, April 13 at 5:30 p.m. in Hyn­son Lounge is free and open to the pub­lic.

Schiff spent the sum­mer in Por­tu­gal, search­ing through re­mote moun­tain vil­lages to track down lo­ca­tions where con­ver­sos or mar­ra­nos, ex­ter­nally Catholic cryp­toJews, prac­ticed in se­cret to avoid the In­qui­si­tion. Be­fore this per­se­cu­tion start­ing in 1496, the Jewish pop­u­la­tion of Por­tu­gal reached as high as 20 per­cent, and they con­trib­uted to the countr y ’ s com­mer­cial, naval, and colo­nial promi­nence. Por­tu­gal also played a unique role in sav­ing Jews dur­ing the Holo­caust, al­low­ing some 100,000 refugees to pass through en route to safety, de­spite be­ing ruled by its own fas­cist dic­ta­tor.

“In Search of Jewish Roots in Por­tu­gal” is Schiff’s eighth an­nual slide lec­ture on a his­toric Jewish com­mu­nity in in a Euro­pean coun- try. Other coun­tries that Schiff has ex­plored in­clude Spain, Ger­many, Poland (which led to the pub­li­ca­tion of his 2012 book, In Search of Polin: Chas­ing Jewish Ghosts in To­day’s Poland), the Nether­lands, and oth­ers.

Schiff, an ad­junct pro­fes­sor of his­tory at the col­lege, has taught courses on Jewish and Mid­dle East his­tory since 1998 and is the can­tor and re­li­gious leader of the Ch­ester­town Havu­rah. He holds a Ph.D. from Columbia Univer­sity and is a for­mer pres­i­dent of Gratz Col­lege in Philadel­phia.

The In­sti­tute of Re­li­gion, Politics and Cul­ture and the De­part­ment of His­tory spon­sored this event.

GARY SCHIFF

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