Edited By Irene Maria F. Blayer and Dulce Maria Scott
Chapter Two: The Evolution of Portuguese Identity in the Post-Fifteenth-Century Jewish Diaspora
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The Evolution OF Portuguese Identity IN THE Post-Fifteenth-Century Jewish Diaspora
BARRY L. STIEFEL
What was the state of Portuguese identity amongst Jews after 1500? This is especially significant when we consider that Jews were expelled or forced to convert to Catholicism across Iberia over the course of the previous decade. Since Spain’s expulsion edict occurred first, in 1492, many Jews moved to Portugal, only to encounter another expulsion edict less than five years later. This was subsequently changed into a compulsory conversion edict, both exposing and entrapping many Spanish Jews to Portuguese culture and language. Wherever expatriate Iberian Jews found refuge off the peninsula, those of Portuguese and Spanish extraction often lived side-by-side in organized communities. So, there has been cross- pollination between the two demographic origins, causing a blurring of identities. Additionally, more than five centuries have passed since the cataclysmic event for Portuguese Jews, creating multiple manifestations of Portuguese identity in diaspora form that must be considered. Thus the premise of this chapter is to what extent was Portuguese culture and language the identity of Jews in the post- fifteenth-century diaspora? Furthermore, considering the contemporary diasporic nature of Lusophone culture outside of Iberia—spread across the mid-Atlantic islands, parts of South America, Africa, Asia, as well as expatriate communities beyond the Lusophone world—are there other manifestations of Portuguese identity amongst Jews that should be considered? Are Portuguese Jews necessarily all Sephardic—that is...
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