www.mybelmonte.com

 

Legend: Text in Blue = subjects connected with Judaism;

Orange = dual rites, in different religions; Brown = bibliographical reference

 

from: Feathers, angels, scales - sacred matters,

chapters 1-6: Sociological research [1994-2000 & on]
on Marrano-descendants in Belmonte along with
personal impressions of the researcher

 

Sara Molho (2001)

 

1.       Rainbows

2.       Angels

3.       Ave de Pena

4.       Marrano Kippur and Passover

5.      Kinds of Scales & Ladders

6.       Guttman-Scale Analysis

 

 

 

5. Diverse kinds of Scales and Ladders

 

Translated from Hebrew by author
partly edited by Mark Elliott Shapiro

 

 

A Guttman-Scale - Performing Multiple-Religions Rites and Practices

 

Performing Practices in one of two Religions (Table I)

Table I. Performing rites and practices of either Jewish or Christian religions
in Portugal before 1497:
Dichotomy: [does perform (+) / does not perform (-)]

A Rearranged Scale-Order (Table II)

Table II. Performing rites and practices in one or two of Jewish/Christian religions
in Portugal after 1497:
Dichotomy: [does perform (+) / does not perform (-)]

Dichotomy versus Trichotomy (Table III)

Table III. Performing rites and practices in one or two of Jewish/Christian religions
in Portugal after 1497:
Trichotomy: [does perform (+) / partly performs (=) / does not perform (-)]

Triple Choice of Rites and Practices: Jewish/Marrano/Christian (Table IV)

Table IV. Performing rites and practices in 20th Century Belmonte, in one or more of 3 religions - Judaism/Marranism/Christianity:
Dichotomy: [does perform (+) / does not perform (-)]

Research Findings: Belmontese Scale-Profiles between 1994-2000 (Table V)

Table V. Belmontese Marrano-Descendants corresponding to scale-types performing rites and practices in one or more of 3 religions - Judaism/Marranism/Christianity:
Trichotomy: [does perform (+) / partly performs (=) / does not perform (-)]

 

 

 

Marranos who lately converted to Judaism live, as before, in such a pious atmosphere, that foreign-Jews who happen to approach them while praying in their new synagogue (or previously in the temporary one), are very impressed by their devotion. Many a time I noticed visitors either men or women, religious or not - shedding tears at the sight. Maybe they would have been emotionally moved when meeting them in the streets, or next to their portals, but sometimes Belmonte Marranos tend to fade into the background and even deny their origins, when confronted by a too inquisitive passer-by.

 

As to myself, I confess, in Belmonte I feel proximity to my Jewish-roots, to my late father, as well as to God Almighty. Logically, I should have felt that in Jerusalem, my birth-place, since God himself had chosen His site there. My father, too, attracted to this Holy City by his religious belief as well as his Zionist aspirations, begot us - his offspring there; and much later he preferred to be buried there. However, my Jewish-identity, as well as some of my most elated experiences, are more pronounced in Belmonte than elsewhere. So is my sense of communion with Providence. Rather than in Jerusalem, Belmonte is where I detect more heavens, stars, rainbows, or alternatively: more Jacobs-ladders that personal Guardian-Angels and other Cherubim should use in order to descend. Moreover, I am convinced that several of our own generations 36 Tsadikim (Unidentified Righteous men or women spread all over the world) might be spotted there, in spite of the dense secrecy that looms over Belmonte.

 

Interior of small
temporary
synagogue

Interior of new
spacious
synagogue

 

The impact of my personal experience there is such, that I would not be surprised if my late father be added to the Marrano-prayers, as one more link in the hierarchy (the core of the Marranos existence and of Jewish-history in their eyes) between God and us, even if he is placed in the lowest rank after the different angels, prophets, patriarchs, kings etc. I daresay he is worthy of it! Presumably he was a descendent of Crypto-Jews, but regretfully he never lived among them, even though he would have liked to! Instead, he used to probe into their history, gathering a lot of knowledge he used to share with us either orally or in writing. Sometimes, while being among them, I wonder whether he could spot me from above and rejoice at my inspiring experience among them. Is he happy that after his passing away I am approaching domains so dear to him while alive?

 

 

A Guttman-Scale - Performing Multiple-Religions Rites and Practices

 

The above reference to Jacobs-Ladder would not impede me from concentrating henceforth not on religious-faith or sentiments, but - due to my professional-bias - rather on observing my Belmonte brethrens visible behaviour from the heights of the logical-echelons of a Guttman-Scale, as used in social sciences.[1]

 

My findings were gathered by anthropological-methods, i.e.: participant-observations within a very reserved cluster of families, who even after adopting mainstream-Judaism prefer a discreet way of life. They do not approve of talking with outsiders, nor of sharing with them indoors covert experiences. As to outsiders documenting their way of life in front of their eyes - they would not let it happen altogether!! Nevertheless, I cannot complain: in spite of their inhibitions, many of them opened their doors and their hearts to me, and did share with me their religious experiences. Some of them permitted my participation in their hidden rites, confiding in me facts related to them, as much as they could. Therefore, I am very grateful to them, and regard them as dear friends, or rather as my brethren.

 

An ex-Marrano family constructing a Succah in their own yard, 1996

 

My findings are not of a quantitative character. Nevertheless they contribute to understanding experiences of Crypto-Jews as well as of those re-joining mainstream-Judaism, not by quantifying the phenomenon, but merely by presenting a typology according to the scales basic logic.[2]

 

For the purpose of Guttman-scale analysis, religious belief is not defined by emotions, beliefs, attitudes, or notions about Providence and the universe, but rather by observable concrete patterns of behaviour in a given moment, or: performed religious rites and practices. Were the Marranos not judged exactly so by the Inquisition? Marrano women who were accused of heresy were asked by Inquisitors: why did they not mark the sign of Cross before easing nature in jail, as should do the devout Christians they claimed they were?[3] In order to conclude what their real religious-belief was, Inquisitors used to check on the defendants behaviour in their cells by using peeping-holes, similar to those I actually used in autumn 2000, in the Museum of Guarda, while regarding an exhibition named Jews and Inquisition in Portugal. I was amazed to discover there and then that reading about it is surely not enough!

 

 

Performing Rites and Practices in One of Two Religions (Table I)

 

Not only contemporary observations could be analyzed by Guttman-Scale methodology, but also historic documented ones. Even though it might seem as somewhat simplified historic generalizations, I shall point out at past examples. Before the 1496 Decree of Expulsion, an individuals religious-belief in Portugal could be defined in any moment as Jewish or Christian[4] according to rites performed by him, see below:

 

Table I. Performing rites and practices of either Jewish or Christian religions
in Portugal
before 1497:
Dichotomy: [does perform (+) / does not perform (-)]

 

 

Religious rites and practices

Jewish

Christian

a Jewish person

+

-

a Christian person

-

+

 

 

Such an analytic-model showing the above dual modes of behaviour (yes/no, or +/-), calls for the presentation of two more possible profiles:

 

 

Religious rites and practices

Jewish

Christian

Other (e.g.: Moslem, Pagan, Atheist)

-

-

Dual performance of same person

(no social need exists yet for such behaviour)

+

+

 

 

 

A Rearranged Scale-Order (Table II)

 

Logic and consistency demand rearranging the above 4 types according to a systematic order:

 

Table II. Performing rites and practices in one or two of Jewish/Christian religions
in Portugal
after 1497:
Dichotomy: [does perform (+) / does not perform (-)]

 

 

Religious rites and practices

Jewish

Christian

1.

does not perform rites and practices in any of the 2 mentioned religions

(e.g.: Moslem, Pagan, Atheist)

-

-

2.

performs only Christian rites and practices

(Old or New-Christian)

-

+

3.

performs only Jewish rites and practices

(Jewish)

+

-

4.

performs both religions rites and practices:

(named Marrano in Portugal or Converso in Spain)

(social causes do exist now for this behaviour)

+

+

 

 

Historically speaking, the conversion of Portugals Jews (and Moslems) was a multi-stage process. Counting on the help of secular authorities, at first the Church forced the heretics to convert into Christianity[5]. Therefore after 1497 the above Type no. 2 ( - + ) includes not only the original Old Christians, but the New Christians (Marranos) as well, most of them coercively baptized in a hurry and improperly[6], while standing on foot.[7]

 

Certainly before 1497 Type no. 4 ( + + ) in Table II was unnecessary and non-existent in Portugal, but after the 1497 coerced-conversion, this category started to grow in numbers, especially after tribunals of the Holy Inquisition were established (1536, in Spain earlier). It was harder and more dangerous now to avoid performing Christian rites in public. Thus the adopted way of life was one of acting as Christians out of doors, but keeping Jewish practices indoors; that is to say: performing rites of both religions, though on different arenas.[8] So, Crypto-Judaism started to become a frequent social pattern, especially as a result of the impossibility to legally emigrate from Portugal (not from Spain! However, there this pattern started earlier, since 1391).

 

Many examples clarify such double-behaviour in Portugal. A long time ago a Jesuit-priest asked a young boy in Faro what was his name. The naïve child asked him: in which of his two names is the priest interested, since he is called Abrahãosinho (Jewish) at home and Janico (Christian) outdoors[9]. Several centuries elapsed till Saa, a 20th century Christian-researcher, got a similar innocent answer from another young boy in the north of the country: which of the two Pater-Noster prayers he wishes him to cite, the home one (the Marrano revised-version) or the outdoors one (the right Christian)[10] That is how Marranism, or Type no. 4 ( + + ) in Table II, actually looked like.

 

In contrast, Type no. 1 ( - - ), started to increase only afterwards, mostly amongst Portuguese (and Spanish) Jews who managed to leave after 1497 or 1536 and settle in non-Catholic countries as the Netherlands. This became salient especially since enlightened circles in these countries started to probe logically into and discuss in public religious topics, thus contributing to the creation of skepticism and atheism[11]. Type no. 1 ( - - ) exists nowadays (covertly?) even in Catholic Portugal itself. Some Marrano descendents (mainly city-dwellers) lead a secular life, but not only them! I befriended several, either Marranos or Christians, though it took some time till I discovered they actually belonged to that category.

 

Back in 1497, some started at first to perform the Christian rites not fully, but rather partly, so as to be left alone. As a matter of fact, Portugals monarch Dom Manuel, enabled the formation of this mode by announcing that the new-converts should have an interval of several years in order to get accustomed to their new religious habits, thus changing the above dichotomy ( + - ), into a trichotomy of: yes/ partly/ no ( + = - ) as in Table III below.

 

 

Dichotomy versus Trichotomy (Table III)

 

More accuracy might be achieved in describing processes of change by preferring the trichotomic-division ( - = + ), such as transitions from one profile to another, between two points (or more) along the axis of time. These temporal transformations include either:

 

a.                  individual passages (Inquisition tribunals files might disclose such experiences, see below),
or

b.                 group passages as well.

 

For instance, most if not all Marranos of the first generations were probably more Jewish rather than Christian. Lamentably, oblivion, social pressure and fear from the Inquisition succeeded in making their disguise at first, and later their proper lives, more and more Christian. Thus trickling down from the pre-expulsion populated profile no. 3 ( + - ) in Table II, towards less-Jewish profiles such as ( = + ), or ( = = ), or worse, as ( = + ), or even no. 2 (- + ) in Table II, could happen. With time, also reversals are possible, too: one individual or other might return to Judaism, even after one or more generations of being loyal Christians. Such a case, documented in a Spanish Inquisition-file, turned into a play by Ben-Nakhum, A Jew in the Dark, performed in Habimah-Theater. Also, the personal history of Diogo Pires, alias Shlomo Molho, demonstrates the same trend. It goes without saying that the same analysis could be applied to Maimonides earlier generation of coerced conversion into Islam, typical of his time and whereabouts. Other diverse passages from one profile to another could be considered too, including a much later possible retreat from normative-Judaism back to Marranism (see below, The Collective Aspect).

 

Interior of new Belmontese synagogue, 1996,
including the Holy-Ark
and the Bimah (stage)

 

 

Table III. Performing rites and practices in one or two of Jewish/Christian religions,
in Portugal
after 1497:
Trichotomy: [does perform (+) / partly performs (=) / does not perform (-)]

 

 

Religious rites and practices

Jewish

Christian

A 1st generation (after 1497) Crypto-Jew in Portugal

or:

+

+

A 2nd generation Crypto-Jew still in Portugal

(between 1497-1536)

=

+

A Jew who left Portugal in 1497

+

-

A 2nd or 3rd generation (after 1497) Crypto-Jew , hesitating whether to run away from Portugal
or give up being Jewish

=

-

A Jew who converted into Christianity after 1497

or:

=

=

Another converted-Jew who does not remember any more Jewish rites and practices

-

=

Either an Old or New Christian

-

+

and many more trichotomic combinations

 

As time passed by, the deviation from mainstream Judaism crystallizes and turns into a distinct sub-stream. Meanwhile the Marrano phenomenon has been experiencing one metamorphosis[12] after another, thus widening the fracture between itself and normative Judaism, where constant modifications occurred too, widening the gap even more. In Belmonte religious books, knowledge of Hebrew, the Jewish-calendar, Community-leadership and hierarchy, as well as male-roles of performing rites and learning Torah (Jewish law) were lost and forgotten. At the same time the processes of portugalization, privatization and feminization took place. Again, Inquisition-files could demonstrate the gradual transformations from generation to generation.

 

 

Triple Choice of Rites and Practices: Jewish/Marrano/Christian
(Table IV)

 

After a long time, when Samuel Schwarz appeared in Belmonte in 1917 - or as some assume: even earlier[13] - the choice of behavioural-patterns by Crypto-Jews becomes a triple choice: Jewish, Marrano or Catholic. Deep in their souls Marranos do regard themselves as Jews, sometimes even as the last of the Jews. However their rites and practices now are not congruent anymore with those of mainstream Judaism. That is why the Marranos in Samuel Schwarzs generation (whose children and grandchildren I met in Belmonte from 1994-2000 onwards) found themselves hesitating between triple possibilities, as in the following Table IV.

 

Table IV. Performing rites and practices in 20th Century Belmonte, in one or more of 3 religions - Judaism/Marranism/Christianity:
Dichotomy: [does perform (+) / does not perform (-)]

 

 

Religious rites and practices

Jewish

Marrano

Christian

1.

after meeting Schwarz

+

+

+

2.

before meeting Schwarz

-

+

+

3.

several Marranos on late 90s

+

+

-

4.

(a non-probable type in Belmonte) [*]

+

-

+

5.

normative Jews in Belmonte

(married to locals, Rabbis, visitors)

+

-

-

6.

a part of todays Marranos

-

+

-

7.

Christians, a rare minority of Marranos

-

-

+

8.

Atheists or other minorities

-

-

-

[*] There are possibly one or two Marranos Christian-wives though, who wished to become Marrano/Jewish, but nobody would teach them the Marrano-tradition, since the husbands families exclude Christian-wives (according to rules of the long forgotten Halakhah). These wives could be defined as Type ( = - = ) if we were using here a trichotomy.
However, since it would be burdensome, a complete tri-religious Guttman-scale (Jewish/ Marrano/ Christian) based on trichotomic modes of behaviour (yes/ partly/ no), will not be presented here in a detailed table, including all its numerous alternative types, some of which would be illogical and non-existent just as the Type 4. dealt here.

 

 

An example of a triple-choice situation between Judaism, Marranism and Christianity follows here: Marranos who were suddenly exposed to Samuel Schwarz and the whole Jewish world, started again afterwards, in Salazars time (especially from the 30s to the 50s), to keep out of sight behind closed doors. There is a document from early 60s about a small group discreetly showing up in Lisbons synagogue on the normative Yom-Kippur (Day of Atonement).[14] They were aware of the synagogues existence due to rumours or earlier visits. Because their self-image is of proper Jews, they felt they had to come. This Belmontese group would fit the type ( = + + ), if Table IV were a trichotomy.

 

Another example: On the 80s Belmonte Marranos had already stopped going to Church, and were not married any more by the local priest too[15]. Some of the elderly men had been circumcised, but still none were officially converted into Orthodox-Judaism. From time to time diverse Jewish visitors openly organized normative Jewish-rites, such as Shabbat-prayers. These Marranos could have matched at that time the type ( = + = ).

 

 

Research Findings: Belmontese Scale-Profiles between 1994-2000 (Table V)

 

The following Table V shows some of my brethren - with whom I befriended in Belmonte and its surroundings on the late 90s[16]. As before, their concrete religious patterns of behaviour are stressed here, as observed by me. Their fuller case-studies are described below, on the background of their day to day life in Belmonte. These more detailed portraits would serve to revive the rather schematic Guttman-scale profiles appearing in the tables.

 

Table V includes a descending partial-order, from the most Christian-extreme to the Marrano, and lastly to the most Jewish-extreme. It seems to include all concrete profiles I met personally in my observations. I tried to estimate, but not to count, the frequency of each of these types, between 1994-2000. Some of them, at the two extremes of the rank-order, are rare, even very rare. The most frequent ones are emphasized by presenting two variations of the same Type d. (see d.1 and d.2 in Table V). My estimation, based on observation, is that the distribution of frequencies in this scale resembles a U-curve, as found in many other social phenomena.

 

Also, it seems that rare types at the head of the ranking (more Christian-like), are becoming scarce with time, whereas rare types at the bottom (more Jewish-like), might be even more populated after some individuals from the upper types would start dripping downwards, due to the sincere wish of Marrano descendants to adopt and practice the Halakhah commandments, as much as their humble possibilities enable them.

 

Table V. Belmontese Marrano-Descendants corresponding to scale-types performing rites and practices in one or more of 3 religions - Judaism/Marranism/Christianity.
Trichotomy: [does perform (+) / partly performs (=) / does not perform (-)]

 

Type

Fictitious
Name of individual

Religious rites and practices

Estimated Frequency

Jewish

Marrano

Christian

a. [*]

Tobias Mendes Caetano Jr.

-

-

+

Very rare

b.

Jose João Oliveira Pinto

-

-

=

Seldom exists (only in neighbour-hood)

c. [*]

Rui de Sousa Pereira

-

+

-

Frequent

d.(1)

Mercedes Caetano Rodrigues

=

=

=

Quite frequent

d.(2)

Antonio Manuel Diogo Vaz

=

=

=

Quite frequent

e.

Ana Caetano Morão

=

+

-

Rather frequent

f. [*]

Alda Lopes

+

+

-

Frequent
**]]

{g.}

 

{h.}[*]

Eduardo Raphael Jr.

Fluctuating between
both g. and h.

=

=

-

{Frequent}

+

-

-

{Very rare, even unique}

[*] Profiles appearing also in the dichotomic Table IV.

[**] Normative Judaism demands less from women than from men, in comparison with Marranism. Therefore conversion disburdens women from religious duties and roles. Even less educated women manage to learn by heart as ever the new halakhic rites and practices they have to perform from now on, as: Kosher rules, Hebrew prayers, as well as getting up or performing the required movements while praying, or kissing the Torah-Scrolls from afar. They need almost no more.


On the other hand, men have less duties, responsibilities and religious-leadership roles in Marranism than in normative-Judaism. After converting, not being sufficiently equipped and trained so as to fulfill halakhic-commandments, nor even acquiring yet the sufficient Hebrew needed to cope with responsibility and leadership - they feel a relative burdening now. That is why a researcher feels free to attribute a plus in Judaism to a woman rather than to a man, or: to Alda (Type f.) rather than to Eduardo (Type h.). Moreover, due to this, Type f. is more frequent in Belmonte than Type h.. Even the sprinter Eduardo (see below how he made progress more than any other man) has a lot to learn before finally being a full conventional Jew. However one should appreciate very much the truthful and persistent efforts of both men and women who invest much goodwill in adopting halakhic rules, in spite of difficulties.

 

 

Moreover: some of the profiles described below are stable in their religious behaviour, whereas others sometimes stagger and hesitate (like the above Eduardo, fluctuating between Types g. and h. in Table V). However it should be emphasized that such hesitations could stem either from personal or from collective reasons: sometimes the descent from type to type in Table V reflects difficulties within the crystallizing community itself, rather than personal difficulties, as described in detail in the sub-chapter 6: The Collective Aspect.

 

 

All rights reserved to Sara Molho, 2001

Publication of this article is permitted, but without changes, and with the stipulation that full mention is made of the source:

www.mybelmonte.com

 



[1] This scale (see also next footnote) is an analytic tool in social-sciences for classifying and quantifying qualitative social phenomena, as: patterns of behaviour, perceptions or attitudes manifested by subjects, even if it is not easy to measure them. Data is gathered mostly by questionnaires. In this case of Marrano descendants in Belmonte, some of the methodological reasons impeding the use of questionnaires were mentioned. People there are not accustomed to handle questionnaires (even those filled by the researcher). So, categorizing and counting reliable answers is questionable even before trying to calculate the scale-coefficient R, for correlations with other variables.

[2] Since his 1944 article, my teacher, Prof. E.L. Guttman, did not reject the use of scales based on anthropological observations, case studies, or introspection etc. He writes: The important thing is not how the observations were obtained ... (see p. 214 in his article in the Bibliography).

 

[3] See A. Garcias article in Fundãos local newspaper (1996), p. 12.

 

[4] Moslems, as well as Pagans arriving from Portuguese-colonies, or Christians belonging to heretic-cults, were knowingly ignored here.

 

[5] See the 1496 Decree of Expulsion of those declining to convert into Christianity, to be executed in summer 1497. Actually a massive expulsion did not occur in 1497 at all. Despite the decree, most Jews remained within Portugals boundaries, see E. Lipiners [1997] historical introduction on this site.

 

[6] Very many were baptized near the harbour, while waiting for ships that never came to evacuate them. In any event, kids younger than 14 years were taken and baptized. Sometimes hopeless parents gave up their forefathers religion out of fear, abandoning all its rites and commandments, hoping thus to get back their offspring.

 

[7] E. Lipiner chose to name his 1998 book after this traumatic experience: Os Baptizados em Pé (=on foot), see Bib.

[8] I thank Prof. Z. Werblowski who referred me to an interesting example of Japanese Crypto-Christians, whose religious behaviour resembles that of the Marranos. Responding to Iberian Christian missionaries they converted, but after the foreigners were expelled, they felt compelled to pretend for 250 years they were holding the same belief as the Japanese majority. Actually, in our terminology they are ( + + ), too. See Peter Noscos article [1993]: Secrecy and the Transmission of Tradition, Issues in the study of Underground Christians, in the Bibliography.

 

[9] See in the Bibliography, the (Hebrew) article by Moisés Orfali - 1997] ].

 

[10] See the (Hebrew) book by Nahum Slouschtz [1932-"] ',
citing Saa on p. 108.

 

[11] See in Bib.  Yirmiyahu Yovel [1988. - ["=

 

[12] In Yosef Hayim Yerushalmis [1992] own words, see p. 27.

 

[13] According to a conversation [1996] with the Prof. Elvira Ezevedo Mea, a historian of Porto University. See also D. Stuczynskis introduction to the Hebrew translation [2005] of S. Schwartzs [1925] book.

 

[14] See Steinhardt [1964], p. 3.

[15] The Marranos used to get married twice, once in a clandestine Marrano ceremony at home, by a female [a Matron-Rabbi]; and secondly, either immediately or after many years, by the local-priest in Church. It seems that this is the most significant symbol of staggering religious behaviour and duality since the Middle-Ages.

 

[16] All names are fictitious, since most Belmontese are very discreet.