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

 

 

6. Guttman-Scale analysis

 

Seven Theoretical-profiles presented by actual Belmontese
Marrano-descendants my brethren

 

 

Before turning to dwell upon The Collective Aspect, it should be mentioned right here that the Hebrew-site offers 7 vivid case-studies of real Belmonte Marrano-descendants. These profiles - congruent to the 7 analytic-types mentioned in Table V above - are based on my participant-observations among my Belmontese brethren. Most of them manifest the above mentioned Personal Aspect. Few represent hesitations stemming from the Collective Aspect.

 

These enlightening real-stories are going to be translated later into English. However, it is very important to recognize - even before reading them - the importance of grasping simultaneously both the theoretical-scale-types with the real life-stories parallel to them. By these anecdotes the phenomenon of practicing double-religions at the same time becomes not only plausible, or even logic in a way, but also pardonable.

 

The Personal Aspect

(to be translated soon into English)

 

 

The Collective Aspect

Translated from Hebrew by author,
partly edited by Mark Elliott Shapiro

 

As stressed above, some fluctuations between religions stem from rather collective aspects of life, not from personal ones.

 

Outside Community-Functionaries

 

A continuous service of appointed Rabinos (rabbis, male religious leaders) never occurred in Belmonte till now (2008)! Before World War II, a qualified Salonician rabbi considered settling in Belmonte, and even visited there, but never realized this plan[1]. On the 90s each of the two Jewish Agency appointed rabbis left after resisting either 2 or 3 years (1990-1996). They started the conversions while the Community was being created; however a considerable temporal-gap stretched between both their terms of office. In 2004, another Rabino (an Amishav appointment) stayed only several months. To sum up, since 1997 appointments were temporary, and mostly not of rabbis but rather of ritual-slaughterers (always budgeted by the same donor). Sometimes it was not clear whether anyone would arrive at all for the next feasts, not a temporary-slaughterer, nor even a young Jerusalem Yeshiva-student authorized to slaughter, functioning in Belmonte as if he were a qualified rabbi, and certainly treated as one.

 

Actually, instruction of halakhic rites by rabbis was partial in the past and needed at present (2008!).[2] For example: on 2000 the majority still could not conduct at home prayers as Kiddush or Havdalah, nor a real Sedder (Passover-ritual-banquet), as they should. They did not know which specific parashah should be read each Shabbat. For the benefit of everybody, functionaries/Jewish-visitors sometimes used to conduct these rites in common within the synagogue, since they were not practiced at home. In seven years of observation (1994-2000), those who somehow managed to conduct the newly acquired normative Passover-rites at home were only 2 !! However, in 2007 they doubled to 4 merely!! Also, in 2007 I have noticed that internet-connections might have party improved perception (how to get halakhic-knowledge), but not behaviour itself (how to apply it).

 

As to sending youngsters for religious studies, it had been found unsuccessful on the 20s-30s, when up to 5 Belmontese students went to study in the Oporto Yeshiva. None of them returned to their remote birth-place; they preferred to emigrate, sometimes renouncing their Judaism/Marranism. My meeting in 1999 with a Christian-offspring of one of them proves it: crossing oceans on her way to Italy she came to meet her (unknown to her) Belmontese relatives - now converted into Judaism. Moreover, even if they would have returned home from their studies in Oporto in the 30s, it is questionable whether Orthodox-Judaism would have recognized students of this particular Yeshiva - as qualified rabbis.

 

On the early 90s, the Belmonte Rabinos tried, unsuccessfully again, to send 1-2 young members to an Israeli Yeshiva. But Belmonte teenagers are much attached to their parents, so that leaving them for studies abroad - even in Israel - was out of question[3]. Belmonte families host visitors from all over the Jewish world, and accept their contributions as well; nevertheless they still manifest a local rather than a universalistic attitude in everyday life, sociologically speaking.

 

The Rabino S. S.
and a chosen candidate

 

Leadership in mainstream Judaism is always male and communal, whereas in Belmonte Communal Institutions are being formed only now, despite enduring individualistic tendencies. Regrettably, ignorance of Hebrew and halakhic-knowledge, do not encourage the formation of local male leadership. This, combined with the lack of reliability on a continuous service of outside-functionaries, bring about conflicts, a considerable turnover and dismissals of Presidents of the Community: Till 2000 only one president ended his full-term without being dismissed earlier!

 

Old Marrano residences
in the Belmonte Jewish-quarter

 

Such a prolonged situation gives rise to fluctuations and gliding back and forth between Judaism (emphasis on community life) and Marranism (individualistic, privatized and feminized life within the family), and even, Heaven forbid, a collective passage from Jewish-oriented scale-profiles to Marrano-oriented ones. Once people worried that maybe no religious-functionary would come to conduct the Passover rites; therefore several individuals publicly suggested turning back to the abandoned Marrano-rites, so as to celebrate at least the Marrano traditional-Passover! Such a retreat might change, in the Marrano-column of Table IV, each partly-mode ( = ) into a full-mode ( + ), while in the Jewish-column the full-mode ( + ) would be transformed either to partly ( = ) or even worse, to none ( - ). In short, crises in the Community and/or in religious-services it manages to provide, could result in passages from Types 5. or 3., to Types 6. or 7., thus reducing the frequency in the two first ones, while increasing it in the two last ones. What else could be expected from Marrano descendants in these circumstances?

 

It so happened in autumn 2005 that the Portuguese-speaking appointee (a Jerusalem Yeshiva-student authorized to slaughter, aged 20!) did arrive at the last moment, but he had never heard before about Crypto-Jews! Earlier, on more than one occasion, another older appointee was sent, but apart from Hebrew (which this congregation does not understand) speaks only Uzbek plus Russian! I asked him - a very serious and kindly person - according to his experience, how are they supposed to tell him their wishes, like: Please, could you slaughter for me five geese and two lambs? or: request his halakhic advice on intimate personal matters; or even: request him to conduct in synagogue a personal-prayer for the good health of, or in memory of a relative, and be sure he understands what prayer is requested this time?[4] One cannot accuse them of not being creative: once a few members of the Community led him uphill, to the Castelo, where restoration-works were conducted, since among the unskilled-workers there was one, a Russian-gentile, who managed to speak a little Portuguese. This labourer had to function as an expert-translator of halakhic matters. This is a true story dated autumn 2000. A sad one though!

 

a. The Castelo from the Inside,
October 1996

b. and from the Outside,
April 1996

 

Attitude Towards Education

 

As to educational aspects, examples were given above of two Marrano-kids in different generations, which demonstrate explicitly how Marrano-education was intended to accustom youngsters to duality in religious behaviour, though conducting it in distinct arenas, indoors/outside: -

 

In the past (before 1994):

a. at home: (Jewish) Marrano /

b. outside home: Christian

 

That is to say that in the past they used a Christian-mask, whereas the content, hidden from the Christian-vicinity, was Marrano. However nowadays dualism still exists, but the contents, as well as the degree of secrecy differ:

 

1994 and on:

1) those who returned to Judaism:

a. at home: Jewish-halakhic + a Marrano flavour /

b. outside: only Jewish[5]

 

2) those who did not convert (remained Marranos)

a. at home: Marrano + a halakhic flavour[6] /

b. outside: Christian+Marrano

 

The main difference is that people do not hide any more from Christians. In mourning services at home, the male Minyan (at least ten men) might recite Jewish prayers even on the balcony, in front of all the Goios (Gentile), either neighbours or passers by, whereas that same mourning familys double Marrano-rites and prayers for the same deceased - are always clandestinely kept by women. Also, they do not close any more the shutters of the new synagogue before taking out the Torah-scrolls, as done in the provisory-synagogue between their conversion (1992) and December 1996 (the inauguration of the new one); there are no shutters in the new one!

 

Entrance to the New Synagogue

 

Nevertheless they still use masks in front of Jewish visitors or even their Rabinos, if they assume (sometimes mistakenly) that previous Marrano-practices they still wish to observe, might contradict Halakhah (see Type f.: Alda Lopes case-study). Other behavioural changes could also occur.

 

Women's traditional attire in Belmonte
(like Alda
s)

 

Formal-education is another aspect contributing to fluctuations and hesitation. Nowhere in Portugal is there any Jewish school, therefore Belmontes Community pupils - though they openly manifest their Jewish identity now - are enlisted to general schools still providing some Christian education too. Since 1994 exemptions from school in order to participate in Jewish-feasts are common, provided a certification by the Rabino is shown. But sometimes parents of incompetent secondary-school pupils, prefer not to endanger their scholar achievements by attending feasts like Rosh-Hashannah/Passover. Only once did it occur on a Kippur (Day of Atonement) that a pupil (aged about 6 !) was sent to her primary-school, while all the rest of her family attended the synagogue. However gossip, a mechanism of social-control within every community, vehemently denounced this parental decision.

 

Summing up

 

In these two sub-chapters (5&6): we acquainted some real people who hesitate and fluctuate between practices of 2-3 different religions. We met most of them either in Table V and/or in their following case-studies, like Type d.2 - Antonio Manuel Vaz (a reminder: all names mentioned here are fictitious), and his spouse, who manifest staggering religious behaviour on the very same day of Rosh-Hashannah. So do the undecided rest: Type d.1, Mercedes Caetano Rodrigues; or Type e., Ana Caetano Morão; and certainly Eduardo Raphael Vaz, fluctuating between both Types g. & h.. At the beginning of this chapter, Feathers etc., we also came across Ricardo Vaz Nunes celebrating double rites in Passover: on one hand according to Halakhah at the Sedder-table, with the Rabino and the whole Community; but on the other hand - on the very same feast - the Rabino spotted him crossing the Red-Sea in his heavily irrigated front-garden, according to a (modernized? public?) version of the hidden Marrano-tradition. So did the above mourners, practicing in parallel double rites on the same seven days of mourning, hosting a public male Minyan, apart from the clandestine female prayer-gatherings, meant to appease their Marrano past.

 

Appendix:

Correspondence (in Hebrew) with Mr. Avraham Burg, The Jewish Agency (1995-6)

 

A letter to Mr. Burg

 

 

 

 

Answer from Mr. Burg

 

 

 

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] A personal conversation with Inacio Steinhardt (in summer 1994). Details could be found in Dov Stuczynskis introduction to his Hebrew translation of Schwartzs book (2005).

 

[2] See in this website my appraisal (2006) of the chapter in Dr. Antonieta Garcias (1993) book on history of Belmonte-Jews.

 

[3] In 2005-2007 there is a Belmontese Yeshiva-student, not too young, who studies ritual-slaughtering in Jerusalem, according to his own initiative.

 

[4] See below the appendix presenting a correspondence with Mr. Avraham Burg, then the head of the Jewish Agency. My letter proves that the hesitation and fluctuations as a result of lack of leadership, ignorance, and confusion could have been anticipated and prevented on time. They were not a force-major plight.

 

[5] In a personal conversation, in autumn 1997, D. Canelo claimed that some of the newly converted to Judaism still celebrate the Marrano Natalinho (=Moses birthday); traditionally they do so on the 11th day after Decembers new-moon (Canelo 1987, p. 117), thus preceding the Natal (=Christmas). However, if the small Natal is really Moses Birthday in the Marranos eyes (following the words of an interviewee in F. Brenner et al.s film taken in 1988), it is rather considered as a Jewish feast, although it had been transferred from the 7th of Adar, preceding Passover and Spring. But changing dates of other feasts is also common in the Marrano tradition, so as to deceive the Inquisition.

 

[6] Also those who did not convert to Judaism lately adopt the halakhic calendar in order to celebrate their feasts; they also buy imported mazot (kosher) or flour from time to time, come to the synagogue, etc.