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Braganza, Portugal

BRAGANZA, town in northern Portugal. The royal privileges of 1187 spoke of the penalty to be inflicted if a Jew who came to the city was assaulted, from which it appears that no community had yet been set up. In 1279 a number of Jews from the city, apparently recently arrived, paid King Denis handsomely for a charter of protection. Thereafter, there are frequent mentions of the community. Under Alfonso IV (1325–1357) there were complaints by the populace against the rate of interest charged by the Jews, which was henceforth limited. In 1429 the comuna of the Jews of Braganza were given certain privileges by the Crown, confirmed in 1434 and 1487. In 1461 the community, led by their rabbi, Jacob Cema (Ẓemaḥ), assembled in a public square and appointed representatives to negotiate with the city authorities on matters in dispute. The rabbi in 1485 was Abraham, the physician who purchased the wines produced by the royal estate adjacent to the "vineyards of the Jews." On the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, 3,000 exiles arriving through Benavente are said to have established themselves in the region. After the forced conversion in Portugal in 1497, Braganza became one of the most important centers of crypto-Judaism in the country. Many Crypto-Jewish families retained their special identity, continuing to practice some Jewish customs, uphold certain beliefs, and marry among themselves. Bragança was the place of origin of many important Converso families. It was in Bragança that Orobio de Castro, who died as a Jew in Amsterdam, was born in 1621. The number of Crypto-Jews in Bragança was very high, and some 800 local Judaizers appeared at various autos-da-fé in Portugal up to 1755. For example, more than 60 appeared in a single auto held at Coimbra on May 17, 1716. Traces of crypto-Judaism are still strong there, though attempts to establish some sort of organized Jewish life have failed. In 1920s services were still held in a place of worship, a synagogue where children received religious instruction. Special prayers were recited and the services were led by women. In the first half of the 20th century descendants of Crypto-Jews still lived in their own quarter.


F.M. Alves, Os Judeus no distrito de Bragança (1925); J. Mendes dos Remedios, Os Judeus em Portugal, 1 (1895), 138–9, 152; M. Kayserling, Geschichte der Juden in Portugal (1857), index; Portuguese Marranos Committee, London, Marranos in Portugal (1938), 5–8. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D.A. Canelo, Os últimos criptojudeus em Portugal (2001).

[Cecil Roth / Yom Tov Assis (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.