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Alon Meltzer (ID 800-190-699)

Reaction Paper I

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Individual vs. The Community

Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, “Chapter I: Marranos in the Seventeenth Century”, From Spanish Court to Italian Ghetto. (New York, 1971) 1-50.

That an individual could chose, whether by force or by free will, to change their faith, their

cultural heritage, the daily customs, and their communal ties, is an extremely fascinating topic of study.

But the concept of an entire community, overnight, being forced into a choice that would not only shape

their personal future, but also the future of their entire region, is nothing short of perplexing. As a

sociologist that uses history to develop insights into the happenings of a community, the differences

that occurred between the marranos of Spain, and those of Portugal opens for much further analysis of

the methodology of the ruling elite, and the acceptance of the individuals and the community.



the idea










inquisition of Spain and the inquisition of Portugal, is derived out of the timelines of the two events.

Spain has a timeline that is threefold; the first period being prior to 1931 where there was a strong

Jewish community, united in their faith and their observance yet divided with their neighbors in the

realms of religion. The second period is between 1931-1492 is where there is division in the community,

with many people converting to Christianity, becoming the Conversos, and the frictions arising between

the Jewish community, and the staunch Catholic community who believed the remaining Jews had a

mission to keep the conversos affiliated with Judaism. Finally, the third period is post 1942 when Jews

are expelled and the remaining conversos community is left isolated, slowly assimilating into the

Catholic community. Portugal is slightly different, perhaps a little more simple, divided into two parts,

pre and post 1492. There were Jews and then there were no Jews.

Alon Meltzer (ID 800-190-699)

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Conversion in Portugal happened almost overnight, and the community that was strong, was

suddenly no more. Obviously there must have been a number of the Portuguese conversos that were

still, even if incognito, very much involved in their Judaism, however there was also less chance of

friction between the three communities that had occupied the same space in Spain. On the part of the

church, there was no chance of problematic Judaizing that sparked the inquisition in Spain. On the part

of the Jews, there was no active engagement between the community and the conversos, trying to

ensure that even those, whom had left the fold, would still be able to find their way back, because sadly

there was no longer a community.

With the use of this methodology, the Portuguese had created a vacuum of spiritual observance,

traditions and customs were suddenly lost as was the unity between a people within the country, and a

nation across the world. The ability to carry out a systematic jumping of ship, from one religion to

another, provided the church the ability to fill that vacuum with their own doctrinal values, ensuring

that the conversos community would be absorbed into mainstream society. It is with this thought, this

idea that in such a short period of time, an entire community around a large geographical area can be, in

a manner of speaking, obliterated spiritually, recalls the saying of Karl Marx that religion is the opium of

the people. By keeping the community actively engaged in a form of spiritual and religious service, they

were able to ensure that the masses remained docile and subservient. With no sponsorcommunity to

ensure that their Jewish faith was not lost, a new breed of Catholics was developed in Portugal, one that

had no visible reminder of what made them different from their original Catholic brethren.

With this brief comparison between the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions we are able to see

the impacts of the methodologies. In Spain the process was more gradual, allowing for a constant

connection between the conversos and the Jews, whereas in Portugal the abrupt nature of the process,

the ties were immediately severed, resulting in a loss of the Jew and a far greater acceptance of