Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Customer's Dying Wish, The fate of a Modern day Marrano

Bad luck brings more bad luck. That is the way I would describe the unfortunate state of Marranos today. The Portuguese Inquisition has been disbanded in 1821, but it's effects are still being felt to this day. A few years ago I started sending books and corresponding with a Marrano living deep in the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. The lifestory of his, is a fascinating one indeed. His family were Brazilians for close to 500 years, leaving Portugal when it was no longer safe for them to live as Jews only to have the Inquisition follow them with the Portuguese conquest of Brazil. They married within their families only and lived on the outside as Catholics but as Jews at heart. They managed to keep the spirit within them for 500 years, due in no small part to the Catholics dislike of the conversos and their not wanting to marry in to them. He had relatives who died at the stake in the New World as well.

Copper engraving entitled "Die Inquisition in Portugall", by Jean David Zunner from the work "Description de L'Univers, Contenant les Differents Systemes de Monde, Les Cartes Generales & Particulieres de la Geographie Ancienne & Moderne" by Alain Manesson Mallet, Frankfurt, 1685.

The Jewish customs that prevailed in the family, seem to be an odd mix. A Jewish burial was very important to them, he buried his father and grandfather with his own hands in the family plot to ensure this. Their way of slaughtering animals vaguely resembles the Shehita, and most importantly, even though they attended church regularly, they were taught as children to have in their heart just one God and not the trinity.
Unfortunately, he was never able to fulfill his wish and convert and get a full Jew's status. The bureaucracy that surrounds conversion today blocked off all the viable options. To be recognized as a valid conversion by Israel, a convert must live as a Jew with the local community for a year, come with references and then attend courses in Israel for another year. His family and financial obligations prevented him from the ability to do this and the nearest Jewish Communities in Brazil were not of much help.
He was called up to heaven recently and left in his will, that I, his sole connection to the established Jewish world, say Kaddish for him, may he rest in peace.
The saddest part of the story is that his son as with the bulk of his generation, with the advance of the modern world, brought a lack of interest in religion one way or another and show now interest in preserving what their ancestors gave their lives for. He sees himself as a catholic, and frankly could not understand what his father's passion was all about. Thus ends the story of the latest victim of the Portuguese Inquisition.

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