From the sixteenth century on, hundreds of Portuguese New Christians began to flow to Venice and Livorno in Italy, and to Amsterdam and Hamburg in northwest Europe. In those cities and later in London, Bordeaux, and Bayonne as well, Iberian conversos established their own Jewish communities, openly adhering to Judaism. Despite the features these communities shared with other confessional groups in exile, what set them apart was very significant. In contrast to other European confessional communities, whose religious affiliation was uninterrupted, the Western Sephardic Jews came to Judaism after a separation of generations from the religion of their ancestors. In this edited volume, several experts in the field detail the religious and cultural changes that occurred in the Early Modern Western Sephardic communities.
This book scrutinizes literary works based on Judaism, Jews and their descendants, written or printed by the Portuguese, from the forced conversion of Jews in 1497, until the ending of the distinction between New and Old Christians in 1773. It tries to understand what motivated this vast literary production, its different currents, and how they evolved. Additionally, it studies the image of New Christians and seeks the reasons for the perpetuation of this perception of Jewish descendants in the Early Modern Portuguese world. The Imaginary Synagogue seeks to identify which Jews and which ‘synagogue’ those authors constructed in their texts and their reasons for doing so, and offers conclusions on the self-affirmed Catholic importance of this literary current.