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Porto’s Jewish community unveils memorial to 842 local victims of Portuguese Inquisition

PORTO, Portugal (JTA) — In this city on Portugal’s northwestern coast, a small Jewish community has dedicated years to identifying its predecessors who were killed or expelled in the Portuguese Inquisition of 1536 to 1821.

Drawing on newly digitized records, the community was able to identify 842 people, ranging from 10 to 110 years old, who were victims of the Inquisition locally. On Sunday, it inaugurated a memorial engraved with their names.

The memorial, dedicated during a special event called the European Day of Jewish Culture, measures 13 feet wide by 6.5 feet high and is installed on an exterior wall of Porto’s Jewish Museum.

The museum is one of several institutions that have flourished in recent years as Porto, which is home to roughly 1,000 Jews today, has benefited from a swell of interest among tourists and descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from the region who for the last eight years have been allowed to apply for citizenship.

But while the citizenship law has given rise to new investments in contemporary Jewish communities, Portugal still has a dearth of education about the Inquisition, according to Hugo Vaz, the curator of Porto’s Jewish Museum and Holocaust Museum. Although references have begun to make appearances in the curricular manuals for Portuguese schools, many students are asked to learn little about the Jewish population that was all but stamped out of their country over three centuries.

“I am 35 years old, and when I learned about the Inquisition in school, I learned that the Inquisition was the hunting of witches,” Vaz told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I learned that in less than five minutes.”

Comparatively, Holocaust education has improved. Portugal was officially neutral in World War II and became a passageway for many Jewish refugees, making that episode of its history more favorable than the “black page” of the Inquisition, said Vaz.

Next to each name on the memorial is the date of the victim’s auto-da-fé, a public ceremony in which people were sentenced by the Inquisition. Some were sentenced to death and burned alive on that date, others imprisoned and tortured, others expelled and others forced to wear the “sambenito” — a humiliating outfit that featured crosses or painted devils and flames, as well as a conical hat — for the rest of their lives. The elaborate ceremonies usually took place in Portugal’s largest squares.

Grand procession to the auto-da-fe of people sentenced by the Inquisition of Lisbon in the 18th century. (Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

Most of the victims were accused of practicing Judaism by their neighbors, such as business rivals or former housekeepers, said Vaz. Historians believe it is possible that many victims, especially by the late 17th century, were assimilated Catholics who did not keep Jewish traditions at all.

Porto’s memorial wall was facilitated by the community’s digitization of records from the National Archives in Lisbon, said Michael Rothwell, director of the Jewish Museum and Holocaust Museum.

“Over the last number of years, there has been a big effort to put all those records online,” Rothwell told JTA. “Our community is supporting the restoration of all the case files that are rotting away. The ones that were in good condition have been scanned and put online, so we were able to do research online to find the Jews in the Inquisition who were from Porto.”

The community has hired historians to study the cases of all 842 people on the memorial and plans to publish a book on their stories next year.

Vaz hopes that learning more about these victims, such as a 10-year-old child accused together with their family, will encourage deeper education about the centuries-long period of persecution.

“A 10-year-old child doesn’t have consciousness of what religion means,” he said. “For me it’s unbelievable thinking about a nation persecuting everyone, including the kids, for practicing something they actually were not very well aware of.”


The post Porto’s Jewish community unveils memorial to 842 local victims of Portuguese Inquisition appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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‘Crisis at Columbia’: Elite University Spirals Into Chaos Against Backdrop of School President’s DC Testimony

Demonstrators take part in an anti-Israel demonstration at the Columbia University campus, in New York City, US, Feb. 2, 2024. REUTERS/David Dee Delgado

Columbia University exploded into a welter of anti-Israel protests while its president, Minouche Shafik, was in Washington, DC on Wednesday testifying before US lawmakers about antisemitism on the New York campus, where law enforcement had to be called to pacify the ongoing demonstrations on Thursday.

A group that calls itself Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) commandeered a section of campus on Wednesday afternoon and, after declaring it a “liberated zone,” lit flares and chanted pro-Hamas and anti-American slogans, according to reports. When the New York City Police Department (NYPD) arrived to disperse the unauthorized gathering, hundreds of students reportedly amassed around them to prevent the restoration of order.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas, which saw some verbal skirmishes between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist partisans. “Long live Hamas!” said others who filmed themselves dancing and praising the al-Qassam Brigades, a wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!” they shouted, words that reinforced the theme of Wednesday’s US congressional hearing: “Crisis at Columbia.”

NYPD officers began making arrests on Thursday morning, although it was unclear how many of those apprehended were Columbia University students and what success they have had in regaining control of the “liberated zone.” Video from the campus showed officers loading dozens of protesters onto police buses.

“Out of an abundance of concern for the safety of Columbia’s campus, I authorized the New York Police Department to begin clearing the encampment from the South Lawn of Morningside campus that had been set up by students in the early hours of Wednesday morning,” Shafik said in a statement, adding that the protesters had “violated a long list of rules and policies.”

Founded in 1754, Columbia University has reached an inflection point in its history as critics strive to hold it to account. Since Oct. 7, anti-Zionist agitators have beaten up Jewish students, stolen posters of missing Israelis who have been taken as hostages into Gaza, called for a genocide of the Jewish people, and invited members of a terrorist organization to speak at events on campus. Critics have alleged that no one has been punished for these violations of the school’s code of conduct.

While Columbia spiraled into chaos, Shafik was in Washington, DC telling lawmakers on the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce that she has done all she can to address the severity of antisemitism fueled by anti-Israel animus.

“Trying to reconcile the free speech rights of those who wanted to protest and the rights of Jewish students to be in an environment free of discrimination and harassment has been the central challenge on our campus and numerous others across the country,” said Shafik, who admitted she prepped many hours for Wednesday’s hearing. “Regrettably, the events of [Hamas’ invasion of Israel on] Oct. 7 brought to the fore an undercurrent of antisemitism that is a major challenge, and like many other universities Columbia has seen a rise in antisemitic incidents.”

At one point, Shafik claimed that over a dozen students have been suspended for antisemitic conduct and holding an unauthorized event, titled “Resistance 101,” to which a member Palestine Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was invited. However, committee chair Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), responded that since Oct. 7, only Jewish students have been suspended for allegedly spraying an “odorous” fragrance near anti-Zionist protesters, an incident mentioned by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to seemingly undermine the verbal and physical abuse to which Jewish students at Columbia have been subjected.

On Thursday, Miriam Elman, a Columbia University alumna and executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, told The Algemeiner that Shafik was outshone by three of her colleagues who were also called to testify before the committee and discussed the presence of antisemitism among the school’s faculty: Professor David Schizer — co-chair of the school’s antisemitism task force — Claire Shipman, and David Greenwald, both of whom are members of the board of trustees.

“Shipman was right to say that professors need to be held to a higher standard than students,” Elman said. “The Columbia official who delivered the best performance at the hearing, however, was David Schizer. He compared what Jewish students are facing on campus to the long history of anti-Jewish hate and to experiences that his own grandfather faced when he was nearly lynched by antisemitic thugs. His powerful and personal opening statement was pitch perfect for the moment.”

Columbia University is under investigation by the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce and is preparing to defend itself against a civil lawsuit alleging that school officials intentionally ignored antisemitism and left Jewish students exposed to numerous physical and emotional injuries inflicted on them by students and faculty.

For many in the Jewish community, what is happening at Columbia is a microcosm of a problem plaguing colleges and universities everywhere.

“Yesterday’s hearing is a recognition of the growing atmosphere of hate that continues to target students around the country,” said Brooke Goldstein, founder and executive director of The Lawfare Project, which is representing one of the students who is suing Columbia. “We want to thank Chairwoman Foxx and the committee for their work to hold higher education institutions and their leaders accountable for protecting against antisemitism.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post ‘Crisis at Columbia’: Elite University Spirals Into Chaos Against Backdrop of School President’s DC Testimony first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Doorstep Postings: Doug Ford scarfs it down after some of his party members support the house speaker keeping keffiyehs out of Queen’s Park

This is a special edition of Doorstep Postings, the periodic political commentary column written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN. It’s a shame that our Palestinian friends have spent so much time and gotten so good at pointing out the contradictions that underlie and undermine our political systems. I say it’s a shame because they never […]

The post Doorstep Postings: Doug Ford scarfs it down after some of his party members support the house speaker keeping keffiyehs out of Queen’s Park appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘A Time for Vigilance’: FBI Director Says Agency on Alert for Threats Against Jewish Community During Passover

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the House Approbations Subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, April 11, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy

The director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Wednesday said his agency was on alert for threats posed to the Jewish community during Passover, which begins on Monday night.

Christopher Wray told a group of Jewish community security officials about the FBI’s state of alertness during an event titled, “Passover Without Fear: Preparedness and Security Considerations in Today’s World.”

Wray said the FBI was “particularly concerned” that lone-wolf attackers may target Passover gatherings, high-profile events, and/or religious locations. 

At the same time, he said that while “I’m not providing these updates in any way to alarm you, because this is not a time for panic,” it was “a time for continued vigilance.” 

The Jewish holiday of Passover, which celebrates the Biblical story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt, will begin next Monday evening and end the following Tuesday.

The national director and CEO of the Secure Community Network — the organization Wray was speaking to and that describes itself as “the official safety and security organization of the Jewish community in North America” — said he was not aware of any specific threats at this time.

Taking a step back, Wray said that even before the Hamas terror group’s Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, “the threat to Jewish Americans had already elevated.” However, he continued, “in the six months since then, we’ve seen those threats elevated” even further.

In December, the FBI said there had been a 60 percent spike in antisemitic hate crime investigations since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war. Then on Wednesday, Wray said the probes into antisemitic crimes tripled in the months following Oct. 7.

“Between Oct. 7 and Jan. 30 of this year, we opened over three times more anti-Jewish hate crime investigations than in the four months before Oct. 7,” he explained.

Last year, the FBI found that 63 percent of all religiously motivated hate crimes were directed against Jews.

There have been a number of mass shooting, bomb, and other threats against synagogues across the US since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, when the Palestinian terror group killed 1,200 people and took more than 250 hostages to Gaza.

Wray’s latest comments came one day after the the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released its annual audit of hate incidents that targeted the Jewish community.

The ADL recorded 8,873 antisemitic incidents in 2023 — an average of 24 every day — across the US, amounting to a surge of 140 percent compared to the prior year and the most such outrages since the organization began tracking such data in 1979.

The vast majority of the antisemitic incidents — 5,204 — occurred after the Hamas atrocities of Oct. 7.

“Since Oct. 7, anti-Zionism is impossible to separate from the Hamas attacks,” the ADL said. “These rallies have a dramatically different impact on the Jewish communities that have felt demonized and harassed because of this sustained level of intense anti-Zionist street activism.”

Beyond outrages such as assault, vandalism, and harassment, the ADL included in its tally “rallies that include support for Hamas or justify its attacks, calls to ‘globalize the intifada’ or ‘by all means necessary,’ and expressions of anti-Zionism such as the phrases ‘Zionism is terrorism,’ or ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’”

The post ‘A Time for Vigilance’: FBI Director Says Agency on Alert for Threats Against Jewish Community During Passover first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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