A Hidden Mikveh in Brazil

In 2016, the Brazilian-American children’s writer Daniela Weil spent six months in the city of Salvador, in Brazil’s Bahia state. Unlike her native São Paulo, which has a thriving Jewish community, Salvador has only some 200 Jews. But Weil soon learned that the city—once the center of the Portuguese Inquisition in the New World—had a mikveh (ritual bath). She eventually met Bruno Guinard, the transplanted Frenchman who discovered the mikveh on the grounds of the hotel he owns, and told her its story:

“A few years ago,” he began, ​“a Jew­ish guest from Europe noticed the odd-look­ing foun­tain near the court­yard. She told me she thought it might be a mikveh.”

What was a mik­veh? he won­dered. He shrugged it away, until a sec­ond Jewish vis­i­tor asked the same question.

He decid­ed to go to the office of his­tor­i­cal her­itage to inquire about the guests’ asser­tion. They sent a team to inspect the hotel, and gave him a ver­dict: the foun­tain was noth­ing more than a Por­tuguese bath. Now, Bruno knew lit­tle if noth­ing of Jew­ish his­to­ry. He had heard of Turk­ish Baths, and Japan­ese baths, but he knew he had nev­er heard of a Portuguese bath before. And he knew baths only began being built in the homes in Sal­vador in the 19th cen­tu­ry. That made him think something was indeed fishy. His curios­i­ty led him to jump down the research rab­bit hole himself.

Bruno began to research Cryp­to-Jews dur­ing the Inqui­si­tion. He learned of all the dif­fer­ent ways that they laid low: Torah scrolls hid­den behind false walls, secret com­part­ments in homes, subtle mark­ings on stone. Despite lit­tle aca­d­e­m­ic research about the Jews in Bahia, many his­to­ri­ans believe that up to three-fifths of the pop­u­la­tion may have been “New Chris­tians,” Jews who con­vert­ed dur­ing the Inqui­si­tion, [or their immediate descendants]. Bruno found out that about 80 per­cent of the Inquisi­to­r­i­al cas­es in Bahia were for secret Jew­ish practices.

Subsequently, several scholars have confirmed Guinard’s suspicion.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at Jewish Book Council

More about: Brazil, Inquisition, Latin America, Marranos, Mikveh

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin