The Return of the Jews to Portugal

Jews have lived in Portugal since at least the 5th century CE. In the late 15th century, the Jewish population peaked as thousands of Spanish Jews entered the country fleeing persecution and then the expulsion of 1492. Only five years later, the Portuguese king decreed that all his Jewish subjects had to be baptized, after which Judaism became illegal—leading to the relatively high number of crypto-Jews in the country. Laurence Julius describes the revival of the Jewish community in the city of Porto:

Over 300 years [after the forced conversion], Jews returned to Porto from the communities of North Africa. Records show there was a small Sephardi community in Porto in 1867. More familiar names appear, like Azulay, Amzalag, Benhanon, Cohen, and Ohayon. At the turn of the 20th century, there was an influx of Ashkenazi Jews from across Eastern Europe.

The community was reinvigorated by Arthur Carlos de Barros Basto, a former soldier who converted to Judaism in Tangier in 1920. His grandfather, on his death bed, had told him of his Jewish roots. Under Basto’s leadership, the community started the Jewish Community of Porto (CIP) in 1923. It focused on five issues: hospitals, Jewish instruction, Jewish observance, workers’ rights, and cemeteries.

In 1926, Basto joined with the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community in London in a campaign to convert thousands of Marranos across Portugal to Judaism. In 1929, they began construction of the magnificent Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue. It was completed in 1938, the last major synagogue built before World War II. During the war, Basto helped hundreds of Jews escape the Holocaust.

Read more at JNS

More about: Jewish history, Marranos, Portugal, Spanish Expulsion


The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7