The largest of the South American states, extending from lat. 5° N. to 33° 45' S., long. 35° to 74° W., with an area of 3,209,878 square miles. It was discovered by Vincente Yanez Pinzon in 1499, and independently in 1500 by Pedro Alvarez de Cabral, a Portuguese, whose country claimed the southeastern coast by right of (discovery, and made the first permanent settlement in 1531.
The history of the Jews in Brazil begins almost simultaneously with the history of the country itself. As early as 1548 Jews were banished by the Portuguese Inquisition to Brazil, and in the same year it is stated that Portuguese Jews transplanted the sugar-cane from the island of Madeira to Brazil.
The Inquisition was never officially established in Brazil, but it had its agents there from the very start. At an early date mention is made of Neo-Christians or Maranos being sent back from Brazil to Europe to stand trial before the Holy Office. This practise became more frequent after 1580, when Portugal itself came under the dominion of Spain, and the Inquisition became supreme in both countries. The Maranos of the New World were therefore compelled to wear the mask just as they had in the Old.
As early as 1610 mention is made of the physicians of Bahia in Brazil, who are described as being mainly Neo-Christians, and who prescribed pork to lessen the suspicion of the charge of Judaism. Pyrard, the historian, who visited the place in 1610, says that a rumor was then afloat that "the king of Spain desires to establish the Inquisition here, on which account the Jews are greatly frightened." Certain it is, however, that these persons did not openly profess their faith.
These secret Jews, besides acquiring wealth, became very numerous at the beginning of the seventeenth century. They were then among the wealthiest inhabitants, some being worth from 60,000 to 100,000 crusados. "But they were despised by their narrow-minded countrymen, and were in constant danger of losing their property through the agents of the Holy Office" (Southey's "Brazil").
In the second decade of the seventeenth century the Dutch commenced their ambitious schemes for the conquest of Brazil. In connection with some of the earliest intrigues, special mention is made of one Francisco Ribiero, a Portuguese captain who is described as having Jewish relatives in Holland.
The secret Jews welcomed and assisted the Dutch in 1618, particularly as at that time they had good reason to dread the introduction of the Inquisition, which had recently arrested in Oporto almost all merchants of Jewish extraction. Many of the victims were engaged in the Brazilian trade, and the inquisitor-general applied to the government to assist the Holy Office to recover such part of their effects as might be in the hands of their agents in Brazil. Accordingly Don Luiz de Sousa was charged to send home a list of all the Neo-Christians in Brazil, "with the most precise information that can be obtained of their property and places of abode." It was the Dutch war alone that prevented the introduction of the Holy Office. It was at this period particularly that the Neo-Christians of Brazil threw off the mask and appeared as distinctive members of the Jewish faith.The Dutch and the Jews.
The Dutch relied upon this large Jewish population for assistance when they prepared their plans for the conquest of the country. The Dutch West India Company was formed in 1622 in furtherance of the project, and it is significant that one of thearguments in favor of the organization was "that the Portuguese themselves—some from their hatred of Castile, others because of their inter-marriages with Neo-Christians, and their consequent dread of the Inquisition—would either willingly join or feebly oppose an invasion, and all that was needful was to treat them well and give them liberty of conscience."
The Dutch were not mistaken. When their fleet was sent against Bahia all necessary information was obtained from the Jews. The city was captured in 1624; and true to the policy mentioned, Willekens, the Dutch commander, at once issued a proclamation offering liberty, free possession of their property, and free enjoyment of their religion to all who would submit. This brought over about 200 Jews, "who exerted themselves to make others follow their example." Unfortunately for the Jews, Bahia was recaptured by the Portuguese in 1625; and though the treaty provided for the safety of other inhabitants, the Neo-Christians who had placed such trust in the Hollanders were abandoned, and five of them were put to death. Many of the Maranos seem to have remained, however; for they are mentioned again in 1630. See Bahia.
The Dutch soon gained another foothold and spread their conquests. The Portuguese city of Recife, or Pernambuco, was captured by the Dutch in 1631; and immediately most of the Jews and Neo-Christians from Bahia and elsewhere removed to that city, although it had a large Jewish population of its own, as it had been principally settled by Jews. The Dutch endeavored to secure colonists, and appealed to Holland for craftsmen of all kinds. Many Portuguese Jews of Holland came to Brazil in response to the call; for now that the country offered them full religious liberty, it also gave them the additional advantage of dwelling among a population where they could speak their own language. Southey asserts that these Jews made excellent subjects.
"Some of the Portuguese Brazilians gladly threw off the mask which they had so long been compelled to wear, and joined their brethren of the synagogue. The open joy with which they now celebrated their ceremonies attracted too much notice: it excited the horror of the Catholics; and even the Dutch themselves, less liberal than their own laws, pretended that the toleration of Holland did not extend to Brazil." The result was an edict by which the Jews were ordered to perform their rites more privately.
At this period the Jews in Recife alone were numbered by thousands; and one of them, Gaspar Diaz Ferreira, was considered one of the richest men in the country. Nor was the Jewish population confined to Pernambuco. Great numbers of Jews resided throughout Brazil, particularly at Tamarico, Itamaraca, Rio de Janeiro, and Parahiba.
Recife, however, was the great center of Jewish population, and soon became famous not only in the New World, but also in the Old, for its important congregation and the distinguished scholars numbered among its inhabitants. An evidence of this is found in the fact that the author Manasseh ben Israel of Amsterdam dedicated the second part of his "Conciliador" to the prominent men of the congregation of Recife. Manasseh ben Israel himself at one time intended going there.Recife Center of Jewish Population.
In 1642 about 600 Portuguese Jews left Amsterdam for Brazil; with them were two distinguished scholars, Isaac Aboab da Fonseca and Moses Raphael de Aguilar. The former soon became the ḥakam, and the latter the ḥazan, or reader, for the congregation at Recife. The congregation at Tamarico had at its head Jacob Lagarto; while one Jacob de Aguilar is also mentioned as a Brazilian rabbi at this period.
Among the Jewish writers born in Brazil may be mentioned Elijah Machorro and Jacob de Andrade Velosino.
"Among the free inhabitants of Brazil in 1640," writes Nieuhoff, "the Jews were the most considerable in number. They had a vast traffic beyond all the rest; they purchased sugar-mills, and built stately houses in the Recife."
At Bahia, on the other hand, and in that portion of Brazil retained by the Portuguese, the most intense bigotry prevailed. After 1631, Jews are met with at Bahia in isolated cases only, and then invariably in connection with their transportation for trial by the Inquisition at Lisbon. The most famous instance of this is the case of Isaac de Castro Tartas, who left Dutch territory to visit Bahia in 1646. He was at once seized and transported for Judaizing, and was burned at an auto da fé at Lisbon.
When in 1645 Joam Fernandes Vieyra was inciting the Portuguese to reconquer Brazil, he pointed particularly to Pernambuco, or Recife, expressly calling attention to the fact that "that city is chiefly inhabited by Jews, most of whom were originally fugitives from Portugal. They have their open synagogues there, to the scandal of Christianity. For the honor of the faith, therefore, the Portuguese ought to risk their lives and property in putting down such an abomination."Attempt to Seize Recife.
When the conspiracy was in its infancy the Dutch authorities were slow to realize what was happen ing; "but the Jews of Recife were loud in their expressions of alarm." "They had more at stake than the Dutch; they were sure to be massacred without mercy during the insurrection, or roasted without mercy if the insurgents should prove successful." They therefore besieged the council with warnings and accusations.
Vieyra, too, recognized the importance of the Jewish element, for at the very beginning of the insurrection he promised the Jews protection provided they remained peaceably in their houses.
The Jews, however, were loyal to the Dutch; and in 1646, when the war was raging, they raised large donations for the service of the state. So influential were they that, when in 1648 the Portuguese contemplated the purchase of Pernambuco, they considered the advisability of making the clause concerning the Jews a secret article, before even broaching the subject to Holland.
The war continued unabated; and after a desperate struggle of several years the Dutch régime wasdoomed. The story of the sufferings and fortitude of the Jews of Recife during its terrible siege, when general famine prevailed, has been told in a poem written by Isaac Aboab, an eye-witness.
Though the first siege was unsuccessful, Recife was again besieged, and when it became evident that the city could not hold out, the Jews clamored for a capitulation, knowing that otherwise no mercy would be shown them. By the terms of the capitulation the Jews were especially mentioned; and an amnesty was promised them by the Portuguese "in all wherein they could promise it."
More than 5,000 Jews were in Recife at the time of the capitulation. Many of these removed to Surinam; while many others, under the leadership of Aboab and Aguilar, returned to Amsterdam. Some went to Guadeloupe and other West Indian islands; while a few of the refugees reached New Amsterdam, as New York was then called.
Despite the ending of the Dutch régime, some Neo-Christians continued to reside in Brazil. Their number was largely increased toward the end of the seventeenth century, when Portugal again banished to Brazil the Maranos who had become reconciled. These transportations continued from 1682 to 1707; and the Jews again came to be known as a distinct class. They were closely watched, however, and many were sent back to Lisbon from time to time, to be tried by the Inquisition. Many Jews from Rio were burned at an auto da fé at Lisbon in 1723. Several of these martyrs were men of great repute, the most prominent being the famous Portuguese poet and dramatist Antonio José da Silva, a native of Rio de Janeiro, who was burned as a Jew at Lisbon in 1739. In 1734, Jews appear to have been influential in controlling the price of diamonds in Brazil.
Toward the middle of the eighteenth century, Jews or Neo-Christians were again a numerous class in Brazil, and transportation to Lisbon for Judaizing had again become so common and was carried on to such an extent that, as the historian relates, "so wide a ruin was produced that many sugar-mills at the Rio stopped in consequence." The influential Marquis de Pombal, with all his power, did not venture to proclaim toleration for the Jews; but he succeeded in having laws enacted making it penal for any person to reproach another for his Jewish origin, and removing all disabilities of Jewish blood, even from the descendants of those who had suffered under the Inquisition. He prohibited public autos da fé, and required all lists of families of Jewish extraction to be delivered up, making it penal to keep such lists. These statutes deprived the Inquisition of its most important means of accusation; and as a result the Maranos were ultimately absorbed in the Catholic population of Brazil.
Since then the Jews have not been known as a distinctive class in Brazil. Those living there today are not descended from the Neo-Christians, but are mainly recent immigrants from Germany, Russia, Rumania, and other European countries. Many are settled in Rio Grande do Sul.
In 1900 a number of Rumanian Hebrews went to Brazil, but effected no permanent settlement.
The Bureau of American Republics has recently published a list of the leading merchants of the various cities in Brazil; and these lists disclose a large number of Jewish names, though most of them seem to be of German origin.
The constitution of Brazil guarantees to the inhabitants liberty both of conscience and of worship; but in spite of these liberal provisions there are no Jewish congregations of consequence in the country.
- Robert Southey, History of Brazil, 3 vols., London, 1822;
- Robert Grant Watson, Spanish and Portuguese South America, 2 vols., London, 1884;
- Nieuhoff's Voyages and Travels in Brazil, in Pinkerton's Collection of Travels, vol. xiv., also in Churchill's Collection of Voyages and Travels, part ii.;
- François Pyrard, Voyage to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas, and Brazil, from the French edition of 1619, edited with notes by A. Gray and H. C. P. Bell, London, 1887-90, in Hakluyt Society Publications, vol. S. 76, 77, 80;
- Thomas Southey, History of the West Indies, vol. i., London, 1827;
- A. H. Heeren, History of the Political System of Europe and Its Colonies, 2 vols., Northampton, Mass., 1829;
- Alphonse de Beauchamp, Histoire du Brésil, vol. iii., Paris, 1815;
- J. B. du Tertre, Histoire Générale des Antilles Habitées par les François, vol. i., Paris, 1667;
- D. P. Kidder and J. C. Fletcher, Brazil and the Brazilians, Phila., 1857;
- M. Kayserling, Gesch. der Juden in Portugal, also in Am. Jew. Hist. Soc. Publications, Nos. 2 and 3;
- Leon Hühner in ib. No. 9;
- M. J. Kohler, in ib. No. 2. and George A. Kohut, in ib. No. 4;
- Bulletins of the Bureau of American Republics, vols. 7 and 9.