Becoming Jewish in early modern France: documents on Jewish community-building in seventeenth-century Bayonne and Peyrehorade.
A chief problem with this interpretation is that it does little to illuminate the complex and sometimes contentious process by which a collection of Iberian emigres became communities of French Jews by 1700. This paper seeks to shed light on that very process through an examination of two complementary and unusually revealing legal dossiers from 1674-1678 and 1679-1680, respectively. (6) Here my focus will be on what these documents tell us about the social context of the immigrants and the practical means by which they obtained and internalized the knowledge--the models of belief, ritual practice, and quotidian behavior--that would cause others in the Jewish Diaspora to recognize the makeshift colonies in France, and more importantly, cause the refugees to see themselves, as normatively and unambiguously Jewish. (7) For purposes of this analysis, "Being Jewish," and hence "becoming Jewish," means consciously embracing rabbinic Judaism within a social setting, however imperfectly, as a way of life.
Found in the archives of the Toledo Tribunal of the Spanish Inquisition, the dossiers in question pertain to the seventeenth century, a period for which documentation on the converso immigrants in France is very scarce. (8) The files are records of investigations of conversos who were suspected of being crypto-Jews. The first investigation focuses on a conversa emigre, Flora de Salazar. For our purposes, the most interesting part of her file is the transcript of the deposition of another suspect, Jorge de Medina Cardoso. (9) Medina was a trader who had once lived in suburban Bayonne along with Salazar, and had intimate experience in the ways and daily rhythms of collective Judaicization among the Iberian refugees who settled there. The chief informant in the second investigation was the defendant Juan (Abraham) de Paredes, known in Spain as "Juan Ibanez." I will refer to him by the latter name since that is the one under which his dossier is archived. Ibanez too had learned normative Judaism as an expatriate, in this case in Peyrehorade, and, like Jorge de Medina Cardoso, told his interrogators of his experience in rather extraordinary detail. (10)
My previous work on the Franco-Sephardim has focused principally on the behavior and psychology of individual conversos in relation to the Iberian and diasporic communities of faith that demanded their allegiance. (11) The purpose of this paper, by contrast, is to shed light on the practical means, agents, and meaning of judaicization in terms of the collective experience of the emigres. The primary documents I introduce here, to be sure, shed some light on the uncertainty of individual conversos' social and religious identities; but more importantly, the sources allow a view of the immigrants' social life in southwestern France at the time that these settlers became formally and informally reeducated in normative Judaism as a social, and more importantly, as a self-conscious ethnic group. Neither of the documents, I will contend, necessarily lends itself to a characterization of the conversos in the French southwest as a steadfast cohort determined from the start, as if impelled by some innate desires or spiritual "essence," to embrace the laws of their Jewish ancestors and become "reunited" with the Jewish people. Rather, the documents show the process of Judaicization to have been contingent, rather mundane, and anchored in the sense of kinship that the members of the group in question felt toward their fellows.
Given the relative richness of the two dossiers as repositories of anecdotal data, it is perhaps surprising that scholars have not paid greater attention to them. Then again, my own interest in the documents derives in part from my critical approach to the immigrants whose lives the documents partly illuminate. Had I assumed that converso refugees in southwestern France were bound to "come out" as a bloc of Jews anyway, all details concerning the constructed nature of their Jewish identity would have seemed like relatively insignificant deviations from the norm, and the documentary sources would have appeared to be of limited analytical utility. To be precise, the dossiers would merely have appeared to corroborate the inborn "Jewishness" of the Franco-Sephardi subjects. But the dossiers tell a different tale.
Judaicization in Practice
Jorge de Medina Cardoso and Juan Ibanez were itinerant merchants. Like hundreds of fellow "Portuguese" in France, they crossed the border into Spain to trade in various commodities and sell various services. (12) Medina was a wholesaler, a native of Sabugal in northeastern Portugal, and a resident of Saint Esprit, near Bayonne. He was forty-eight years old at the time of his deposition in 1676 (fol. 3r). Juan de Paredes (a.k.a. Ibanez), was a mercer. He had been born in 1656 to a family of Iberian immigrants in Peyrehorade, where he had been circumcised and resided continuously until the age of fifteen. (13) At that point Ibanez had begun an eight-year foray into Iberian territory. Ibanez said that he was known among his neighbors in France by his Hebrew name, Abraham. However, like Medina Cardoso, and unlike his own younger brothers, Ibanez had also been baptized as an infant in accordance with the Catholic rite (fols. 39r-39v, 48r-50v). This rendered both deponents liable to the most severe of inquisitorial charges: heresy and apostasy.
Evidently the two informants were practical men for whom material survival, commercial opportunity, as well as familial and cultural ties, had precedence over religious discipline. Otherwise the subjects would perhaps have left France altogether, a country that until the mid-1600s rabbinic authorities had considered a "Land of Idolatry," that is to say, a country where Judaism was banned, and hence an undesirable place for Jews to settle. Although Jewish leaders had largely cast aside that condemning label by the time our two merchants testified before inquisitorial tribunals, France was still a culturally peripheral corner of the Sephardi Diaspora. At least we can suppose that if the two deponents had cared to abide strictly by normative standards of Jewishness, they would have refrained from crossing the border into Spain and Portugal, where widespread anti-converso prejudice not only compelled converso returnees to suspend their observance of Halakhah (Jewish Law), the supposed bedrock of their normative Jewish identity, but also exposed them to the influence of Christianity, not to mention the possibility of persecution, incarceration, ruin, and perhaps even death, as putative "Judaizers," regardless of what they believed or did. Of course, cultural and territorial commuting (14) marked the returnees as morally decrepit in the eyes of respectable rabbinic opinion. The hakham ("sage," meaning "Rabbi") and expatriate Spaniard Immanuel Aboab (1555-1628) articulated an official, pious contempt toward border-crossers when he wrote the following indictment in a letter to converso leaders in France between 1626 and 1627:
Some [who are of our Nation travel to the Lands of Idolatry--probably meaning Spain and Portugal in particular] because they are roguish vagabonds who, after ... viciously spending what [money] they have, do not want to submit to ... virtuous work; others [travel there] because of atrocious vices that they have committed; others because they have engaged in illegal commerce. Such people go over there [to the Lands of Idolatry]; and in order to cover up their infamy and roguishness [they] tell [the Inquisition (?)] a thousand lies and falsehoods against noble and virtuous persons whom they are not even worthy to serve, and from whom they [the rogues] have received many benefits [in the Jewish Diaspora]. It is appropriate that Your Mercies should neither support them, nor face them; throw them out as calumniators of the true virtue and benefits that we possess today. (15)
All the same, it is clear that neither of the two traveling merchants in question here was a rogue, much less an outcast from the emerging Jewish communities of southwestern France. The merchants' testimony suggests that both Medina and Ibanez attended Jewish religious services regularly and socialized mainly with their fellow expatriates. Neither subject complained that his Iberian neighbors in the French southwest had reprimanded him or any other expatriate New Christian for traveling to Spanish and Portuguese lands. There is no indication in the two dossiers that any of the exiles had assailed the commuters for treating Judaism as if it were a mere costume that could be worn and discarded quickly according to circumstance.
The two deponents admitted that they had practiced Judaism in France and provided the names of scores of their fellow observers--the dead, the living, those ensconced in the Diaspora, as well as some who were still immediately vulnerable to inquisitorial prosecution. Large segments of the depositions consist of descriptions of the rituals that the emigres conducted semi-secretly in private dwellings. Interspersed among these depictions are assorted anecdotal data regarding the collective life of the congregants beyond the realm of their respective congregas ("congregations," in this case actually conveying "synagogues").
It is immediately noticeable that the information the two prisoners rendered generally followed the line of inquisitorial questioning to which the Holy Office subjected all suspected Judaizers. That line placed a high premium on confirming the presumptive guilt of defendants and on reconstructing and cataloguing the supposed practice and social extent of crypto-Judaism, as well as open defection to Judaism abroad. In particular, the Holy Office was interested in eliciting information regarding alleged Judaizers who were still at large; the practices of which Judaizing reportedly consisted; the theological claims that Jews and baptized Judaizers allegedly made; the ways in which both groups supposedly maligned and endeavored to subvert Catholicism, and so on. (16) Nonetheless, the depositions of Medina and Ibanez often departed significantly from the formulaic depictions of heresy and apostasy that the Holy Office published in its infamous Edicts of Faith, and which likely guided the inquisitors' unrecorded prodding of deponents, as distinct from the official inquisitorial protocol. According to a typical Edict of Faith, crypto-Judaism entailed the following practices, among others:
[D]ressing for [the Sabbath] in clean shirts, and in improved and festive clothing; putting clean tablecloths on the tables, and spreading clean bedsheets on the beds in honor of said Sabbaths; not building a fire nor anything else during them, keeping them from Friday afternoon. Or ... purging or hewing meat that [the Judaizers] are to eat, throwing them in water to bleed it, or taking out the nerve from the ram's leg or from any other animal.... Or fasting the fast of Queen Esther ... not eating meat and washing themselves one day prior to this, cutting their fingernails and the ends of their hair.... (17)
A number of the heretical "crimes" that the Holy Office associated with conversos may have been purely ethnological in nature. (18) In other words, the "crimes" are attributable to cultural patterns--Jewish folklore and folk practice, internalized routines, and the like--that mere baptism did not erase among the first generations of Sephardi converts to Christianity. Notwithstanding inquisitorial presumptions, adherence to these cultural habits did not necessarily indicate a desire to observe Judaism, let alone impugn Christianity. For example, avoiding pork out of a conditioned, visceral distaste does not make any person "Jewish," much less "anti-Christian." (19) Still other of the supposed crimes in question may have been inventions and misunderstandings introduced by deponents and inquisitors alike. Some of the customs and beliefs that Iberians usually attributed to "Judaizers" are not restricted to Jews. Others are not even of normative Jewish origin. (20) Here the inquisitorial notion that Jews and Judaizers believed that a Mosaic "faith" assured their personal "salvation" comes to mind immediately. So too the bizarre though infrequent claim that crypto-Jews kept the Muslim fast of Ramadaan. (21)
As Herman Prins Salomon has argued, an important function of compendia such as the Edicts of Faith was to teach potential informers what to say about the people whom they wished to denounce, and detainees what the Holy Office expected them to say about themselves and their fellows. (22) Here, by contrast, is Medina Cardoso's depiction of his own daily praying, and of Jewish religious services he attended in Saint Esprit from the mid-1650s to the early 70s. The account was written by the inquisitorial notary, as was customary, in the third person:
... in his house in the neighborhood [of Saint Esprit], he had recited each day the prayers of the observance of the Law of Moses. In the morning one says the tefilah which began, "God of my Soul, which you have returned within me [mi Dio del alma que diste en mi]," (23) and afterward [some Psalms of David], the Shemah Israel, and later the Amidah ... and ... in the afternoon [he prayed] the [service called] Minha. He began it by saying Psalms of David.... The evening prayer is called the harjit [sic] (24) which he began with a Psalm, and then he said the Shemah Israel, and then the Amidah. He always [recited the latter] while standing, with his feet together, and that upon saying some words, when finishing meals [literally: the meal] he took three backward steps from the place where he was, which were [meant as] three curtsies toward God. Then he sat in order to say the rest of the ... prayers.... (Fol. 4r) The witness [also] met with various persons in a ... hall of the house in which Dr. Isaac Israel de Avila lived, and the prayers that were appointed for that time were recited with him. In the day of the fast of Kippur it was the Psalms of David, (25) and different rogations that they made, asking God for pardon for their sins. They said the Amidah in all of these prayer-sessions, and the Shemah Israel ... following a book that each one had and read to himself. And only Dr. Isaac Israel de Avila read aloud, so that the others would listen to him while [they were] seated. (26) They only arose to pray the Amidah, and upon completing it each one took three backward steps, as it was cautioned in the book of prayer that each one of them had. They performed the prayers while covered with hats, without removing them because their hair was dirty, and so that their hair would be covered while they prayed. Some knelt out of devotion, and remained kneeling [for the amount of] time that it would take to say four credos, which is the time it took to say the confessions that these prayers contain. At the same time, Dr. Isaac Israel [de Avila] had his head lowered and read more slowly [sic]. Before the prayers that were said at night on the eve of the fast of Kippur, Dr. Isaac Israel made a practice [of admonishing] that they should not hate one another, and that they should become reconciled [literally, become friends], because they considered it [necessary] for obtaining pardon for their sins on that day. Some of them became reconciled. (Fols. 4v-5r) [I]n the days of the Fast of Kippur of the years 660 and 661, and from ... 662 in the days of the fasts of Purim, and of Tammuz, and Tish'a be-Av, and [of] Gedaliah, and of Tevet ... and some Saturdays of those years and of the previous years ... [the congregants gathered] in the neighborhood of Saint-Esprit, in an upper hall [literally, a high hall] of the houses where Don Isaac Israel de Avila lived.... [And from 1674] until the ... twenty-sixth day of January of the present year [of 1676, they have gathered] in [a hall of] the houses where Alvaro Luis, (27) Jacob Gomes, and Diego Rodriguez Cardoso lived ... to perform the prayers.... (Fols. 6r-6v)
The sheer specificity of Medina Cardoso's descriptions is perhaps the most obvious indication of their basic credibility. In the portions just cited, he mentions the Hebrew names (and in some cases the timing) of prayers and minor fast on which the Edicts of Faith are, to my knowledge, largely or completely silent--for instance, the Tsom Gedaliah (Fast of Gedaliah). He uses variants of common Hebrew renderings--for instance, "The Fast of Purim" and not "the Fast of Queen Esther," as was more common among conversos and their inquisitorial persecutors in Iberia. He also demonstrates a rudimentary yet mostly accurate acquaintance with the order and general content of the daily Jewish liturgy, although in one case he or the inquisitorial notary probably mistook the morning shachrit service for the later ma'ariv service. By itself this rudimentary knowledge suggests a much greater degree of integration into normative Jewish culture than one could hypothesize from the more typical and often formulaic records of depositions rendered by seventeenth-century conversos who had never left the Iberian Peninsula. At any rate, the Judaism Medina described does not appear to me to consist only of material cobbled together from Biblical sources, from fragments of rabbinic writing that may have been available in Spain and Portugal, (28) or from inquisitors' questions, "ethnographic" compendia, so to speak, and formal accusations. Witness, for example, Medina's complete and accurate translation of the Hebrew blessing for inhabiting a sukkah (booth or tabernacle) in folio 9r of the Salazar dossier: "Blessed are you adonay, our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us in your commandments and has commanded us to dwell in sukkot." (29) Lastly, Medina paints a reasonably realistic, if somewhat sketchy portrait of people at worship. His reference to the congregants' dirty hair, their occasional kneeling (was this a vestige of Catholic practice?), and to the volume and changing speed of Dr. Avila's praying, provide an interesting touch of verisimilitude. Inquisitorial hints and suggestions alone probably do not account for these latter details. Neither do the details strike me as mere embellishments Medina inserted to give his account the ring of truth. Having already incriminated himself, why would Medina Cardoso feel the need to enhance his narrative, and to do so by including these details in particular? (30)
A salient feature of the ritual life that Medina depicted is its high degree of regimentation. Central to that life, according to the description, were the activities of an educator and ritual specialist from Amsterdam, Isaac Israel de Avila, whom Ibanez in his own testimony described as "a Hebrew theologian and great Rabbi" (fol. 40v). As for Peyrehorade, Ibanez identified one Daniel Alfarin (or Alfarim), an unbaptized subject, who "governed ... the congregation [there,] ... read ... everything that is written in the Bible from a scrolled parchment," (fol. 43v), performed marriages (fol. 44r) and served as a ritual slaughterer (fol. 83r). Medina, who had resided in Peyrehorade for a time, added that Alfarin read from the Torah "out loud" (fol. 12r), much as Isaac de Avila had allegedly done in Saint Esprit. I know nothing about Alfarin besides what precious little the two informants declared about him and his two young sons, both of whom were allegedly active participants in communal worship from the moment they reached the halakhic age of majority. By contrast the historical record allows for a fuller profile of Dr. Avila. Diverse sources indicate that he taught Hebrew and basic Jewish practice to the immigrants. One French document indicates, for instance, that Avila performed "the first Jewish marriage" in greater Bayonne in 1673. (31) Posterity has therefore designated the Doctor as "the first Rabbi of Bayonne." (32) Yet this "catechizer" did not reside in Bayonne and was merely a physician and self-styled missionary--in other words, a man learned in science and rabbinic Judaism, but by no means an ordained hakham. Furthermore, Avila did not have the support of the Amsterdam kehillah (= community) whose authority he purported to represent in France. The content of a forged letter Avila circulated among the exiles is quite telling: In the name of the prestigious Amsterdam ma'amad (the governing board of the Sephardi community), the letter threatens excommunication against anyone who disobeyed Avila's strict program of Judaicization. The purpose of the missive was clearly to intimidate the local "Portuguese," whom Avila correctly perceived as religiously ignorant and at least relatively indisciplined, so that they would accept his unsanctioned authority and behave like proper Jews by his standards. (33)
If the aura of religious knowledge that Dr. Avila and his lay allies in southwestern France projected was a factor in their social success among the refugees, it is nevertheless significant that part of that success may have been founded on the rhetorical association that these "experts" drew between Judaism and the cherished ties of kinship that already bound the settlers. Sometimes the immigrants themselves made explicit what by the mid-1660s was the crucial conflation of a compatriotic-genealogical identity and religion per se. For instance, a returnee recalled around 1664 that,
... the owner of the house in which [the Portuguese] gathered [in Saint Esprit] preached to the young [or: unmarried] people telling them that they should keep [the Law of Moses] and admonishing them that he who did not marry someone who kept [that law] would lose the inheritance [or heritage] of his fathers [or parents], and he who spoke badly of the [heritage] (34) sinned mortally; (35) and proceeding ... he exhorted everyone to observe the Law of Moses, giving the reasons there were for doing so. And having finished that preaching, he read from the prayer book, as this [declarant] and the others listened to him with great attention and in great silence.... (36) (Emphasis added)
We cannot measure the effectiveness of the above-mentioned preachers, yet we do know that whatever persuasiveness their words carried came partly from the fact that they articulated a message that was already familiar to their audience. The linkage these moralists drew between religion and familial and cultural kinship had been integral to the Iberian variant of Judeophobia that had assailed New Christians since the advent of the converso problem in the late fourteenth century. (37) Especially between 1580 and 1640, when the Spanish Habsburgs assumed the crown of Portugal and hundreds or thousands of Portuguese conversos resettled in Spain, many Spaniards, both "Old" and "New" Christians, came to associate Portuguese ethnicity with crypto-Judaism, so much so that the adjective "Portuguese" (portugues/a) became a euphemism for "(crypto-) Jew" in colloquial Castilian usage. (38) So too, new Spanish designations such as "Portuguese of the Nation" served to underscore suspicions that the "Portuguese" immigrants and their native descendants were religiously subversive, indeed that they comprised an alien, tribal entity of merchant "Jews." (39) Might the sheer familiarity of this mental association of descent and religion have made the refugees--paradoxically--amenable to the very pseudo-rabbinic authority that now proposed that linkage as the instrument of personal and collective legitimation in southwestern France?
We can only speculate, yet it is worthwhile considering three factors in this connection. All three factors were key elements in what one may call the "proto-Jewish consciousness" of the refugees. First, it is likely that several of the immigrants felt utterly rejected by Old Christian society and disillusioned with an aggressive Spanish Catholicism, its dogmas, institutions, and the conversophobic tendencies of its practitioners. In particular, it is logical that several of the refugees should have felt repulsed by inquisitorial persecution, and may perhaps have become religiously galvanized by their own opposition to it. (40) Second, the immigrants retained a sense of their own ethnic difference, as several scholars have explained and I will discuss below. (41) Third, in many cases the expatriates may have known little or nothing of normative Judaism prior to their encounter with Jewish educators in French domains. Embracing a full-fledged, normative Judaism may thus have provided these Iberian outcasts with new religious means to build consciously Jewish identities with some dignity, express dissent from a society that persecuted them, and erase the stigma of Jewish descent by transforming it into an ethnic, even "racial" badge of Honor. (42) This is not to say that adopting a normative Jewish identity was easy, or that it flowed necessarily from the wellspring of the New Christians' perception of their own cultural and familial kinship. Feelings of instability and inadequacy accompanied the shift to normative Judaism among the refugees in southwestern France. I am only suggesting that that adopting rabbinic Judaism presented itself to conversos as a psychological alternative to abject defeat and infamy.
We must also consider an additional factor: Collective Judaicization afforded purely political and economic advantages, inasmuch as it helped to cement existing intra-Portuguese relations while "normalizing" the marchands portugaises in the eyes of their non-Jewish neighbors, particularly in places to which the "Portuguese" had been admitted as a mercantile "nation," that is to say, a legal corporation of tradesmen. The historian Anne Zink explains that in France the collective status of the "Portuguese" was that of a taillable, meaning little more than a recognized political body subject to taxation by the state. (43) This was a comfortable, if ambiguous status that afforded the "Portuguese" access to royal protection and the legal ability to bequeath and inherit property--a right denied to most foreign subjects in France. While members of this political body were not natural subjects of the French crown, the state did not treat them as mere "foreigners." (44) Esther Benbassa summarizes the advantages to the conversos of having a legal "nationality" with regard to the specific case of Bordeaux:
The [mercantile and other] corporations of Bordeaux, being placed under the patronage of a saint, combined religious and commercial dimensions. They exercised monopoly in their respective sectors and had the right to limit the number of their members. The Portuguese, in order to form a corporation in their turn that would serve to coordinate individual commercial and financial interests while preserving the unity of the group's members, had to give the appearance of being an organized body. (45) (Emphasis added)
The paradox, of course, is that New Christians who learned normative Judaism in France and enjoyed whatever advantages their new "national" Jewish identity afforded, may have helped to substantiate Christian--not to mention modern scholarly--views of the innate "Jewishness" and mercantile "proclivities" of conversos, and to perpetuate the mission of the Holy Office, especially when these refugees returned to Iberian lands to conduct business. (46)
There is no doubt, as I have already hinted, that for all their newfound pride, the immigrants were conscious of their inadequacies and other limitations as Jewish novices. Medina, for one, noted his relative inability to follow or understand Hebrew prayer (fol.5v). For his part, Ibanez confirmed his own relative ignorance of normative Judaism when he intimated that he had been a youth at the time of the religious services and simply did not know Hebrew, so he did not understand what others had read in the congrega from the scroll of the Torah (fol. 47v). Still, the difficulties that the conversos experienced in the process of learning rabbinic Judaism, in many cases relatively late in their lives, do not appear to have been decisive. Once the adult immigrants opted to become normative Jews, their commitment to the newfound identity and to the underlying ethnic community that they felt embodied that identity in social reality was, in most cases, deep and sincere. This applied to "Portuguese" border-crossers and their more sedentary fellow expatriates alike.
Evidence of this depth and this sincerity includes the very fact that the immigrants allowed their educators to reshape them radically in accordance with new standards of propriety. Social and religious legitimacy--indeed, excellence--was now defined in terms of Hebrew literacy and liturgical proficiency, correct Judaic practice (consisting mainly of fulfilling divine commandments, called mitzvot in Hebrew), and, in the case of men, the physical distinction of having entered into a binding personal pact--the Covenant of Circumcision (berit milah)--with the God of Israel. (47) Ibanez suggested as much when he testified that Dr. Avila had come to Peyrehorade to fulfill three functions: read from the Bible, preach Judaism, and circumcise young men, including the informant's own brothers (fol. 40v-41r, 46v). As for his own circumcision, Ibanez noted that "a Hebrew who came from Jerusalem" had performed the surgery (fol. 41r). The vagueness of Ibanez's description prevents us from identifying this "Hebrew," (48) yet we know that one such functionary, Rabbi Abraham ben Levi Conque from the Yeshiva of Hebron, visited neighboring Saint Esprit during the last two decades of the seventeenth century. (49) We also know that a Dutch mohel (ritual circumciser) who had been cited for violating the rules of his profession in Amsterdam, Jacob Chamis (or Xamis) de Orta, alias "Moyses Quen" (Moises Cohen), circumcised many men in Saint-Esprit, Peyrehorade, and Bordeaux in the late 1650s. (50) An expatriate identified yet another envoy, one Abraham ben Israel from Livorno or Amsterdam, who had also served as a mohel in Saint Esprit in the 1660s. (51)
Scholars have noted that some New Christians regarded circumcision as a means of "saving" Jewish souls even though the notion was and is alien to normative Judaism. (52) The appeal of this conception among the refugees is probably attributable to their own Luso-Hispanicity, in particular their internalization of Christian doctrine. Not surprisingly, the quasi-Catholic view of circumcision as a kind of sacrament also fit the image of crypto-Judaism that the Holy Office had fomented for centuries, and which some conversos may have absorbed as they learned what "Judaism" ought to entail from such sources as the Edicts of Faith, Iberian folklore, and inquisitorial interrogations, if not their fellow conversos. More significantly from our perspective, the claim that circumcision saved souls may well have augmented the sheer instrumentality of the berit milah as a means of refashioning and disciplining groups of converso immigrants on French soil as Jewish communities of faith. Ibanez, for instance, noted that, "it is known among the Judaizers, although they all attend the congregation, [that] there is a distinction, [in that] those who are circumcised enjoy more graces or privileges [than those who are uncircumcised], and only they are counted [in a religious quorum]" (fol. 41v). Medina Cardoso, for his part, indicated that it was "commonly known among the Iberians" that every man who settled in Saint Esprit submitted to the surgery. Some immigrants, he said, submitted more promptly than others--"each according to his level of devotion" (fols. 11v-12r). Furthermore,
[In the synagogue,] at the time of the Amidah prayer, which is the time when the person called the Hazan [=cantor] reads from the Sefer [in this case a scroll or book of the Torah], he is assisted by two of the people who pray, each one standing at [the Hazan's] side, and those who are not circumcised cannot assist him. [The deponent] and Francisco Fernandez Marto, and Diego Gomez de Salazar, and Don Pedro and Don Andres de Salazar, his sons, and all the ones he has named ... assisted the reader there, as collaterals, at the time that the Sefer was read, because they were circumcised--except for Francisco Nunez, [whom the deponent] never saw assist [the reader] as a collateral, because he [Nunez] was not circumcised. (Fol. 8r-8v)
According to the informants, then, circumcision in France was a mark of social distinction for newly Judaicized men. More specifically, it was a means of inclusion in the elite of a new spiritual, and by extension social and political body: a Holy Congregation or Holy Community (kehillah kedoshah or kahal kadosh). Indeed, the men who constituted this new Jewish elite sealed their inclusion in it by Hebraicizing their first names only upon becoming circumcised. Judaicized women evidently formed part of the kehillah as well, yet by the 1670s they formed a relatively separate if not marginal sphere within it. Medina suggested this when he recalled that he had not seen any women of the Salazar family attend religious services or any of the gatherings of the New Jews, "because, although women attend some of the [meetings], they are not in sight of the men" (fol. 10r). This relative invisibility is possibly attributable to the imposition of a traditional mekhitzah (partition) between the seats allocated to men and those allotted to women at prayer. Some testimonies suggest that men alone attended the home of Isaac de Avila to hear his glosses on Holy Writ. (53) And yet, other witnesses declared that local Portuguese women whose husbands had shops in Spain "have their own books and pray from them in the Jewish manner," while other women and girls "listened attentively" in their homes as their sons and husbands read to them from religious works. One deponent even reported that in Saint-Esprit there lived a certain doctora who was "well-versed in the Law of Moses." (54)
Mourning Rituals and Folklore in Saint Esprit
Apart from depicting collective worship at homes and makeshift synagogues, Medina Cardoso provided information that is worthy of attention for what it tells us of life in the outskirts of Bayonne during a period in which the immigrants' Jewish identity became ingrained. The information may be divided into two clusters. The first concerns the rites of mourning that the community observed for his daughter, Esther Cardoso, in 1673. The second cluster concerns a "miraculous" event that allegedly occurred a year later in the Portuguese section of a local cemetery, at or near the hermitage of St. Simon.
Medina testified that when his daughter had died, he and three other men, including the woman's husband and her uncle, washed her body, wrapped it in a new shroud, and interred it. The testimony does not make clear whether Medina and the three others assisted the functionaries of an official burial society that had reportedly been founded in 1654. (55) Given the rudimentary state of organized Jewish life in Saint Esprit at the time of the burial, I doubt that the men assisted a true, full-fledged hevra kadishah (Holy [Burial] Society). Rather, I suspect that the men simply did the best they could under Avila's supervision along with whatever trained personnel were on hand.
Medina's description of the burial and attendant mourning rites, however, makes clear that for whatever amateurishness these rituals exposed, the ceremonies comprised an important public affair among the "Portuguese"--a prime occasion for the coalescence of their ethnic, social and cultural ties as New Jews. Diego Rodriguez Cardoso, a relative to the deceased, was present at the interment, as were other notable "Judaizers" and several ordinary "Portuguese" (fol. 5v). By contrast, Medina provided no indication that local Christians attended or even knew of, let alone objected to, the proceedings.
As in other events that touched the public life of the nascent Jewish community, the instruction of Dr. Isaac de Avila was meticulous and explicit. Two witnesses to another burial that Avila had supervised reported that after the deceased had been buried in the Christian manner, the Portuguese mourners entered the home of the bereaved, where Avila awaited them, "recited a psalm," and directed them to wash their hands in a fountain. (56) So too, after the interment of Esther Cardoso, the Doctor led the congregants in liturgical ceremonies that they did not know, or did not know well, and which they did not fully understand. As Medina recalled,
After Esther Cardoso was buried, they returned [from the cemetery], accompanying [the deponent], his brother, and [her husband,] Francisco Fernandez Marto to the home of [Fernandez Marto]. In a ... hall of the house, in the presence of those ... who went to the burial ... [and] once [the deponent] and ... Fernandez Marto had taken their shoes off and sat on the floor, Doctor Isaac Israel de Avila, who had also been at the burial, made for them the rending [?]; and having unfastened [his clothing] (57) down to his shirt, [the Doctor] made a cut in their shirts with a knife, and then [the deponent], making the cut with both hands, took off or ripped a bit of the shirt, and Francisco Fernandez Marto did the same, each one saying at the same time 'Blessed are you, O Adonay, Judge of Truth.' (Emphasis added.) (58) Then ... Dr. Isaac Israel de Avila prayed the [prayer for] alleviating the soul [folganza] in the Hebrew language, in which [the deponent] and the others heard him.... He does not know how the [prayer] begins, though what it contains is to ask God that the soul of the departed have rest.... In each of the [ensuing] seven days, in the morning, Don Isaac Israel de Avila and Enrique Nunez,... Diego Rodriguez Cardoso,... Antonio de Castillo, Luis de Pas, and D[on] Lorenzo Gonzales, and others whom [the deponent] does not remember ... prayed together.... Don Isaac Israel de Avila [read out loud] ... in such a way that [this deponent] and the others could understand [or hear] him. At the conclusion [the deponent and Fernandez Marto] ... said a rogative [prayer] called cadiz [=kaddish] for the soul of ... Esther Cardoso ... [in such a way] that the others could understand [or hear]. Because it was in the Hebrew language, which [this deponent] does not understand, he does not know what [the prayer] contained. (Fol. 5v).
Here, as elsewhere, Medina noted his own relative ignorance of Jewish ritual and liturgy, and that of his fellow congregants. Thus he underlined the indispensability of the didactic functions that Avila arrogated. In light of the Doctor's extensive involvement in the life of the community as the informants described it, it is difficult to imagine that the expatriates and their French-born children would have known what to do, say, or think as normative Jews in numerous situations without the help of their freelancing "catechizers." Ibanez's mother suggested as much when she wrote to Ibanez that his brother, Moises de Paredes, "was lost" (andaba perdido)--meaning that Moises was left spiritually and intellectually rudderless--when Dr. Avila's departure for London in 1674 (59) deprived the New Jews of Peyrehorade of the lone Jewish indoctrinator who had visited their town on a regular basis until that time (fol. 46v). We can safely hypothesize, by extension, that at least some of the immigrants were conscious of the fact that they would not have become normative Jews without the enterprising likes of the rabbinic impostor, Isaac de Avila, and Daniel Alfarin.
None of this is to say that the immigrants were totally passive subjects of a quasi-rabbinic authority and of an alien halakhic culture. On the contrary, the exiles proved capable of interpreting their new circumstances in ways that spoke to their age-old sense of solidarity and justified their assent to their new social reality, chiefly by investing their conformist approach to normative Judaism with divine sanction. Medina offered anecdotal evidence of this manner of self-justification in the course of enumerating "Judaizers" who had attended religious services at a sukkah in the 1660s or early 1670s. Specifically, Medina mentioned two men who had since died: Diego Gomez de Salazar, known locally and buried as "Abraham de Salazar," and Gomez's brother, Pedro Mendes, buried as "Moysen [=Moises] Mendez."
Without any apparent prodding from his interrogators, Medina related that the Salazar family had built gravestones for the deceased men that were "one half yardstick" (media vara) higher than the gravestones of the other "Portuguese" buried in the communal section of the cemetery (fol. 9v). (60) At the beginning of 1674, Medina continued, an outlying wall had fallen squarely on the two gravestones, shattering them yet leaving all the other Jewish gravestones intact. Medina explained that the New Jews had understood this surprising occurrence as a divine rebuke to the Salazars:
The event was considered as a matter of miracle [cosa de milagro], because the [wall] did not break but upon the two gravestones, when there were other [gravestones] next to them. This conveyed that, through [the wall's collapse], God wanted to punish the haughtiness [altibez] of the relatives of Diego Gomez de Salazar and his brother, for wanting to call attention to themselves [through] the gravestones, when none were more Jewish than the others. And note was taken of the occurrence, because of those who had [earlier] censured the fact that the gravestones should be higher than the rest.... [The deponent was not immediately involved in these events] but was in a conversation where [they were] related. (Fol. 10r; emphasis added)
To understand this interpretation, and the folk story itself, it is necessary to contextualize the process of the refugees' Judaicization. The following sections address the historical circumstances of that process and the dynamics of its success among the refugees.
The Historical Setting of Individual and Collective Judaicization in Southwestern France
An important determinant of the path to Judaicization was undoubtedly the economic and socio-political setting in which that phenomenon occurred.
Southwestern France as a whole was home to an average of perhaps no more than 2,000 to 3,000 Iberian refugees throughout the 1600s. That is a very tentative yet, I believe, realistic estimate. (61) By mid-century, Bayonne and Peyrehorade, on which we focus here, were nodes of a wide-ranging regional economy that extended from the border towns of Les Landes and the Pyrenees-Atlantiques through the Biscayan port of Bayonne, onward to Bordeaux and other inland towns in Aquitaine, and from there to central and northern France. That regional economy was itself part of a larger, transnational system of trade that linked the Iberian realms to the commercial and manufacturing centers of northern Europe, especially to Amsterdam, a financial and mercantile capital of the seventeenth century. As historians of the Jews know well, a few thousand Portuguese and Spanish conversos settled in Amsterdam throughout the 1600s, quickly becoming a dynamic element in the Dutch transatlantic economy. (62) From that hub, Sephardim sent northern European products directly to the Iberian Peninsula and received Iberian and colonial products in return. However, during a period spanning 1621 to 1647, Spain intermittently embargoed Dutch shipping to punish the rebellious United Provinces. As a result, Dutch Sephardim were compelled to continue their trading enterprises via their refugee kinsmen and other associates in the French southwest. The refugees received Dutch shipments in the port of Bayonne, then smuggled the merchandise by mule train over the Pyrenees, or directly from the French border-towns of the far west into the Basque and Navarrese lands on the other side of the frontier. The traffickers traveled widely in Spain and Portugal, then returned to France, where they introduced manufactures and raw materials from the Iberian realms and overseas possessions. (63) Small border towns on the French side, such as St. Jean de Luz, Dax, and Biarritz, were launching points--and often bases of operations as well--for several of the itinerant merchants who sold manufactures of northern European provenance throughout Iberia. Bayonne was even more important economically to the exiles since it was the port of entry for many of those same products. (64)
Juan Ibanez's dossier highlights the fact that the proximity of the Iberian mainland made the French borderlands attractive to expatriates who wished to exploit their participation in trans-border trade. For instance, Ibanez testified that his father, an expatriate merchant, had served as a provider to the Habsburg Armada near Seville, hundreds of miles from the family's home in the Atlantic Pyrenees. The elder Ibanez had also secured a commission to collect taxes in Utrera (fol. 43r). Besides denouncing his own father, the defendant testified against Diego Rodriguez Cardoso, another expatriate and border-crosser who specialized in military provision, in this case to the armies of the French king, Louis XIV, and who was a cousin of our other primary informant, Jorge de Medina Cardoso (fol. 47v). (65) Rodriguez' own inquisitorial dossier reveals that by his middle age he had (allegedly) become a prominent fixture of the newly Judaicized communities of the Basque borderlands. Several witnesses, including his cousin Medina, as well as Ibanez, painted Rodriguez as a semi-official lay leader, and noted that Rodriguez's home in suburban Bayonne served as a synagogue. One deponent stated quite plausibly that the wholesaler enjoyed the protection of Colbert, the chief minister of the "Sun King." According to the informant, Colbert did not care to investigate Rodriguez's religion and shielded the merchant, perhaps at the instigation of the Duke of Gramont, who was notorious for sheltering semi-secret Jews in his southwestern territories. (66) Ibanez further claimed that another refugee from Bayonne, a certain Ribadeneira, whose brother had served as Provider to the Royal Armies along with Rodriguez, had become a secretary to Colbert and functioned as a sort of political advocate-protector of the nouveaux chretiens at the court of Louis XIV (fol. 60v). Finally, Ibanez referred to the brothers Salvador and Enrique Cardoso, (67) two converso physicians and reputed "atheists" who had been born in Peyrehorade and were married to French women, presumably of Christian descent. The first brother, Ibanez declared, resided in Paris, where he, Cardoso, served as a physician at the royal court (fol. 59v).
Prominent exiles such as Rodriguez Cardoso, Ribadeneira, and the Cardoso brothers provide but a few illustrations that the crown had been right in its calculations when it had decided to legitimate the presence of the "Merchants and other Portuguese" on French soil: Iberian expatriates could indeed be quite useful to the state. Along with the entrenchment of the converso enclaves in southwestern France throughout the 1600s, the success of converso merchants, administrators, and professionals encourages us to discard the conventional wisdom that New Christians fleeing the Iberian Peninsula approached the Pyrenean borderlands, and France as a whole, as a mere "stepping stone" toward larger and more important centers of Sephardi settlement where the open profession of Judaism was totally legal. (68)
In social terms, greater Bayonne and other towns of the French Basque Country and Les Landes offered converso expatriates the opportunity to build relatively cohesive communities. There, the circumstance of the refugees' demographic concentration maintained and probably strengthened their consciousness of their Iberian origins and culture (Portuguese or Spanish, though usually "Portuguese" in the eyes of French authorities). Eventually, as I have already mentioned, cultural and inter-familial bonds became anchors to a new, collective religious and hence social identity among the exiles. Rafael Mendez, a merchant who returned to Spain from the outskirts of Bayonne, hinted of this evolution in 1664 when he testified that he thought his former neighbors in France had taught him to observe rabbinic Judaism because they were all "Portuguese" and knew each other. (69)
To fully understand Mendez's seemingly innocuous (even absurd-sounding) conjecture, it is important to address the centrality of ethnicity to the self-identities of conversos of Portuguese origin, a phenomenon I will discuss in the following section. It is first necessary, however, to underscore that the settlement of the "Portuguese" in the region of greater Bayonne was limited by law to the faubourg (in Castilian, arrabal, or suburban barrio) of Saint-Esprit-les-Bayonne, immediately across the Adour River from the municipality of Bayonne itself. This meant that the local "Merchants and other Portuguese" formed a compact ethnic and demographic mass, and hence, that they could ultimately become a true sociocultural bloc despite experiencing some internal dissension as well as other vicissitudes of a rather accelerated, collective socialization in rabbinic Judaism. (70)
Another factor that complicated the process of Judaicization at the outset, but may have ultimately fomented group-cohesion among the exiles, was local French opposition to the settlement of so-called nouveaux chretiens in the southwestern borderlands. The sporadic hostility of French townspeople usually combined a fear of economic competition with religious and ethnic prejudice. In some instances, such hostility was no mere inconvenience to the immigrants. In 1597, for example, the city government of Bordeaux limited the number of "Portuguese" that the city could legally host. Bayonne followed suit by expelling Iberian families in 1602. (71) Seventeen years later, local residents of St. Jean de Luz lynched an immigrant whom they suspected of practicing crypto-Judaism. Her fellow exiles immediately took refuge in neighboring Biarritz, (72) yet trouble brewed there as well. An inquisitorial informant recalled in 1632 that a few years earlier the local populace had become incensed when some residents had alleged that a handful of recently-arrived conversos had caused a disastrous maritime storm by means of sorcery. According to the informant, a mob would have destroyed the converso enclave of the town had it not been for the intervention of the same municipal authorities who had condemned the accused conversos to death in absentia. (73) For its part, the Parlement of Toulouse expelled "Portuguese" subjects in 1653, 1679, and 1680. Five years later, it condemned a handful of conversos to burn alive, presumably for religious treachery, in what one scholar has characterized as an "autodafe." (74)
In other instances, however, municipal liberality and sheer religious diversity among local Christians offered a relatively consistent, protective cover under which the emigres could nurture a sense of community and relative mental separateness from their cultural surroundings despite the lingering hostility of Gascon, Basque, or other natives. After 1597, the city government of Bordeaux actually shielded Iberian immigrants, for example, by ignoring a royal edict of 1615 that confirmed the French ban on Judaism. (75) In Peyrehorade, where Catholic and Hugenot communities existed side-by-side, municipal authorities allowed an Iberian Jewish community of conversos to flourish in the 1600s. Ibanez even remarked that local Catholics, Protestants, and Jews did not live in separate neighborhoods, but rather "mixed together" (fol. 60r), and that the members of each group "believed in and lived by their [respective religious] law without getting into [the question of] whether the other one was bad" (fol. 42v). (76) French authorities in Saint Esprit, which did not form part of the hostile municipality of Bayonne, took advantage of the Bayonnaise ban against the Iberians by inviting them to settle in the faubourg--and to remain there for a price. (77) This is how Jorge de Medina Cardoso characterized the members of the resulting "Portuguese" colony as it existed in the late 1600s:
Asked [by Inquisitor Julio Marin de Rodezno] in what regard those who live in [the] neighborhood of Santispiritus [=Saint Esprit] were held, and if in [the neighborhood] there live people who are not Jews [sic], [the deponent, Jorge de Medina Cardoso] said that all the persons who reside in the neighborhood are regarded as of the Portuguese Nation and as Jews, observers of the Law of Moses. All the men and women regard each other as such, [and as belonging to] that nation, without having to declare themselves to one another as such to be regarded as observant Jews. There also live in the neighborhood some Frenchmen and other foreigners who regard themselves as Catholics, and they are so regarded. (Fol. 11v; emphasis added.)
Ethnic Identity as a Basis of Judaicization
Medina Cardoso's frequent recourse to the idea that the refugees formed part of a "Portuguese" collectivity or "nation" (in Portguese, nacao; in Spanish, nacion) is far from surprising. The concept is a recurring motif in the history of Lusitanian conversos since the fifteenth century. (78) By the 1600s, the so-called cristaos-novos (New Christians) of Portugal, and those of their descendants born outside of Portuguese domains, had cultivated and continued to nurture an ethnic solidarity through wide-ranging economic and political cooperation. To be sure, definitions of ethnicity are contested, and they vary among historians and social scientists. For the sake of clarity, however, the one I apply here to the Luso-conversos is a rather conventional, though somewhat ad hoc definition that echoes those found in respected dictionaries, in other words, definitions on which there is a reasonably broad consensus quite apart from the significant philosophical differences and nuances that underlie competing scholarly approaches to the term. (79) By "ethnic" I simply mean pertaining to a group of people who share such cultural traits as (1) a common language or languages--in the case under examination these languages were Portuguese and Castilian--as well as (2) a distinct folk culture, customs, and social mores formed and transmitted at least partially in that language or those languages, and not necessarily shaped by any religion; (3) a common historical past, near or distant, real or imagined, of which the members of the group are conscious to varying degrees; (4) a common geographical origin--in this case Iberian; and crucially, (5) a perception, accurate or not, of the common ancestry and familial kinship that distinguishes the members of the group. In this case, that origin was clearly New Christian. (80)
At a time when the extended family was a basic unit of enterprise in the organization of business, Luso-conversos' frequent resort to endogamy was crucial in fomenting their ethnic cohesion and extending the reach of their mercantile networks. (81) In the Iberian Peninsula and elsewhere, New Christians of Portuguese origin often saw themselves, acted, and were viewed by so-called Old Christians as a single political, economic, and social constituency irrespective of the conversos' actual religious orientation. We know, for example, that an informal consortium of moneyed cristaos-novos took the initiative in 1605 to negotiate with the Habsburg crown on behalf of the entire Luso-converso nacao for amnesty from inquisitorial persecution. In all likelihood, the lobbyists included individuals who favored genuine assimilation into the Old Christian majority, as well as those who opposed that strategy. (82) Yet, the crown quite tellingly did not hesitate to exact payment from all known converso families in Portugal--reputedly crypto-Jewish or otherwise, it evidently did not matter--for the partial concessions that the monarchy made as a result of the negotiations. (83) So too the infamous Iberian statutes of "purity of blood" (limpieza de sangre) that excluded New Christian aspirants from membership in many private, professional, ecclesiastical and governmental bodies throughout the late medieval and early modern centuries in effect did not distinguish between conversos who were fervent Catholics and those who were not. (84)
What converso refugees meant when they referred to their "nacao" is, however, important to clarify. In early modern Europe, the term "nation" usually signified a people with a distinct culture and origin--racial, geographic, and/or political. Yet the word could also denote a group of foreign merchants or students granted the right to limited self-government and religious freedom by the sovereign of the territory in which they settled. (85) For the marchands portugaises, these different denotations were, in effect, mutually reinforcing. The term "nation" underscored the refugees' ties of kinship and cultural baggage while describing the refugees' relatively new political, social, and economic status vis-avis the French majority. As we have seen, however, Medina Cardoso's characterization of his fellows conveyed an additional meaning. According to him, converso-residents of Saint-Esprit believed that being "of the Portuguese Nation" was tantamount to being "Jewish." This virtual equation of Jewishness and Portuguese ethnicity, however, obscures the fact that the settlers had already been conscious of forming part of an ethnic nacao well before they became a "nation" of foreign merchants, and certainly before several of them came to view the association of their ethnicity with Judaism as necessary and absolute.
Medina's claims notwithstanding, the expression of solidarity among Luso-conversos of the seventeenth-century did not always imply a "Jewish" orientation on their part, either in Iberia or in the lands of exile. We know, for instance, that in the eyes of many Portuguese New Christians who had fled the Iberian Peninsula, and to the dismay of several of their religious and lay leaders in the Jewish Diaspora, belonging to the Sephardi "Nation" did not necessitate adherence to normative Judaism--especially an open adherence. By the same token, to the emigres, as to many Iberians, both "Old" and "New" Christians, a person of "Old Christian" stock could be a bona fide observer of Judaism, and hence a "Jew." That is precisely how Ibanez described his own father, the same man whose household was in Peyrehorade but who traveled to Seville to provide the Spanish navy (fol. 50v). Neither did belonging to the "Nation" require residence in a country where Judaism was officially tolerated. Conversos in the Sephardi Diaspora often corresponded with their Christian kinsfolk in Iberia, and considered these relatives part of the same "Nation" to which they belonged. (86) When religious propriety demanded it, even official Sephardi institutions, such as the Amsterdam dowering society known as Dotar, whose local branches throughout the Diaspora formed an important part of the welfare infrastructure of the "Spanish and Portuguese Hebrew Nation" in the West, went so far as to legitimize its conversa clients in the Iberian Peninsula, who publicly professed Christianity, by more or less imputing to them a Jewish belief in the unity of God. (87) At the same time, Sephardim in the Netherlands and elsewhere fostered, even romanticized, their Iberian cultural heritage, continued to speak Portuguese and Spanish in their daily and official life, enacted measures to exclude Ashkenazic Jews from Sephardi institutions, and even discriminated openly against three ethnically-suspect groups: (1) Sephardim who married non-Sephardim, (2) converts to Judaism who attached themselves to Sephardi communities yet were not of Iberian stock, and, especially, (3) Jews of Black African ancestry. (88) For conversos of the 1600s, then, the perceived imperatives of belonging to a culturally and genealogically distinct nacao, itself understood as a sort of caste, had a certain priority over what we might consider a purely religious identification. (89) This would probably hold true even if we were able to demonstrate that most conversos who arrived in exile were already cognizant of the centuries-old, imaginary equation that Judeophobic Iberians of all backgrounds drew between Jewishness, whatever that meant to the bigots and their converso targets, and New Christian status. I think it is reasonable to suppose that an overwhelming majority of the expatriates were aware of that equation.
Our challenge, then, is to understand claims such as that Juan Ibanez and Jorge de Medina Cardoso articulated about the categorically "Jewish" character that, in their eyes, the refugee colonies in France had acquired by the 1670s--for instance, Ibanez's assertion that "of the people [I] knew, all who live in Peyrehorade are Judaizers" (fol. 40v), and that "all the judaizing residents use Hebrew names" (fol. 43v). A discussion of what may have motivated the coalescence of that specifically ethno-religious solidarity among the settlers, forms the crux of the following section. In the concluding section, I will briefly characterize the New Jewish culture of the communities that the two expatriates described, and explain the meaning that that culture had for the Iberian exiles and their children.
The Question of the Refugees' Motivations
There is no doubt, to be fair, that several socially and politically prominent individuals among the Iberian exiles in France opted early on to become normative Jews. That is partly why studies of the development of Sephardi communities in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques and Les Landes too often suggest that the trend towards full Judaicization was largely unproblematic, or even inevitable. Yet, as I have argued elsewhere, the prevalence of a rabbinically correct Judaism among New Christians in France by 1700 was not natural or preordained--not even among the elites. Rather, it was partly the result of fortuitous circumstance and social pressure.
As members of a suspect ethnic minority widely suspected of crypto-Judaism, the immigrants had been collectively denigrated, and in several cases persecuted in their native lands. Once in exile the refugees formed an obvious cluster of Iberians in a foreign country. Along the Pyrennees they often lived together, probably in large measure because they felt Lusitanian or Spanish and "New Christian," and hence quite distinct from their neighbors. In any event, the fact that the immigrants spoke Castilian and Portuguese as their mother tongues while their neighbors did not was probably an immediate bar to social integration (as we will see, this was not always the case for the more acclimated children of the immigrants). Furthermore, like most subjects in the seventeenth century, the immigrants were unfamiliar with the notion of "freedom of conscience" as the citizens of western democracies would understand the phrase today. This is the case even though some of the countries in central and northern Europe, such as the Netherlands, did offer foreigners a measure of religious toleration, and thus acquired reputations in the Habsburg kingdoms as havens for those seeking such "freedom." I strongly suspect that for many if not most of the conversos in exile, the impulse to belong, to conform to a new social reality and emergent religious status quo in their group, was as strong if not stronger than any desire to be "liberated" from, or by, any particular religion. (90)
We see evidence of this conformism in the behavior of conversos such as Leonor Gomez, her mother, Maria Vaez, and their servant, Juan Compra, who arrived in the outskirts of Bayonne from Madrid in 1655. These immigrants discovered to their horror that many of the local "Portuguese" expatriates were "Judaizers"; yet Leonor's husband, a returnee to the Iberian Peninsula who, unlike her, had allegedly adhered to crypto-Judaic practices while in Spain, reported that in a matter of four or five days the newcomers had accustomed themselves to the idea that they too should be "Jewish," because everyone there had already become a follower of the "Law of Moses," and not because of any value the new arrivals saw in rabbinic Judaism as such. (91) In contrast to Gomez's husband, who testified under duress, conversos who took the initiative to become inquisitorial stool pigeons sometimes portrayed "Judaizers" in exile as fanatical, unidimensional indoctrinators, constantly spewing theological "error" and threatening to coerce other New Christians into adopting a corrupt "faith." (92) Such depictions are absent in the case of Gomez. Perhaps more significantly, on occasion even voluntary arch-delators described their own acclimatization to the way of life of converso emigres in terms that betrayed the quotidian and utterly social character of the experience. For instance, the Portuguese informer Joao de Aguila testified that at the age of nine he had stumbled (so to speak) into Judaism in the Netherlands when he had met and socialized with "some youths [who were] his age who professed the Law of Moses." (93) Yet another delator remarked rather disarmingly that he had adopted Judaism, not because any "Judaizer" had threatened to harm or kill him, but because the alternative was to remain socially and economically isolated--"alone" and "without anyone"--among the expatriates. (94)
To be sure, the Judaicization of the "Portuguese" exiles was the outcome not only of circumstance and social pressure, but of a concerted effort of indoctrination on the part of Jewish figures in the Diaspora, including some of the most fervent among the newly-Judaicized refugees themselves. A gamut of informal social and economic contacts between former Iberians in western Sephardi metropoles, such as Venice and Amsterdam, and those in the diasporic periphery reinforced Jewish proselitization. These contacts permitted the social, political, religious, and economic norms modeled by the major communities to spread to and become adapted by the incipient ones. In practical terms, the task of reeducating the refugees in normative Judaism consisted of such activities as composing and delivering sermons, organizing and supervising communal prayers, supplying and interpreting bibles, liturgical works (95) and religious manuals, furnishing and caring for ritual objects, modeling quotidian behavior, circumcising newly arrived male immigrants, and performing a host of rituals that the refugees were not qualified to carry out. (96) From the late sixteenth century, learned emissaries and self-styled missionaries from Italy, the Netherlands, the land of Israel, and elsewhere, undertook these functions with vehemence. In the case of Peyrehorade and suburban Bayonne, we know, for instance, that the refugees relied on one Salvador Mendes as their unofficial source of religious information and instruction between 1631 and 1653. Mendes, by all accounts an ordinary man who "lived from alms," was even accorded the honor of preaching a religious sermon by virtue of the simple fact he was circumcised and had practiced rabbinic Judaism in the Jewish communities of Rome and Livorno, and hence "was said to know more [about the Law of Moses] than the others." (97) We have already seen that Ibanez and Medina identified two such educators--Mendes' local successors--and described their activities, thereby allowing us to contribute an assessment of the educators' local impact and larger historical significance.
The Exiles' Newfound Collective Identity: Between the Ideal and the Real
If the refugees "found their lives" (hallaron sus vidas), to use a phrase common among them, within the fold of rabbinic Judaism, we must still establish what that Judaism meant to them. Medina's miracle story regarding the destruction of two headstones at the "Portuguese" burial plot of the Saint Esprit community provides a clue.
Leaving aside its supposed lesson in humility for the grieving Salazar family, the story functioned as a cautionary tale intended for Medina's community as a whole. As Medina related it, the "miracle" underscored for the exiles the need to cultivate public reserve--indeed, communal discipline writ large--lest the fragile honor and unity of "Portuguese" families and their nascent kehillah break down. In this warning, the crucial idea that kinship and religion are reciprocal looms large, much as it did in the above-cited sermon, not least in the ideal of bom judesmo--in Portuguese, "Good (or Proper) Judaism"--that Sephardi worthies attempted to inculcate among the "Hebrews of the Portuguese Nation" in the Sephardi metropolis of Holland throughout the seventeenth century. (98) As the historian Yosef Kaplan describes it, that ideal enshrined obedience to religious authority, emotional restraint, intellectual cultivation, courtesy, dignified piety, and an acute consciousness of the judgment, good manners and aesthetic values of the Dutch gentiles who tolerated the Jewish community in their midst, but who might conceivably cease to do so should members of the "Nation" misbehave.
As far as the Iberian vecinos ("neighbors" or "citizens") of Saint Esprit were concerned, then, familial decorum and religious virtue were coextensive. And yet, the immigrants' prudish affirmation of this homology in their miracle story--and elsewhere--may ultimately reveal an actual discomfort about their community's social and religious status. To insist, in effect, that no refugee was "more Jewish than the others" in the converso colony, with its numerous border-crossing "renegades," strikes me as approaching an open acknowledgment that no vecino or vecina had reason to regard himself or herself as a full-fledged Jew--and hence, that he or she had better take care to behave irreproachably. Saint Esprit, after all, hosted a nascent community of religious neophytes not yet considered totally legitimate by many rabbis, let alone by many Frenchmen. The New Jews who comprised the community had not yet fully internalized Jewish law, and, as I have noted, neither had that law always been essential to communal solidarity among diasporic conversos. For instance, Ibanez suggested that Jewish observance was rather lax in Peyrehorade, saying that no one enforced the observance of Jewish fasts, but rather left that observance to individual discretion: "From the age of thirteen [the Judaizers of Peyrehorade] begin to observe the fasts of the Law of Moses ... and these [fasts] are voluntary; they are not observed perforce, and [observance] is left to the will of whoever wishes to keep them" (fol. 41v). For his part, the husband of the above-mentioned Leonor Gomez's hinted that in Saint Esprit the refugees observed Jewish dietary regulations lackadaisically. (99) What is more, the novices had only recently found their (new) communal identity in the imaginary connection between confession and kinship and begun to enforce that identity. In its very moralism, then, the settlers' alleged interpretation of the miracle-tale may actually reflect the insecure and rather ambiguous position that Saint Esprit's New Jewish cohort occupied vis a vis the Jewish and Christian worlds even in the 1670s.
That exiled conversos experienced some insecurity--even remorse and ambiguity--concerning their newfound Jewishness is only logical in light of that position. It is worthwhile remembering that the Jewish authorities to whom the expatriates looked for religious guidance frequently emphasized, however indirectly, the urgency of atoning for the sin of (Christian) idolatry, and hence both exploited and sought to foment feelings of shame. (100) At the same time, and correspondingly, the expatriates wondered just how holy and respectable they could ever truly become given the taint of their Christian pasts. For example, one of the New Jewish leaders in Saint-Esprit, David Manuel Isidro, inquired of Dutch-Sephardi authorities around 1663 whether uncircumcised men who were buried in non-Jewish cemeteries according to non-Jewish rites merited Jewish "salvation." Isidro thereby revealed his wishes for those members of his nacao who had not become Jews when they had died, or who, like himself, were only then becoming socialized in rabbinic Judaism and were not openly Jewish, at least not fully.
For the expatriates in France the uncomfortable fact remained that their New Jewish identity was far from impermeable. The two dossiers that interest us here attest that at least some of the settlers and their French-born children were partially acculturated into their Francophone and Gascophone medium, especially where the immigrants lived interspersed among the non-Jewish majority, as was the case in Peyrehorade. In this respect, Ibanez's testimony provides an interesting counterpoint to that of Medina, whose neighborhood in Saint Esprit Szajkowski has characterized as a kind of "ghetto." (101)
For example, Ibanez declared that his parents had introduced him to normative Judaism by sending him to a reading tutor who was a Judaizer yet lived in a Frenchman's house, and also via "books in French," in addition to works written in Castilian (fol. 40v). Although in his youth he had not learned Christian doctrine formally and extensively (as the French Church presumably expected him and every other baptized child in Peyrehorade to do), Ibanez said he had nonetheless managed to memorize a few prayers that he had heard French children recite at their school (fol. 51r-v). To wit, the young deponent claimed to have "read and learned" some "aspects [cosas] of the Christian Doctrine ... when the teacher taught the Catholic boys." He also declared that, "before the age often or eleven he was not ... [observant] of any Law [;] he only dealt with the French boys who were Christian [solo trataba de lugar con los muchachos franceses asi cristianos]." (Fol. 57r; emphasis added)
The fact that Ibanez had been able and willing to "hang around" a Catholic school (por alla se solia quedar algunas veces, as he put it in fol. 51v), socialize with French youths, and learn "idolatrous" prayers in French without the slightest awareness of Judaism until the age of eleven, is itself indicative of the relative ease with which supposedly conflicting communities of faith coexisted in his town. Ibanez's behavior also suggests the possibility that younger generations of New Jews learned the local vernacular(s) with readiness and did not develop a visceral aversion to Christian ideas, symbols, and practices until later in their lives, if at all. A barely decipherable part of Ibanez's deposition speaks even of amicable relations between Frenchmen and the "Portuguese." The transcript has it that Daniel Romano, one of Ibanez's young acquaintances, had attended a French school and maintained a cordial rapport with his French teacher and godfather, one "Monsieur Dorces" (or "Doves"), even while the youth and his family observed Judaism and attended services at the Jewish congrega (fols. 45v-46r). Ibanez painted a slightly more casual relationship between another of his young converso friends, Samuel de Vergara, and Vergara's own compere, a local cowhand (fol. 46v). Meanwhile, in another dossier, the husband of the above-mentioned Leonor Gomez of Saint-Esprit admitted that he had fathered a child by a local French mistress, thereby suggesting that even the existence of a predominantly Jewish neighborhood there did not prevent intimate contact between the "Portuguese Merchants" and Christians of local stock. (102) Such relationships between the members of both groups, and the measured linguistic acculturation of some of the crypto-Jews, are but two reminders, not only that inter-ethnic contact was inevitable, but that for many years the nouveaux chretiens involved themselves in French society in order to maintain a necessary if flimsy facade of Catholic propriety. This involvement may well explain the complaint of a Spanish observer in the 1630s that it was impossible to distinguish the "Portuguese" from the native French because they all spoke the same language and did not make known the "nation" to which they belonged. (103)
And yet, amongst themselves, the marchands et autres portugaises were largely successful in positing clear boundaries of community by the late seventeenth century. As previously mentioned, Ibanez claimed that the Jewish congrega in Peyrehorade had become public in 1656, while, according to Medina, the New Jews of Saint Esprit stopped baptizing their children around 1663, the year that Dr. Avila arrived in Saint Esprit (fol. 12r). Municipal documents confirm that, while baptisms among the Portuguese were already rare by 1660, they ceased altogether before 1667. And by the eighteenth century these documents rarely refer to "New Christians" at all, rather to "Portuguese" or even Jews." (104) The cultural imprint that self-styled Jewish "missionaries" left in southwestern France, then, was deep. Yet we cannot forget the rather obvious incongruity that we know of this imprint largely because "respectable," Jewish members of these educators' congregations went to Spain, behaved as Christians and conducted extensive business there, were eventually arrested or surrendered to the Inquisition voluntarily, and proceeded to testify against their fellow expatriates at length. By itself this irony cautions against the perception that by construing themselves as observant Jews, members of the Spanish and Portuguese "Nation" in France were simply fulfilling a "Jewish" spiritual destiny. In fact, refugees were merely forming a mental image of cultural stability and collective honor. Rabbinic law gave practical, daily substance to that image by providing means and models of social discipline, as well as a "Divine" confirmation and legitimation of the ethnic solidarity that already united most of the refugees. Embracing "The Law of Moses," then, served to counteract the instability of actual change and the dishonor of the refugees' relative abjection as outcasts of Catholicism and refugees still dependent--culturally, emotionally, economically--on Spain and Portugal, the two arch-Catholic countries where conversos had been persecuted for centuries and frequently branded as "Jews."
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The archival research that underlies this study was supported by grants from the Maurice Amado Foundation and the Program for Cultural Cooperation between Spain's Ministry of Culture, Education, and Sport, and American Universities.
1. As applied to the descendants of converts to Christianity, these terms are obvious misnomers. I employ them here merely to be consistent with current scholarly and popular uses.
2. The quotation marks indicate that not all the "Portuguese" in this case had been born and reared in Portugal, or had emigrated directly from that country. Many were, in fact, children and grandchildren of Portuguese subjects who had settled in Spain. There were also several immigrants who were of Spanish (converso) origin but lived among the culturally dominant "Portuguese," and, except where their origin is specifically noted, were and still tend to be regarded as part of the "Portuguese" bloc. A notable instance of this is the author Antonio Enriquez Gomez (or Enriques Gomez, 1600-1663), whose inquisitorial prosecutors mistakenly identified him as "Portuguese." On Enriquez Gomez, his work, and the context of transborder migration and trade in which he operated, see for instance Carsten Lorenz Wilke, Judisch-christliches Doppelleben im Barock: Zur Biographie des Kaufmanns und Dichters Antonio Enriquez Gomez (New York, 1994).
3. Esther Benbassa, The Jews of France: A History from Antiquity to the Present, trans. M. B. DeBevoise (Princeton, 1999), 49, 205. By the latter date the documents referred to "Jews," not to "New Christians" (nouveaux chretiens) and applied mostly to the descendants of Iberian expatriates.
4. The open profession of Judaism was first legalized locally in 1722-1723, when the Letters Patent acknowledged the "Portuguese" as "Jews." Benbassa, 205. Arguably, Revolutionary legislation, which naturalized Jews as French citizens between 1790 and 1791, articulated for the first time the inherent right of French Jews to reside in France.
5. "La volonte de ces pionniers de creer des communites temoigne certes de la fidelite des conversos de la peninsule Iberique a leur foi ancestrale." Gerard Nahon, Metropoles et peripheries Sepharades d'occident: Cairouan, Amsterdam, Bayonne, Bordeaux, Jerusalem (Paris, 1993), 237. Notable too are a few of Arthur Hertzberg's observations in his survey of the history of Franco-Sephardi enclaves on the eve of the Enlightenment. He writes,
What made it possible for Jews to reenter France? In the first place, the resettlement began not with avowed Jews but with marranos [here the author means crypto-Jews], who were fleeing the Iberian Peninsula. Not all of these people, despite their Jewish ancestry, necessarily became [Jews] upon their arrival to the more relaxed atmosphere of France.[...] Some ... retained their identity as part of the community of 'Portuguese Merchants, known as New Christians' [;] but even among them we cannot be sure that all were really [crypto-Jews]. No doubt some of these people themselves were not sure what they were. (Emphasis added)
Id., The French Enlightenment and the Jews (New York, 1968), 15. Hertzberg goes on to describe religious ambiguity among the Iberian immigrants as "prevalent" (ibid.). In so doing, he inadvertently admits the fact that many, not just "some," of the converso exiles in France were socially and culturally vague. A few paragraphs later, however, he makes an innocuous-seeming observation with which he discards any and all sense of the unsettled quality of the immigrants' identities: "In all of France in the year 1700 there were not five thousand Jews." (17, emphasis added)
This last statement begs a number of questions. First, how is such a numerical estimate conceivable when no one could legally define himself or herself as a Jew in France in 1700? As I mentioned above, the open profession of Judaism was prohibited in French domains, even if the crown and some local authorities did tolerate crypto-Judaism. Second, is Hertzberg's population estimate based on figures found in the communal registers of semi-secret kehillot? Unfortunately the author's apparatus sheds no light on the matter. The records pertaining to the converso enclaves are meager for the seventeenth century. At any rate, I know of no Jewish communal documents that would permit anything other than rough demographic estimates, and that for a slightly later period. Other documents speak only of numbers of New Christian families or households, not the total number of individuals. For instance, one report from 1636 has it that there were eighty "Portuguese" families in Labastide, forty in Peyrehorade, twelve in Dax, forty in Bordeaux, and at least 60 in greater Bayonne. I. S. Revah, "Les Marranes," Revue des Etudes Juives 118 (1959-1960): 29-77. I base my own tentative estimates on such documents. Third, how is it possible to determine how many "Jews" lived in France in 1700, when according to Hertzberg's own analysis several of the individuals who comprised the "Portuguese" enclaves did not know "what they were" themselves--Jewish, Christian, neither, or both? To put it slightly differently, by what measure or standard could a historian (or any other observer) determine who was or was not "Jewish" in seventeenth-century France? Fourth, leaving the last question aside, if we assume that Iberians who immigrated to France in, say, the 1640s, somehow became "Jews" by 1700, why and how did they do this?
On the subject of the converso population in seventeenth-century France, see Nahon, Metropoles et Peripheries, 242, where he provides a generous total estimate of "hardly ... more than five thousand souls." With respect to greater Bayonne, see for instance, Jean Cavignac, "A Bordeaux et Bayonne: Des 'marchands portugais' aux citoyens francais," in Bernhard Blumenkranz, Juifs en France au XVIIe siecle (Paris, 1994); Anne Zink, "Bayonne arrives et departs au XVIIe siecle," in 1492: l'expulsion des juifs d'Espagne, edited by Roland Goetschel (Paris, 1996); Zosa Szajkowski, "Population Problems of Marranos and Sephardim in France, from the 16th to the 20th Centuries," Proceedings of the American Academy of Jewish Research 27 (1958): 83-105. A useful summary of the types of extant documentary sources that (may) permit tentative population estimates, though mostly for the eighteenth century, is Bernhard Blumenkranz, Histoire des Juifs en France (Toulouse, 1972), 233, and more generally 234-248.
6. The dossiers are as follows: Archivo Hist6rico Nacional, Inquisici6n de Toledo, legajo 183, expediente 2 (1674-1678; defendant: Flora de Salazar), and Archivo Historico Nacional, Inquisicion de Toledo, legajo 158, expediente 2 (1679-1680; defendant: Juan Ibanez, alias Juan Luis Ordonez, alias Abraham de Paredes, alias Juan de Paredes). When citing portions of these dossiers, I shall indicate the pertinent folio(s) of each of the two cases within the body of the study.
7. One way to approach the subject in part is to note, as histories of French Jewry often do, that toward the eighteenth century Iberian refugees in southwestern France ceased notifying their local priests of births, marriages, and deaths. As we will see, one informant, Medina, observed that that Iberian expatriates in greater Bayonne had stopped baptizing their children around 1663, while Ibaniez noted that after 1656 the "Portuguese" in Peyrehorade had even obtained permission to make their makeshift synagogue public. Another way to approach the question would be to highlight, for example, the fact that the immigrants bought communal burial plots (in greater Bayonne this occurred in 1654. Gerard Nahon, "Les Sefarades dans la France moderne [XVIe-XVIIIe siecles] Les Nouveaux Cahiers 62-63 : 16-25; here, 19); that they established a charitable institution they called Sedaca or Sedaka (from the Hebrew, tzedakah, meaning "charity") in Bordeaux in 1699 (Benbassa, 52)--and so on. However, these data, and all other evidence of Judaicization alone, would not explain why the refugees decided to reorient themselves socially and religiously so as to form full-fledged communities of faith, and how the mentalities of the immigrants were transformed. Neither does such evidence explain much about the historical context that conditioned and may have caused that transformation. By the same token, to merely affirm (and confirm) the Judaicization of the Iberian cohort in France does not identify the agents of Judacization--people, ideas, events, "forces"--or delve into the manner in which the immigrants obtained and internalized normative Judaic culture. Lastly, evidence of the establishment of normative Jewish institutions and patterns of life does not say much about what being "Jewish" ultimately meant to the Iberian exiles.
8. Important historians of Jews in the French southwest have focused mostly on later Jewish material. Much of it is compiled in the following collections: Gerard Nahon, ed. Les "Nations" juives portugaises du sud-ouest de la France (1684-1791): Documents (Paris, 1981), Simon Schwarzfuchs, Le registre des deliberations de la Nation juive portugaise de Bordeaux (1711-1787) (Paris, 1981).
9. "Jorxe de Medina Cardosso," according to the capricious orthography of the inquisitorial notaries.
10. Relevant non-Jewish documents from France strike me as opaque, not to mention the fact that they are scarce, for purposes of reconstructing the kind of social and cultural phenomena that interest me here. However, Gayle K. Brunelle has made admirable use of notarial and other French official sources in her article, "Migration and Religious Identity: The Portuguese of Seventeenth-Century Rouen," Journal of Early Modern History 7.4 (November 2003): 283-311.
11. David Graizbord, Souls in Dispute: Converso Identities in Iberia and the Jewish Diaspora, 1580-1700 (Philadelphia, 2004). On the actions and motivations of conversos who returned to the Iberian Peninsula and to Catholicism see also Natalia Muchnik, "Du judaismeau catholicisme: les aleas de la foi au XVIIe siecle," Revue Historique 307, 3 (2002): 571-609.
12. Of the settlers, those who were elderly people, women, and children, were less likely to cross the border than the fewer who were young-to-middle-aged men and either heads of household or assistants, apprentices, and business associates of heads of household. Given the small population of conversos in the southwest (see the concluding paragraph of n. 5, above) it is reasonable to conclude that the problem of border-crossing and religious recidivism among newly Judaicized conversos in the Franco-Sephardi enclaves of the Gascon and Basque southwest was demographically and, therefore, culturally and historically significant. David L. Graizbord, Souls in Dispute: Converso Identities in Iberia and the Jewish Diaspora, 1580-1700 (Philadelphia, 2004), 78.
13. The deponent did not make clear whether his family was of Spanish or Portuguese origin, or Spanish of distant Portuguese origin: "He said that on his father's side, he judges that he is Castilian and an Old Christian, and of the best of Zamora, and that on his mother's side he does not know if they were Castilians or Portuguese, and he does not know if they are of New Christian or Old Christian stock, aside from the fact that she is an observer of the Law of Moses...." Fols. 50r-50v.
14. I borrow this useful term from Thomas F. Glick, "On Converso and Marrano Ehtnicity," in Crisis and Creativity in the Sephardic World, 1391-1648, ed. Benjamin Gampel (New York, 1997), 71. He borrows it from Benjamin N. Colby and Pierre L. van den Berghe, Ixil Country: A Plural Society in Highland Guatemala (Berkeley, 1969), 20.
15. Quoted in Cecil Roth, "Immanuel Aboab's Proselytization of the Marranos," Jewish Quarterly Review 23 (1932): 152. (The translation is mine).
16. On the subject of the Spanish inquisitorial protocol, see for example the list of requisite questions approved in 1661 by the Supreme Council of the Holy Office, and reproduced in Pilar Huerga Criado, En La Raya de Portugal: Solidaridad y tensiones en la comunidad judeoconversa (Salamanca, 1994), 239. See also the influential inquisitorial guide from 1376, Nicolau Eymerich, Le manuel des inquisiteurs, trans. Louis Sala-Molins (Paris, 1973).
17. Quoted in Maria de los Angeles Fernandez Garcia, "Criterios inquisitoriales para detectar al marrano: los criptojudios en Andalucia en los siglos XVI y XVII" in Judios. Sefarditas. Conversos: La expulsion de 1492 y sus consecuencias, ed., Angel Alcala (Valladolid, 1995), 484-5.
18. I borrow the apt designation "ethnological" from Ricardo Garcia Carcel and Doris Moreno Martinez, Inquisicion: Historia Critica, 2nd. ed. (Madrid, 2001), 217. However, the authors tend to accept allegations of crypto-Judaism more or less at face value.
19. Muchnik, 607, n.110.
20. This paragraph reworks material from David Graizbord, "La Vida de los conversos en la Peninsula Iberica despues de 1492" in Los estudios sefarditas para estudiantes de espanol, ed. Julia Lieberman (forthcoming).
21. Several Andalusian conversos were accused of this crime in 1593. Fernandez Garcia, in Alcala, ed., 487.
22. H. P. Salomon, Portrait of a New Christian: Fernao Alvares Melo (1569-1632) (Paris, 1982), 27. Gretchen D. Starr-Lebeau comments with regard to a Castilian cases from the fifteenth century that, "Even the Inquisition, whose purpose was to identify and punish judaizing behavior ... could indirectly encourage the accused to voice support for Judaism. In forcing New Christians to identify solely as devout Christians or heretics, and with the court designed to identify guilt rather than innocence, the inquisitors achieved quite the opposite result to what they had intended. [One defendant], who exaggerated her devotion to Judaism to satisfy the inquisitors ... provides a particularly potent example of the power of inquisitors to create a Judaizing heresy where none had existed." Id., In the Shadow of the Virgin: Inquisitors, Friars, and Conversos in Guadalupe, Spain (Princeton, 2003), 107-108.
23. This is a clear, though somewhat rough and truncated translation of modeh ani lefanekhah, melekh hai ve-qayam, she-hehezartah bi nishmati, the sentence with which the morning Shachrit prayer begins. The deponent's the use of the Sephardi noun "Dio," and not the standard Castilian "Dios" (God) is typical. "Dio" was a means by which conversos differentiated the Jewish belief in the unity of God with what they and Sephardi Jews considered to be the Trinitarian implications of the term "Dios." To the uneducated, the latter term seemed to denote plurality, when in fact it does not, as it derives from the Latin singular, Deus. David M. Gitlitz, Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of the Crypto-Jews (Philadelphia, 1996), 102. It is only prudent to caution that Gitlitz's work, though useful as a synthesis of much existing scholarship on crypto-Judaism, is marred by serious problems of documentation and interpretation. Chief among the latter, in my view, is the assumption, apparent to a greater or lesser degree throughout the work, that confessions of crypto-Judaism collected through centuries of inquisitorial activity are by and large transparent and readily reliable. See the devastating critique of Gitlitz's work by H. P. Salomon in Jewish Quarterly Review 39, 1-2 (1998): 131-154. My own position on the (un)reliability of testimony rendered to the inquisition is not as radically positivistic as Salomon's. In my view, "truth" and "untruth" are not always helpful terms for describing the information that deponents rendered. Yet, Salomon's general thrust, and his insistence that the primary sources be read critically is, I believe, appropriate.
24. Perhaps the witness conflated Ma'ariv, the evening service, and Shachrit, the morning service, although it is possible that the notary is the one who misconstrued the Hebrew, or that I have simply misread the notary's confused attempts to reproduce the informant's Spanish- or Portuguese-accented oral rendering of Hebrew words.
25. On the role of Psalms in the prayers of allegedly crypto-Jewish conversos, and in the inquisitorial protocol, see for example the survey in Gitlitz, 445-450, 462-64, albeit with the caveat I included in n.23, above.
26. According to another testimony from Peyrehorade, the leader of prayers "read and explained in the Hebrew language, although the others had books, each one in the language he understood." Haim Beinart, "The Converso Community in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Spain," The Sephardi Heritage, ed. R.D. Barnett, 2 vols. (London, 1971), 478, n.41.
27. Alvaro Luis and various members of his family were prominent in the smuggling networks that developed between southwestern France and the Iberian Peninsula. See for instance Jonathan I. Israel, "Spain and the Dutch Sephardim, 1609-1660," Studia Rosenthaliana 12(1978): 1-61.
28. On this subject, see Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, "The Re-education of Marranos in the Seventeenth Century," The Third Annual Rabbi Louis Feinberg Memorial Lecture in Judaic Studies, March 26, 1980 (Cincinnati, 1980), especially 6-12.
29. This is my translation of Medina's own largely accurate translation from the Hebrew: "Bendito Tu, Adonay [Heb., "My Lord"], nuestro Dio, rey del mundo, que nos santifico en sus encomiendas y nos encomendo para estar en cabanas."
30. A skeptical position that deponents artfully blended truth and untruth to render novelesque testimony strikes me as probably inapplicable to all, or even a majority, of converso deponents. To be fair, many of these men and women were no fools. At the same time we must consider their backgrounds--no two personalities are exactly alike--and especially the psychological pressure that incarceration and interrogation placed upon those suspected of heresy. We cannot, in the end, simply impute to all or most conversos the tremendous sophistication and sangfroid that would be necessary to render such artful testimony. A stimulating case study that articulates the skeptical position is Herman Prins Salomon, "Uriel da Costa: 'Marrano?'" Paper presented at the seminar "A Literatura Judeo-Portuguesa," Cursos da Arrabida, Arrabida, Portugal, 22 July, 1997, especially 14 on the deponent Leonor de Pina. My own, contrasting approach to the testimony of converso informants is described in Souls in Dispute, 14-16, 106-120.
31. Nahon, Metropoles et Peripheries, 238.
32. Ibid., 241.
33. Yosef Kaplan, "Wayward New Christians and Stubborn New Jews: The Shaping of a Jewish Identity," Jewish History 8.1-2 (1994): 27-41; here 32.
34. Cf. the slightly different translation in Beinart, "The Converso Community," 466.
35. Since there is no concept of a "mortal sin" in Judaism, this expression may be either a touch of syncretism (or confusion on the deponent's part), or an attempt by the informant to "translate" religious concepts for the benefit of his interrogators, or a misunderstanding by the notary who recorded the deponent's testimony.
36. This material forms part of the testimony of Jorge Rodriguez de Castro in Archivo Historico Nacional, Inquisicion de Toledo, legajo 147, expediente 1 (1663-1665), not foliated.
37. In 1449 in Toledo, this linkage was made explicit with the promulgation of a municipal "Sentence-Statute," which excluded conversos from civil service and invalidated their legal testimony, among other things. On the statute, see Albert Sicroff, Los estatutos de limpieza de sangre: Controversias entre los siglos XV y XVII, trans. Mauro Armino (Madrid, 1979). Apart from this, it seems reasonable to suppose that at least some Portuguese New Christians were in fact crypto-Jews, although the nature of inquisitorial accusations and prosecutions prohibits sweeping generalizations on this score. On the problems of assessing inquisitorial accusations, see Graizbord, "La vida de los conversos."
38. Conversos of Portuguese origin were aware of this, of course. To cite but one example, in folio 48r of his dossier, Ibanez mentions that his father had warned him against letting on that he, the younger Ibanez, was "Portuguese" (meaning, in this case, of Portuguese extraction) while in Spain lest the usual anti-Portuguese opprobrium attach to both of them.
39. Graizbord, Souls in Dispute, 44, 50-54, 116-120.
40. In this regard, see for example the anti-inquisitorial writing of the two-time inquisitorial defendant Antonio Enriquez Gomez (c. 1600-1663), for example, Id., La inquisicion de Lucifer y visita de todos los diablos, ed. Constance Hubbard Rose and Maxim P. A. M. Kerkhof (Amsterdam, 1992). In a telling commentary within the dedication to his work, Los CL Psalmos de David (Hamburg, 1626), the converso Fernao Alvares (a.k.a. David Abenatar) Melo acknowledged that the Inquisition actually fomented Judaism among conversos who were earnest Christians. Specifically, "if the blessed Lord had not permitted the Inquisition in [Portugal], a school where knowledge of Him is taught and the squandered blood [of His people] is renewed, I do believe that ... by now knowledge of Him would have been completely lost." Reproduced and translated in Salomon, Portrait of a New Christian, 67.
41. On the matter of conversos' ethnicity, see for example Glick. See also Yosef Kaplan, "The Self-Definition of Sephardic Jews of Western Europe and their Relation to the Alien Stranger," in Gampel, ed., 59-76.
42. See Graizbord, "La vida de los conversos."
43. Anne Zink, Pays ou circonscriptions: Les colectivites territoriales de la France du sudouest sous l'ancien regime (Paris, 2000), 238.
44. Peter Sahlins, Unconditionally French: Foreign Citizens in the Old Regime and After (Ithaca, 2004), 51-52, 162-164.
45. Benbassa, 52.
46. This paragraph reworks an assessment of the effects of the Edicts of Faith in "La vida de los conversos."
47. Here, of course, the ideal incorporated the assumption that an ideal "Jew" is a man.
48. It is interesting that the defendant used this designation to differentiate between Jews, or for that matter, Judaizers, of Iberian origin and Jews of Near Eastern origin.
49. Nahon, Metropoles et peripheries, 373.
50. David Willemse, Un "portugues" entre los castellanos: El primer proceso inquisitorial contra Gonzalo Baez de Paiba, 1654-1657 (Paris, 1974), lv.
51. Archivo Historico Nacional, Inquisicion de Toledo, legajo 177, expediente 1 (1664-1670), fol. 55v.
52. Kaplan, "Wayward New Christians"; Gitlitz, 207.
53. Carsten Lorenz Wilke, "Un Judaisme clandestin dans la France du XVIIe siecle: Un rite au rythem de l'imprimerie," in Transmission et passages en monde juif, ed. Esther Benbassa (Paris, 1996), 308.
54. Ibid., 304-305, citing, respectively, Archivo Historico Nacional, libro 1129, fol. 475v (Martin Goncalves); libro 1114, fols. 191r, 197v (Domingo Guterres Rodrigues); and again, libro 1129, fol. 682v (Maria de Leon).
55. It is logical to speculate that a hevrah kadishah was founded in 1654, when a priest "served as a front man" (to quote Benbassa, 51) for the immigrants' purchase of a burial plot at the Campot de Saint-Simon, later called le Cimitiere du Fort. On the burial plot, see Henry Leon, Histoire des Juifs de Bayonne (Paris, 1893; Lafitte Reprints, 1976), 199-202.
56. Wilke, "Un judaisme clandestin," 310.
57. It is unclear to whose clothing Medina is referring here.
58. At least one detail is unusual here. Rabbinic opinion has it that the rending of a mourner's clothing must occur while he or she is standing. See, for instance, Solomon Ganzfried, Code of Jewish Law: Kitzur Shulhan Arukh, trans. Hyman E. Goldin (New York, 1996) 4:91.
59. According to Medina's deposition, fol. 6v.
60. The very fact that conversos should erect raised gravestones is noteworthy--and perhaps indicative of Ibero-Catholic influence--since in Medieval times Sephardim customarily buried their dead under flat gravestones (meanwhile, Ashkenazim buried theirs under raised ones, perhaps following the Christian pattern). On traditional Sephardi burial customs see for instance Herbert C. Dobrinsky, A Treasury of Sephardic Laws and Customs (New York, 1986), 69-109. On Ashkenazi customs see for instance Herman Pollack, Jewish Folkways in Germanic Lands (1648-1806) (Cambridge, MA, 1971), 40-49.
61. According to the report of an inquisitorial agent, there were some 290 Sephardi households (about 1,160 people) in southwestern France in 1636. Revah, 66-67. Other estimates are much more generous. For instance, Gerard Nahon suggests that Jewish communities in seventeenth-century France "hardly comprised more than some five thousand souls." Id., Metropoles et peripheries, 242.
62. On this subject, see for example Daniel Swetschinski, Reluctant Cosmopolitans: The Portuguese Jews of Seventeenth Century Amsterdam (London, 2000), 102-164.
63. Jonathan I. Israel, "The Sephardi Contribution to Economic Life and Colonization in Europe and the New World (Sixteenth-Eighteenth Centuries)," in Moreshet Sepharad: The Sephardi Legacy, ed. Haim Beinart, 2 vols. (Jerusalem, 1992), 2:379-80.
64. On the economic relations between conversos in southestern France and Iberian markets, see Szajkowski, "Trade Relations of Marranos in France"; Jonathan I. Israel, "Crypto-Judaism in Seventeenth-Century France: An Economic and Religious Bridge Between the Hispanic World and the Sephardic Diaspora," Diasporas within a Diaspora: Jews, crypto-Jews, and the World Maritime Empires (1540-1740) (Leiden, 2002), and Graizbord, Souls in Dispute, 78-89.
65. On Diego Rodriguez Cardoso see Julio Caro Baroja, Los Judios en la Espana Moderna y Contemporanea, 2 vols., 3rd ed. (Madrid, 1986) 2:156-164.
66. Archivo Historico Nacional, Inquisicion de Toledo, legajo 177, expediente 11 (1641-78), fols. 124v-125r. See also Caro Baroja, 2:154.
67. Ibafiez gave no indication that the Cardosos were related to Diego Rodriguez Cardoso.
68. The notion that southern France was, all told, a mere transit point for migrating conversos is articulated in various works. See for instance Revah, 66. Nahon's indispensable work occasionally gives sanction to the notion--see for example id., "From New Christians to the Portuguese Jewish Nation in France," in Beinart, ed., Moreshet sepharad, 2:33--yet, in Metropoles et peripheries, 244, Nahon renders a more complex view with regard not only to Saint-Esprit, but to what he calls the entire Portuguese "community" of the French southwest.
69. Archivo Historico Nacional, Inquisicion de Toledo, legajo 177, expediente 1 (1664-1670), fol. 16v.
70. My conclusion in this respect resembles that of Zsajkowski. Id., "The Marranos and Sephardim of France," The Abraham Weiss Jubilee Volume (New York, 1964), 110.
71. Leon, 19.
72. Anne Zink, "La comunidad judia de Bayona y su contexto," El Olivo 49 (1999): 55-64; here 57.
73. Archivo Historico Nacional, Inquisicion de Toledo, legajo 177, expediente 2 (1650-1653), fol. 39r-39v. See also Graizbord, Souls in Dispute 215.
74. The original sentences may never have been carried out. Furthermore, in 1695 the Parliament changed course yet again, and allowed a few "Jews" to conduct trade in selected cities under its jurisdiction. Zosa Szajkowski, "An Autodafe against the Jews of Toulouse in 1685," Jewish Quarterly Review, n.s. 49 (1958-59): 278-81. See also Elie Szapiro, "Toulouse, filiere d'evasion marrane au XVIIe siecle," Archives Juives 14 (1978): 19-21.
75. Zink, "La comunidad judia," 63.
76. Fol. 42v. I have found no evidence to suggest that the repression of French Protestantism under Richelieu, and Louis XIV's subsequent revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, affected French attitudes toward the converso settlers. If anything, the crown showed favor to the conversos irrespective of its relations with Huguenot communities. By the same token, religious coexistence, though never complete, seems to have predominated in areas such as Les Landes, where Protestants comprised significant minorities. On the high density of Protestant communities in Les Landes, see for instance the very instructive map in Mark Greengrass, The Longman Companion to the European Reformation, c. 1500-1618 (London, 1998), 375. On the relationship between the state and the Huguenots in thel600s yet before the Edict of Fontainebleau, see for example the case study, David Parker, La Rochelle and the French Monarchy: Conflict and Order in Seventeenth-Century France (London, 1980).
77. Zink, "La comunidad judia," 64.
78. On the origins of a new consciousness of genealogy among fifteenth-century Sephardi Jews and their Christianized descendants, see David Nirenberg, "Mass Conversion and Genealogical Mentalities: Jews and Christians in Fifteenth-Century Spain," Past and Present 174 (2002): 3-41.
79. For instance, the American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd ed., s.v. "ethnic": "Of or relating to sizable groups of people sharing a common and distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage." Meanwhile, the Compact Oxford English Dictionary of Current English, 3rd ed., proposes "relating to a group of people having a common national or cultural tradition." Notice the absence of religion in these definitions. For anthropological approaches to ethnicity, see for example Fredrik Barth, ed., "Introduction," Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Culture and Difference (Boston, 1969), 9-38; Carter G. Bentley, "Ethnicity and Practice," Comparative Studies in Society and History 29, 1 (1987):24-55.
80. See n. 89, below.
81. Bernardo Lopez Belinchon, Honra, libertad, y hacienda. Hombres de negocios y judios sefardies (Alcala de Henares, 2001), 41.
82. On the subject of the outlook and composition of the lobbying cohort, see Claude B. Stuczynski, "New Christian Political Leadership in Times of Crisis: The Pardon Negotiations of 1605," Bar-Ilan Studies in History V (forthcoming).
84. For a general discussion of the phenomenon of limpieza and its limits see Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision (London, 1997), 115-133. The most complete monographic treatment is still Sicroff.
85. Brunelle, 289, especially n.12.
86. Kaplan, "Wayward New Christians," 29-30.
87. On this subject, see Miriam Bodian, "The Portuguese Dowry Societies in Venice and Amsterdam: A Case Study in Communal Differentiation within the Marrano Diaspora," Italia 6, 1-2 (1987): 30-61; especially 44. Bodian notes elsewhere that the Dotar's statutes even violated Jewish law and upheld socio-sexual mores prevalent in Ibero-Christian society by categorically excluding candidates who were Jewish according to the rabbinic definition--in that their mothers were Jewish--but who were not the daughters of Judeo-Portuguese fathers. At the same time, the Dotar statutes included the daughters of "Portuguese" men and non-Jewish women. The "clear message was that extramarital relations between a 'Portuguese' man and a gentile woman (presumably of inferior class) did not constitute a blemish on 'Portuguese' honor, while extramarital relations involving a 'Portuguese' woman were a scandal and a disgrace." Id., Hebrews of the Portuguese Nation (Bloomington, 1997), 115.
88. On the Sephardi construct of the "nacao" and its boundaries, see Yosef Kaplan, "The Self-Definition of Sephardic Jews," and Glick. See also Jonathan Schorsch, Jews and Blacks in the Early Modern World (Cambridge, 2004), especially Chapters 7 and 8 (166-216). Not that there were no contradictions in the "racialization" of the "Nation." See for instance Bodian, Hebrews of the Portuguese Nation, 43.
89. In this connection, it is interesting to compare the ethno-religious construct of Sephardi identity that developed in southwestern France to early modern Spanish notions of citizenship (vecindad) and nativity or nativeness (naturaleza). Tamar Herzog argues intriguingly, and against an earlier scholarly understanding, that the early modern Spanish "community" was not only defined by reference to religion, just as Catholicism does not explain the formation of that community and of the Spanish State. Indeed, an important factor that "limited natural processes of [social] integration" was the idea that individuals exist not merely as spiritual atoms defined merely by their particular relationships with God. Rather, people exist as part of groups. Correspondingly, individuals were granted or denied naturaleza "because they behaved in certain ways that were acknowledged by the authorities or by community members," and "belief and trust" of such individuals depended on their explicit or imputed group affiliation. Id., Defining Nations: Immigrants and Citizens in Early Modern Spain and Spanish America (New Haven), 120. This was in sharp contrast, it seems, to the constructively ambiguous approach to naturalization that French state adopted towards the "Portuguese." The lettres-patentes rendered the "Portuguese Merchants" neither full-fledged, "natural" or "native" subjects of the French king, nor foreigners, at least in the sense that these "Portuguese" New Christians (as distinct from "true" Portuguese merchants residing in places like Paris), were exempt from the royal Right of Escheat (droit d'aubaine), according to which foreigners could not bequeath and/or inherit property and did not enjoy the legal protections afforded "natural" subjects. On the droit d'aubaine vis-a-vis the "Merchants and other Portuguese," see Sahlins, 51-52, 162-164.
90. See my discussion in Graizbord, Souls in Dispute, 89-104, 128-136, and the case study in 143-170.
91. Archivo Historico Nacional, Inquisicion de Toledo, legajo 177, expediente 1 (1664-1670), fols. 51r-52v
92. For example, see the deposition of Joao de Aguila in Arquivos Nacionais, Torre do Tombo, Inquisicao de Lisboa, processo no. 7.938 (1650).
93. Ibid., fol. 2v. To be sure, Aguila continued by stating that adults (in this case, "rabbis") convinced him as well, but it is significant that he mentioned his young playmates first. The casual nature of the initial encounter with these mates suggests that this "Judaicization" was an informal, social, and rather mundane phenomenon at least as much as it was a matter of formal reeducation.
94. I am paraphrasing the deposition of Bartholomeu Nunes, from his inquisitorial dossier (Portuguese Inquisition, tribunal of Goa, 1618), as excerpted in the dossier of the defendant Manuel Mendes Cardoso, Archivo Historico Nacional, Inquisicion de Toledo, legajo 166, expediente 6 (1622-1625), not foliated.
95. Most of the religious texts had been translated into Spanish, which acquired the status of a semi-sacred language in the Sephardi Diaspora. On this phenomenon, see for instance Cecil Roth, "The Role of Spanish in the Marrano Diaspora," in Hispanic Studies in Honour of I. Gonzalez Llubera, ed. Frank Pierce (Oxford, 1959), 299-308.
96. This paragraph reworks a fragment of Graizbord, Souls in Dispute, 74. On the religious manuals, one of which was known simply as the "Librito" ("Booklet"), and additional Hispanophone literature that was available to the immigrants, much of it highly didactic, see Carsten Lorenz Wilke, "Un Judaisme clandestine," 281-311; especially 295-297.
97. Wilke, "Un judaisme clandestin," 306-307.
98. On this ethos, see for instance Yosef Kaplan, "Bom Judesmo: The Western Sephardic Diaspora," in Cultures of the Jews: A New History, ed. David Biale (New York, 2002).
99. Even worse, as we saw earlier, Ibanez had it that the vecinos in Peyrehorade regarded one of the most politically prominent expatriates of their number, Salvador Cardoso, along with Cardoso's brother Enrique, as despicable "atheists."
100. That Jewish moralists should encourage teshuvah (repentance) is hardly surprising. Yet the specific emphasis on atoning for Christian idolatry is evident in Sephardi homiletical material, for instance, in Abraham Pereyra's La Certeza del Camino (1666), Sixth Tractate, Second Chapter, which assails "the miserable life of those who follow idolatry" in the vain hope that they will avoid inquisitorial scrutiny. Pereyra urges the faithful to embrace Judaism wholeheartedly by cleansing their souls and performing good works in accordance with Halakhah to "recover so much lost time." Henry Mechoulan, ed., Hispanidad y judaismo en tiempos de Espinoza: Edicion de La certeza del camino de Abraham Pereyra (Salamanca, 1987), 205.
101. Soza Szajkowski, "The Marranos and Sephardim of France," 110.
102. Among other things, Zink, Pays ou circonscriptions, 233-253, shows that local Franco-Christians and Portuguese coexisted peacefully and were united by their resentment of the municipal authorities of Bayonne. The latter refused to allow the merchants of Saint-Esprit commercial privileges at the Bayonnaise port.
103. Fr. Diego de Cisneros, an inquisitorial informer, quoted in Jonathan I . Israel, "Crypto-Judaism in Seventeenth-Century France," 260.
104. Zink, Pays ou circonscriptions, 238.
By David Graizbord
The University of Arizona
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|Publication:||Journal of Social History|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2006|
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