Pintele Yid

Dearest friends:

What a wonderful surprise awaited me in my mailbox, forwarded by a friend in the US, recently re-converted to her mother’s hidden faith. The story of the marranos seeking out the community they were forced to leave so long a go, struck a chord big-time. Before I tell my own story, let me ask a few info semiliterate questions: what does it mean to subscribe to kulanu, or to submit messages? Is it OK to write to this email, or should I be doing it thru the list filter? I am still learning the new and marvellous language of these magic machines, and much of the jargon escapes me. Please advise and have patience.

Since coming to Portugal, land of my ancestors, I have been amazed at what you call the pintele yid, lovely term. Walking the streets of the old Jewish Quarters, particularly the town of Vora where I live, I am overcome by emotion unbidden, by the feeling of having walked these cobbled alleys, of stepping through the ogive stone doorways and knowing what is inside. All of a sudden I feel Jewish, I know in my soul that I have been fashioned by and persecuted for this. This has led to researching family records and the history of the anousim. My own family is quite distressed at this turn of events, they are not at all keen to uncover traces of “impure blood”… The atavistic prejudices are amazingly strong in this oh-so-Catholic country.

It is indeed very sad to know that, right from the beginning of the exodus from the Peninsula, there has been discrimination and prejudice against conversos, a hard-line approach from rabbinical authorities, shunning and excommunications. As if the Inquisition were not enough. Seems like intolerance and dogmatism are, sadly, human traits rather than particular to any creed.

In fact, when in the 1920s and late 1950s, Crypto-Jewish communities were found in the north of Portugal, still lighting candles in clay pots, saying prayers and keeping the holidays whilst overtly going to Mass etc. (“is there still not the Holy Office?!”), instead of proud amazement and admiration at this extraordinary persistence of faith, the reaction of the orthodox mainstream was to dismiss these practices as spurious and invalid.

So! fellow Jews, let us reclaim whatever has been forcibly taken from us, accept us in the spirit of tolerance and love, not stricture and persecution — lest you become what we most fear, the hand of the Inquisition.

Fundamentalism of any hue is a plague.

I would like to submit an article I wrote a couple of years ago, entitled “CANDLES IN CLAY POTS.” Please advise as to which address I should send it to, so that it may be read by your correspondents.

With warmest regards and great hope