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I stand truly amazed how, in the few short weeks since PJTN made known our plans to begin filming of our latest documentary, The Lost Jews of the Inquisition, so much discussion of that historical time period is emerging almost daily in the news headlines!
Just in the past month, the Jewish news agencies have broadly expanded on the coverage of the Portuguese city of Oporto, on Portugal’s northwestern coast, and the campaign of their small Jewish community to preserve the records of the 17th to 19th century atrocities inflicted by the Inquisition on the Jews of that time. The Jewish Community of Oporto has paid for the preservation and digitalization of the Portuguese Inquisition archives and is now calling on the international Jewish community to help fund ongoing research projects to assure that the “faceless Jewish victims” of this horrific time are preserved with honor for the generations which have followed and continue to follow. They have quietly spent years identifying their ancestry who were killed in the Portuguese Inquisition between 1536 and 1821.
September 3, on a day designated as the “European Day of Jewish Culture,” the town held a special unveiling at Oporto’s Jewish Museum of a memorial wall engraved with the 842 names of the once faceless past. Drawing on the newly digitized records, Oporto has been able to identify 842 members of their community, between the ages of 10 to 110 years old, who were victims of the Inquisition.
Despite all the new efforts being expanded, Portugal still has a shocking lack of education about its history during the Inquisition. Although references have begun to appear in the curricula manuals for Portuguese schools, most students learn little about the Jewish population which was all but exterminated out of their country for over three centuries. “I am 35 years old,” notes Hugo Vaz, the curator of the Jewish & Holocaust Museum in Oporto, “and when I learned about the Inquisition in school, I was taught that it was about the hunting of witches. And I learned that in five minutes of classroom discussion.”
Comparatively, Holocaust education is more widely addressed for Portuguese students. Portugal was officially neutral in World War II and became a passageway for many Jewish refugees, making this historical period more favorable for student education than the “black period” of the Inquisition.
Today, it is estimated that some 200 million people worldwide may unknowingly be of Jewish lineage — descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions which forced Jews of that day to flee, be killed, convert openly to Christianity, or face life as “Conversos” – those who remained “secret Jews” and lived in the terror of being exposed.
PJTN strongly supports the preservation of Inquisition Archives – their loss would be a tragedy, not only by losing this past portion –however dark, of Jewish history, but also by losing the opportunity in the future for millions of people around the world to connect with their Jewish ancestry – many for the first time.
“Education” is a major part of our Mission at PJTN. George Santayana’s words “those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it” have never been truer words! To this we at PJTN add that “whatever is not taught cannot be remembered.” We see this daily in our work with textbooks in American schools – curricula filled with disinformation, propaganda, a lack and/or revision of the truth in American and World history and the elimination of historical values with which our children can be truly informed and educated for their positions of leadership in the world of the 21st century.
As we prepare for the pre-production period of The Lost Jews of the Inquisition, please consider how you might have a part in this important educational documentary! Your support is needed. Learn more, and donate to this important project.
President/Proclaiming Justice to The Nations