The Ambiguities and Limits of Establishing a Jewish Community pre-1796

Part of the St Antony’s Series book series (STANTS)


Although several Ashkenazi families had settled in villages around the German border in the east of the Netherlands around the year 1200, substantial Jewish migration to the Dutch Republic did not commence until the end of the sixteenth century, with the arrival of Sephardi Jews from Antwerp. In 1492, the Spanish Inquisition had forced Jews, who refused baptism, to flee to Portugal, where they continued to practice their Judaism in secret as ostensible Christians (also known as Marranos), detaching themselves from values and traditions which their families had held for centuries. When the Inquisition spread to Portugal during the 1540s about 100,000 Marranos escaped from the Iberian Peninsula to North Africa, Italy, and the Levant, where, although numerous conversions to Christianity took place, they were able to re-establish their communities.1 Many Portuguese Jews also made their way to Western and Central Europe, where, as a result of a general liberalisation of religion and the increasing domination of commerce which had weakened the restrictions that had previously hampered Jewish settlement, they were largely accepted because of their useful trade connections.


Iberian Peninsula Eighteenth Century Seventeenth Century Jewish Community City Council 
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© Karina Sonnenberg-Stern 2000

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