Goa, India. (c) Google Images
Monument to the Discoveries, Lisbon, Portugal. (c) Dr. S Weil
In 1497, Vasco da Gama embarked upon his voyage to India from Lisbon.
The Jews of Goa
The Jews of India have been studied widely. For a comprehensive bibliography on Indian Jews by many different authors (vis Weil, 2013 - Oxford Bibliographies Online: Jewish Studies). The Jews lived in harmony with their Indian Hindu, Muslim and Christian neighbours throughout the generations, except during a limited period when the Portuguese introduced the Inquisition in their colonies such as Goa and Cochin.
The Jews of Goa are a little known community of the past whose unique story is rarely told. Most studies concentrate on the Bene Israel community, the Cochin Jewish community, or the Baghdadi Jewish community in India (http://www.jewishcalcutta.in). While the Jews of Goa have scarcely been mentioned in academic works, or by the Indian government, the history of the Jews of Goa is both rich and interesting.
This conference features the Jews of Goa, who resided at the site of Portuguese control of India during the colonial period.
In 1534, Vasco da Gama succeeded in becoming the Viceroy of Portuguese India. Some of his advisors in India were Jewish.
In 1560, the Inquisition was officially instituted in Goa.
The conference relates to early history, but pays special attention to the ways in which Jews were affected by the Inquisition. According to P. Van Caerden (1606), members of this community originated in Palestine and spoke Spanish; they obviously also spoke Portuguese. Some Jews became conversos, New Christians, or Marranos, all terms used to refer to those who converted to Christianity (sometimes as a result of coercion or force). Despite the imposed disavowal of religion, many in the community continued to practice Judaism and keep recognizable traditions and beliefs alive for generations. For these reasons and more, they deserve to be remembered and commemorated for the ways in which they enhance our understanding of the history of Portugal and the story of Jews around the globe.
Today, there are few families in Goa who trace descent from conversos. Besides Israeli backpackers, a sprinkling of Jewish and Israeli businessmen and a newly-established Jewish Center, there are no Jews in Goa today.