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(from mlopesazevedo)

A Jew turned Christian (Catholic), whether voluntarily or forcibly, not necessarily a Marrano. Following the forced baptism of 1497 in Portugal, all Jews became known as New Christians, in contrast to Old Christians. Curiously, New Christians could never become Old Christians. The only way to become an Old Christian was to purchase a concocted family tree, which was a common practice. In some exceptional cases the king could proclaim New Christians as Old Christians. New Christians were the primary target of the Iberian Inquisitions. After the introduction of the Inquisition in Portugal in 1536 New Christians were prohibited from entering certain professions and occupations such as medical doctor, boticary, military service, civil service, ship’s captain, Catholic religious orders, and many others.

(from Museum of Portuguese Jewish History)

Cristão-novo or New Christian comprised those who appear to have legitimately converted to Christianity, whether for expedience or a sincere belief in the Christian faith. This group truly considered themselves Christians and raised their families as such. These were called "New Christians" or "Conversos."

A number of Spanish poets belong to this category, such as Pero Ferrus, Juan de Valladolid, Rodrigo Cota, and Juan de España of Toledo. Called also "El Viejo" (the old one), Juan de España had been a Talmudic scholar before his conversion and used his knowledge to engage in often mocking criticism of his former co-religionists. A number of Conversos, eager to display their new Christian zeal, persecuted other Jews, denouncing secret Jews to the authorities, as happened frequently at Valencia, Barcelona, and other cities. On the other hand, during times of persecution, New Christians could easily fall under suspicion and become victims of mob violence, especially if they maintained ties to their Jewish relatives and neighbors.


The same as New Christian. The term is often used to describe former Jews in Spain. Sometimes it is erroneously used as a synonym for Marrano.

TEMPORARY CONVERSO (from Museum of Portuguese Jewish History)      

Temporary Converso’s  were the largest group of Conversos.  They converted to Christianity but returned  publicly to Judaism when it became safe to do so. The degree to which they  kept Jewish law varied. The rabbis often applied the Talmudic passage: "Although he has sinned, he must still be considered a Jew." To them.  They lived outwardly as Christians but retained ties to their Jewish kin.

ANUSIM (From the Hebrew for ‘Forced Ones’): (from Museum of Portuguese Jewish History)

In Jewish Law, this is the legal term applied to a Jew who was forced to abandon Judaism, but does whatever is in his or her power to continue practicing Judaism under the forced condition. It derives from the Talmudic term aberá be' ones, meaning "a forced transgression." The term Anús is used in contradistinction to meshumad which means ‘a person who has voluntarily abandoned the practice of Jewish Law in whole or part’.

Because of the mass forced conversion of Jews in Portugal and Spain during the 14th and 15th centuries, the term “Anusim” became widely used by Spanish rabbis and their successors for the following 600 years. In non-rabbinic literature, Iberian Anusim are referred to by many terms that were coined by the Catholic Church: Converso (Convert), Cristão-novo (New Christian), "Crypto-Jews", or "Marranos."

However “Marranos” is the insulting term that Spanish anti-semites gave to the Anusim in the 14th century. All four terms are sociological, whereas Anusim refers to a status in Jewish law.

Jewish converts to Catholicism in Spain and Portugal during this period may be divided into three categories:

  1. Willing converts known as Meshumadim.
  2. Public converts who retained various degrees of Judaism while assimilating into Christian society.
  3. Temporary converts. The categories overlap to a degree, and there are variations, or sub-categories which go beyond the explanations listed below.


A secret Jew or descendant thereof. Outwardly a practising New Christian Catholic, inwardly a secret Jew, often adhering to the essential tenets of Judaism such as dietary laws, funeral rituals, observance of high holidays, keeping the Sabbath, and fasting on Mondays and Thursdays. Understandably, circumcision was discontinued. The origin of the word is shrouded in mystery, although there is agreement that it was initially used in the pejorative sense of referring to swine. Today, due to the exigencies of political correctness its use is frowned upon. However, giants in the field such as Cecil Roth (History of the Marranos), Yosef Yerushalmi (From Spanish Court to Italian Ghetto),  Yirmiyahu Yovel (Spinoza and Other Heretics, the Marrano of Reason) and Nathan  Wachtel (La Foi du Souvenir-Labyrinthes Marranes), all use the term. It is also widely used in Portugal by lay persons and academics alike without any pejorative connotation.

The late professor Yerushalmi describes a Marrano as a potential Jew although professors Yovel  and Wachtel distinguish Marranism as a separate “religiosity”, a set of common practices, although varied, by a people with a shared experience without a clearly defined theological doctrine. Marranism is characterized by secretiveness, ambiguity and fusion of Judaism and Christianity. For example, Marranos, even in the diaspora may venerate a “saint” or venerate a certain statue of “Our Lady” which to them represents Esther.

Amongst the intellectuals, Marranism may be defined by scepticism of both religions. Spinoza, born in Amsterdam of Marranos parents, (maternal line from Porto and Ponte de Lima in northern Portugal, paternal line from Vidigueira near Evora), is perhaps the best example. Although he was expelled from the Esnoga in Amsterdam at a young age, he did not become a Christian. Uriel Acosta, born on Rua de Sao Miguel in Porto of New Christian parents (Jews who had fled Spain in 1492),  became a New Jew in Amsterdam but when he was expelled for the first time from the Esnoga he also did not revert to Christianity.  Uriel was the first Marrano Jew to deny the individual immortality of the soul. Spinoza was the first to reject the divine origin of the bible and advocate separation of the state and religion.

Wachtel and Yovel attribute the rise of tolerance, freedom of thought, and the opening of the western mind to such descendants of Marranos as Michel Montaigne and Baruch Spinosa.  Spinosa was only eight years old when Uriel shot himself in the head after being lashed 39 times in the Esnoga of Amsterdam.  Uriel's books were burned and banned both by the Portuguese New Jews of Amsterdam and the civil authorities. Fortunately, due to the efforts of H.P. Solomon, a copy was discovered in the Royal Danish Library in 1989 which has now been published and translated into English. Acosta is often referred to as the world's first secular Jew.


From Wikipedia


Crypto-Judaism is the secret adherence to Judaism while publicly professing to be of another faith; practitioners are referred to as "crypto-Jews" (origin from Greek kryptos - κρυπτός, 'hidden'). The term crypto-Jew is also used to describe descendants of Jews who maintain some Jewish traditions of their ancestors while publicly adhering to other faiths.

The term is especially applied historically to European Jews who—outwardly or forcedly—professed Catholicism, who were also known as Anusim or Marrano. The phenomenon is especially associated with renaissance Spain, following the June 6, 1391, Anti-Jewish pogroms and the expulsion of the Jews in 1492 unless they converted. Later under its Blood Purity Laws, Spain restricted explorers and settlers in the New World to "Old Christians" of three generations or more.

After the Alhambra decree of 1492 numerous conversos, also called Xueta (also Chueta), in the Balearic Islands ruled by Spain, publicly professed Roman Catholicism but privately adhered to Judaism, even through the Spanish Inquisition. They are among the most widely known and documented crypto-Jews.

In Greece, "Romaniote Jews" have been present for a little more than two thousand years. Greek Jews played an important role in the early development of Christianity, and became a source of education and commerce for the Byzantine Empire and throughout the period of Ottoman Greece.[citation needed] During World War II, their community suffered devastation in the Holocaust after Greece was conquered and occupied by the Axis powers, in spite of efforts by Greeks to protect them. In the aftermath of the war, a large percentage of the surviving community emigrated to Israel or the United States. Greek Jews today largely "live side by side in harmony" with Christian Greeks, according to Giorgo Romaio, president of the Greek Committee for the Jewish Museum of Greece. They continue to work with other Greeks, and Jews worldwide, to combat any rise of anti-Semitism in Greece.

Crypto-Judaism existed in earlier periods, whenever Jews were forced or pressured to convert to the majority religion by the rulers of places where they resided. Some of the Jewish followers of Sabbatai Zevi (Sabbateans) formally converted to Islam. Later followers of Jacob Frank ("Frankists") formally converted to Christianity, but maintained aspects of practice of their versions of Messianic Judaism.

Crypto-Jews persisted in Russia and Eastern European countries influenced by the Soviet Union after the rise of Communism with the Russian Revolution of 1917. The government, which included secular Communist Jews, did not force Jews to convert to the Russian Orthodox Church, but regarded practice of any religion as undesirable. Some faiths were allowed to continue under strict supervision by the regime. Since the end of Communism, many people in former Soviet states, including descendants of Jews, have publicly taken up the faith of their ancestors again.

The "Belmonte Jews" of Portugal, dating from the 12th century, maintained strong secret traditions for centuries. A whole community survived in secrecy by maintaining a tradition of endogamous marriage and hiding all external signs of their faith. They and their practices were discovered only in the 20th century. Their rich Sephardic tradition of Crypto-Judaism is unique. Some now profess Orthodox Judaism, although many still retain their centuries-old traditions.[9]

The Neofiti were a group of crypto-Jews living in the Kingdom of Sicily, which included all of Southern Italy from the 13th to the 16th centuries.

(This Wkipedia entry gives more detail including Genetic Markers)

(from Museum of Portuguese Jewish History)

Crypto-Jew consisted of those who held on to the Jewish customs and faith in which they had been reared. These were known as "Judíos Escondidos"—hidden Jews. They secretly preserved the religion of their fathers and, in spite of the high positions which some held, observed Jewish traditions in private. Many of the wealthiest supposed coverts of Aragon belonged to this category. Some constructed hidden synagogues in their homes, to which trusted neighbors might be invited, while others used their influence at court to protect the Jewish and Converso communities from persecution. This can also refer to Christians who conscious, or unconsciously maintain Jewish laws and traditions.

Click here for Indicators of how Crypto Jews Differ


A Marrano who has returned to normative Judaism such as Portuguese/Spanish communities in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Harlem, Bordeaux, Hamburg, Livorno, Venice, Ferrara, Pisa, Ancona, Salonica, Constantinople, and later London, Manchester, New York, Charleston, Philadelphia, Savannah, Newport, Montreal, Recife, Curacao, Jamaica, and Suriname. The first six Jewish congregations in the USA and the first in Canada, England and Holland were formed by descendants of Marranos.

More recently, Marranos from Lisbon (Ohel Jacob synagogue) and Porto (Kadoorie/ Mekor Haim) attended Jewish rabbinical courts in London and Jerusalem to formally return to normative Judaism. Belmonte is perhaps the best know example of New Jews. However, both in Belmonte and Porto there are pockets of Marranos still operating clandestinely. In Porto a secret group of women still hold Sabbath services and observe the high holidays. It is a fallacy to assume that all Marranos want to return to normative Judaism. Some do, some do not. Some return via Orthodoxy, others not. As professor Wachtel notes, Marranism varies not only in practice but with individuals, place and epoch.


In 1839, Muslims attacked the Jews of Meshhed, murdering 36 of them, and forcing the conversion of the rest. While some managed to escape across the Afghan border, and some turned into true believing Muslims, the majority adopted Islam only outwardly, while secretly adhering to their Jewish faith. Jadid al-Islam is the fascinating story of how this community managed to survive, at the risk of their lives, as crypto-Jews in an inimical Shi'i Muslim environment. Based on unpublished original Persian sources and interviews with members of the existing Meshhed community in Jerusalem and New York.  A free e-book by Raphael Patai can be read/downloaded by clicking here    Further information


Spain was a Roman Catholic nation with no other religious groups allowed. Morisco was the name given to a Muslim remaining in Spain who pretended to be a Catholic but practising Islam in secret and so was the equivalent of the Jewish Marranos.



New Christian





Crypto Judaism

New Jew

Jadīd al-Islam







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