Without Antwerp there may have been no Western Sephardic diaspora, and the
entire direction of Jewish history will have been different. After the
Expulsion from Spain and before the emergence of Amsterdam as a Sephardic
hub, there was a community of New Christian merchants in Antwerp. Linked to
the Spanish Crown through the pepper monopoly, they operated an
international trade network from the city. The community self-identified as
the Nacao Portuguesa, the Portuguese Nation.
The best-known family is Mendes Benveniste, but others have been identified.
Almost all descend from Abraham Senior, the last rabbi of Spain who
converted and whose descendants moved to Portugal. The Antwerp community's
wealth allowed them to sponsor artists and writers. Their Obras Pias - Pious
Works - helped not just orphans and widows but also New Christians escaping
They were suspected of Judaizing. In fact, the Inquisition had information
on several houses where families met on Jewish feast and fast days. Many of
the families are linked to New Christians who lived in Portugal, and to Jews
in Amsterdam, Hamburg, London, Italian communities and even Thessaloniki.
Our speaker, Dr Florbela Veiga Frade, received her doctorate in Modern
History from the University of Lisbon. She is an expert on the Portuguese
Jewish Nation in Hamburg, Antwerp and related communities. She has worked at
the University of Porto and the Institute for the History of German Jews.
Her new book on the community in Antwerp fills a major gap in our knowledge,
and is an updated version of her doctoral thesis.
The meeting is on Sunday 26 September 2021 at 11am in LA, 2pm NYC, 7pm
London, 8pm Paris/Amsterdam and 9pm Jerusalem. Everyone is invited to join
us for free at: https://www.youtube.com/SephardicGenealogyAndHistory/ Please
subscribe to the YouTube channel. It helps us a lot and reminds you when we
are going live!
David Mendoza and Ton Tielen