History of the Jews in Belmonte

The marranos that have been living in Belmonte are sometimes referred to as the “Belmonte Jews.” They are a community that has survived in secrecy for hundreds of years by maintaining a tradition of endogamyand by hiding all the external signs of their faith.

The community in the municipality of Belmonte, Cova da Beira subregion, Portugal, goes back to the 12th century and they were only discovered in 1917 by a Polish Jewish mining engineer named Samuel Schwarz. Some of them returned to Judaism in the 1970s, and opened a synagogue, Bet Eliahu, in 1996. In 2003, the Belmonte Project was founded under the auspices of the American Sephardi Federation, in order to raise funds to acquire Judaic educational material and services for the community (which now numbers 300). A Jewish Museum of Belmonte] (Museu Judaico de Belmonte) opened on 17 April 2005.

In the summer of 2006, the American Sephardi Federation ceased to have the Belmonte Project under its auspices. Their Sephardic tradition of Crypto-Judaism is considered unique.[5]

William Annyas (or Anes) – a descendant of a Marrano family from Belmonte who immigrated to Ireland - became the Mayor of Youghal in County Cork in 1555, the first person of the Jewish religion to hold such an elected position in Ireland.

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