Dutch Sephardi Jews came to the Netherlands after living in Spain and Portugal for generations, forced to convert to Christianity. Some of the greatest Jewish scholars originated from the heritage of Spanish and Portuguese Jews who were expelled from their homelands and settled in Amsterdam.

Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh law firm specializes in immigration and obtaining a Portuguese citizenship. Candidates with Jewish roots from the Netherlands may receive a letter of recommendation from the Jewish community in Portugal, paving the way to a Portuguese passport!

The Exiled Jews from Portugal settle down in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Dutch Shepardi Jews descendants are eligible to Portuguese CitizenshipIn 1593, a group of approximately 5,000 Portuguese converts came to the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands to settle down. This small community was mostly of Spanish descent and history, but identified as Portuguese. This, since the community continued to reside in Portugal even after the order expelling the Jews was issued. After living as converts to Christianity  but observing the Jewish religion in hiding for almost a century, some of the converts decided to immigrate to a more religious-tolerant country. There, they hoped, they could maintain the Jewish lifestyle in the open without fearing for their lives. Since the late 16th century, the Netherlands enjoyed a regime that was tolerant to religions outside Protestant Christianity – unlike other (if not all) European countries.

Dutch Shepardi Jews’ involvement in Netherlands social and economic life

Unlike in other Jewish communities, the Portuguese community in the Netherlands chose not to barricade itself from the local population or be isolated in ghettos. This was one of the reasons for its economic and social growth. The Portuguese converts integrated in the Dutch society, living in Jewish quarters next to Christian quarters. This proximity led to close relationships between the communities and frequent mutual visits. For example, the artist Rembrandt lived and worked in the Jewish quarter. In addition, the Mishna and Talmud were studied among the educated circle in Amsterdam. They also composed Hebrew poems. The Portuguese Jewish community enjoyed the rights of emancipation, releasing them from religious, social and economic limitation. The community retained a high and educated status even among the royalty.

Furthermore, thanks to their education and knowledge of different languages, the community members maintained trade relations with Jews across the world, including in America. This made them a significant element in the business of industrial import and export. The Jews in Holland were also successful in banking, tobacco, sugar refinement, print, and medicine. Most of all, they stood out in the diamonds industry. Their great success in this field led it to become an almost entirely Jewish domain. The Portuguese converts in Holland were strong supporters of the House of Orange – a governmental-political body that organized a rebellion against the Spanish regime. The rebellion led to the Dutch political independence after an 80-year war. Although the Jews did not earn full civil equality from this regime, they benefited from its enduring protection.

Famous Dutch Shepardi Jews:

  1. Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) – mathematician and philosopher, one of the first leaders of the Enlightenment movement in Europe. Dealt in the diamond trade.
  2. Samuel Sarphati (1813-1866) – physician, architect and donor. Was one of the planners of the City of Amsterdam and initiated the first bread factory in the Netherlands. Also took care of the City’s hygiene and education of the poor.
  3. Uriel da Costa – (1585-1640) – philosopher and author. Da Costa was born to a converted Catholic family but converted back to Judaism with his family. He was a critic of the Catholic establishment.
  4. Menasseh Ben Israel – (1604-1657) – Rabbi, kabbalist, author and founder of the first Hebrew printing house in the Netherlands. Ben Israel was a great intellectual who could speak 10 languages, as manifested in his writing. He also had ties with the Queen of Sweden, Parliament members, philosophers, polyglots and scientists in the Netherlands, England, Germany, Scotland, and elsewhere.
  5. Isaac Orobio de Castro – (1617-1687) – physician, philosopher, theologist and apologist. He published apologist and debate books against Christian thinkers and theologists.

For your convenience, please find the following databases and site orientation:

  1. Surnames from the list of candidates
  2. Traditional Spanish Jewish Garments
  3. The Ladino Language
  4. Countries where the Expellees Settled

We thank Jonathan Gavrielov for his assistance in writing these articles.

Contact us – helping the descendants of Portuguese Jews from Holland receive Spanish citizenship

If you have information proving that you are descendants of Spain and Portugal expellees – confirmation from a Sephardic community Rabbi, a genealogist’s conclusions, or other documents – we can help you file an application. Contact an attorney in Jerusalem or Petah Tikva. Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh law firm is at your disposal.

Dutch Shepardi Jews descendants are eligible to Portuguese Citizenship

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