Introduction / History In the last 1400s the Roman Catholic Church and Spain were seeking to eliminate any heresy, meaning beliefs that didn't conform to Catholic doctrines. Protestants, Muslims and Jews were persecuted in Spain. Under duress, many "converted" to Roman Catholicism, but this left them open to greater persecution if they were even suspected of practicing Judaism. Many of these Sephardic Jews went to neighboring Portugal, but cruel persecution soon found them.
In 1536 at the request of Portuguese King Joas III, Portugal began what we call the Portuguese Inquisition. In Portugal, the Sephardic Jews were especially singled out for persecution. Some agreed to become Roman Catholics, but even then, they were often persecuted by suspicious Catholic authorities just as they were in Spain. Fleeing to colonies of either country was only a temporary fix; the Inquisition was soon extended there as well. The Jewish people of Portugal were scattered for five centuries. Eventually some made their home in Israel after she became a nation in 1948.
In 1987, Mario Soares, then president of Portugal, asked for forgiveness from the Jewish people in his country for Portugal's role in the Inquisition. In 2015 the Portuguese government offered dual citizenship to the descendants of those Jews who were expelled five centuries earlier. Some have returned to Portugal, but most remain in Israel.
Where are they located? They are currently a distinct community of Jews, numbering 1,800, located in Jerusalem. They have a synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem.
What are their lives like? Those Sephardic Jewish people from Portugal are living peaceful lives in Israel. They have preserved traditions from Portugal, including folk songs, proverbs, and food. Some still use Portuguese names but others prefer Hebrew ones.
What are their beliefs? They practice the Jewish faith, but maintain their ethnic Portuguese identity and language in Israel. Some Portuguese Jewish individuals have given up on God and live secular lives. Some have turned to New Age beliefs. This is also true of many other Jewish people groups in Israel.
What are their needs? Numerous Christian resources are available in Portuguese, such as Bibles and presentations in print, audio and video. However, many Jewish people feel that Bible believing Christians are a threat, and evangelistic activities are opposed in some Jewish quarters. There are now Bible training colleges in Jerusalem and other cities in Israel. Portuguese Jewish background believers can attend these colleges.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to open the minds of the Portuguese Sephardic Jews to listen to the gospel message and embrace their true messiah.
* Pray that Portuguese speaking evangelicals will feel called to minister to these Sephardic Jews in Jerusalem.
* Pray for a disciple making movement among Sephardic Jews in Israel to spread far and wide.