19 February 2009

Portugal: Kosher cheese made again

Portugal has seen the first kosher wine, the first kosher olive oil, and now, the first kosher cheese - a hard, goat's milk cheese - since the Inquisition, detailed in this Haaretz story.

As Tracing the Tribe's readers know, bnai anusim (Hebrew; conversos, Spanish) are the descendants of Jews forced to convert to Christianity during the Inquisition, such as Jose Braz featured here:

Last year, Jose Braz, owner of the Queijos Braz factory, contacted Daniel Litwak, the chief rabbi of Portugal's second-largest city, Porto, and asked him to arrange a kashrut certificate for Serra da Estrela cheese, which Braz manufactures. Braz believes that his own family were members of Portugal's Jewish community in the 14th and 15th centuries, but like many others were forced to convert to escape persecution by the Inquisition.

"When I spoke to Jose, he told me he wanted to reconnect to his Jewish roots - this was the reason for contacting me," says Litwak, who was born in Argentina. "I was surprised because his brand was doing rather nicely all over Europe. He did not need the certificate to increase his turnover."

New York-born Michael Freund, the chairman of Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based organization that helps people with Jewish roots become more involved in their Jewish community, who immigrated to Israel some 10 years ago, told Haaretz that Portugal "is seeing a Jewish revival over the past few years."

Freund adds that he sees a definite connection between how many anousim are rediscovering their roots and the increased interest.

Read the complete story at the link above.

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