Education in Portugal about the Jews

In the library of Oporto synagogue there is a history book that is adopted in schools. It is a 5th-year manual entitled “History and Geography of Portugal”, a work with a large circulation, dated 2016, produced in accordance with current curricular goals.

The primitive hunter gatherer communities are mentioned, as well as the agro pastoral communities, the Celts, the Iberians, trading peoples (Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians), the Romans, the Visigoths, the Muslims, everyone but the Jews.

An explanation is made about the meaning of Christianity, of Islamism and even of pagan cults. Not a word about Judaism. In the context of the benefits of the Islamic presence on the Iberian Peninsula, there is a quote by Maimonides, who is identified as being Muslim, when in fact he was one of the most renowned figures of medieval Judaism.

Without referring to the Jews, mention is also made of the Portuguese burghers (merchants and artisans) of the 13th and 14th centuries, with the description that “they attended the schools existing in the cathedrals and monasteries or had individual teachers (priests and monks)”. Not one reference to the Jewish schools, which were frequented by the major burghers of the kingdom: the Jews.

There is a passage that says that in the 14th century in Europe, “some believed that the Jews were guilty of every evil, and were charged with poisoning fountains and wells”, without any reference to the terrible genocides that ensued from such proclamations, for example in Seville in 1391. All is summed up by the simple “some people believe”.

As regards the reign of King D. Manuel, his life is highlighted and his decision to “continue the enterprise of the Discoveries” is underlined, with no reference to the 1496 Edict, one of the most important decisions in the history of Portugal.

Regarding the settlement of São Tomé e Príncipe, it is said that this was carried out with “the Portuguese and with black slaves from Guinea and the Congo”, which is true, although it leaves out the young settlers of the late 15th century: hundreds of Jewish children (taken from their parents) who were sent to the island in 1493, on the orders of King D. João II.
The reign of King D. João III is filled with lines of details, highlighting that “the Portuguese started taking African slaves to Brazil”, completely forgetting the setting up of the Inquisition in Portugal, which had consequences not only on the history of Portugal but on the history of the world.

Education in Portugal about the Jews is one of the most important factors in preparing a worthy future of harmony, understanding and peace. More than just teaching schools and the public at large about the myths that led to the Holocaust, it is essential that all history books include the important presence of the Jews on the Iberian Peninsula, as a whole, and in Portugal in particular.

We know the current position of Portugal and Spain in the concert of nations. At the end of the 15th century, the Treaty of Tordesillas divided the newly-discovered lands outside Europe between the Portuguese Empire and the Crown of Castile.