A Prayer in Memory of Martyrs of the Inquisition

With the fasting of 17 of Tammuz, we mark the beginning of the three-week period in which we regret the destruction of the holy temple and the beginning of our exile -- and in the Portuguese community of Amsterdam we mark the first Shabbat with a special prayer in honor of the martyrs of the inquisition

This prayer is recited a number of times through the year, and the name singled out in this specific instance is that of Abraham Athias who was publicly burned alive, together with Jacob Rodriguez and Rachel Nunez Fernandez, on July 9, 1667, by the Spanish Inquisition at Cordoba. His son Joseph was sent by his father to Hamburg to receive a proper Jewish education and eventually settled in Amsterdam, where he ran a successful Judaica printing press. At the end his edition of Maimonides' Yad ha-Ḥazaḳah with Leḥem Mishneh commentary, he writes a note in memory of his father’s death at the Auto-da-Fe. These incidents had a strong impact on the community especially when close relatives were already established in Amsterdam, and the events were marked by eulogies from the Hachamim (as in the case of Abraham Nunes Bernal eulogised by Chacham Aboab, Amsterdam 1655), looking to strengthen and comfort the mourning Kahal.

This is an opportune moment for us to reflect on the magnitude of the accomplishment of the founders of our community, those men and women who were Giborim in the true sense of the word and fought against all obstacles to build a new Jewish future in Amsterdam for their families, and events like this only highlight the cruelty and fanaticism they stood up against in Spain and Portugal. This should serve not only as a source of inspiration but also highlight the responsibility we have to ensure we give continuity to what they fought so hard to build.

Rabbi Peres is the Rabbi of the Lisbon Jewish community and formerly served at the Esnoga in Amsterdam

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