Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1996-1997 index

Distributed April 28, 1997
Contact: Linda Mahdesian

Conversos and `crypto-Jews'

International conference will explore Jews and European expansion

The John Carter Brown Library will present "The Jews and the Expansion of Europe to the West: 1450 to the Revolutions for Independence in the Americas" June 15-18 on the campus of Brown University. All sessions are free and open to the public.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- This year marks the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula. Originally expelled from Spain in 1492, many Spanish Jews emigrated to Portugal only to be faced again in 1497 with the choice of expulsion or conversion to the Christian faith. While Iberian Jews dispersed to islands of toleration in Europe, North Africa and the Near East, some also joined the broad stream of emigration to the New World. To explore the Pan-American perspective on the Jewish Diaspora in the New World, the John Carter Brown Library will present a conference titled "The Jews and the Expansion of Europe to the West: 1450 to the Revolutions for Independence in the Americas," June 15-18. All sessions will take place on the Brown University campus, except for an afternoon session Tuesday, June 17, at Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I. All sessions are free and open to the public.

Jews lived in colonies both Catholic and Protestant, and in the imperial possessions of Spain, Portugal, Holland, France and England. Whether they lived openly as Jews in English and Dutch colonies, as conversos or new Christians in the colonies of Spain and Portugal, or as crypto-Jews covertly maintaining elements of Jewish practice and identity, the Jewish presence in the New World transcended many of the regional and cultural divisions that often balkanize the broader history of the European expansion.

The conference will consider numerous questions related to the experiences of Jews in the New World as well as how their experiences and activities illuminate broader themes and interpretive questions about the era of European expansion. The conference will feature papers presented by more than 45 scholars from Europe, Israel and North and South America. Topics include a range of methodological and historiographical approaches covering the entirety of the Colonial period from the Conquest to the era of the Latin American revolutions of independence. Session titles include: "European Backgrounds," "Scriptural Views of the World, Ca. 1450," "The Jews and the Dutch in America" and "The Jews in British America."

The conference was organized by the Center for New World Comparative Studies at the John Carter Brown Library. It is funded by The Fundação Luso-Americana para o Desenvolvimento, InterAmericas, and the Rhode Island Committee for the Humanities. Additional support came from the Touro National Heritage Trust, the Abramson Family Foundation, Dr. and Mrs. J. Allen Yager, Joseph F. Cullman III, the Joseph and Rosalyn Sinclair Foundation, the Charles and Donald Salmonson Foundation, and the Ira S. and Anna Galkin Charitable Trust, among others. For more information and a conference program, contact the John Carter Brown Library, 401/863-2725.