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Have you wondered about your ancestors? Does your family history include stories of Jewish heritage or Jewish traditions?

My most distant ancestor I found so far was Abraham Fresco, born in Venice, Italy in 1625 and he was probably the first Fresco who settled in Holland.

Sephardic History (Western European):

The Sephardic Diaspora from the Iberian Peninsula begins as late fourteenth century, when the wave of robberies and killings of Jews increased in 1391 and subsequent forced conversions - exiled a number of Jews.

The expulsion of the Jews of Castile and Aragon by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492 threw out of these kingdoms to a contingent of about one hundred thousand Jews, who went to settle in parts of Europe (Italy, southern France and Portugal), Morocco, or the Eastern Mediterranean lands belonging to the then thriving and widespread Ottoman Empire. In 1497 the Jews of the Kingdom of Navarre were ejected.

As is well known, the formation of communities of Sephardic Diaspora was a long and complex process, which, in addition to began with expulsion, forced conversion of Jews from Portugal in 1498, and continued until late in the century XVIII. A key element in the formation of these Diaspora communities was precisely the forced conversion of the Portuguese Jews and the prohibition of the kings of Portugal that converts “New Christians” or “novos cristãos” or emigrate to other countries; the fact that there was no Inquisition in Portugal until 1536 led to many of the Portuguese “New Christians” to keep Jewish tradition and practice Judaism in private practice for two or three generations, giving rise to authentic communities of crypto (called, disparagingly , Marranos), who kept discreet but intense relationships both with other crypto converts of Castile, Aragon and America as Sephardic exile communities.

Indeed some of these Portuguese crypto-many of them engaged in international trade in an era of maritime expansion of Portugal was settled as Portuguese businessmen (the Portuguese nation) abroad, where they openly returned to Judaism and became the germ of Sephardic communities in European cities West (Antwerp, Amsterdam, Bayonne, Bordeaux, Hamburg, Ferrara, Ancona, etc.) or they are integrated in the Sephardic communities of North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean , consisting of exiles from the first wave of expulsions.

Often the process of migration and formation of the Sephardic Diaspora communities was complex and takes years or even generations, not only by the conditions under which the travel was at the time, but because it was common for an individual or a family to move from one country to another until finally settling.

The formation of the Western Sephardic Communities:

Often called Western Sephardim settled in the countries of Western Europe and its colonies. Already at the time of the Expulsion of 1492, groups of expelled Jews fled to towns in Southwestern France (as Bayonne) or in Italian cities such as Rome or Venice. However, the key factor in the formation of the Western Sephardic communities were conversos (New Christians or novos cristãos) which, after the expulsion of the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, and especially after the forced conversion of the Jews in Portugal in 1498, secretly continued to practice the Jewish religion, although they had been baptized and were nominally Catholic (crypto-Jewish conversos, or Judaizers). Precisely these groups were among the crypto-Jews of converts since the mid-sixteenth century settled (often as Portuguese traders: the Portuguese nation) in commercial cities of France, Northern Europe and some Italian states, where they returned to Judaism they came to be (with the support or at least tolerance of local authorities) Jewish communities and produced a flourishing culture in Spanish or Portuguese. Thus, there were Sephardic communities more or less openly tolerated in Bayonne, Bordeaux and other smaller towns in southwestern France; in the Netherlands, first in Antwerp (then under Spanish rule) and then in Amsterdam (under the rule of the House of Orange); in Italy were especially significant communities of Livorno, Ancona and Ferrara, the latter under the protection of Duke Ercole open d'Este; or northern European cities belonging to the Hanseatic League, such as Hamburg or Ancona.

From the Netherlands were also extended to England, where Jews had been expelled in the thirteenth century. Most of these Western Sephardim were businessmen in commerce, i.e. traders engaged in international import and export of goods, exchange owners and bankers. Since its establishment in European countries established an extensive network of trade relations with the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle and Far East and North Africa. They also settled in the English and Dutch colonies in America, including New Amsterdam (now New York), Surinam (Dutch Guiana) and Curacao (Netherlands Antilles). Its geographical mobility and membership in trade networks that facilitated Western Sephardim were also in contact with the expelled Sephardic communities of the Ottoman Empire and North Africa. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there were members or entire families of Western Sephardim who joined in those Eastern or North African communities, where they could freely practice Judaism.

Any help to add information of the Fresco family will be highly appreciated.


Bernard Fresco (Holland/Israel)