Barros Basto (1887-1961) was a career officer in the Portuguese army, who at the age of nine was told by his dying grandfather the secret of his family's Jewish origin. After having been rebuffed by the only Jewish community in Portugal, he traveled to Tangier, where he underwent formal conversion to Judaism. On his return home, he launched a movement for the redemption of the crypto-Jews of northern of Portugal.

His "Work of Redemption" aroused the interest of the Jewish world, but it was viewed with disfavor, both by the Roman Catholic clergy and by the government of the dictator Salazar. Barros Basto found himself involved in a succession of defamatory lawsuits, he was dismissed in disgrace from the army, his work with the crypto-Jews was terminated, and his later years were spent in poverty and loneliness.

The historical importance of Barros Bastos' work is difficult to assess. In Portugal, two communities of crypto-Jews have recently returned to mainstream Judaism; and elsewhere around the world, a large number of individuals are today seeking their own path back to Judaism. History may yet show that despite all its misfortunes and setbacks, Barros Bastos' "Work of Redemption" may not have been in vain.


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pp. 65-79
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