Friday, March 27, 2009

First kosher cheese in Portugal since the Inquisition

Shabbat shalom! I'm just back home after Kabbalat Shabbat, welcoming the Sabbath, at friends' house. The dark bread, olives, olive oil, and goat cheese on our table are the real taste of Israel.
It made me think of this recent article in Haaretz with a funny title:

For first time since Inquisition, Portuguese cheese gets kosher seal
Cnaan Liphshiz
For the first time since the Spanish Inquisition in Portugal, a dairy product has been given an official kosher certificate. The ground-breaking product is a hard, goat's milk cheese, manufactured by the descendant of Anusim (Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity).

Last year, Jose Braz, owner of the Queijos Braz factory, contacted Daniel Litwak, the chief rabbi of Portugal's second-largest city, Porto, and asked him to arrange a kashrut certificate for Serra da Estrela cheese, which Braz manufactures. Braz believes that his own family were members of Portugal's Jewish community in the 14th and 15th centuries, but like many others were forced to convert to escape persecution by the Inquisition.
"When I spoke to Jose, he told me he wanted to reconnect to his Jewish roots - this was the reason for contacting me," says Litwak, who was born in Argentina. "I was surprised because his brand was doing rather nicely all over Europe. He did not need the certificate to increase his turnover." New York-born Michael Freund, the chairman of Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based organization that helps people with Jewish roots become more involved in their Jewish community, who immigrated to Israel some 10 years ago, told Haaretz that Portugal "is seeing a Jewish revival over the past few years."
"Recently, the first kosher wine in Portugal since the Inquisition has become available, then the first olive oil and now the cheese," Freund says. "I see a definite connection between how many of the Anusim are rediscovering their roots and the increased interest."


richies said...

The bread cheese and olives sounds wonderful. I would love to sample a taste of Israel. Happy Sabbath

An Arkies Musings

Cloudia said...

A heart warming story, Dina. Renewal comes - even centuries later. Shalom & Aloha

Kay said...

It's lovely that they are trying to reconnect with roots to their Jewish heritage. What a sad time in history the inquisition was.

Pietro said...

Dark bread, olives, olive oil, and goat cheese: what a great atmosphere, Dina.
Happy Sabbath

Anonymous said...

I suppose it would be great if they gave him the prized certificate but I see in the post that he is doing well without it. I understand the connection and wish him well.

I am not enamored by goat milk and would only test taste cheese made from it. My mom used to run out and milk the nanny goat and bring the milk in and pour it, warm and frothy, on my Corn Flakes and warm goat milk on Corn Flakes is a bad combination. The thought still makes my stomach pucker.

JM said...

Very interesting post, Dina! And yes, 'Queijo da Serra' (Serra da Estrela cheese) is the best ever! Unfortunately also the best the keep your cholesterol high, I think... :-)))

Jeannette S.G. said...

thank you for sharing about the Anusim - I did not know about what they went through. Israeli's must be happy with more kosher food coming out:) Last Sunday I went to a Jewish house dedication. Wow, I love the symbols!

Catherine said...

That's perfect products to end a good meal ! In fact, I would like to make a whole meal with these ingredients, Dina.
A nice initiative ! I wonder if it'll be as easy, catholicism is so well fixed in Portugal.

spacedlaw said...

They certainly waited a long time!

Sara said...

I love this story....fascinating to ponder these firsts since the horrible Inquisition!