When Jews were banished from Spain in 1492, many escaped to Portugal where they were soon after forcibly converted en masse to Christianity. Some of these Jews managed to subsequently escape to the Netherlands where they set up the historic Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community known as the Western Sephardim, the community which would later form the British and American Jewish community.
The Jerusalem Post and the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs are marking the third day of Hannuka by streaming an online Hanukka candle lighting ceremony from Lisbon and Amsterdam reflecting the path of flight which created some of the most influential Jewish communities in the world.
The Facebook live broadcast from these two cities hopes to highlight the very miracle of Hanukka - that despite the strength and will of our enemies, Jewish life remains alive across the globe.
Hanukka celebrations in Amsterdam, Netherlands on December 14. (Credit: Rabbi Akiva Kamisar/Chabad Central Amsterdam)
For centuries,Jews in the Netherlands were by and large able to practice their religion freely in the Dutch territories, which did not enact many of the gross discriminatory antisemitic policies prevalent through much of Europe. That all changed during World War II, when the Nazi regime's occupation of Amsterdam did much to obliterate Jewish life in the city, making the community's surviving presence a Hanukkah miracle in and of itself.
Today, 15,000 Jews live in the charming northern European hotspot enjoying a robust and vibrant community life.
There is not a consensus on the number of Jews living in Portugal, but Sergio Della Pergola estimates the figure of this ancient community to be around 600. However, according to DNA research around a third to a quarter of all Portuguese people have Jewish ancestry from those who were not able to flee, including the current President of Portugal Marcelo Ribelo de Sousa, who has called for greater recognition of the shared roots of the Portuguese and Jewish peoples.