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Photo: Elsa Rodrigues

Judith Cohen - Inquisition to Internet: The Musical World of the Portuguese Marranos

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The Marranos, the hidden or crypto-Jews of Portugal, are the ones that remained after the sixteenth-century Inquisition. They stayed on, often in remote mountain villages, and continued to practice a secret Judaism, which over the years was transformed into a women-led religion characterized by the secrecy and deceit necessary for its survival over the centuries. Sephardic music specialist Dr. Judith Cohen is likely the only ethnomusicologist who has carried out systematic fieldwork with the crypto-Jews over the years, having done so since the mid-1990s in the emblematic town of Belmonte and in the northeastern area “beyond the mountains.” Judith’s audio-visual presentation, prepared especially for Ashkenaz, explores how these crypto-Jews survived the centuries of the Inquisition, the function of songs in their lives, and how today they are constructing a new musical world, often using the Internet resources now available to them.

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