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"Memoria Para Os Siglos Futuros": Myth and Memory on the Beginnings of the Amsterdam Sephardi Community

Robert Cohen
Jewish History
Vol. 2, No. 1 (Spring, 1987), pp. 67-72
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20101033
Page Count: 6
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"Memoria Para Os Siglos Futuros": Myth and Memory on the Beginnings of the Amsterdam Sephardi Community
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Abstract

The beginnings of the Sephardi community of Amsterdam are shrouded in a mist of myths. This article examines the place these myths hold within the total cultural context in which they appear, the social meaning they possess, and the message they contain. The social memory these myths created was one of wealth. Like the structure of the Esnoga, the Portuguese Synagogue which was built at the same time the myths were created, they projected respectability and stability. The myths created not only a social memory, but also a religious one. They were above all a statement of faith. Historians have sought and found a kernel of historical truth within the myths, but have failed to examine the protagonists' subsequent history. Maria Nuñes, the heroine of one of the myths, did not stay in Amsterdam. Rather than being the mother of the Sephardi community, she left for Seville, where her adventures were recorded in literary form by Cervantes. The protagonists of myths are less important, however, than the myths themselves. The myths created a collective memory, providing the Amserdam Sephardim with a past they could live with in the present of the late seventeenth century and carry with them in the future. /// [Abstract in Hebrew].

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