Barros Basto, Arturo Carlos de

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BARROS BASTO, ARTURO CARLOS DE

BARROS BASTO, ARTURO CARLOS DE (1887–1961), leader of *Marrano revival in Portugal. Born at Amarante near Oporto, of a New Christian family, he was introduced to the secret practices of the Marranos by his grandfather, entered a military career in 1906 after he moved to Lisbon, where he tried to be accepted by the local Jewish community, and in the revolution in 1910 hoisted the Republican flag on the town hall of Oporto. On returning from World War i, he studied Hebrew, entering Judaism officially at the age of 33 in Tangiers, where he was circumcised, assuming the name Abraham Ben-Rosh. In Lisbon he married a member of a prominent Jewish family. He was the founder of the revivalist movement among the New Christians in Portugal that flourished under his leadership in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1923, together with some East European Jews he organized a community at Oporto, called Mekor Haim, secured foreign support for the construction of a monumental synagogue, set up a rudimentary seminary, called Yeshivat Rosh Pinnah in connection with it, and went on missionary journeys through the Marrano centers of northern Portugal. Two months after its establishment in June 1923, the community was officially recognized by the Portuguese authorities. Barros Basto served as the leader of the community in Porto. Barros Basto established a Portuguese periodical, Ha-Lappid ("The Torch"), to spread Jewish ideas among the Marranos. In some articles he published in Ha-Lapid he referred to the mysteries of the survival of Crypto-Jewish life in Portugal. He also edited various handbooks of religious guidance and wrote a history of the Jews of Oporto. He found in Samuel Schwarz (1880–1953), a mining engineer from Poland who settled in Portugal in 1915, an enthusiastic supporter for his plans to help descendents of New Christians return to normative Judaism. As a result of the activities of Barros Basto and Schwarz, some international Jewish organizations jointly sent Lucien *Wolf in 1926 to investigate the situation of Crypto-Jews. His report did not favor the intensive activity the Lisbon community or Barros Basto advocated. The latter continued to engage in an active educational and religious campaign designed to bring back to Judaism as many descendents of Crypto-Jews as possible. Barros Basto went on publishing his journal Ha-Lapid, which appeared until 1958. He attracted the attention of a number of Jewish personalities, such as Paul *Goodman, Cecil *Roth, and *David de Sola Pool. Rabbi Barukh Ben-Jacob, from Salonica, visited northern Portugal in 1931 and was deeply impressed by Barros Basto. It was in 1932 that the synagogue in Oporto was inaugurated, after the *Kadoorie family extended substantial financial support. Students and graduates of Rosh Pinnah helped Barros Basto in his task. He was able to establish communities in Bragança (Sha'arei Pidyon synagogue), in Covilhã (Sha'arei Kabbalah synagogue), and some religious activities were conducted in Belmonte. As anti-Jewish feelings increased in the early 1930s, opposition to the activities of Barros Basto spread. In December 1934 he was accused of homosexual relations with the students in Rosh Pinnah. In 1936 renewed accusations were leveled against him. In 1937 the Supreme Disciplinary Council declared him unfit to serve in the army. Although the military tribunal decided that the accusations were unfounded, he was not restored to the army. Even Schwarz no longer supported him. He died in 1961, almost blind, a disappointed man. He was buried, in accordance with his will, next to his grandfather in Amarante, his birthplace.

bibliography:

Portuguese Marranos Committee, London, Marranos in Portugal (1938); C. Roth, L'Apôrre des Marranes (1929); Jewish Guardian (June 6, 1930); Roth, Marranos, 370–5; Friedenberg, in: Midstream (Spring, 1960), 2–4, 105–7. add. bibliography: H.P. Salomon, in: Aquívos do Centro Cultural Portugês, 10 (1976), 631–42; E.M. Baptista and I. Ferreira dev Oliveira, in: História, 54 (April 1983), 55–67; E. Rosenthal and R. Rosenthal, in: Midstream (Feb. 1987), 44–8; D.A. Canelo, Os últimos criptojudeus em Portugal, (2001); E. de Azevedo Mea and I. Steinhardt, Ben-Rosh …, 1997.

[Cecil Roth /

Yom Tov Assis (2nd ed.)]