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Castro Tartas, Isaac De


CASTRO TARTAS, ISAAC DE , Marrano martyr. Born in Avignon, then under papal rule, he was the son of fugitive Portuguese *New Christians who had settled in southern France. He was baptized at birth under the name of Thomás Luiz and also known as Joseph de Lis. While a young man, he left his parents and moved to Tartas and then to Bordeaux and Paris. In Paris he studied philosophy and medicine, living as a Crypto-Jew. Later the family took up residence as Jews in Amsterdam, where they all lived openly as Jews. Within a week father and sons were circumcised. In 1641, at the age of 16, Isaac went to *Recife (Pernambuco) in Brazil, at that time under Dutch control. In 1644, he went on to Bahia, which was under Portuguese rule, now outwardly living as a Catholic as he had done in his childhood. He was arrested in December 1644, after some Catholics denounced him to the Inquisition, claiming that they saw him attending synagogue in Recife, and was then, in 1645, sent to Lisbon for trial after a pair of tefillin were found among his belongings. At first he maintained that he had never been baptized, relying on the fact that the Portuguese Inquisition never tried Jews who had never been baptized, but his claim was disproved. He then proclaimed himself a Jew unshaken in his faith and determined to observe the precepts of Judaism. He confessed he was the son of Jewish parents, Abraham and Sarah Meatoga, born in Braganca and that he had always been a practicing Jew, keeping the festivals and fasts and observing the precepts of the Torah. Serious efforts were made to convince him to renounce his Jewish faith but he refused to do so. He was accordingly condemned and burned alive in Lisbon on Dec. 15, 1647. It was reported that the Lisbon populace long repeated the impressive cry of the Shema, which they heard from him at the last moment. A number of members of the Amsterdam community, among them José *Pinto Delgado, collaborated in a volume of elegies in his honor, which was probably printed at the time, although only a manuscript copy has survived. Isaac de Castro Tartas was long remembered as one of the exemplary martyrs whose memory was revered by the communities of the Marrano Diaspora.


A. Wiznitzer, Jews in Colonial Brazil (1960), 110–9; idem, in: ajhsp, 47 (1957/58), 63–75; C. Roth, in: rej, 121 (1962), 355–66. add. bibliography: E. Lipiner, Izaque de Castro… (1992).

[Cecil Roth /

Yom Tov Assis (2nd ed.)]

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