This chapter presents a demographic outline of poverty in the Portuguese Jewish community in early modern Amsterdam. It has become clear from examining records of the numbers of people on poor relief that at times the community was larger than used to be assumed. Behind the beautiful façade of prosperity and grandeza that the community liked to show to the outside world, the kahal had to wrestle with the ever more pressing dilemma of having to look after paupers, who had flocked to Amsterdam expecting to find there a safe and sheltered life, free of persecution, war, and economic depression. By the end of the seventeenth century, a third of all Portuguese Jews were drawing permanent poor relief and almost half were drawing either permanent or temporary poor relief. Portuguese on welfare were often found in small families, mostly headed by women; larger families tended to be headed by men. In the eighteenth century, the character of Portuguese poverty changed. From then on—with the exception of single women—the poor were dominated by men trying to support their families through the economic slump with financial help from the Portuguese community.
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