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Poverty and Welfare Among the Portuguese Jews in Early Modern Amsterdam$
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Tirtsah Levie-Bernfeld

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9781904113577

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781904113577.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 25 July 2021

The Motives behind Charity

The Motives behind Charity

(p.159) Chapter Six The Motives behind Charity
Poverty and Welfare Among the Portuguese Jews in Early Modern Amsterdam

Tirtsah Levie Bernfeld

Liverpool University Press

This chapter assesses the motives behind charity. In seventeenth-century Amsterdam, a well-to-do Portuguese community shouldered the organization of poor relief in many ways and discharged its responsibility for receiving and assisting the poor and for maintaining peace and order. Portuguese Jews supported poor relief as a civic duty and because they felt responsible for their neighbours, as well as for reasons of prestige. In addition, they often made charitable gifts, either in the normal course of life or as they neared death, for religious motives. By the end of the seventeenth century, Portuguese religiosity was tapering off and Portuguese Jews were also becoming less and less involved in the life of their community. Their charity, however, did not decline as a result; on the contrary, it grew. Charitable grants still had religious connotations, but rising poverty, even among the better-off families of the community, called for a collective effort not only through the official channels but also, and to an ever greater extent, by the private sector. Individual Portuguese increasingly took the reins in their own hands, not least in the attempt to maintain their prestige and to gain a hold over the administrative machinery by which charity was disbursed.

Keywords:   charity, Amsterdam, Portuguese community, poor relief, Portuguese Jews, civic duty, charitable gifts, religious motives, Portuguese religiosity, poverty

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