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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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(p.226) Chapter Eight Epilogue
Poverty and Welfare Among the Portuguese Jews in Early Modern Amsterdam

Tirtsah Levie Bernfeld

Liverpool University Press

This chapter identifies the most important characteristics of poverty and welfare among the Portuguese community of early modern Amsterdam. One remarkable feature of the poor in the Amsterdam Portuguese milieu is the prominence of women, until recently hardly considered. The reasons for this were manifold: as a key group in the effort to perpetuate Jewish tradition in the peninsula, women were consistently persecuted by the Inquisition and many fled in fear of it, as well as out of the desire to live openly as Jews. Also, economic opportunities for men outside the Dutch Republic led to many women being left on their own in the city, dependent on welfare. The poor relief provided by the Portuguese community was not exceptionally generous, at least when judged by Amsterdam standards, nor was it granted permanently to all poor people. The system was hierarchical and elitist, presided over by a closed, wealthy caste who ran a strict regime. By the middle of the eighteenth century, the Amsterdam Portuguese community had lost its international attraction as a place of refuge.

Keywords:   poverty, welfare, Amsterdam Portuguese community, early modern Amsterdam, Jewish women, poor relief, poor people

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