The Universal Power of Words

They encircle me with words of hate; they attack me without cause.




(the israel bible)

October 1, 2023

4 min read

September 3, on a day designated as the “European Day of Jewish Culture,” the city of Oporto in Portugal (population 1.3 million) held a special unveiling at the city’s Jewish Museum. It is a memorial wall engraved with the 842 names of the once-faceless past. Drawing on Portugal’s newly digitized records, Oporto has been able to identify 842 members of their community, between the ages of 10 to 110 years old, who were victims of the Inquisition. 

Despite all the new efforts on records being expanded, Portugal still offers a shocking lack of education about its history during the Inquisition.  Although references have begun to appear in the curricula manuals for Portuguese schools, most students learn little about the Jewish population which was all but exterminated out of their country for over three centuries.  “I am 35 years old,” notes Hugo Vaz, the curator of the Jewish & Holocaust Museum in Oporto, “and when I learned about the Inquisition in school, I was taught that it was about the hunting of witches.  I learned that in five minutes of classroom discussion.” 

In comparison, Holocaust education is more widely addressed for Portuguese students. Portugal was officially neutral in World War II and became a passageway for many Jewish refugees, making this historical period more favorable for student education than the “black period” of the Inquisition. 

The tentacles of Jewish hatred are long and die hard.  Difficult to comprehend that more than 500 years after the Spanish Inquisition, Spain’s official dictionary here in the 21st century, describes “Jew “as a “shrewd or greedy person” and Judaism as “a loathsome trick that harms someone.”  The current entry for the word “Judiada” makes a notation that the term “originated with anti-Semitic intent” and provides two initial definitions: First, “a dirty trick or an action that is detrimental to someone.” Second, “a crowd or group of Jews.” Glance down to the fifth entry and it notes: “A greedy or usurious person.”

Words have a universal and lasting impact as can be witnessed by the current outcry of more than 20 major Jewish organizations from the US and Spanish-speaking nations, calling on Spain’s linguistic authority to drop anti-Semitic definitions from its current dictionary. The 300-year-old Real Academia Espanola (RAE) oversees the evolution of the Spanish language through the official Dictionary of the Spanish language, which is modified each year to reflect changes in language defined by culture. 

A September  2023 letter endorsed by America’s Simon Wiesenthal Center and supported by a coalition of top global Jewish organizations, including Spain’s Federation of Jewish Communities, has called on the RAE to revise their content, stating: “The descriptions are the product of medieval and renaissance terminology of rejection, envy, and hatred directed at the Jews, who, because of their work, had the highest incomes—one factor that led to their expulsion from Spain by the Catholic monarchs.” The letter goes on to note: “As far as the international Jewish community is concerned, this definition serves only to confirm that we are dealing with an untruth that feeds antisemitism, harming the image of the Jews by condemning them as a group of greedy people or moneylenders.” 

The Wiesenthal Center’s Director for Latin America noted in a communication to the Jewish Telegraphic News Agency. “We can presume that the terms crystallized in the Dictionary are a sign of an anti-Semitic prejudice still prior to the Edict of Expulsion of 1492 that has been maintained throughout the centuries.”

The Ministry of Education in Madrid reports in 2023 that Spain currently has an enrollment of nearly 8 million students –4.6 million in primary grades and 2.8 million in secondary grades.  Schools are State funded and mandatory for children aged 3 to 16. This is a country with a population of 47.5 million people. Due to the “disinformation” and hatred being allowed in the official Dictionary still today, words that should have been long ago condemned, continue to have power to spread antisemitism in Spain’s “modern” culture.

By the numbers in both Spain and Portugal, that’s an immeasurable new generation of antisemitism with the potential of taking root from the ages old seeds of hatred sown centuries ago. 

Today, it is conservatively estimated that some 200 million people worldwide may unknowingly be of Jewish lineage — descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions which forced Jews of that day to flee, be killed, convert openly to Christianity, or face life as “Conversos” – those who remained “secret Jews” and lived in the terror of being exposed.  

As Christians and Jews who support Israel, together we must express our strong support of the preservation of Inquisition Archives – their loss would be a tragedy, not only by losing this past portion –however dark, of Jewish history, but also by losing the opportunity in the future for millions of people around the world to connect with their Jewish ancestry many for the first time. 

George Santayana’s words, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it”, have never been truer.  To this, I must add that “whatever is not taught cannot be remembered.” I see this daily in our work with textbooks in American schools – textbooks with revisionist Holocaust History, textbooks with no Inquisition History, curricula filled with disinformation, propaganda, a lack and/or revision of the truth in American and World history, and the elimination of historical values with which our children can be truly informed and educated for their positions of leadership in the world of the 21st century.  With our next leadership hangs the fate of the ongoing bond of friendship between America and Israel on the world stage.

Our choice of, preservation of, and undying protection of “words” has never been more crucial.                                                          -30-

 Learn more about Laurie Cardoza Moore’s Organization, Proclaiming Justice to The Nations (PJTN) at: 

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