For generations, the Belmonte conversos lit candles in secret on Friday nights, celebrated major Jewish holidays on a schedule delayed from the common Jewish calendar and avoided pork, rabbit, scaleless fish and food made with blood.
In 1917, a Galician mining engineer named Samuel Schwartz came to the region of Belmonte for work. Finding himself in a town with Jewish roots - there is a synagogue foundation stone dating back to 1297 - was interesting to him. Discovering that there were conversos was shocking for both sides. The conversos themselves did not believe that Schwartz was Jewish until they recognized God's name when he recited the Shema.
Even after the Belmonte conversos were discovered, it took decades for them to feel comfortable going public. In fact, it was just over 500 years after the Inquisition when the Belmonte conversos reached out to the wider Jewish community. Israel sent teachers, and Jewish tourists flocked to Belmonte. Many of the conversos formally converted to Judaism, but some chose to remain living their secret-style lives. Today in Belmonte, there is a small synagogue (Beit Eliahu) and a Jewish museum.
*also referred to as marranos and annusim
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