The Azores' last Jew

"I am the last Jew in all of the Azores,” Jorge Delmar tells us.  He is a stocky man in his early 50s who runs an import/export business in Ponta Delgada, the capital city of São Miguel, largest of the nine islands that comprise the Portuguese archipelago. “Thirty years ago, there were 16 Jewish families on this island,” he adds.  “We were a community. We had services in the old synagogue and made all the festivities in my grandfather’s house.  But all the others have died or converted or moved away. I am the only one left.

"My wife and children are Catholic.  We have no problems over religion, although my wife is curious.  She’ll ask, ‘Why do you say you are a Jew?  What happened to the Jews?’  I say,  ‘As my mother is a Jew, I am always a Jew. That’s all.’”

Delmar’s connection to the Azores had its beginning in 1818, when the Bensaude family of Morocco came to this volcanic archipelago, mythologized as the remnants of the lost continent Atlantis, seeing opportunity in its developing orange-growing industry. They made their fortune trading agricultural products for manufactured goods with England and trading bills of exchange while transporting emigrants to Brazil. In the process, according to Fatima Sequeira Dias, professor of economic history at the University of the Azores, they changed the nature of the Azorean economy. 

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