Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rabbi Isaac Abohab De Fonseca (1605-1693)

Isaac Aboab da Fonseca (February 1, 1605 - April 4, 1693) was a rabbi, scholar, Kabbalist and writer. In 1656, he was one of several elders within the Spanish-Portuguese community in the Netherlands who excommunicated Baruch Spinoza for the statements this philosopher made concerning God.
Isaac Aboab da Fonseca was born in Portugal. His parents were Marranos Jews who had been forcibly converted to Christianity. When Isaac was seven, the family moved to Amsterdam. From that moment on, the family "reconverted" back to Judaism.

At the age of eighteen, the prodigious Isaac was appointed rabbi (chacham) for Beth Israel, one of three Sephardic communities which existed at that point in Amsterdam.

In 1642, Aboab da Fonseca was appointed rabbi at Tzur Israel congregation, in the Dutch colony of Pernambuco (Recife), Brazil. Most of the white inhabitants of Recife were Sephardic Jews from Portugal who had been banned by the Portuguese Inquisition. In 1624, Recife was occupied by the Dutch. When installed as the rabbi of that community, Aboab da Fonseca became the first appointed rabbi of the Americas. The community had a synagogue, a Mikveh and a Yeshiba as well. However, during the time he was rabbi in Pernambuco, the Portuguese re-occupied the place again in 1654, after a struggle of nine years. Aboab da Fonseca managed to return to Amsterdam after the occupation of the Portuguese. Members of his community immigrated to North America and were among the founders of New York City.

Back in Amsterdam, Aboab da Fonseca was appointed chief rabbi for the Sephardic community. During his term, the community flourished. On April 4, 1693, Isaac Aboab da Fonseca died at the age of eighty-eight in Amsterdam.


A short Holocaust film, Grand Prize Winner of the Philips "Tell It Your Way" competition.