Artur Carlos de Barros Basto
Born December 18, 1887
Amarante, Portugal
Died 1961
Nationality Portuguese
Other names Abraham Israel Ben-Rosh
Occupation Portuguese military officer
Title Apostle to the Marranos,
The Portuguese Dreyfus
Religion Judaism

Capt. Artur Carlos de Barros Basto (Amarante, Portugal 1887-1961) was a decorated Portuguese military officer, a hero of Portugal's 1910 revolution and World War I and leader of the open return to Judaism of the Crypto-Jews of Portugal.[1]

Barros Basto died in 1961, almost blind, a disappointed man. He has never been exonerated by the Portuguese Army of the decision of 1943 of the Minister of the War under the Fascist regime of Antonio Salazar who stripped him from the Portuguese Army Officer Corp for the simple fact of his being Jewish and being a defender of religious tolerance and of the Portuguese Crypto-Jews in particular. The attempt to rehabilitate him continues till this day.[2][3]

He was born in the Portuguese city of Amarante on December 1887, and was given a Catholic education. When he was nine years old his grandfather told him they were descendants of Jews forcibly converted in 1497. Raised by his mother in Porto, he attended the Portuguese Military Academy and participated in 1910 in the founding of the Portuguese Republic. He later commanded a battalion of the Portuguese Corps in World War I, as lieutenant on the Western front. There he met a French rabbi who likely further influenced him.

Upon his return to Portugal from the war he began to study Judaism and Hebrew. Rebuffed by the Israeli community of Lisbon, he went to Tangier to formally return to normative Judaism, adopting the name of Abraham Israel Ben-Rosh. He married the daughter of a prominent Lisbon Jewish family and settled in Porto where in 1923 he created the Israeli community of Porto, still active today[4]

Barros Basto became known as the "Apostle of the Marranos", the title of a short biography by noted historian Cecil Roth who met Basto in 1930 and described him as the most charismatic man that he had ever met. Basto had been recommended in 1926 by Lucien Wolf of the London Marranos Committee to be the recipient of funds to establish a Jewish school and lead the return of thousands of descendants of Jews forcibly baptized in 1497 (New Christian, Conversos, or Marranos, more politically correct known as "Anusim", Hebrew for "forced one"). Basto established "Rosh Pinah", described by him as a "theological seminary", the first Jewish school in 500 years. In 1929 the first stone of a new synagogue was laid. A magnificent art nouveau synagogue, Mekor Haim was inaugurated, in 1939, the year of Kristallnacht. Basto had led a successful international fund raising campaign from Jewish communities with historical connection to Portugal such as Amsterdam, London, New York, Hamburg and Paris. Paul Goodman, friend, and president of the Portuguese Marranos Committee attended; so did Moses Amazalak, president of the Lisbon Israeli community. Rabbi David de Sola Pool of New York was an avid supporter and a room in the synagogue is named after him.

"Adonai (God) is with me and I will not fear"[5] was his motto, and he was not afraid to canvas the interior of Portugal to make surveys, the contacts, to defend the Jewish identity of the Crypto-Jews at the same time having the goal of returning them to modern Judaism.

Upon his return to the city of Oporto, he established the Israelite Community in 1923, and was one of the founders of the synagogue of the city of Oporto in 1938. Given the difficulties that he found in Portugal, most of all financial, he left Portugal. In London the Committee of Portuguese Marranos was created, that raised £10,000 for the construction of a community centre with a synagogue and a reading room, and to hire a resident rabbi.


  1. de Azevedo Mea, Elvira; Steinhard, Inácio (1997). Ben-Rosh - A Biography of Captain Barros Basto, the Apostle of the Marranos. Edições Afrontamento. ISBN 978-9723604368. 
  2. Melo, Filinto (2007-09-24). "Os Guerreiros da Luz" (in Portuguese). O Primeiro de Janeiro. Retrieved 2007-12-31. 
  3. Socolovsky, Jerome (2003-10-01). "If ‘Portuguese Dreyfus´ is pardoned,some have hope for a Jewish revival". Jewish Telegraph Agency. Retrieved 2007-12-31. 
  4. : Comunidade Israelita do Porto | Oporto Jewish Congregation :
  5. Psalms 118:6

5.Valadares, Paulo. A genealogia mítica e real do Capitão Barros Basto, o "Guia dos Maranos. In: Raízes e Memórias nº 23, dezembro de 2007, Lisboa: Associação Portuguesa de Genealogia, pp. 123-131

See also

External links

pt:Artur Carlos de Barros Basto

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