The Return – Exits and Entrances

–My heritage, part six

Are we really expected to believe that Abraham twiddles his fingers until he reaches the age of 59 and then immediately starts producing masterpieces. The Museum informs us that even then it was still 8 years before Abraham registers his hallmark. The book  “At the End of the Earth “ contains a picture    of other decorative  Rimmonim  ( also exhibited at the Jewish Museum calling him the renowned silversmith, “Abraham Lopes de Oliveira”. A Jewish Museum publication shows pictures of other Jewish ritual objects of his, including a sabbath lamp,  calling him “Abraham de Oliveyra”.  Nine of his works are in that museum and others are owned by Bevis Marks, New and Hambro Synagogues in London The variations in spelling his name is only to  expected in those days and are of no concern as the reference  is obviously to the same talented person.

The only other maker of now valuable  Jewish ritual objects made around at that time was William Spackman. He was not Jewish so it would be quirky for him to decide to carve this niche for himself in such a small market. One  commentary says that it is  impossible to distinguish his works  from, what one article calls slightly earlier,  Dutch items and suggests that he may have imported them and  hallmarked them, as he was  legally required to do, rather than copy them in his own workshop.

Perhaps experts should consider the possibility that after his apprenticeship ended,  Abraham began making ritual objects, still living in Amsterdam and notwith-standing that this was in contravention of the undertaking given before  entering his apprenticeship. I suggested he distributed his works  to Jewish communities in many countries via Spackman with Spackman’s Hallmark attached. When Abraham arrived in England he continued to use Spackman for many years before finally  registering his own hallmark. He could not do otherwise not being  recognized by the Company of Goldsmiths as able to have his own hallmark.

Abraham de Morais, the father of Abraham’s future bride Rebecca, unfortunately died before the marriage some time between 1680 and 1684.  A son of his was circumcised on 10 Tishri 5441 (3rd October 1680)  so his death was not earlier than 1680.  The entire London Jewish community is listed in 1684 and includes  “the widow of Abraham Rodrigues de Moraes” . She is shown as having 3 daughters and 3 sons  (unnamed) and possibly a nephew. If so he might be Abraham Lopes de Oliveira. There were no other Morais members shown as in the community and the only Oliveiras were  Polycarpo, as “Abraham de Oliveira”, is in that 1684 list very much  alive, with a wife, aunt, 2 daughters and 3 sons.

“Abraham de Jacob Oliveira”  married   “Rebecca de Abraham Isaiah de  Morais”  on the Hebrew date of 15 Heshvan 5458 30 October 1697.  The couple were my seventh great grandparents. It seems that “Ribcah de Morais” came with a dowry awarded to her  on 28 Elul (29 Sep 1693).  One thousand pounds had been bequeathed to the  congregation in 1675 by Diego (Abraham ) Rodrigues Marques with interest  thereon to be given annually to an orphan girl (preferably his kindred) as a dowry. Because of litigation there was a long delay in the awarding of the first dowry which was to be to  Rebecca. This annual award still survives. This supports a view that Rebecca’s widowed mother  was not that wealthy notwithstanding her late husband had been a major merchant back  in Rouen..

The community continued to expand in relative peace and in 1700 the foundation stone was laid for the Bevis Marks Synagogue – the oldest English Synagogue still standing and the one where my son was married. In case you are wondering how I have so much detail on long ago departed ancestors, it is sourced from the extensive records of Bevis Marks which cover the life of the community from the readmission until today – births, circumcisions, marriages, burials and much more.

Abraham crafted a plate which was gifted  by the Jewish Community in London  in 1719  to the retiring Sheriff of the City  London heaped with sweets.  This plate was estimated to be worth £312,000 before it was auctioned by Sotheby’s New York. An annual gift was a tradition introduced by the nervous Jewish community considering  it politically expedient to make each year  a gift of  silverware to the retiring sheriff. For many years the gift was often a work of Abraham,  Because of the family connections his pastry cook sister-in-law, Leonor, was sometimes asked to provide confectionery to accompany these silver plates.

In 1720 Daniel Israel Lopez Laguna finally published his Book of Psalms, which included engravings by Abraham, having worked on it for many years in Jamaica an island which had the wealthiest Jewish community outside London.

Life went on and in1724 Abraham’s daughter, Sarah Lopes de Oliveira, married Moses Lopes Moreno who would have a son Abraham named after his grandfather and godfather. “ Esther,  the daughter of Abraham Lopes  de Oliveira ” married  Abraham de Isaque  Rattiom on 5 Sivan 5486 (4  June 1726). They are my sixth great grandparents. In 1734 ‘Abraham Lopes Oliveira ‘ was godfather to one of their sons at their circumcision- possibly the one named Abraham after him.

In 1737 Abraham Rathom tried unsuccessfully to obtain the freedom of the city of London claiming he should have inherited it from his father Isaac – a liveryman in the Lorimers Company. If he had sought to obtain it directly for himself he would have to take an oath sworn on the New Testament which he refused to do. It was some years before the oath could be sworn on the Old Testament.

The aging Abraham Lopes  d’Oliveira  continued to work and 2 rimmonin he made in  as late  as 1740 were  sold for $160,000 in 2016 to  the successful bidder. Abraham Lopes de Oliveira died on 8th November 1750 and was buried in the New Cemetary plot 1306 that replaced Bethahaim and his wife soon after on 19th  June 1751 plot 1321.

This saga endeth but in order to complete the  link between Abraham and me I add the following information. On 24 June 1761 his granddaughter  Rebecca Rathom married Isaac de Daniel Rodrigues  and are my fifth great grandparents. Their son Abraham Rodrigues married Simha Belasco and are my fourth great grandparents. Multiple DNA comparisons have linked me with other Belasco  descendants and prove that Simha was my ancestor. Abraham and Simha had two daughters who both married Eliezer  Lazarus Phillips, the grandfather of my grandmother Dolly who married  Moses Israel the Brazilian rubber baron  and went to live with him in  Brazil . Brazil soon after its discovery attracted the interest of the family in relation to production of  sugar and other foodstuffs claimed their interest in relation to rubber.production.

I am here because de Oliveria and Marais family lines successfully exited Portugal and  via Madrid, Rouen and Amsterdam entered England to live there in freedom – a freedom that is still available to Jewry there to this day to their descendents. But what happened to the descendents of the closet Jews who never left Portugal? Over the centuries continuing not to be able to overtly practice their religion with  it being carried down only  by word of mouth  much of the tradition was lost. Less and less Hebrew content was contained in their clandestine services . They became crypto-Jews.

Even after the inquisition was abolished, their existence  remained a secret to most of the world. It was only relatively recently  they were re-discovered by the world. The hill town of Vila Real and birth place of Jacob d’Oliveira and his wife Ester de Oliveira received minimal attention from the Inquisition.

A congregation of several hundred crypto Jews was found there in 1928 with a president named Eugenio Cardoso. I wonder if he has a common ancestor with Fernando Cardoso physician at royal court – the friend of Bartoleme Febos. I have  visited some of the crypto Jewish communities able to practice their religion openly and spent some time In one of their Synagogue in Belmonte further south in Portugal.

Almost all the descendents of New Christians that did not leave Portugal were lost to Judaism. World Jewry should attribute no guilt for the Inquisition of yesteryear to the  Portuguese  of today. After all, Portugal is welcoming  back descendents of the New Christians who fled and many have returned. Indeed most of Portuguese are now philo-semites perhaps acknowledging that they themselves likely have some Jewish blood.


Clive Russell
Clive Russell
CLIVE currently serves as Joint President of Russell Business LLC (“RB”), which is the collective name for a community of synergistic and complementary activities and businesses encompassing the International Property Market. RB is engaged in business activities that combine cutting-edge structured finance and technology geared to maximize returns from various sectors, including residential and commercial property, hotels and energy-related assets. Over the years, Clive’s forte’ has been the ability to develop and/or identify “below the radar” concepts, strategies and opportunities ripe for leveraging and ultimate success.

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  1. Hi Clive,
    I hope you get this message as I believe we are related. Abraham and Simha are my 6th grandparents. They had four daughters, two of whom you mentioned, Esther and Leah, and the other two were Rebecca and child 5, Rachel. Rachel is my 5th grandmother. She married Benjamin Isaacs and their youngest son Lewis married his first cousin, Simelia, daughter of Leah and Lazarus Phillips. Rachel and Benjamin’s oldest son Abraham is my 4th grandfather.
    I was so interested to read your article!
    Thank you