Passing of Prof. Anita W. Novinsky

Shalom Berger's picture

H-Judaic is deeply saddened by the passing of Anita W. Novinsky (1922-2021), Brazil's foremost scholar of the Portuguese inquisition and of early Brazilian Jewry, and longtime professor emerita at the University of Sao Paulo.  Prof. Novinsky was honored in her homeland and elsewhere.  She is also the author of multiple books, listed on her Wikipedia page ( 

We extend deepest condolences to her colleagues, students, family and friends.


Jonathan D. Sarna

Chair, H-Judaic

Categories: Obituary
Keywords: Necrology

Professor Pamela S. Nadell of American University, who studied with the late Prof. Novinsky, has kindly sent us a more comprehensive necrology. Many thanks! JDS

From Pamela Nadell
I want to add to the H-Judaic announcement about the life of Prof. Anita Waingort Novinsky (1922-2021) in São Paulo on July 20, 2021. Given that almost all of her hundreds of publications were written in Portuguese, many H-Judaic readers may not have encountered this outstanding scholar of the history of Jews in Brazil and of New Christians and their descendants.

When the future Prof. Novinsky was still a toddler, her family emigrated to Brazil from Poland. There Anita Waingort Novinsky earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of São Paulo, completing her Ph.D. in 1970 and her Habilitation in 1992. She also pursued post-graduate studies at the Ecole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and the University From of Paris.

A professor at the University of São Paulo, where she supervised more than 20 dissertations and was still supervising doctoral students into her nineties, Prof. Novinsky was an extraordinarily active scholar in her long life. Her CV lists hundreds of publications-books, book chapters, conference proceedings, journal articles, essays in the popular press, and media work, including the 2005 documentary A Estrela Oculta do Sertão [The Hidden Star of the Sertão], which was largely based on her research among the crypto-Jews in Brazil's Sertão region.

As an undergraduate at Douglass College, Rutgers University, majoring in Hebraic Studies, I met Prof. Novinsky when she was a visiting instructor in the class Jews in the Americas. That was more than half a century ago. Yet, I never forgot how she told us about her research in Belmonte, Portugal. Once the town's crypto-Jews discovered that she was one of them, they showed her their pictures of "Holy Little Moses" and confided how, their women still lit candles to welcome the Sabbath and baked matzoh in secret. English-speaking readers can read more about this research in her article, co-authored with Amilcar Paulo, "The Last Marranos," (Commentary 43, no. 5, 1 May 1967: 76-81).

But perhaps most of all what I remember about her teaching was how inspiring it was back then to meet a woman teaching Jewish history.
May her memory be for a blessing.

Pamela S. Nadell
American University