In the second podcast this week,attorney Maya Weiss-Tamir, who is also an
economist and a mediator, speaks about new legislation allowing the
descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain by the Inquisition to claim
Spanish citizenship. What are the benefits of Spanish citizenship, and how
can you claim it? Find out more by listening to this week’s Goldstein on
Posts Tagged ‘Spanish Inquisition’
In the second podcast this week,attorney Maya Weiss-Tamir, who is also an
Spanish Muslims urged their government to grant citizenship to descendants of Muslims who were expelled from Spain in addition to Jews.
The demand was made this week in a statement by the Association for Historical Legacy of Al-Andalus, the Spanish news agency EFE reported on Feb. 17.
“The Spanish state should grant the same rights to all those who were expelled, otherwise their decision is selective, if not racist,” Bayi Loubaris, the association’s president, told EFE.
The association named several families currently residing in North Africa as candidates for receiving Spanish citizenship.
Several other prominent Muslims and legal experts accused the Spanish government of pursuing a double standard following the approval on Feb. 10 of a bill proposing to naturalize descendants of Sephardic Jews, which the governments said was to atone for the expulsions 500 years ago.
Submitted by Spain’s Justice Minister, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, the bill is expected to go up to a vote in Spanish congress this year. Portugal already passed a law granting citizenship to descendants last year and its interior ministry is currently drafting regulations ahead of the law’s application, according to Portuguese lawmakers who submitted the bill.
The Jews were persecuted in Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition which the Catholic Church and royal houses of both countries led against non-Christians in the 15th and 16th centuries.
“Recognition of the Sephardic community is symbolic, necessary and just. The same applies to those who have kept their Andalus-Moorish identity in exile,” Manuel Antonio Rodríguez, a professor of law at the University of Cordoba, told the El Confidencial daily on Sunday.
In 2006, the United Left party in the parliament of the autonomous Spanish region of Andalusia submitted a bill which proposed recognizing the rights of descendants of Muslims who were expelled but the bill never made it to a vote.
Portuguese lawmakers who drafted the country’s law on Sephardic Jews rejected calls to naturalize the descendants of Muslims who were expelled, citing the fact that the expulsion of the Muslims was part of a war to end the occupation of Spain by North African invaders.
“Persecution of Jews was just that, while what happened with the Arabs was part of a conflict,” Jose Ribeiro e Castro, a Spanish lawmaker who drafted Portugal’s law of return, said. ”There’s no basis for comparison.”JTA
Spain’s ruling Popular Party (PP) has submitted a draft law that could grant citizenship to descendants of Jews expelled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition. The possibility of the bill was first announced last year by Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon. If the law is ratified, eligible Jews won’t have to relinquish their current nationalities to become naturalized Spanish citizens.
In April 2013, Portugal’s parliament ratified a similar measure granting citizenship to Jews whose ancestors were expelled from Portugal during the same period.
“The Popular Party recalls that Portugal recently passed a law that confers Portuguese nationality to descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews and the Spanish government must take an analogous measure,” the Spanish bill reads, according to the World Jewish Congress.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu presented Pope Francis Monday with a copy of the book “The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain,” a Tel Aviv scholarly publication of some of the worst things the Catholic Church has done to Jews.
The book was written by the Prime Minister’s late father Benzion, who wrote of the Spanish Inquisition, when the church persecuted, and often executed, masses of Jewish converts to Catholicism who were accused of secretly practicing Judaism.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and the pope met for approximately 30 minutes, and Sarah Netanyahu encouraged him to fulfill his promise to visit Israel.JTA
At the outset, allow me to say how profoundly sorry I am that (part of) my response to your first letter caused you additional suffering. Your clarification in last week’s column of your earlier correspondence (Chronicles 5-16) sheds somewhat of a different light on the devastation that you’ve been made to endure for all of these long years.
Though we are taught to do teshuvah every day of our life here on earth, we are also admonished to serve Hashem with happiness and to believe that He is a merciful Father eager to forgive our wrongdoings. Having suffered so unbearably, for so long, you must surely believe that G-d has forgiven you for the foolishness of your youth and that your ocean of tears has by now more than wiped your slate clean.
Forgiving (yourself) does not have to mean forgetting. Though you never got to communicate to Aaron in this world how much you care for him, reciting a verse of Tehillim or giving tzedakah l’iluy nishmas is an act of tremendous chesed and of immeasurable benefit for his neshamah.
Getting back to your letter, who of us could possibly begin to fathom your pain? No reader could have been left untouched by your heartbreaking portrayal of how your children were taken from you.
You say your babies were too young to have retained any memory of you. Today, however, they are adults and should have, by now, been apprised of their true parentage for their own physical and spiritual wellness; physical – for genetic accuracy in case of medical urgencies, and spiritual – because a Jew in his/her lifetime is always referred to by mention of his/her mother’s given name, as for example, “Yitzchak ben Sarah” (exceptions: when called up to the Torah; in a kesubah). Moreover, one’s mother’s name is not ever interchangeable.
Such revelation, if not, heretofore, made known, becomes obligatory before the child is escorted to the chuppah. Yes, your sons could have been lied to with any number of fabrications to effectively cancel any motivation to find you.
Yet there is good reason for you to let emptiness and bitterness give way to hope and optimism – hope of being reunited with the children you carried under your heart and of whom you were so cruelly dispossessed. Presumably there were other people involved, if only as onlookers, and someone out there knows the truth – that the children you gave birth to were taken from you against your will under extenuating circumstances.
Even if your ex brainwashed everyone around him to believe that you were truly insane and incapacitated as a mother, there is still hope. For now that you have finally allowed your oppressive pain to seep out, your story is being read by countless people globally. Anyone recalling an incident similar to the one you have described will alert someone else and so on.
It is well documented that adopted children generally grow up with an innate curiosity about their roots. That craving is even more prevalent among our people and many have left no stone unturned in trying to unearth details of their birthmother. G-d has instilled in the human heart of a parent a special bond to his/her child and in the heart of a child a special feeling for his/her parent − a kesher not easily broken.
During the Spanish Inquisition, when Jews were tortured and burnt alive if discovered practicing their religion, there were those who succumbed to coercion and converted in order to avoid heinous persecution. One particular Jewish youngster joined a monastery and grew up to be a most vicious member of the clergy who sent many Jewish souls to the stake to be burnt alive.
An elderly Jew caught observing his religion was once brought before this rasha who, to his consternation, found himself literally unable to convict the old man. The words simply would not come out of his mouth. After repeated attempts to pronounce a death sentence came to naught, he took the Jewish man to a private room and questioned him about whether he had ever lost a child. When the Jew confirmed that he had, a description of a birthmark proved them to be father and son. The son was so shaken by this episode that he escaped shortly thereafter and did teshuvah.
The first step you must take is to stop castigating yourself. If you will succeed in freeing yourself of the guilt that has been eating at you, you will be able to stand a little straighter, believe in yourself a little more and subsequently realize that the torment you’ve undergone has cleansed you of the transgression you so readily confess to. (Even Gehennom, a “purifying” process, is limited to a year’s duration.)
You end your letter by expressing a sense of relief at having released a bit of your onerous load. Why not consider penning a manuscript of your story (a project that can reap benefits beyond expectations)? Besides serving as a catharsis for your overburdened heart, it would be a bestseller and possibly lead to a reunion with your children.
Ask any male or female who tragically never knew his/her mother, due to tragedy, what they wouldn’t give to be acquainted up close with the woman he or she shares an eternal bond with. (Keep in mind that your children’s father was able to maneuver their direction in life for only as long as they were minors under his care.)
Time not only heals . . . it also alters many things. It’s time, Esther, for you to recognize that you, too, have grown. You have become a better and wiser person who is deserving of the finer things that life has to offer.
If only we could abolish the ugliness of hatred in our hearts and learn to replace intolerance with compassion, benevolence and understanding, the sadness of Tisha B’Av would soon be replaced with a day of rejoicing. If only.Rachel
“In 1478 at the request of the Spanish sovereigns Ferdinand and Isabella, Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84) issued a papal bull allowing for the creation of the Spanish Inquisition. It lasted until it was “abolished” in 1834, although its most fervent activity was during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Spanish Inquisition is the notorious for two reasons. First, it was more cruel precisely because it was administered by the secular government. Second, it was concerned, in large part, with the conversos. These were Jews who had converted either under duress or out of social convenience, and were suspected of secretly practicing the Jewish faith.”
“The Spanish Inquisition was particularly terrifying because of its inherent characteristics. The accused never knew who their accusers were. Once arrested, the accused heretic’s properties were seized. These properties were then administered at first by the Crown, and later by the General Inquisitor. This fostered the means for anyone to accuse for personal reasons, or to get gain. In many areas, ‘. . . men began to wonder whether a man’s worldly wealth, as well as his descent, was now become [sic] an incriminating circumstance’ (Roth, 1964, The Spanish Inquisition. United States of America: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. p. 60). The Inquisition certainly did not limit itself to purifying only those of the Jewish faith. This was especially true if the accused was found to have any Jewish blood in his ancestry. Even if the accused was now a devout Christian, he was tried as severely as possible because of his roots. The accused was also not allowed to have a lawyer or counsel for his defense, and the names of all witnesses were kept secret from him.”
“More than 13,000 Conversos were put on trial during the first 12 years of the Spanish Inquisition. Hoping to eliminate ties between the Jewish community and Conversos, the Jews of Spain were expelled in 1492.
“The next phase of the Inquisition began around 1531, when Pope Leo X extended the Inquisition to Portugal. Thousands of Jews came to Portugal after the 1492 expulsion. A Spanish style Inquisition was constituted and tribunals were set up in Lisbon and other cities. Among the Jews who died at the hands of the Inquisition were well-known figures of the period such as Isaac de Castro Tartas, Antonio Serrao de Castro and Antonio Jose da Silva. The Inquisition never stopped in Spain and continued until the late 18th century.
“By the second half of the 18th century, the Inquisition abated, due to the spread of enlightened ideas and lack of resources. The last auto-da-fe in Portugal took place on October 27, 1765. Not until 1808, during the brief reign of Joseph Bonaparte, was the Inquisition abolished in Spain. An estimated 31,912 heretics were burned at the stake, 17,659 were burned in effigy and 291,450 made reconciliations in the Spanish Inquisition. In Portugal, about 40,000 cases were tried, although only 1,800 were burned, the rest made penance.”
In 1497 all Jews living in Portugal were forced to convert to Christianity. These Jews were known as “New Christians” or Marranos. Despite the obvious dangers involved, a considerable number of these New Christians while outwardly professing to be devout Catholics, secretly kept as many mitzvos as possible. They remained loyal Jews for hundreds of years, and married only other “New Christians” who did the same. Of course, if at all possible, these New Christians sought ways to flee from Portugal. Their goal was to go to a country that would allow them to openly practice Judaism. Very few families actually succeeded in doing this.
A Daring Escape
“Dr. Samuel Nunez – was an eminent physician in Lisbon during the Inquisition. They, although of the Jewish persuasion – had long been professing Christianity, but by pursuing their religious devotions privately, were enabled to remain secretly true to the faith of their ancestors.
The Doctor was one of the court physicians, but even this did not save him from the wrath of the Grand Inquisitor when it was ascertained that his Christianity was but a pretense; he, with the members of his family, was cast into prison, and remained there until the medical services of the Doctor being called into requisition, they were liberated by the Ecclesiastical Council upon the advice of the Grand Inquisitor, on condition, however, that two officials of the Inquisition should reside in the family as spies upon their religious practices.” “The Doctor had a large and elegant mansion on the banks of the Tagus, and being a man of large
fortune he was in the habit of entertaining the principal families of Lisbon. On a pleasant summer day (in 1726) he invited a party to dinner, and among the guests was a captain of an English brigantine anchored at some distance in the river. While the company were amusing themselves on the lawn, the captain invited the family and part of the company to accompany him on board the brigantine and partake of a lunch prepared for the occasion. All the family, together with the spies of the Inquisition and a portion of the guests, repaired on board the vessel, and while they were below in the cabin enjoying the hospitality of the captain, the
anchor was weighed, the sails unfurled, and the wind being fair, the brigantine shot out of the Tagus, and was soon at sea, and carried the whole party to England. It had been previously arranged between the Doctor and the captain, who had agreed for a thousand moidores in gold to convey the family to England, and who were under the painful necessity of adopting this plan of escape to avoid detection. The ladies had secreted all their diamonds and. jewels, which were quilted in their dresses, and the Doctor having previously changed all his securities into gold, it was distributed among the gentlemen of the family and carried around them in leathern belts. His house, plate, furniture, servants, equipage, and even the dinner cooked for the occasion were all left, and were subsequently seized by the Inquisition and confiscated to the state.”
In this manner Dr. Nunez, his wife Rebecca, his mother Zipporah, his two sons Daniel and Moshe, and his daughter Sipra (Zipporah) escaped from Portugal to London. As was the case with many New Christian men who escaped from the Iberian Peninsula, he and his sons were no doubt circumcised shortly after their arrival. On the 11th of Av, 1726, Dr. Nunez remarried his wife Rebecca according to Halacha. On July 11, 1733 Dr. Nunez and his family (except for his wife who had apparently died while they were living in London) arrived in Savannah, Georgia.
Zipporah Nunez (1714-1799) “was a young lady nineteen years of age when she arrived from abroad with her father. Zipporah [apparently originally named Maria] had been born in Portugal, a Catholic, and she grew up in this land to marry [in 1733] a ‘rabbi,’ Mr. [David Mendez] Machado, the hazzan of Shearith Israel [Synagogue in New York]. Her contemporaries agreed that Zipporah Machado was an unusual woman, charming and cultured, mistress of six languages. Her charity, which she bestowed as her means permitted, was ‘unbiased by national or sectarian prejudices.'” Zipporah “was a woman of many accomplishments, conversant with several languages, and until her death maintained a lofty
dignity, and was known in her earlier years as a great beauty.” “She was the mother-in-law of a Revolutionary veteran (Jonas Phillips) and the great-grandmother of a commodore in the United States Navy (Uriah P. Levy) and of a Grand Sachem of Tammany Hall (Mordechai M. Noah), all Jews.” She was also the great-grandmother of Raphael Jacob Moses. Raphael Moses was a successful businessman and a staunch fighter for the South during the Civil War. He had the distinction of carrying out the last order issued by the Confederacy. Many members of his extended family were all observant Jews.
 Family History of the Reverend David Mendez Machado, N. Taylor Phillips, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, 1894; 2, AJHS Journal page 45. This article is available online from AJHA at http://www.ajhs.org/reference/adaje.cfm.
 Ibid., pages 46 – 47 quoting Statistics Of The State Of Georgia: Including an account of Its Natural, Civil, and Ecclesiastical History; Together with a Particular Description of Each County, Notices of the Manners and customs of Its Aboriginal tribes, and a Correct Map of the State, George White. Savannah: W. Thorne Williams, 1849.
 New Light on the Jewish Settlement of Savannah, Malcolm H. Stern, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, volume 52, 1963. Reprinted in The Jewish Experience in America edited by Abraham J. Karp, Ktav Publishing House, New York, 1969, page 72.
 The Record Book of the Reverend Jacob Raphael Cohen, Allen D. Corr? with biographical annotations by Malcolm H. Stern, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, volume 59, 1969, footnote 105. This article is available online from AJHA at
 Early American Jewry, Volume II: The Jews of Pennsylvania and the South, 1655 – 1790, Jacob Rader Marcus, The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1953, page 335.
 Family History of the Reverend David Mendez Machado, page 50.
 Early American Jewry, Volume II: The Jews of Pennsylvania and the South, 1655 – 1790, page 335.
 The Last Order Of The Lost Cause: The Civil War Memoirs Of A Jewish Family From The ‘Old South’: Raphael Jacob Moses, Major, C.S.A., 1812-1893, Mel Young, University Press of America, 1995, New York, page 334.
Author: Lewis Weinstein
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI
Weinstein’s book has accurately captured the spice and flavor of fifteenth-century Spain and the time of Torquemada, Ferdinand and Isabella. This success is validated by the foreword written by Msgr. Thomas J. Hartman (of TV’s “The G-d Squad”), who wrote: “The Heretic” was where I turned in order to understand the Inquisition. I knew the outline of Christian atrocities, but Lew’s book taught me about the painful positions many good people were put into in order to survive. It’s not a pretty picture.”
Our protagonists are Gabriel Catalan, a jeweler, his wife Pilar and their son Tomas. In the
story, Gabriel rose to become titular head of the converso community after the demise of Don
Alonso, a prominent merchant-trader who had maintained a secret minyan in his own vast home and was treasurer to the house of Castille. A tenuous relationship of networking support existed between those who remained openly Jewish and the conversos in Seville.
Intertwined in this very ambitious story is the secret introduction, by a Jewish printer from
Mainz, Germany, of the method printing the produce a Hebrew Bible and Pirke Avos in Seville by Tomas Catalan together with the Jewish Lucena family. Many other story lines are
included, including that of Gabriel Catalan persuading King Juan of Portugal, the father of
Prince Ferdinand, to commit himself to eye surgery at the hands of a Jewish surgeon.
In another exciting episode, young Tomas saves the life of the little son of Prince Hasan of
the Moors when he is nearly run over by a rapidly rolling cart in a procession.
While things don’t turn out well for Gabriel and Pilar, their son Tomas and his wife Esther
continue the Jewish saga well into the future.
The Heretic is a truly exciting page-turner that is completely unexpected of a University
Press. It is part of a series – The Library of American Fiction – that also includes Stories Of
An Imaginary Childhood by Melvin Jules Bukiet; Mazel by Rebecca Goldstein; The Museum of Happiness by Jesse Lee Kercheval; Brooklyn Boy by Alan Lelchuk; and Ladies and Gentlemen, The Original Music of the Hebrew Alphabet and Weekend in Mustara by Kurt Leviant.