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Rediscovered after a Mysterious Theft: the Oldest Document of Jewish Life in the New World

Currently on display at the New-York Historical Society is a tiny diary composed by Luis de Carvajal the Younger, a Spanish-born crypto-Jew who settled in Mexico as a teenager. The diary was stolen from the Mexican National Archives in 1932, resurfaced in late 2015, and was purchased by an American Jewish philanthropist who has restored it to the Mexican government following an agreement first to allow it to be exhibited in New York. Joseph Berger writes:

De Carvajal, a trader, was arrested [by the Mexican Inquisition] around 1590 as a proselytizing Jew and, while in prison, began writing a sometimes messianic memoir . . . on pages roughly four inches by three inches. In it, he called himself Joseph Lumbroso—Joseph the Enlightened. [The surname Lumbroso was used by his relatives in Salonika, who practiced Judaism openly.] It begins, “Saved from terrible dangers by the Lord, I, Joseph Lumbroso of the Hebrew nation and of the pilgrims to the West Indies, in appreciation of the mercies received from the hands of the Highest, address myself to all who believe in the Holy of Holies and who hope for great mercies.”

The memoir tells how he learned from his father that he was Jewish, circumcised himself with an old pair of scissors, secretly embraced the faith, and persuaded siblings to embrace it.

He was freed for a time—possibly so that the authorities could track his contacts with other secret Jews—and finished his autobiography, stitching it together with a set of prayers, the Ten Commandments, and the thirteen principles of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides. Scholars believe he made it miniature so he could conceal it inside a coat or pocket. In 1596, after having been found guilty again of observing Jewish practices, he was burned at the stake. He was thirty years old.

Read more at New York Times

More about: History & Ideas, Inquisition, Marranos, Mexico, Sephardim

Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC