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 Has Survived Eight Years of Barack Obama’s False Friendship

Jan. 20 2017

In his speech justifying America’s decision to allow passage of the UN Security Council resolution declaring it a violation of international law for Jews to live in east Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Golan Heights, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that “friends need to tell each other the hard truths.” John Podhoretz comments:

The decision in December by President Obama to abstain on the UN Security Council vote . . . marked the moment he crossed the finish line in the course he had charted from 2008 onward. The turn against Israel was complete. And, as he had when he began it, in farewell interview after farewell interview he characterized his assault on the legitimacy of the Jewish presence in the Holy Land as an act of tough love. . . .

Which raises the key question: why [only] abstain [from the resolution]? If “hard truths” define friendship, then by all means they should have made the truths as hard as possible. If Barack Obama and John Kerry truly believe the Jewish presence in east Jerusalem is illicit, then they should have voted for the resolution. Instead, they took the coward’s way out. They opened the vault to the criminals and placed the jewels in their hands while wearing white gloves so there would be no residual trace of their fingerprints. The abstention was in some weird sense the mark of their bad conscience. They wanted something to happen while maintaining some historical deniability about their involvement in it.

In the eight years of the Obama presidency, war broke out twice between the Palestinians and the Israelis and nearly broke out a third time. In each case, the issue was not the West Bank, or east Jerusalem, or anything near. . . . The idea that the settlements and the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem are the main barrier to peace between Israel and the Palestinians was proved to be a lie right before Obama’s eyes in 2009, and 2012, and 2014. And he didn’t care to see it, because he is blinded by an antipathy he wishes to ascribe to Israeli action when honesty would compel him to find it in his own misguided leftist ideology—or within his own soul.

Israel has survived the horrendous blessing of Barack Obama’s false friendship.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Barack Obama, Israel & Zionism, John Kerry, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations