A 200-Year-Old English Translation of a Spanish Prayer Book

July 27 2016

Following the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, and the forced conversion of Portuguese Jewry shortly thereafter, many converted Jews and their descendants continued to observe Jewish rituals in private. But knowledge of Hebrew was gradually lost among them, and many who eventually found their way to other parts of Western Europe continued to pray in Spanish. The scholar Aron Sterk’s recent discovery of an English-language prayer book casts some light on the first of these Jews to make their way to England—perhaps even before the formal re-admission of Jews in 1656. Jenni Frazer writes:

Sterk found . . . an English translation of [a printed] Spanish version of the siddur, painstakingly handwritten and copied—almost certainly, because it is full of mistakes, by someone who was not Jewish.

[Sterk] believes that [this prayer book] is one of only four copies of a translation from the Spanish version, probably printed between 1700 and 1734. . . .

The siddur, says Sterk, “is very English-looking and beautifully bound. It has a beautiful gilt black Morocco-leather binding, with gilded edges to the pages, a green silk page-marker, and lovely crimson and gold-foil ‘brocade’ endpapers with an embossed floral design. The book has been written by hand by a professional penman in an italic hand with gothic titles.” . . .

[W]hile the book itself is dateable to the early 18th century, Sterk believes that the translation is based on a much older edition of the Spanish prayer book, maybe even dating back to shortly after the first Amsterdam edition [was published] in 1612.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: British Jewry, England, History & Ideas, Marranos, Prayer books, Sephardim, Spanish Expulsion

 

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy