The Secret Jews of the Age of Exploration

Based on the autobiographical writings of three Crypto-Jews who lived in Spanish and Portuguese colonies during the 16th and 17th centuries, Ronnie Perelis’s Narratives from the Sephardic Atlantic explores their experiences and their relationships with Judaism. Here he describes one of the three figures, Manuel Cardoso de Macedo, who—unlike the other two—was not a descendant of Jewish converts to Catholicism:

Cardoso . . . starts his life as the son of a businessman in the Azores. He goes to England to study because his father does business there, then starts rethinking his life and religion. He rejects the Catholicism of his parents and countrymen and decides to become a Calvinist—this is his first transformation. When that’s found out, he gets arrested by the Inquisition and sent to prison in Lisbon, where he meets other prisoners accused of practicing Judaism. In prison his eyes are open to the possibility that Judaism is the true path he’s been looking for all along. After his release he escapes to Amsterdam and becomes a Jew. . . .

[Despite his very different story, Cardoso’s memoir shares with the others] a sense of spiritual brotherhood. These were spiritual believers joined together to form a community beyond their ethnic ties. . . . [Today], we often think religion is driven by theology—what do you believe? We forget the power of tribe, of blood, and of community in the making of what it means to be a religious person. You’re not alone with God. You’re always with someone, and we’re ultimately all hungry for brothers and sisters with whom we can share our faith. . . .

The centrality and nourishment that community offers aren’t in contradiction with the individual journey. We often see them in tension, but I think they’re an inevitable dialectic, constantly informing and remaking each other.

Read more at YU News

More about: Conversion, History & Ideas, Judaism, Marranos, Sepharadim, Spanish Inquisition


While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy