How Sephardi Refugees Brought Chocolate to France

In the middle of the 16th century, Jewish converts to Christianity and their descendants—known as New Christians—began slipping from Spain and Portugal into southern France. Although this area was also officially Judenrein, here Jews had to make less effort to conceal their identities, and as time went on the communities they founded slowly became openly Jewish. One such group settled in Saint-Esprit, adjacent to the city of Bayonne and near the border with Spain. Mariana Montiel writes:

Bayonne . . . became a prosperous city with the help of its new inhabitants. Feeling safer, these crypto-Jews began to practice their Judaism. Even though they were discreet in their practice, the Christian population knew they were Jewish. They therefore could not live in Bayonne [proper] and were able only to participate in wholesale trade.

Because these Jews had ties with the thriving Sephardi community in Amsterdam, they participated in trade in spices and cocoa. They brought the secret of chocolate manufacturing to the city, making a substantial contribution to its growth and wealth.

Documents show that in 1761, the Jewish population of Saint-Esprit was reprimanded because of the symbolic transgression that its inhabitants committed by living in beautiful homes where they would leave their curtains open on Friday night, allowing the Christians to see their Shabbat candles. . . .

The 600 Sephardic Jews of Saint-Esprit at the beginning of the 18th century maintained close relations with family members who had stayed in Spain and Portugal as well as with those [who had settled] across Europe, in the Caribbean islands, and on the North and South American coasts.

Read more at Atlanta Jewish Ideas

More about: Amsterdam, Food, French Jewry, History & Ideas, Sephardim, 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