One of Renaissance Spain’s Leading Catholic Scholars May Have Been a Secret Jew

Beginning in the late 14th century, tens of thousands of Spanish Jews converted to Catholicism as persecution increased—culminating with the expulsion of the unconverted in 1492. Many of these conversos or “New Christians” rose to prominence; the rabbi of the city of Burgos, for instance, was baptized in 1391, was eventually ordained as a priest, and returned to Burgos to serve as its bishop. Others continued to practice Judaism in secret. According to the recent research of Ahuva Ho, Alfonso de Zamora (1474–1545/6) fell into both categories:

A graduate of the famous Campanton yeshiva in Zamora, [Alfonso] first escaped to Portugal in 1492, but for unknown reasons returned to Spain around 1497 as a converso. In a few years we find him in Salamanca as a teacher and a scribe until 1512. . . . His involvement in the editing of the first Polyglot Bible, his books, scribal and teaching positions raised his esteem and importance at the dawn of the Renaissance. Throughout [an] almost 40-year period, he was employed by the highest Catholic prelates, the archbishops of Spain, right under the watchful eye of the Inquisition.

[But Alfonso’s Hebrew] poems called out for God’s help to heal his emotional and physical pain, to release him from cursed Spain, to punish the greedy and immoral Spanish society from the king to the Church clerics. [In prose manuscripts in Hebrew], he attacked the popes and the judges and mocked King Carlos V and his administration, [as well as] judges who had converted to Christianity and abused their powers to discriminate against their fellow conversos.

Alfonso excused his stay in Spain by comparing himself to Joseph and Daniel, who remained in their respective lands in order to benefit the world by teaching the beauty of Jewish wisdom to the Gentile power structure.

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Read more at Librarians

More about: Conversion, Conversos, Jewish-Catholic relations, Judaism, Spanish Expulsion

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism