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

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship