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

Is the Attempt on Salman Rushdie’s Life Part of a Broader Iranian Strategy?

Aug. 18 2022

While there is not yet any definitive evidence that Hadi Matar, the man who repeatedly stabbed the novelist Salman Rushdie at a public talk last week, was acting on direct orders from Iranian authorities, he has made clear that he was inspired by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s call for Rushdie’s murder, and his social-media accounts express admiration for the Islamic Republic. The attack also follows on the heels of other Iranian attempts on the lives of Americans, including the dissident activist Masih Alinejad, the former national security advisor John Bolton, and the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was held hostage by the mullahs for over two years, sees a deliberate effort at play:

It is no coincidence this flurry of Iranian activity comes at a crucial moment for the hitherto-moribund [nuclear] negotiations. Iranian hardliners have long opposed reviving the 2015 deal, and the Iranians have made a series of unrealistic and seemingly ever-shifting demands which has led many to conclude that they are not negotiating in good faith. Among these is requiring the U.S. to delist the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety from the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

The Biden administration and its European partners’ willingness to make concessions are viewed in Tehran as signals of weakness. The lack of a firm response in the shocking attack on Salman Rushdie will similarly indicate to Tehran that there is little to be lost and much to be gained in pursuing dissidents like Alinejad or so-called blasphemers like Sir Salman on U.S. soil.

If we don’t stand up for our values when under attack we can hardly blame our adversaries for assuming that we have none. Likewise, if we don’t erect and maintain firm red lines in negotiations our adversaries will perhaps also assume that we have none.

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Read more at iNews

More about: Iran, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy