A Personal Look at the Spanish Inquisition

Between the wave of anti-Semitic violence in 1391 and the expulsion of all Jews in 1492, many thousands of Spanish Jews were baptized. Many of them remained in close contact with their Jewish relatives, and no small number also observed some traditional Jewish rituals in private. Concerns about such behavior, and the beliefs it suggested—as well as the equivalent practices of baptized Muslims and, later, the infiltration of Protestant doctrines—led the monarchy to create the Spanish Inquisition in 1478. This office of the Church was responsible for investigating Catholics suspected of harboring heretical ideas or engaging in blasphemous activities. (Unconverted Jews and Muslims were excluded from its jurisdiction.)

The Holy Office also kept meticulous records of its interrogations, which generally began with the simple question, “Tell us about yourself.” For Richard Kagan, these documents have been an invaluable source about the lives of former Jews and their descendants. He discusses his findings with Nachi Weinstein. (Audio, 74 minutes.)

Read more at Seforim Chatter

More about: Jewish history, Sephardim, Spanish Inquisition

How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus