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EARLY HISTORY (250 BCE - 711 CE)  

While the area of modern-day Spain (formerly a collection of kingdoms which included Castile, Aragon, and Catalonia) was still controlled by the Holy Roman Empire, the Catholic Church convened at the Council of Elvira (the first known council of the Christian church in Spain, held early in the 4th century at Elvira, near modern Granada) where they issued 80 canonic decisions, many of which were intended to ostracize the Jews from the general Spanish community.  Canon 49, for example, prohibited Jews from blessing their crops, and Canon 50 refused communion to any cleric or layperson that ate with a Jew.

During the early 5th century, the Visigoths captured the Iberian Peninsula from Roman rule. While initially anti-Christian, the Visigoths later converted to Christianity and adopted many of the previous laws that existed during Roman rule.

Under the rein of Toledo III, children of mixed marriages were forcibly baptized and Jews were barred from holding public office. The situation got progressively worse and, in 613 CE, the Jews were ordered to convert to Christianity or face expulsion. Though many Jews chose to leave rather than convert, a large number of them still practiced Judaism in secret, a tradition that survived for centuries.

In 633, the Fourth Council of Toledo, convened to address the problem of crypto-Judaism and Marranos (Jews who converted to Christianity to escape persecution, yet observed Jewish law in private). While opposing compulsory baptism, the Council decided that if a professed Christian was determined to be a practicing Jew, his or her children were to be taken away and raised in monasteries or trusted Christian households.


The Visigoths were a group of Goths who established a Kingdom in Spain in the 6th century (see Visigoths)

King Reccared (r. 586-601) converted them from Arianism to Catholicism in 587.  Two years later, at the third Council of Toledo (Toledo III), he declared his kingdom to be officially Catholic.  This meant that the Jews were the only group not subscribing to  religious unity.

Subsequent Edicts did not differ substantially from earlier Roman and Breviary laws such as disallowing marriage between Jews and Christians, not holding public offices, not buying Christian slaves, and their slaves forced to convert to Judaism were to be freed without having to pay any indemnity.  

One ingenious device introduced for discouraging Jews from remaining Jews was inserted in the Visigothic Code (Fuero Juzgo) in 634. This law forbade Jews, under the penalty of being sold into slavery and of forfeiting all their property, to observe the principal institutions and practices of the Jewish religion: the Sabbath, the festivals, the dietary laws (kashrut), etc. These pressures apparently led to a mass conversion, for only nine years later, a decree was issued prescribing death (by beheading, by the fiery stake, or by stoning) for those caught practicing Judaism secretly.(See The Book of Jewish Knowledge, Ausubel p123)

The pressure on the Jews during the 7th century was constant as part of a general trend in Mediterranean Christian communities of the at the time. In Spain. The most eloquent adversary of the Jews was St Isidore (ca 560-636), author of On the Christian Faith against the Jews. While he disagreed with forced conversions, he argued strongly that the Jews were misguided in failing to recognise that the Messiah (i.e. Jesus) had been proclaimed.

The problem of Jewish communities in the 7th century was aggravated by the rapid turnover of rulers (14 different Visigoth kings in that period) and the increased powers of the church, thanks to its symbiotic relationship with the crown. This led to a miserable life, and news that a new religion–Islam--was spreading rapidly across the north of Africa and extending favourable treatment to Jews throughout the Mediterranean area.  In 711, Islam crossed the straits of Gibraltar.  


In the 8th century, the Berber Muslims (Moors) swiftly conquered nearly all of the Iberian Peninsula. Under Muslim rule, Spain flourished, and Jews and Christians were granted the protected status of dhimmi (see Chapter XXX).

During the “Golden Age” of Spain, Jews rose to great prominence in society, business, and government even though they did not have the same rights as Muslims,   Conditions improved so much that Jews came to Spain from all across Europe where they flourished in business, astronomy, philosophy, math, science, medicine, and religious study. There was also a resurgence of Hebrew poetry and literature from a traditional and liturgical language to a living language used to describe everyday life. Among the early Hebraists of the time were Yehudah HaLevi who became known as one of the first great Hebrew poets, and Menahem ben Saruq who compiled the first ever Hebrew dictionary.

The intellectual achievements of the Sephardim (Spanish Jews) enriched the lives of non-Jews as well. In addition to original work, they translated Greek and Arabic texts, which brought science and philosophy which became the basis of Renaissance learning, for the rest of Europe.

In the early 11th century, centralized authority based at Cordoba broke down following the Berber invasion and the ousting of the Umayyads by the Christians.  This expanded opportunities as recently conquered towns were put back in order.

Yet, despite the Jews’ success and prosperity under Muslim rule, the Golden Age of Spain began to decline as the Muslims fought the Christians for control of the Iberian Peninsula and Spanish kingdoms. The decline of Muslim authority was matched with a rise in anti-Semitic activity. In 1066, a Muslim mob stormed the royal palace in Granada, crucified Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela and massacred most of the Jewish population of the city so that 4,000 were murdered in one day. Conditions of Jews in Spain and Portugal worsened so many fled to neighboring nations. Among those fleeing were the bible commentators Abraham Ibn Ezra and Rabbi Yosef Karo (author of the Shulchan Aruch), the families of Maimonides and philosopher Baruch Spinoza.

The centuries-long battle between Christians and Muslims, (known as the Reconquista), divided neighboring regions of the Iberian Peninsula until the Christians took full control in 1492. Though initially as hostile to the Jewish population as the Muslim rulers had become, the Christians soon realized that the Jews could prove a strong ally and enlisted many of them in their war effort. They relied on the Jews for assistance in fighting the Muslim rulers as they were familiar with the local language and customs. Collaboration between the Jews and Christians brought the Jews increased persecution from Muslim rulers, but full autonomy in Christian controlled regions.


The early years of Christian rule over parts of Spain seemed promising for the Spanish Jews. Alfonso VI, the conqueror of Toledo (1085), was tolerant and benevolent toward them, for which he won the praise of Pope Alexander II. Soon after coming to power, Alfonso VI offered the Jews full equality with Christians and even the rights offered to the nobility to estrange the wealthy and industrious Jews from the Moors.  The Jews prospered and by 1098, nearly 15,000 Jews lived in Toledo, a city of 50,000.

To show their gratitude to the king for the rights granted them, the Jews willingly placed themselves at his and the country’s service. At one point, Alfonso’s army contained 40,000 Jews, who were distinguished by their black-and-yellow turbans. (So honored and important were the Jews to the Spanish army that the Spanish chose not to initiate the battle of Zallaka until after the Sabbath had passed). The king’s favoritism toward the Jews became so pronounced that Pope Gregory VII warned him not to permit Jews to rule over Christians and created their hatred and envy.

After the Christian loss at the Battle of Ucles (1108), an anti-Semitic riot broke out in Toledo; many Jews were killed and houses and synagogues burned. Alfonso intended to punish the murderers and incendiaries, but died before he could carry out his intention (1109). After his death the inhabitants of Carrion slaughtered the local Jews, others were imprisoned and their houses pillaged.

In the beginning of his reign, Alfonso VII (1111) curtailed the rights and liberties his father had granted the Jews. He ordered that neither a Jew nor a convert may exercise legal authority over Christians and he held the Jews responsible for the collection of the royal taxes. He became friendlier, giving the Jews additional privileges so they became equal to the Christians. Judah ben Joseph ibn Ezra influenced the king and after the conquest of Calatrava (1147), the king placed him in command of a fortress and later made him his court chamberlain.

Under Alfonso VIII, the Jews gained greater influence possibly helped by the king’s love of the beautiful Jewess Rachel Fermosa of Toledo. The king’s defeat at the battle of Alarcos, was attributed by many to his love affair with Fermosa and the nobility retaliated by murdering her and her relatives in Toledo.

Their condition deteriorated when the Crusaders unleashed a round of anti-Semitic riots in Toledo (1212), robbing and killing Jews across the nation.

During the 13th century, Spanish Jews of both sexes, like the Jews of France, were required to distinguish themselves from Christians by wearing a yellow badge on their clothing.  This order was issued to keep them from associating with Christians, although the reason given was that it was for their safety.  The clergy’s endeavors directed against the Jews became more pronounced. A papal bull by Pope Innocent IV in April 1250 worsened their situation by prohibiting Jews from building new synagogues without special permission, outlawing proselytizing by pain of death, and forbidding most forms of contact between Jews and Christians, forbidden to appear in public on Good Friday and forced to live as a separate political body in the Juderias (Jewish ghettos).


During the reign of Pedro I (1350-1369), the quality of Jewish life in Spain improved and the King became a well-known friend to the Jews. From the commencement of his reign, Pedro so surrounded himself with Jews that his enemies spoke derisively of his royal court as “a Jewish court.”.  In 1357, Samuel Levi financed the construction of the Sinagoga del Transito, which served as the center of Todelo's Jewish life. It is also believed that during this time kosher slaughterhouses and butchershops sprang up along the main streets of Toledo.

A civil war erupted and a rival army, led by Pedro I’s half brother Henry II, attacked the Jews. During the war, part of the Juderia of Toledo was plundered and about 12,000 Jews were murdered. The mob were unsuccessful in overrunning the Juderia proper, where the Jews, reinforced by Toledan noblemen defended themselves.

The friendlier Pedro was to the Jews and the more he protected them, the more antagonistic his half brother became. Later, when Henry II invaded Castile in 1360, he robbed and butchered the Jews living in Miranda de Ebro and Najera.

The Jews remained loyal to Pedro and fought bravely in his army. In return, Pedro showed his good will toward them and asked the King of Granada to also protect the Jews. Nevertheless, the Jews suffered greatly. Villadiego (whose Jewish community numbered many scholars), Aguilar, and many other towns were destroyed. The inhabitants of Valladolid, who paid homage to Henry, robbed the Jews, destroyed their houses and synagogues, and tore their Torah scrolls. Paredes, Palencia, and several other communities met with a similar fate.  300 Jaen Jewish families were taken prisoners to Granada. Pedro was eventually defeated and succeeded by Henry de Trastamara.


Although the Spanish Jews engaged in many activities —agriculture, viticulture, industry, commerce, and handicrafts — it was finance that gave them their wealth and influence. Kings and prelates, noblemen and farmers, all needed money and could obtain it only from the Jews who were forced to act as bailiffs, tax-farmers or tax-collectors as Christians were forbidden from charging each other interest rates. Because of their acquired wealth, as well as government anti-Semitism, Jews were forced to pay additional and exorbitant taxes to the King.

from ‘Jews, God and History’, Max Dimont 1994 p242on
See also  Video on Disputations

The “religious disputation” was the innovation of apostate Jews, many of whom had studied the Talmud.  To show their learning to their new Christian brothers or, perhaps, to curry favour with the Church, they suggested that a public disputation, would show how wrong the Jews were and then the entire Jewish community might convert.

These religious disputations, called ‘tournaments of God and faith’ were a combination of intellectual chess and Russian roulette. If the Jewish scholars could not disprove the charges of the Christian scholars arrayed against them, then an entire Jewish community faced the threat of a forced march to the baptismal font.  If, on the other hand, they mocked the Christian scholars with superior Jewish scholarship, they ran the danger of being put to death. It took gamesmanship of the finest order to walk the thin thread of a ploy which ceded victory to the other side without yielding on the main points. Only those with strong nerves survived, and the judges, which might include a pope or an emperor, were often left agape at the Jewish display of scholarship, audacity, and deftness. The Jews usually won by not checkmating their opponents but by stalemating them. The trick was to drive the opponent into a comer where, if he claimed victory, he would have to deny the authority of the Old Testament, which would have been heresy. Luther, who was familiar with such disputations, borrowed this technique in his disputation with the Catholic. Johann Maier von Eck. When Eck, after having cited a fourth-century saint as his authority, asked Luther whom he claimed as his, Luther triumphantly shouted, “Saint Paul.”  Who dares to trump Saint Paul?

also   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disputation_of_Paris

As part of its evangelistic efforts, the Church sought to win the beliefs of the Jews through debate. The Jews prided themselves in having a rationally superior faith and believed that Judaism could not be refuted by reason while Christianity was ultimately irrational.

Nicholas Donin represented the Christian side of the debate. He was a member of the Franciscan Order and a Jewish convert to Christianity. He had translated theTalmud and pressed 35 charges against it to Pope Gregory IX by quoting a series of blasphemous passages about Jesus, Mary or Christianity. There is a Talmudic passage, for example, where Jesus of Nazareth is sent to Hell to be boiled in excrement for eternity. Donin also selected an injunction of the Talmud that permits Jews to kill non-Jews.  Louis IX, who sponsored the debate, was a sworn enemy of Judaism, at one time mentioning that only skilled clerks could conduct a disputation with Jews but that laymen should plunge a sword into those who speak ill of the Christ.

Four of the most distinguished rabbis of France, Yechiel of Paris, Moses of Coucy, Judah of Melun, and Samuel ben Solomon of Château-Thierry, represented the Jewish side of the debate.

The disputation demanded that the four rabbis defend the Talmud against Donin's accusations that the Talmud contains blasphemies against the Christian religion, attacks on Christians themselves, blasphemies against God, and obscene folklore. The attacks on Christianity were from passages referencing Jesus and Mary. There is a passage, for example, of someone named Jesus who was sent to Hell to be boiled in excrement for eternity. The Jews denied that this is the Jesus of the Bible, stating “not every Louis born in France is king.”

Maccoby gives his opinion that the Jewish representatives in the Paris disputation were less than forthcoming. There are ancient Jewish polemics against the Jesus of Christianity such as the Toledot Yeshu, and the Jesus who was portrayed in the Talmud fits that portrayal. Among the obscene and odd folklore, there are passages that Og of Bashan was a giant. There is also a story that Adam copulated with each of the animals before finding Eve. Noah, according to the Talmudic legends, was castrated by his son Ham.   It was common for Christians to equate the religion of the Jews with the Israelite Mosaic Faith of the Old Testament. The Church was therefore surprised to realize that the Jews had developed an authoritative Talmud to complement their understanding of the Bible. Maccoby believed that the purpose of the Paris disputation was to rid the Jews of their belief in the Talmud, in order that they might return to Old Testament Judaism and eventually embrace Christianity.

The hostility of the Church during this disputation may have had less to do with the Church’s attitude and more to do with the Christian proponent, Nicholas Donin. The style of Donin’s argumentation exploited controversies that were debated within Judaism at the time. Maccoby also suggests that the disputation may have been motivated by Donin’s previous affiliations with the Karaite Jews, and that Donin’s motivations for joining the Church involved his desire to attack rabbinic tradition.

A commission of Christian theologians condemned the Talmud to be burned and on June 17, 1244 twenty-four carriage loads of Jewish religious manuscripts were set on fire in the streets of Paris..


The most famed of these gamesmanship disputations took place in 1263, before King James I of Aragon, when the scholar Moses ben Nachman (Nachmanides) was challenged to a verbal duel by an apostate named Fra Paulo Christiani on the subject of the arrival of the messiah. Nachman introduced a little wit into this disputation with such grace that the king, though adjudging him loser for his own safety, gave him a handsome gift of money and the compliment that “never before had he heard such an unjust cause so nobly defended.”

From Jewish Virtual Library

Though their holy texts were often burned by royal decree, and many Jews were forced to convert to Christianity, during the rule of King James of Aragon (a Christian-ruled province of Spain) the Spanish monarchy started to take an interest in Jewish philosophy and religion, if only so that they could better understand Jews and convince them to convert. In 1263, King James convened a special council of Dominican (Christian) and Jewish clergymen to debate three key theological issues: whether the Messiah had already appeared, whether the Messiah was divine or human, and which religion was the true faith. Nachmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman Gerondi, Ramban), a Jewish theologian and philosopher was called upon to represent the Jews; while Friar Pablo Christiani, a Jew who later converted to Christianity, represented the Church.

The disputation lasted four days and drew the attention of the entire Jewish community. Though the King granted Nachmanides the freedom to speak freely, the Jewish community feared that any statement that offended the King would lead to increased persecution. As the disputation turned in favor of Nachmanides the Jews of Barcelona entreated him to discontinue; but the King, whom Nachmanides had acquainted with the apprehensions of the Jews, desired him to proceed. At the end of disputation, King James awarded Nachmanides  a prize and declared that never before had he heard “an unjust cause so nobly defended.” Despite the King’s declaration, the Dominicans still claimed victory, which led Nachmanides to publish a transcript of the debate to prove his case. From this publication, Christiani selected certain passages which he construed as blasphemies against Christianity and denounced to his general Raymond de Penyafort. A capital charge was then instituted, and a formal complaint against the work and its author was lodged with the King. King James mistrusted the Dominican court and called an extraordinary commission, ordering the proceedings to be conducted in his presence.  Nachmanides admitted that he had stated many things against Christianity, but he had written nothing which he had not used in his disputation in the presence of the King, who had granted him freedom of speech.

The justice of his defense was recognized by the King and the commission, but to satisfy the Dominicans, Nachmanides was sentenced to exile for two years and his pamphlet was condemned to be burned. The Dominicans, however, found this punishment too mild and, through Pope Clement IV, they succeeded in turning the two years exile into perpetual banishment. Nachmanides left Aragon never to return again and, in 1267, he settled in the Land of Israel. There he founded the oldest active synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem, the Ramban Synagogue

Haaretz  Nov 12, 2012, David B Green

In 1414, the Disputation of Tortosa, a 19-month debate on the respective truth of Judaism and Christianity, came to an end in Tortosa, Catalonia. The disputation, the longest of several public, Church-mandated discussions held during the Middle Ages, was not an open inquiry into the beliefs of the two faiths, but rather, as defined by the Antipope Benedict XIII, intended to use Jewish sources to prove that Jesus was the Messiah and that Christianity had superseded its mother religion.

The Christian side of the disputation was led by Geronimo de Santa Fe, formerly known as Joshua Lorqui, a Jewish convert and physician to Benedict,  whose claims that Jewish texts pointed to the coming of Jesus as redeemer prompted the antipope to order the contest.

(Benedict reigned from 1394 to 1423, but most of that time was not recognized by the Rome-based Church as the legitimate pope – hence the title of “antipope. His decision to host a disputation was probably intended to attract support to his claim to the papacy.)

The disputation took place over three stages. Geronimo led the presentation of the case for Christianity, while on the Jewish side, subpoenas went out to communities throughout Catalonia and Aragon for scholars to defend the religion. Among them were Joseph Albo and Zerahia Halevi Ferrer. These defenders were at a considerable disadvantage because, while their official mission was to prove the truth of the Jewish faith, they were at risk of being charged with heresy if they made the case too energetically.   

There are both Jewish and Christian transcriptions of the debates, in Hebrew and Latin, respectively. According to the records, the discussions addressed the meaning of the Messianic age and the question of whether it had come yet or not; whether the Messiah was intended for the Jews alone or all humanity; which Hebrew sources – the midrashic texts versus the Talmud, for example -- are to be relied upon for understanding Judaism; and even whether such sources are to be understood for their literal meaning or only allegorically.

By January 1414, when the third stage of the disputation began, most of the Jewish scholars had withdrawn from the discussion, having been away from their homes for so long. Among those who remained, most refused at a certain point to continue responding to the arguments made by Geronimo. Many others, however, had converted to Christianity during the course of the disputation, along with many hundreds of other Iberian Jews.  

Benedict ultimately declared the Church the winner of the disputation. Geronimo demanded the burning of the Talmud as the consequence of a Jewish defeat, but the pope sufficed with an order that copies of the Talmud be collected so that passages considered insulting to Christianity could be subjected to censorship. The disappointing showing by the Jews inspired a number of texts in subsequent years -- including one by Joseph Albo, who wrote a book of Jewish basics called “The Book of Principles” - that responded to some of the troubling questions raised during the disputation.

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/this-day-in-jewish-history/this-day-in-jewish-history-the-disputation-of-tortosa-comes-to-an-end.premium-1.476992

from ‘Jews, God and History’, Max Dimont 1994, p241

The first burnings of the Talmud took place in 1244 in Paris and Rome and four times more in fourteenth-century France. There were no more burnings for two hundred years. The two worst years for Talmud burning were 1553 and 1554, when it went to the stake twelve times in Italy. It was burned twice more in Rome in 1558 and 1559, and then the fashion ended. In Eastern Europe, the Talmud was burned once, in 1757.

The interesting aspect about Talmud burning is not that the Talmud was sent to the stake, as in the Middle Ages translations of the New Testament in languages other than Latin were consigned to the flames more frequently than the Talmud. The interesting aspect is that the Old Testament in Hebrew was never sent to the stake. Though Torah scrolls often were trampled underfoot by screaming mobs looting synagogues, or burned with the synagogue itself, such acts were never sanctioned by the Church and the Torah was never officially condemned. Though Judaism was reviled as a blasphemy, though Jews were killed for being unbelievers, the Torah itself was looked upon with respect, for it was the Law of God. As one Pope expressed it. “We praise and honor the Law, for it was given to your fathers by Almighty God through Moses. But we condemn your religion and your false interpretation of the Law."


The Jews of the Middle Ages probably had the distinction of being the first captive audience in the world. A fifteenth- century pope conceived the idea of mass conversion sermons. The Jews were herded into cathedrals, where bishops and archbishops, and sometimes even the Pope himself, would sermonize them on the evils of Judaism and the beauties of Christianity. Vigilance was the word for survival, as falling asleep would be a discourtesy for which death alone could atone. The Jews attended these sermons with trepidation, applauded with enthusiasm, and forgot with modesty. These compulsory conversion sermons lasted until late into the eighteenth century, not because of any practical results, but, may it be suggested, because no speaker could resist being flattered by such attentive audiences.


A new era of suffering and persecution started when Henry II became King in 1369.  Prolonged warfare devastated the land, and the people became accustomed to lawlessness. The Jews were reduced to extreme poverty and later expelled.  In addition, Henry II decreed that Jews

Be kept far from palaces.  Were forbidden to hold public office.  Must live separate from Christians.  Should not wear costly garments nor ride on mules.  Must wear distinct badges to indicate that they were Jewish.  Were barred from adapting Christian names.  Were forbidden to carry arms and sell weapons.

Despite his aversion to the Jews, Henry could not dispense with their services. He employed wealthy Jews—Samuel Abravanel and others—as financial councillors and tax collectors. He also did not prevent them from holding religious disputations or deny them the right to conduct their own court proceedings. He died in 1379.


Riots broke out in Seville led by a priest called Ferrand Martinez who had begun an anti-Jewish campaign in 1378. In public sermons, filled with hatred of the Jews, he called on all good Christians to destroy the 23 beautiful synagogues of the Jewish community of Seville, lock Jews up in a ghetto, have no dealings with them, and force them to accept Christianity. He preached that it was no crime for Christians to murder and pillage the "unbelievers".  He concentrated on the peasants and lower classes of Andalusia by urging them not to give peace to their Jewish neighbours.

In 1390, after the death of the archbishop, he became the chief deacon and church administrator of the region and continued his Jew-baiting with greater vigour when a blood-thirsty mob fell on the Jewish quarter of Seville killing all Jews falling into their hands and refusing baptism.  Many women and children were sold into slavery.  He was made a saint (see Jewish Encyclopedia)

Some, educated in talmudic yeshivot put their talents to the service of the Church, one Paulus (or Paul or Pablo) de Santa Maria (formerly Solomon Halevi, 1352-1435) was almost elected Pope in Avignon and became Primate of the Spanish Church.   He acted as Ferrand’s evil genius and urged him to greater ferocity to convert or exterminate the Jews.

A feeling of how the Jews reacted is given by Chaim Potok in 'Wanderings' p308

They would use their weapons to hold off the mobs.  But when it was clear that defeat was near, they would accept it as a sign from God that their deaths had been decreed. There might be a pause in the battle. The men would gather for a final decision.  To let themselves and their families be taken alive by such mobs was unthinkable. Jewish law developed a benediction for the act of martyrdom. Fathers would cut the throats of their wives and children and say aloud "Hear O Israel the Lord is God, the Lord is One" and commit suicide.

They died without doubting the unfathomable judgement of heaven. They felt themselves linked to the patriarch Abraham and his act of faith when he nearly sacrificed Isaac......They saw themselves continuing in the tradition of the Pietists who died fighting the Hellenists.  It was a charged, passionate choice made with the certainty that the world to come was a living reality and its rewards awaited them when they fulfilled their ultimate duty as Jews.

Accounts make it clear...that Jews were fully aware of their actions; they were testifying to the truth and continuing reality of the original covenant and to the cruelty and emptiness of the Christianity that had forced them to such a choice.  Martyrdom was an aggressive act of denial, a publicly performed act sanctifying the name of God.  During the heat of battle and before the act of suicide, Jews would shout words of derision about Jesus.  Some let themselves be taken alive, agreed to baptism and then spat on the crucifix, knowing they might be torn to pieces by the infuriated crowd.

Violence spread to other towns in Andalusia, the southern province of Castille, and then swept northward to Burgos. Within three months most of the flourishing Jewish communities in all the Christian States of Spain - Castille, Aragon, Valencia, Catalonia, as well as the Balearic Islands-were destroyed.

After the wave of conversions in 1391, three loose groups emerged: Jews who held fast to their faith and religious practice; Jews who converted to Christianity and were absorbed by Christian society and those who existed outwardly as Christians but practiced Judaism in secret.

Many were affected.  Numbers are disputed with up to 100,000 Jews dead, 100,000 leaving and 100,000 converting to Christianity. By 1415 it is claimed a further 50,000 converted to Christianity.  Those converting, but became secret Jews, were indistinguishable from those who were not.  Jews who considered their brethren to be forced converts referred to them as anussim (literally "forced ones"). The term marrano literally ‘pig’ became a term of opprobrium applied to secret Jews

From The Jewish Virtual Library

A revolt broke out in Seville after the death of King John I in 1390, leading to a period of disorder which greatly affected the Jewish community of Spain in the coming years. On Ash Wednesday 1391, Ferrand Martinez, the Archdeacon of Ecija, urged Christians to kill or baptize the Jews of Spain. On June 6, the mob attacked the Juderia in Seville from all sides and murdered 4,000 Jews; the rest submitted to baptism as the only means of escaping death. The riots then spread across the countryside destroying many synagogues and murdering thousands of Jews in the streets. During the months-long riots, the Cordova Juderia was burned down and over 5,000 Jews ruthlessly murdered regardless of age or sex. Many Jews converted as the only way to escape death.

Soon after, a series of laws were passed to reduce the Jews to poverty and further humiliate them. Under these laws, the Jews were ordered to:

Live by themselves in enclosed Juderias;     Banned from practicing medicine, surgery, or chemistry.   Banned from selling commodities such as bread, wine, flour, meat, etc.     Banned from engaging in handicrafts or trades of any kind.   Forbidden to hire Christian servants, farm hands, lamplighters, or gravediggers.     Banned from eating drinking, bathing, holding intimate conversation with, visiting, or giving presents to Christians.     Banned from holding public offices or acting as money-brokers or agents.     Christian women, married or unmarried, were forbidden to enter the Juderia either by day or by night.     Allowed no self-jurisdiction whatever, nor might they, without royal permission, levy taxes for communal purposes.     Forbidden to assume the title of “Don”.     Forbidden to carry arms.     Forbidden to trim beard or hair.     Jewesses were required to wear plain, long garments of coarse material reaching to the feet, and Jews were forbidden to wear garments made of fine material.     On pain of loss of property and even of slavery, Jews were forbidden to leave the country.     Any grandee or knight who protected or sheltered a fugitive Jew was punished with a fine of 150,000 maravedís for the first offense.

These laws were strictly enforced, and calculated to compel the Jews to embrace Christianity.

Though targeted against the Jews all Spain suffered.  Commerce and industry were at a standstill, the soil was left uncultivated and finances disturbed.  In Aragon entire communities such as Barcelona, Lerida, and Valencia were destroyed, and many lost more than half their population and were reduced to poverty.

After the persecutions of 1391, many Jews converted, and still thousands more continued to practice Judaism in secret (these people were known as Marranos). On account of their talent and wealth, and through intermarriage with noble families, the converts and Marranos gained considerable influence and filled important government offices. To restore commerce and industry, Queen Maria, consort of Alfonso V and temporary regent, endeavored to draw Jews to the country by offering them rights and privileges while making emigration difficult by imposing higher taxes.

EXPULSION OF THE JEWS, 1492                                                                    

In 1469, Isabel, the sister of King Henry IV of Castile, married Ferdinand, the son of John II of Aragon.  By 1479 they ruled Castile and Aragon together and aimed to strengthen the Spanish church by using the Inquisition to find those practicing Judaism.. On March 31, 1492 the Edict of Expulsion was issued when they decided that the Inquisition had not achieved its aims.  Spanish Jews given four months to sell their property and leave the country.  They claimed that prior attempts to stop Christians from returning to their Jewish roots had failed.  Expulsion was the only way to guarantee Jews would not influence Spanish Christians.

Even though the root causes of expulsions between countries differed, the end result was the same.  The rulers profited in the short run as debts were cancelled and property lost. Jewish merchants, officially or not, soon returned where their financial contributions proved invaluable to the economy. This did not apply to Spain where it was hundreds of years before Jews were allowed to return

Torquemada a pious Dominican monk became confessor to Princess Isabella, the heiress of Castile. She was crowned in 1473 and he became Spain's Inquisitor General a decade later.  In his fifteen years as head of the Spanish Inquisition it grew from a single tribunal in Seville to a network of two dozen “Holy Offices” creating panic and terror.

Spain was unified with the capture of Granada in 1492. Catholicism would then be the only religion allowed to implement the religious zeal of the country. The Jews had different beliefs and so would have to be expelled. The official reason was that the Jews encouraged the Conversos (Jews who had converted to Christianity) to persist in their Jewishness and so would not allow them to become good Christians.

Passing the Edict of Expulsion was unusual as two of Isabella and Ferdinands most trusted senior advisors were Jewish – Abraham Senior  (1410-1512) and Isaac Abrabanel  (1437-1508).

Abraham Senior was the Court rabbi of Castile, and royal tax-farmer-in-chief who brought about the marriage of the Infanta (later, Queen) Isabella to Ferdinand of Aragon and later (1473) reconciled Isabella and her brother, Henry IV. of Castile. In token of her gratitude she gave him a life pension of 100,000 maravedis. 

He was very interested in his persecuted coreligionists.. For example, through him the Castilian Jews raised a large sum to ransom Jews taken prisoners at the capture of Malaga.

On hearing of the Edict of Expulsion he went with Isaac Abrabanel to implore the Queen to spare them. After the expulsion he and his son were baptized in Valladolid, the King and Queen and the Primate of Spain acted as sponsors and he assumed the name Ferrad [Fernando] Perez Coronel. Possibly his age (82) accounted for this action. His son David Senior Coronel was also distinguished

Isaac Abrabanel, a Portuguese Jewish statesman, banker, and scholar, born in Lisbon and educated in rabbinical and Latin learning. In 1471 he succeeded his father Judah as treasurer to Alfonso V.  On the succession of John II in 1481 he was expelled from the royal court and migrated to Spain and entered the service of Ferdinand and Isabella as Finance Minister (1484-92) to whom he lent money to finance the war against Granada.

A repeated story is that as Finance Minister he offered the King and Queen a vast sum if they would not sign the Edict of Expulsion. Torquemeda, listening behind a door feared they were wavering and burst in holding a crucifix over his head crying “Behold the saviour whom the wicked Judas sold for thirty pieces of silver.  If you approve this deed then sell him for a great sum.”  Frightened the Royal couple signed the order.


How many Jews were expelled is disputed. For example Martin Gilbert in ‘The Illustrated Atlas of Jewish Civilisation’ estimates that there were 230,000 in Spain.  Of these 50,000 were baptised and remained, 20,000 died on their way to their future country and 160,000 settled elsewhwere.  Max Dimont in ‘Jews, God and History p228’ estimates that 150,000 Jews were in Spain.  Of these 50,000 were baptised and remained, 10,000 died en route so 90,000 emigrated.  This saw the creation of a new diaspora in Europe, Turkey, North Africa and (eventually) America. The Expulsion from Spain as seen by a Jew in Italy’ is quoted by Sharon Keller in ‘The Jews in Literature and Art’ pp106-9 (Kohrmann, 1992)’.    

It is estimated that in 1500 the population of Spain was 5,000,000 (Spain's Demographic Evolution).  So, according to Gilbert the Jews accounted for 4.6% of the Spanish population, 1% stayed and 3.6% left for other countries.

See ‘Jewish and Converso Population in Fifteenth Century Spain’ by Norman Roth (2002) for the problems involved in estimating the number of Jews.


Dimont (p228) goes on to say

‘throughout, North Africa, Egypt  and the Ottoman Empire the Jews enjoyed almost complete religious and economic freedom for several centuries.  Though the Turks were looked upon by the Christians as the scourge of Christendom, Turkish policy towards the Jews for many years approximated that of the former Islamic Empire.’

To gain high office in Spain before about 1650 (?) proof had to be given that your ancestors had been Christians for some generations. (The actual number varied over time and also depended on the office). This was based on the idea that practicing a religion in secret was almost impossible to keep up for more than 2-3 generations. (This foreshadowed the Nazi requirement for the 'Ariernachweis').

Every Christian over twelve (for girls) and fourteen (for boys) was fully accountable to the Inquisition. Heretics and Conversos were the primary targets, but anyone who spoke against the Inquisition fell under suspicion. To help guard against the spread of heresy, Torquemada promoted the burning of non-Catholic literature, especially Jewish Talmuds and Arabic books, after the capture of Granada. Torquemada travelled with 50 mounted guards and 250 armed men to impress and intimidate the population. He died in 1498

The guide for informers to help identify a secret Jew included a long list of habits or characteristics such as the following:

* Put before your neighbour morsels of food such as pork, rabbit and conger eels and if he refuses to eat, he is a Jew.

* Watch with great care everything your neighbour does on Friday. Does he put on fresh linen?  Does he light candles at least an hour before honest men do?  Does his wife clean the house that day?  If you catch him doing those thing, you have a Jew.

As a result people often ate pork and went to church or the cathedral to prove their 'Christian credentials'.

James Michener tells the story of the scholar Tomas de Salamanca. One day his nine year old son burst into the street shouting "my father whipped me. He fasts on Yom Kippur." After investigations lasting seven years sixty three of his close associates were burnt alive. Among them were seventeen nuns who said Jewish prayers in their convent, thirty monks, seven priests and two bishops.

The psychological climate caused by fear of being taken by the Inquisition explains why conversos led secret lives.  This is vividly brought to life in books and films about this period. This secrecy still exists.  In 2006 while in Belmonte (see Chapter XXX) we met someone who had just been made redundant as his employer discovered he was Jewish.  He was now moving to Belmonte to be with other Jews. He, and others, said this was due to the growing influence of the Catholic Opus Dei movement in Portugal.

Auto de fe (or auto da fe, or auto da fé in Portuguese, was the medieval Spanish for "act of faith", a ritual of public penance or humiliation of condemned heretics and apostates that took place when the Spanish Inquisition had decided their punishment. Punishments for those convicted ranged from wearing a special identifying penitential tabard or "sanbenito", imprisonment, to being burnt.

It was the secular state that performed executions, usually for a repeated heresy Obdurate prisoners were burned alive, but if reconciled to the church only strangled at the stake before the faggots were lit.  (For more detail go to The Inquisition Chapter XXXXX)


The death of Sebastian I in 1578 saw a dynastic crisis that was resolved in 1580 when Spain’s Phillip II invaded Portugal. Ultimately, Philip III tried to make Portugal a Spanish province, and Portuguese nobles stood to lose all of their power. This led to the revolution in 1640 so that sixty years after its creation Portugal and Spain were again split. 

About twenty thousand Portuguese New Christians left Portugal for Spain as the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions were separate and no extradition provision existed. They would have a 'clean record' and be in one of the largest economies in Europe which was beginning to realise the efect of the 1492 expulsion  Even the Spanish Inquisition concentrated on earlier, 'veteran' conversos. This resulted in a ‘Spanish problem’

About  twenty thousand Portuguese New Christians left Portugal for Spain knowing the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions were separate and no extradition provision existed so they would have a 'clean record' ..  Spain was beginning to realise the efect of the large exodus of 1492. Even the Spanish Inquisition concentrated on earlier, 'veteran' conversos. The immigrant conversos aroused intense resentment among Spain's Old Christian establishment. Eventually the Inquisition took notice.

Any lingering Jewish identity among the fourty thousand New Christians who stayed in Spain after the 1492 expulsion had virtually vanished.  With a substantial New Christian population Spain became obsessed with a 'new' Jewish problem and the word 'Portuguese' became virtually synonymous with 'Jew'.  The Spanish Inquisition operated with renewed activity. with the total backing of Felipe II. The Counter-Reformation was in full swing, and as its leader and champion in zealotry the Spanish ruler was not prepared to tolerate even the faintest deviation from his empire’s religious homogeneity. As before, it relied on many secret informers.


Europeans and the Spanish Crown were interested in regulating the flow of individuals in and out of Latin America. The ability to strictly regulate the flow of people allowed the Spanish Crown to keep a firm grip on power in the Americas focusing on insuring only true Christians were granted access. Politics and law were linked meaning that if individuals did not follow the same religion and so the same values and morals, governance could become difficult. Control was exercised by having to provide proof of religion by personal testimonies. For example

Francisca de Figueroa, an African-Iberian woman seeking entrance into the Americas, petitioned the Spanish Crown in 1600 to obtain a license to sail to Cartagena. A witness attesting to her religious purity, Elvira de Medina wrote,“this witness knows that she and parents and her grandparents have been and are Old Christians and of unsullied cast and lineage. They are not of Moorish or Jewish caste or of those recently converted to Our Holy Catholic Faith.”  In 1601 a Decree from His Majesty was presented, which read, “My presidents and official judges of the Case de Contraction of Seville. I order you to allow passage to the Province of Cartagena for Francisca de Figueroa...”


In Christianity ‘heresy’ is often used to indicate any non-orthodox belief such as Paganism and can only be committed by someone who considers himself a Christian but rejects the teachings of the Catholic Church. A person who completely renounces Christianity is not considered a heretic, but an apostate, and a person who renounces the authority of the Church but not its teachings is a schismatic. (Note: This was a widespread concept, for example the Boston martyrs in 1659, 1660, and 1661 saw the persecution of heretics under Protestant rule).

In later years, the Church instituted the Inquisition, an official body charged with the suppression of heresy. This began as an extension and more rigorous enforcement of pre-existing episcopal powers (possessed, but little used, by bishops in the early Middle Ages) to inquire about and suppress heresy.  It later became the domain of selected Dominican monks under the direct power of the Pope.  (for more information see Chapter xxxx The Inquisition)


On 2 January 1492, the Catholic Kings entered Grenada with great pomp and ceremony. The capture  of the remaining region in Spain controlled by the Muslims  strengthened the drive for complete religious homogeneity. To achieve this there were two obstacles, secret Jews and Muslims see Chapter XXXXX Moriscos).  Restrictions of their rights was not enough. Purity of faith became a Spanish obsession:

Converts (conversos) became the victims of the purity obsession. Secret Jews were called Marranos (pigs) and their descendants were forbidden to occupy public office, to belong to corporations, colleges, orders, and live in some towns.

Public positions were restricted to Christians "of impeccable descent," that is those not suspected of Jewish ancestry. As no more Jews existed New Christians fitted the bill. As time went on more stringent efforts were made to exhume any overlooked trace of impure ancestors.

Until 1860 "purity of blood" was a prerequisite to being accepted into the Military Academy. The most prestigious of Spanish colleges, San Bartolome of Salamanca, boasted that they rejected any candidate against whom the slightest rumor existed of Jewish ancestry. Since no one could be sure of their "blood purity since time immemorial," the blemish was negotiable through bribed witnesses, shuffled genealogies, and falsified documents. Today a special aura is often attributed to this supposed "unity of faith" of classic Spain.

The obsession with purity of blood may be related to the frequency with which blood libels were fabricated in Spain. There are still Spanish priests who openly revere in their churches the false memory of a martyr boy ritually murdered by blood-drinking Jews. In the St. Nicholas Church in Sevilla there is an altar devoted to Dominguito del Val, "murdered by Jews in 1250."  The hate-filled atmosphere created by the libels generated collective hysteria. Not surprisingly, the 1492 expulsion took place the year after the blood libel of La Guardia, which gave birth to the cult venerating the memory of the "holy martyr boy."

With time, details have been added to this story which assumed epic proportions. Each century produced a literary masterpiece that reiterated the topic. In 1583 Fray Rodrigo de Yepes wrote the Story of the Death and Glorious Martyrdom of the Innocent Saint called de La Guardia (after almost a century of Jew-free Spain) and the plot of this work was the basis for Lope de Vega's The Innocent Child of La Guardia. During the eighteenth century, Jose de Canizares adapted it in The Very Image of Christ, as did Gustavo Adolfo Becquer (1830-1870) in his story The Rose of Passion. In 1943 Manuel Romero de Castilla again published the libel under the title A Unique Event during the Kingdom of the Catholic Monarchs.

Of the two blood libels still celebrated worldwide, one is in Spain commemorating the time in 1415 when the synagogue of Segovia was confiscated and its leaders executed after an earthquake was interpreted as a divine punishment for Jewish blood rituals.

Infant John of Aragon took part in some of the accusations. In 1367 in Barcelona, several Jewish sages (Hasdai Crescas, Nissim Gerondi, and Isaac Ben Sheshet) were among those arrested when the whole community (including children) was locked up in the synagogue for three days without food. Since they steadfastly refused to confess to a blood crime, the king ordered that they should be freed and three Jews were executed. Ten years later there were similar cases in Teruel and Huesca.

The end of the Spanish Jewish community was tragic in the suffering involved, the collective memory of the demonic image of the Jews, and a fear of blood impurity. Rafael Cansinos Assens, one of the most important modern Spanish authors has said "With the edict of expulsion of 1490, the Jews disappeared from Spain and from its literature...the Jew is erased from the consciousness of the Spaniard."19


A few Jews returned to Spain in the 19th century, and synagogues were opened in Madrid. The Jews of Morocco, where the initial welcome turned to oppression welcomed the Spanish troops conquering Spanish Morocco as liberators. Spanish historians started to take an interest in the Sephardim and their language.

The government of Miguel Primo de Rivera, 1923-1930, returned Spanish citizenship to Sephardim.

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the synagogues were closed and post-war worship remained in private homes. Jews could be investigated by anti-Semitic police officers.

While there was rhetoric against the "Judaeo-Masonic conspiracy by neutral Spain 25,600 Jews used Spain to escape the Germans as long as they "passed through leaving no trace". Spanish diplomats such as Ángel Sanz Briz and Giorgio Perlasca protected some 4,000 Jews and accepted 2,750 Jewish refugees from Hungary.

In 1986 after many years of negotiation, the PSOE relations were established with Israel in 1986, denying the reason was connected with the European Economic Community.  Spain now serves as a bridge between Israel and the Arabs as seen in the Madrid Conference of 1991.

The Jewish Spanish community is now mainly from Northern Africa, especially the former Spanish colonies and Argentinia.

There are over 50,000 Spanish Jews with the largest communities in Barcelona and Madrid each with around 3,500 members.  Smaller communities include Alicante, Málaga, Tenerife, Granada, Valencia,Benidorm, Cadiz, Murcia.  

Sefarad 92 marked the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. The principal event was President Chaim Herzog of Israel and Spain's King, Juan Carlos, prayinng together in Madrid’s Beth Yaakov synagogue to symbolise their reconciliation.

As YIDDISH is the language associated with Ashkenasim so LADINO is associated with Sephardim.  Its development is described in Jhttp://www.sefarad.org/hosted/english/eblul/judeo-spanish.html


From King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, the (now abdicated) King and Queen of Spain
( From Epilogue to  The MEZZUZAH in the Madonna's Foot, Harper Collins 1994 )    

Although I began my quest without a clear agenda beyond exploring my past, each trip to Spain, and each new experience   with the people I met there, convinced me that a real change in the relationship between the Spanish and Jewish peoples was possible.  To-day, with only a minuscule Jewish population in their midst, most Spaniards still carry distorted stereotypical images of the Jew.  The time to heal old wounds, to sweep away obsolete myths to clear  the way for a genuine rapprochement between our two peoples is long overdue.

Even before I began my journey, I suspected that the reigning monarchs of Spain were favorably disposed towards Jews.  This impression was confirmed in 1987 when King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia were invited to a special ceremony at 'Iemple Tiberth Israel in Los Angeles. His Majesty's appreciation of the role of Jews in the historic fabric of Spain and his hope for a reconciliation between the Spanish and Jewish peoples was clearly spelled out in the fol­lowing excerpts from his address to the Sephardic community.

"How can we not, on this momentous occasion, recall the role played by the Jewish community throughout centuries of Spanish history? Its contribution to letters, science, and the arts during the Middle Ages, and the beauty of the synagogues, such as that of the Trânsito or Santa Maria la Blanca in Toledo, constitute a legacy in which we all acknowledge the rich variety of the Jewish culture and traditions.

The search for an identity and respect for the traditions that chiaracterize the Jewish people have been forged in the setting of countless adverse and difficult circumstances: unjust and unnec­essary expulsions, persecution and intolerance, culminating, more recently, in the tragedy of the Holocaust. From all this adversity, the Jewish people were able to draw teachings with a view to consolidating their faith and their traditions, in an exemplary struggle for their survival.

Today's Spain is proud of its close kinship with the (Jewish) community, which has contributed in a very special way to the prosperity of this great country.

I should like to convey to this community the greeting of a Spain in which in full conscience assumes responsibility for the negative as well as the positive aspects of its historic past. This is also a unique opportunity to emphasize the will for peace and friendship that animates the Spanish people, who see this community as part of its own history"

In 1992 Spain commemorates Sefarad'92, an event which has very special connotations for the Spanish as well as the Jewish people, whose ancestors had to leave Spain in 1492, a land they loved and where their culture blossomed for so many centuries. This anniversary is a good occasion to consider the negative impact of intolerance and prejudice, prevailing in Europe during that time, and above all it is an occasion to pay tribute to the golden age of Spanish Jewry.

The poetry of Yehuda Halevy, the scientific and philosophic inno­vations of Maimonides, and the profound contribution to astronomy by Abraham Zacuto, just to cite a few names, are inscribed with golden letters in the books of literature, philosophy, and science. We should also remember the example of tolerance and peaceful coexistence given by Jewish, Christian, and Islamic communities in Toledo, which made that city one of the most extraordinary centers of culture during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

This book also contributes to our common history with a very im­portant and not very well known chapter. By means of personal ac­counts we are told how the lives of many Jews were preserved during the Second World War, when thousands of foreign Jews were sheltered in Spain or granted asylum in Spanish embassies throughout the world. Although these episodes could be considered a historical paradox, con­sidering the situation in Spain at that time, they are in fact not so sur­prising, because they originate in a profound historical connection.

The Expulsion of the Jews in 1492 did not sever the link between Spain and the Jewish world. Jewish culture was kept alive in Spain thanks to Crypto-Jewish families, and outside the boundaries of the peninsula, first in the Mediterranean basin and the Near East, and later in the Spanish territories of North and South America. While Spain was taking its language and culture to the New World, the dis­persed Sephardim disseminated their culture to the far corners of the globe, a legacy for which the Spanish people should be thankful and proud.

I still remember, with great emotion, the warm welcome that Queen Sofia and I received in 1987 at the Sephardic Temple in Los Angeles, which marked the official reencounter between the Spanish crown and some of our most beloved brothers and sisters. Since then, the Span­ish and Jewish peoples have rediscovered the best side of our common past; my son, the Prince of Astúrias, had the pleasure of awarding the Humanities Prize, which bears his own name, to the Sephardic Com­munity.

Finally, I want to give my warmest thanks to Trudi Alexy for her de­cisive contribution to a better understanding of our two communities, by writing a book that will certainly constitute a discovery in the year commemorating the discovery of the New World.

Signed: His Royal Highness, King Juan Carlos I


On October 7, 1991, King Juan Carlos was awarded the Elie Wiesel Foundation Humanitarian Award. What follows is an ex­cerpt from the address by Elie Wiesel during the award dinner.

As a Jew, I am committed to the memory of our history, the his­tory of Israel and therefore to its right to live and fulfill its destiny in security and peace.

As a good Jew, I believe in the obligation to remember. We re­member the good and the bad, the friends and the foes. We remem­ber that during the darkest era of our recent history, Spain gave shelter to countless Jews who illegally entered its territory. And I remember that five hundred years ago, clinging to their faith, Jews were forced by your ancestors to leave Spain. Could they have imagined that their descendants would meet five centuries later in an atmosphere of tol­erance, understanding, and friendship? History does have imagina­tion as well as memory.

In 1950, when I visited your still-tormented country as a young cor­respondent for an Israeli paper, I had an eerie feeling that I had been there before. Many places seemed familiar. I thought I "remembered" events, names, experiences..

When I came to Toledo I thought I could hear—some 850 years after his death—Yehuda Halevy's powerful poem of nostalgic love for Jerusalem: "Libi ba-mizra'h ve'anokhi besof maarav": My heart, said he, is there in the East, but I am here, at the other end of the West......Barcelona evoked for me the great thinker Nahmanides. It was in that cathedral that he defeated Paolo Christiani during their famous disputation. Granada? I knew the city from Shmuel Hanagid's war poems.   Abraham Ibn Ezra was born in Córdoba. ... I have al­ways been particularly fond of him. He was a fatalist, who believed he was meant to be poor, always. In one of his songs he wrote: "If I were to sell candles, the sun would never set; if I dealt in funeral shrouds, no one would ever die . . . As long as I lived."  

Oh, yes, Your Majesty, I think of Spain and I see the noble figures of Menahem ibn Saruk and Joseph ibn Abitur, of Shlomo ibn Gabirol and Maimonides. How poor Jewish philosophy and poetry, and phi­losophy and poetry in general, would be without their legacy.

The history of your people, Your Majesty, and mine, have regis­tered many moments of glory.... Three religious communities lived and worked and dreamed together in Spain for many, many decades. . . . But our past also contains moments of despair. When I think of the great luminaries of medieval Spain I cannot help but remember the Inquisition and its flames... the public humiliation of Jews who wanted to remain Jewish ... the Expulsion and its endless procession of uprooted families in search of new havens. ...

Still, while no man is responsible for what his ancestors have done, he is responsible for what he does with that memory.

Your Majesty, what you have done with yours is what moved us to honor you tonight.

We honor your convictions and beliefs, your principles and ideals, we honor your commitment to humanity.

Having witnessed the evil in fascism and dictatorship, you chose to bring democracy to your nation by restoring its taste for religious freedom, political pluralism, and social justice.

Your personal courage in opposing the attempted coup d'etat won you the admiration of free men and women the world over.

We applaud your wisdom in separating religion and state, your compassion ... your sensitivity to and concern with Jewish fears and hopes.. . your emphasis on symbols... . Your decision to visit a syn­agogue next March, on the five-hundredth anniversary of the Expul­sion Decree, offers proof that Spain, represented by Your Majesty, has overcome its past and faces the challenges of the future. That is a no­ble gesture that will remain in our collective Jewish memory forever.

ANTI-SEMITISM   From (Nov 2015)

Jews in Islamic-occupied Spain, Al-Andalus, were second-class dhimmis who were targeted in pogroms such as the 1066 Granada massacre.

In 1492, via the Alhambra Decree, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella ordered the expulsion of an estimated 800,000 Jews from the country, and thus put an end to the largest and most distinguished Jewish community in Europe. The coercive baptisms eventually produced the phenomenon of the conversos (Marranos), the Inquisition, and statutes of “blood purity” five centuries before the race laws in Nazi Germany. From the end of the nineteenth century, Jews have been perceived as conspirators, alongside the notion of a universal Jewish conspiracy to control the world. Following the Soviet revolution and the founding of the Spanish Communist Party in 1920, such “anti-Spanish forces” were primarily identified with the “destructive communist virus,” often considered to be guided by the Jews.

During the Spanish Civil War, the alliance between Franco’s faction and Nazi Germany opened the way for the emergence of antisemitism in the Spanish Right. It was during the 1960s that the first Spanish neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups appeared, such as CEDADE. Later on, the Spanish neo-Nazis attempted to use antisemitic discourse to explain the political transition to democracy (1976–1982) following the death of General Franco. It drew on the same ideas that had been expressed in 1931 when the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed — that political turning points could be explained as the result of various “intrigues”. From 1948 until 1986, Israel was not recognized by Spain, and Israel and Spain had no diplomatic ties. In 1978, Jews were recognized as full citizens in Spain, and today the Jewish population numbers about 40,000 - 1 percent of Spain's population, 20,000 of whom are registered in the Jewish communities. The majority live in the larger cities of Spain on the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa or the islands. Nevertheless, many of the prejudices cultivated during the Franco years persist in the twenty-first century. Derived from the fact that almost all Spaniards are Catholic, and Spain remains to this day one of the most homogeneous Western countries, Spanish Judeophobia reflects a national obsession with religious and ethnic unity which is based on the conception of an imaginary “internal enemy” plotting the downfall of the Catholic religion and the traditional social order.



Go to   http://www.fcje.org/comunidades/

This site, prepared in conjunction with Google, provides maps and historical information, prior to 1492 of
Avila, Barcelona, Besalu, Caceres, Calahorra, Córdoba, Estella, Gerona, Hervas, Jaén, León, Monforte de Lemos, Montblanc, Oviedo, Palma de Majorca, Plasencia, Rivadavia, Segovia, Tarazona, Tarragona Tortosa, Toledo  and Tudela


Go to    http://www.tarbutsefarad.com/


Go to    http://www.radiosefarad.com/


The Spanish, Shadows of Embarrasment.  Yehuda Cohen, Sussex Academic Press 2012  (This is a review Google copy of the book with missing sections)

How many people were tortured to death during the Spanish Inquisition?

Wiki History of the Jews in Spainry of the Jews in Spain

Encyclopedia Judaeica -  The Inquisition of the Church Against the Jews  1481 -1834

Jews in Spain - Summary  (Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971)    

The History of the Inquisition of Spain, from the Time of Its Establishment to the Reign of Ferdinand VII:   Google Books

The Massacres of 5151 (1391)  By Nissan Mindel Published and copyrighted by Kehot Publication Society

Abolition of Spanish Inquisition   (Google)

Spanish Inquisition 1450 -1789  

Heresy in Christianity  (from Wikipedia)   

The Jews in Spain Under the Visigoths, The Occident and American Jewish Advocate, November 1849

History of the Jews in Spain  Origins and History of Sephardic Jewry

Christian History Timeline of the Inquisition  (Kehillat Yisroel)

The Art of Subversion in Inquisitorial Spain (Rojas and Delicado) (Google Books)


Routes of Safarad

History 5th - 15th Century

Spain’s Islamic Legacy

Jews, God, and History, Max Isaac Dimont  

The Amazing Adventures of the Jewish People, Max Isaac Dimont

Indestructible Jews: An Action-packed Journey through 4,000 Years of History , Max Isaac Dimont

Barton, Simon  A History of Spain Basingstoke, Hampshire & New York 2004.

Carr, Raymond ed.  Spain: A History  Oxford 2000                                            

Collins, Roger Early Medieval Spain: Unity in Diversity, 400-1000 London 1983

Flannery, Edward  The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-three Centuries of Antisemitism Mahwah, New Jersey 2004

Gerber, Jane  The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience Toronto 1992

Katz, Steven ed. The Cambridge History of Judaism. Vol IV The Late Roman Rabbinic Period Cambridge 2006.

Marias, Julian    Understanding Spain Ann Arbor, Michigan 1992

Patai, Raphael, Patai, Jennifer  The Myth of the Jewish Race New York 1975 rev’d 1989

Roth, Norman  Jews, Visigoths and Muslims in Medieval Spain: Cooperation and Conflict Leiden, New York 1994.

Madeleine Pelner Cosman and Linda Gale Jones (2008). Handbook of Life in the Medieval World. Infobase Publishing.

Jump up ^ Beinart, Haim (2008). "Tortosa, Disputation of". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved June 21, 2009.

Jump up ^ Kamen, Henry (23 November 2000). The Spanish Inquisition: An Historical Revision. Orion Publishing Group. p. 10. ISBN 0-297-81719-1.

The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain, B. Netyanhu, 2002

Judaism on Trial: Jewish-Christian Disputations in the Middle Ages, Hyam Maccoby, Litman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1993

(The reconquest of Spain
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Mass Conversion Sermons

Conditions Worsen

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