JEWISH-AMERICAN HALL OF FAME • JEWISH MUSEUM IN CYBERSPACE
ANTI-SEMITIC BIGOTRY AS CHRONICLED BY HISTORICAL MEDALS


 


MEDALS OF TOLERATION

 Beer Medal
Figure 39. Beer Medal: End of the Persecution of Jews During the Pontificate of Julius II

Unknown medallist, 1503, Bronze hollow cast medal, 166 mm. Ref: Armand II, 142, 16; Friedenberg p.72). Benjamin Beer was the son of a famous Jewish doctor of the 15th century. (Image courtesy of Busso Peus Nacht.)

Not all medals were made to denigrate the Jews. Some were issued to support or encourage toleration. (One of these has already been considered elsewhere: Figure 29, Repeal of Edict Expelling Jews from Prague).

One produced in 1503 commemorates the end of the persecution of Jews during the pontificate of Julius II in the 16th century. It is a uniface, hollow cast medal (Figure 39) showing a bust of a figure thought to be that of Benjamin Beer, the son of the physician Elijah ben Sabbetai Beer, but because of the date of the medal, this has been questioned. To explain this discrepancy, it has been suggested that the date may not indicate the time of issuance of the piece but rather the future time when Benjamin Beer assumed the Messiah would come, but this issue remains unclear (See Friedenberg).

Friedenberg has devoted several pages to this enigmatic medal. His overall conclusion is that it reflects the state of mind of the Jews in that period (the medal’s date, M.III.D., can be interpreted either as 1497 or 1503). The Jews had had a disastrous 200 or so years, having been expelled from France in 1306, massacred in Germany in the mid-1300s and finally subjected to every type of discrimination, humiliation and torture in Spain, beginning in 1391 and culminating in the Inquisition starting in 1478, with all of its impending cataclysms for the Jews. The legend may be interpreted as an expectation, or at least hope, for the coming of the Messiah. It has been translated from the Hebrew in various ways, that in Friedenberg being, "By the Decree of Him Who Is the Guide of the Universe, Blessed Be He, by His Eternal Will. When All Justice Ceased and Consideration Failed, I Beheld the Length of That Period Reaching the Appointed End of Exile; but Reflecting on the Ways of Providence, as by Eli Romi the Spiritual Traces of Them Yet Remain(then) I Rejoiced and I Fully Hope in the Redemption, Oh Eternal, Omnipotent God Who Art Great and Forgiving." On the reverse edge, in Latin, is translated as,"After the Darkness, I Hope for Light"(from the Vulgate version of Job 17:12) and "The Last Day Is the Judge of Happiness 1503."

The description of this medal in the Busso Peus-Nacht. auction catalog also states that it represents the end of the persecution of Jews during the 16th century. Given what they have gone through up to this period, such an interpretation has some validity. They also point out other interpretations, however, in that it may actually be a mockery medal ridiculing the end-time prophets. It is noteworthy that this medal predates by about one century that of Shabbatai Tzvi, a person who had messianic leanings and about whom a medal was issued (shown earlier, figure 25).

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