Brandeis, Louis D.
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader
Lehman, Herbert H.
Levy, Uriah P.
Magnes, Judah L.
Santangel, Luis de
Seixas, Gershom M.
Singer, Isaac B.
Straus, Isidor & Ida
Torres, Luis de
by Paul Vincze, Columbus & Jewish Expulsion from Spain (1992).
of Spanish (Sephardic) Jewry goes back at least 2,000 year to
the time of the Roman Empire. The first anti-Jewish laws were
passed in 589 CE, when it was ruled that children of a mixed Jewish-Christian
marriage should be baptized ... and this soon led to a policy
of forced conversion of all Jews in the kingdom. In 1694, the
17th Council of Toledo made all Spanish Jews slaves. In the period
of Arabic rule (after 711 CE), the Jews of Spain fared better
... scholarship and culture flourished. Beginning in 1478, in
the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, no less than 13,000 secret
Jews (Conversos) were executed by the Inquisition. At the same
time, the monarchs continued to employ Jewish functionaries -
such as Don Isaac Abravanel - in their court. On March 31, 1492
the Edict of Expulsion was signed, resulting in 300,000 Sephardic
Jews leaving for refuge in North Africa, Turkey, etc. The last
Jews left on August 2, 1492, the day before Columbus sailed, that
was also the traditional day of mourning (9th of Av) for the destruction
of the First and Second Temples. Thus, the first words Columbus
wrote in his log were: "After you expelled the Jews your majesties
sent me with a fleet."
known Jew on Columbus' voyage was Luis de Torres, though he had
to be baptized shortly before sailing. Torres knew Hebrew, Aramaic
and some Arabic. Simon Wiesenthal speculates (in Sails of Hope)
that "after the landfall in America, the first words addressed
to the natives were Hebrew." What is known for sure is that Torres
was the first European settler in the New World. He set up his
own small empire in Cuba, after leading an expedition into its
interior and winning the friendship of the Indian ruler. As an
independent ruler of Spanish territory, Torres received an annual
allowance from the Spanish royal family.
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