March 31, 1492: Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon issue an edict. These Catholic monarchs of Spain are the same people who would fund Columbus later in the year. In the 700s, Muslims had conquered and settled in most of the Iberian Peninsula. Jews who lived there since Roman times were considered “People of the Book” and thrived under their rule. The tolerance of the Muslim Moorish rulers of al-Andalus, the region today that is most of Spain and Portugal, attracted more Jews to the region. As time went on, the treatment of the Jews declined and especially so after the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate.
The Reconquista was the retaking of the Iberian Peninsula by Christian kingdoms and was driven by religious motivation. By the 14th century, most of Iberia was back under control of Christian governmental control by the kingdoms of Castile, Aragon, Leon, Galicia, Navarre, and Portugal. Hostility toward Jews grew and they were both brutalized and oppressed. Thousands sought to mitigate the mistreatment by converting to Christianity and at first, it seemed to work. As the conversos or New Christians met with success, they also found disfavor with some of the clergy and royal families. This was exacerbated as some of the forced conversions were done in name only and the Jews continued to secretly practice their faith.
From the 13th to the 16th centuries, European countries expelled Jews from their territory on at least fifteen occasions. The hostility toward the Jews in Iberia came to a head when “the Christian Monarchs” married in 1469 and brought the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon in alignment. The Catholic monarchs seemed to be horrified that the conversos were insincere and were attempting to bring old Jews back into the Jewish faith. Granada had surrendered to the Spanish royals less than three months prior and on this day, the Alhambra Decree was issued and expelled all Jews from their kingdom and their colonies by July 31, 1492.
Many of the Spanish Jews fled to northern Africa to the Maghreb, where they intermingled with existing Mizrahi – the Arab Jewish communities. They became the ancestors of the Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, and Libyan Jewish communities. There were between 130,000 and 800,000 who fled Spain. Another 50,000 to 70,000 chose to convert rather than leave the lands, but this did not work well and they continued to be persecuted. The edict was formally revoked on December 16, 1968 following the Second Vatican Council. In 2014, the Spanish government passed a law allowing dual citizenship to Jewish descendants who asked for it as a way to “compensate for shameful events in the country’s past.”
A Jew, in the dictionary, is one who is descended from the ancient tribes of Judea, or one who is regarded as a descendant from that tribe. That’s what it says in the dictionary, but you and I know what a Jew is: One Who Killed Our Lord…. There should be a statute of limitations for that crime. – Lenny Bruce
Pessimism is a luxury that a Jew can never allow himself. – Golda Meir
I am not a Jew in the sense that I would demand the preservation of the Jewish or any other nationality as an end in itself. Rather, I see Jewish nationality as a fact and I believe that every Jew must draw the consequences from this fact. – Albert Einstein
To be a Jew is a destiny. – Vicki Baum
Also on this day: Equality – In 1886, Abigail Adams pleads with her husband to include women as voting adults.
How TALL Are You? – In 1889, the world’s tallest structure was inaugurated.
Spring Forward – Fall Back – In 1918, DST was first used in the US.
Virgin Territory – In 1917, the US takes possession of the Virgin Islands.
The Bangorian Controversy – In 1717, Benjamin Hoadly delivered a controversial sermon.