David and Esther Rafael recently gave me a book that I find very enjoyable It is The Beauty of Sephardic Life by The late Sam Bension Maimon The book consists of a series of articles written by Mr Maimon for La Boz (The Voice) the newsletter of the Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregaton of Seattle The book can be ordered from Maimom Ideas Publications 5241 S Holly Seattle WA 98118 The price is $1625 ($15 for the book and $125 for postage) Checks should be made payable to Maimon Ideas Publications
Eugene Normand the soninlaw of Mr Maimon has given us permission to reprint one of the articles from the book It is an article that should be of interest to members of the SCJS
In last month’s La Boz article we reported the interesting addition to our synagogue library that of the twovolume set of books called Sefer Eliyahu Zota by Rabbi Eliyahu Capsali of Candia on the island of Crete
The unique style the author employs is so captivating that one feels he is reading a masterpiece In retelling these stories Rabbi Capsali displays an enormous knowledge of Hebrew literature quoting select phrases from the Bible the Talmud etc and yet manages to connect them all and create a very charming and a very skillful narrative
Today I would like to report a story that was told to him by what he calls Anusim (forced converts to Catholicism) who on their way to Constantinople or Salonika or other cities used to stop in Candia Rabbi Eliyahu realized that these Anusim or formerly secret Jews were running away from the brutality and the tortures of the Spanish Inquisition
Rabbi Eliyahu tells us that even thirty years after the great expulsion of 1492 there were whole families leaving Spain to find a free land where they could relax and find new homes where they could practice their beloved Jewish religion openly without the constant fear of being burned at the cursed auto da fe
Some of these Anusim had achieved a high degree of economic and political reputation So the stories they told him were not just gossipy rumors but very reliable information coming from sources that were very confidential first hand accounts told by people who saw it happen
The story Rabbi Eliyahu tells in great elaborate detail is one that proves that the Spanish King Ferdinand was of Jewish ancestry There was a very beautiful girl living in Spain Her name was Palomba Besides her striking beauty she was also highly educated attaining a degree of aristocratic refinement and an admirable charm Palomba was eventually married to a very handsome Jewish young man equally educated belonging to an aristocratic home They lived in a high class mansion situated in the suburb of a large city
One day Palomba decided to go to the city on a shopping trip No sooner had she left her home with her servants than a nobleman happened to see her and began to marvel at her exquisite beauty
The name of this Spanish nobleman was Fadrique Enriques Almirante de Castilia one of the most loved governors of one of the Spanish provinces with close official association with the king Time passed and Almirante could not forget Palomba He fell madly in love with her so that one day he managed to trick her to come with him and he finally seduced her
Palomba feeling a terrible guilt told her husband about this sordid affair Her husband who could not bear the shame and the embarrassment left her Soon she discovered she was pregnant and subsequently bore a very handsome son
Word reached Almirante who became sure that this young son was his own flesh and blood So Almirante took the boy brought him to live with him at his palace and afforded him an excellent education fit for a prince
At first Palomba refused to give up her son but she was soon compelled to agree When the young man grew up Almirante had him marry a princess who bore him four daughters Three of these daughters were eventually married to princes of the royal family The fourth daughter was married to the Rey (King) de Aragon Out of this union was born a son Ferdinand
The leaders of the Spanish Jewish community including the famous Don Avraham Seneor who knew of Ferdinand’s Jewish ancestry rejoiced at the fact that this King Ferdinand would be very tolerant in his treatment of his Jewish subjects
Unfortunately history and fate decided differently and as it turned out it was this very same Ferdinand and his Queen Isabella who ultimately were responsible for the cruel and heartless edict of the expulsion of our Sephardic ancestors from Spain
After converting to Judaism many years ago (and I thank Hashem for this to this day), I was sent a link to a document on the website of the French National Library (Gallica) telling the story of our ancestor Don Antonio Prior of Crato who ruled Portugal for a brief period until his cousin King Felipe II wrested the throne from him and he was forced to flee to France.
This document about our ancestor Don Antonio had been unknown to me up to that point, but I discovered that it contained a family genealogy starting from my grandmother Marie, all the way back to Don Antonio.
This Don Antonio was the son of a Jewish noblewoman Violante Fernandez Gomes of Portugal, who married Prince Luis, son of King Manuel of Portugal, who had married Maria, second daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, after his first wife, Isabel (also a daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella) died a year after their marriage (the same marriage which had caused him to forcibly convert all the Jews who had fled to Portugal from Spain during the Spanish Expulsion, since this was a condition of the marriage as set by Ferdinand and Isabella).
Thus, many years after I converted to Judaism, not knowing any of this, I discovered I’m descended from “Los Reyes Católicos. This is the very best revenge on them that could possibly be contrived. They strove to wipe Judaism off the map in all their lands- and their descendant became a Jew.
However I am not alone. Just recently I met another descendant of Los Reyes Católicos, who is descended from Antonio’s brother Juan. She has also returned to the fold and likewise has a family genealogy. I also was told of another woman of similar descent but we have not met.
And I am sure there must be many more.
Because of our converso lineage, (from Violante Gomes, and Catalina, wife of Juan who unlike Antonio was a practicing crypto-Jew) the converso identity of that line (who found there way to Mexico) was very strong.
This is not only the very best revenge, but something that could only be orchestrated by the One Above. Praised be His Name.
What a fabulous story indeed. My heritage is Sephardic Jewish. We were able to trace part of our ancestory via the Family name of Zaragoza from the area they originated from as well as Lugo from the Western location and along into Portugal where we lost some of the family tree. Through DNA our suspicions were confirmed!