Tag Archives: Conversos

Jew of the Week: Francisco Maldonado

Doctor with a Mission

A Scene from the Inquistion

Francisco Maldonado de Silva (1592-1639) Raised as a devout Catholic, de Silva is one of the most famous Marranos in history [Marranos were the Spanish Jews forcibly converted to Christianity by the Inquisition]. His family migrated to Chile where de Silva became a doctor. He learned of his Judaism from his father, took an interest in it and started to learn more. He returned to Judaism wholeheartedly, circumsizing himself with a pair of scissors (relax, he was a doctor). Unfortunately, being Jewish was a crime and de Silva was arrested and thrown in jail for 12 years. He refused to eat their un-kosher food and would fast for 40 days at a time. De Silva was endlessly interrogated by no less than 13 inquisitors. Amazingly, he escaped from his cell after weaving a rope of corn stalks. Instead of running away, he climbed into the adjacent cell and converted two Catholics to Judaism. Tragically, he was burned at the stake with 11 other Jews in Lima, Peru on January 23, 1639.

Words of the Week

“The [Torah] has been a Magna Carta of the poor and of the oppressed; down to the modern times no State has a constitution which the interests of the people are so largely taken into account, in which the duties so much more than the privileges of the rulers are insisted upon, as that drawn up for Israel in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.”

– T.H. Huxley, famous biologist and paleontologist, father of the Huxley dynasty which includes Julian Huxley, Aldous Huxley, Francis Huxley and Andrew Huxley.

Jew of the Week: Don Joseph Nasi

Prince of Europe

NasiDon Joseph Nasi (1524-1579) I’m not sure why they haven’t made a movie about this man yet, but they should. His story is quite fascinating. In a nutshell, he was the head of a banking empire, the Duke of Naxos, the Count of Andros, and the Lord of Tiberias. He actively¬†sought a national homeland for the Jews, initially hoping for Cyprus, later receiving a grant from the Ottomans to start settling Israel. He single-handedly triggered a war between Turkey and Venice, sparked the Dutch uprising against Spain and brokered a peace treaty with Poland. At one point, he went by the secret name Juan Miguel to escape the inquisition. He monopolized the wine industry in Moldavia and the beeswax industry in¬†Poland, financed the Yeshiva of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul), established a printing press for Jewish texts and maintained a vast library in his house to be used freely by Torah scholars.

Constantinople (Modern Instanbul) – where Don Nasi financed the Yeshiva

Words of the Week

The entire people of Israel comprise a single soul; only the bodies are separate.

– Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (Tanya, ch. 32)