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Was Columbus secretly a Jew?

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Rowan
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Was Columbus secretly a Jew?

Post by Rowan » Mon May 21st, 2012, 5:08 pm

I found this on another forum and thought it too interesting not to share here.
Today marks the 508th anniversary of the death of Christopher Columbus.

Everybody knows the story of Columbus, right? He was an Italian explorer from Genoa who set sail in 1492 to enrich the Spanish monarchs with gold and spices from the orient. Not quite.

For too long, scholars have ignored Columbus's grand passion: the quest to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslims.

Charles GarciaDuring Columbus's lifetime, Jews became the target of fanatical religious persecution. On March 31, 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella proclaimed that all Jews were to be expelled from Spain. The edict especially targeted the 800,000 Jews who had never converted, and gave them four months to pack up and get out.
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon May 21st, 2012, 5:44 pm

Interesting. If thos marks are on his letters, it might mean that he was.

But I do take exception to the off-the-cuff statements about Isabella and Ferdinand. Isabella indeed did not give Columbus much money; the crown was broke. More to the point, neither she nor Ferdinand had anything against conversos. They wanted more of them. Conversos such as Luis de Santangel were the core of their administration and the new bureaucracy they needed to reduce the power of the nobles.

Forcing the rest of the Jews to convert assured a loyal population that owed both taxes and security to the crown alone, as conversos were especially a royally protected population. (They tended to be heavily persecuted within their communities, so this protection had been extended at least a century earlier.)

Also, you have to understand that Isabella sincerely thought she was 'saving' the souls of her Jewish subjects. The theology of the day held that as long as an unbeliever was baptized, however unwillingly, any hypocrisy would be rendered out of them in purgatory, so they would still make it into heaven. There was some muddled belief that burning people at the stake would also save them from hell, but that whole line of thinking is nauseating enough that I confess I haven't read the various treatises on it.

Spain gets a lot of special treatment on this, which has puzzled me. England threw out their Jews under Edward I, and France had also given them the boot, can't remember when. So Spain was actually coming late into alignment with other European nations. It was a cruel and financially a very stupid move, since Jews provided the only banking system that could be called truly international, but those were the prejudices of the time.

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Post by Justin Swanton » Mon May 21st, 2012, 7:55 pm

For me, after a first reading, a load of tosh. A lot of affirmations without proof, and citations from supposedly distinguished academics who equally furnish no proof.

A few examples:

Tens of thousands of Marranos were tortured by the Spanish Inquisition. They were pressured to offer names of friends and family members, who were ultimately paraded in front of crowds, tied to stakes and burned alive.

Hard evidence, anyone?

On those documents, Columbus used a triangular signature of dots and letters that resembled inscriptions found on gravestones of Jewish cemeteries in Spain.

Please note the key word 'resembled'. Can anyone furnish a photograph of Columbus's signature along with a few photos of Jewish tombstones in Spain. I'd like to know just what 'resembled' actually means.

Carol Delaney, a cultural anthropologist at Stanford University, concludes that Columbus was a deeply religious man whose purpose was to sail to Asia to obtain gold in order to finance a crusade to take back Jerusalem and rebuild the Jews' holy Temple.

Nonsense. If Columbus did finance a crusade to retake Jerusalem he would have known perfectly well that the troops who conquered Jerusalem would have been Spanish (the only Christian state powerful enough to undertake such an expedition) and the authority established there would have been under the Spanish crown - with exactly the same conditions for Jews as in Spain. If Columbus was interested in Jerusalem it could only have been as a Catholic wanting to reclaim for the Catholic West an area of Christian importance that was under the control of the Moslem East. Funny how academics cannot see the nose on their face sometimes.

He was originally going to sail on August 2, 1492, a day that happened to coincide with the Jewish holiday of Tisha B'Av, marking the destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples of Jerusalem. Columbus postponed this original sail date by one day to avoid embarking on the holiday, which would have been considered by Jews to be an unlucky day to set sail.

All conjecture. The one overriding reason sailors chose a day to set sail was that the wind and weather were right. Everything else was unimportant.

I could go on, but that's enough to show what a shoddy piece of pseudo-academic flummery this article is.
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon May 21st, 2012, 8:35 pm

The Inquisition was pretty horrible, but the tens of thousands number is vastly exaggerated, unless you are counting from the 1470s, when it was instituted, until the late eighteenth century when they thing finally dribbled down. All of which would have almost nothing to do with Columbus.

Yes, from his writings Columbus was deeply religious. Very Catholic. I notice that they did not bother to explain or address that aspect.

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Post by sweetpotatoboy » Mon May 21st, 2012, 8:52 pm

Firstly, I haven't analysed this in detail and I'm far from an expert.

But, I don't think there is much new to this theory. I remember hearing the conjecture that Columbus was Jewish, or at least had some Jewish parentage, decades ago. (Similar conjecture arises with many Spanish personages of the time, including St Teresa etc. Given that so many families clearly had to hide their Jewish origins, it's always a possibility and, in many cases, from this distance, unknowable.)

So maybe what's new here, if anything, is the examination of his letters etc.
The most telling finding here seems to me to be the inscription of the Hebrew letters bet-hei on his letters to his son. That very much remains the practice for observant Jews to write on letters or cards to each other. If that is the case, I don't see what other explanation there can be for this practice other than that he was Jewish. Why would a non-Jew do that?

I see some other factual errors in this piece but that may well be the fault of the journalist writing this up (let's not forget that this is reportage, with all the likely slip-ups that entails, rather than the academic research itself). He mis-describes Ladino for a start.

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Post by donroc » Mon May 21st, 2012, 9:07 pm

First, one has to get past the rival often emotional claims by Italians and Spanish he is one of theirs. Columbus Day vs. El Dia de La Raza.

The Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal wrote a book titled Sails of Hope in which he makes a case that Columbus came from a converso family and had close ties to Jewish map makers and financiers. Columbus took no priest on his first voyage and sailed the day of deadline for Jews to leave Spain, convert, or die.

There is a chapter that shook many Jews and non-Jewish liberals when he detailed how the Fascist Dictator of Spain, Francisco Franco, saved many Jews of Salonika, most of whose ancestors fled Spain in the 15th-17th centuries, by having his counselate there issue Spanish passports. Wiesenthal adds that Franco was was common converso name, and some who fled to Hamburg and other cities in the Germanies changed it to Frank or Franks.
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Post by LoveHistory » Wed May 23rd, 2012, 1:20 am

Far from a scholar or expert on this but I do have one point of questioning. Is it possible that the marks were made by someone else after the fact? Do we know for sure that they were made by Columbus when he was writing the letters?

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Post by Kveto from Prague » Wed May 23rd, 2012, 9:36 am

considering how demonized Columbus is in the west these days and somehow he has become synonomus with all of the early settlers brutality toward Amerindians, the guy who opened the floodgate so to speak, could this be a case of trying to shift off "blame"? ("Hey, he wasn't one of us good God-fearing Christians!")

considering the beating his reputation has taken in the last 50 years this is small potatos and would actually serve to make him more interesting. The crusading fevor was still alive and well and the reconquest of Spain was just seen as a precursor to retaking north Africa (originally Christian) then eventually jerusalum. Sebastian of Portugal made an attempt 50 or so years after Columbus.

Can't say I'm really interested one way or another but it smells of apocrapyhl historical sleuthing. Hold on to any slim evidence that supports your theory and ignore any evidence that contradicts your theory.

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Post by DianeL » Fri May 25th, 2012, 10:19 pm

[quote=""sweetpotatoboy""]Firstly, I haven't analysed this in detail and I'm far from an expert.

But, I don't think there is much new to this theory. I remember hearing the conjecture that Columbus was Jewish, or at least had some Jewish parentage, decades ago. (Similar conjecture arises with many Spanish personages of the time, including St Teresa etc. Given that so many families clearly had to hide their Jewish origins, it's always a possibility and, in many cases, from this distance, unknowable.)

So maybe what's new here, if anything, is the examination of his letters etc.
The most telling finding here seems to me to be the inscription of the Hebrew letters bet-hei on his letters to his son. That very much remains the practice for observant Jews to write on letters or cards to each other. If that is the case, I don't see what other explanation there can be for this practice other than that he was Jewish. Why would a non-Jew do that?

I see some other factual errors in this piece but that may well be the fault of the journalist writing this up (let's not forget that this is reportage, with all the likely slip-ups that entails, rather than the academic research itself). He mis-describes Ladino for a start.[/quote]

SPB, I remember hearing about this in the 80s and 90s certainly.

It reminds me of the university at which my dad was a prof for 30+ years - they had a mummy amongst their assets, generally kept in storage, and dad used to be somewhat amused when, every few years, the mummy was "discovered" by a student and either luridly, excitedly, or politically written about in the paper as an unprecedented piece of reportage.
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