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Right Person, Right Place, Right Time

Libi Astaire

In the historical narrative, the Hand of Hashem is often hidden, although sometimes the perfectly timed “coincidences” are just too blatant to miss. Situations have often looked hopeless — until that one person “just happens” to be on the scene in the nick of time, effecting an amazing turnaround.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Name: Don Yitzchak Abarbanel Place: Spain and Portugal Time: Late 15th century Mission: Champion cause of Spanish Jewry and fundChristopherColumbus’s voyage  The year 1483 was not an auspicious one forDonYitzchakAbarbanel. Political intrigues at the Portuguese court turned the new king against him and he was forced to flee across the border, to Spain. It was like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. For almost a century, Spain’s Jews had been financially penalized and socially humiliated in an effort to get them to convert. But even though the Spanish monarchsFerdinand andIsabella had little use for ordinary Jews, they did need Jewish brains to finance their war to wrest Granada from Muslim control. The Abarbanel, who had earned a reputation in Portugal for being an exceptional statesman and financier, was appointed the monarchy’s financial advisor in 1484. The year 1483 was not an auspicious one for Spain’s Anusim community either. Two years earlier, the Spanish Inquisition received its mandate to hunt down heretics. In 1483,Tomasde Torquemada, a Dominican friar whose ancestors were Anusim (Jews who had been forcibly converted to Christianity), was named Grand Inquisitor. It was a job he would zealously perform until his death 15 years later, earning the title “the hammer of the heretics.” But he wasn’t just a threat to the Anusim. He was also an early and influential advocate of expelling all of Spain’s Jews, in the name of “blood purity.”

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