The Converso Dilemma
The year was 1391. Spring was about to turn into summer. The Jewish communities of Castile and Aragon had undergone difficult times for more than thirty years. A civil war fought in the middle decade of the 14th century put Jews in a no-win situation. They were loyal and supported the ruling monarch and faced the ire of the pretender. If they had defected to the pre-tender, then they would have been labeled as traitors. The consequences could have been severe in either case and indeed proved to be so. Nevertheless, they survived.
About the book
Decades later, on June 6, 1391, the future of the Jewish communities of Castile and Aragon were changed forever. By the end of the summer, 80 Jewish communities in Castile and Aragon were torn by violence. A third of the Jewish community had been murdered. Perhaps another third of the Jewish community had converted. Only a third of the Jewish population remained intact.
What was once considered a Jewish problem to many Christians, was eventually supplanted by what some considered a much more hideous and sinister di-lemma. While their conversions had initially been met with a grand celebration by their Christian neighbors, those Jews who had yielded to baptism to rescue their lives and those of their families eventually proved a thorn in the side of the Church. Could they be trusted? Were they indeed faithful Catholics? Did they seek to undermine the boundaries which had once been so clear between Jews and Christians? Those are fascinating questions in their own right.
Our concern, however, is the status of the individuals who converted under duress. Suspected by Christians, what was their status in Jewish law? How did the Jewish community view these individuals? What are the implications of these opinions in the present day?
Many questions concerning forced converts were sent to eminent rabbinic authorities for answers. This work seeks to answer those questions at least partly by reviewing the world of rabbinic responsa. This work assumes a degree of familiarity with the history of Jews in Iberia. It is a continuation of my work titled Secret Jews: The Complex Identity of Crypto-Jews and Crypto-Judaism, and some of the material presented in brief form there is included and expanded in this volume.
You’ll like these too…
Excellent for whoever is interested in Judaism then and now about converts
–Eugene Alfonso Van Delsen
Get My New Book For Free!
Sign up for my author updates!
My Writing Blog
Too Close for Comfort
The closeness of Christians to Jews in the early centuries of the Common Era was troubling to the nascent Church Fathers. They repeatedly speak out against it because they understood that many Christians saw Jews in a very different light than what the emerging church...
A Review: My Name is Asher Lev
The novel, My Name is Asher is Lev written by Chaim Potok relates the story of a young Hasidic prodigy gifted with artistic talent. The story introduces the world of the fictional “Landover” Hasidim very akin to the Lubavitcher Hasidim. Inevitably however,...
Roots of Rabbinic Judaism: An Intellectual History from Ezekiel to Daniel
I first came across Gabriele Boccaccini's works at the Siegal College of Judaica. I was working on master's thesis and had chosen the topic of Israelite/Jewish identity in the Second Temple period. Most scholars in the late 20th century have shifted away from the view...
Download my new book, The Jews of Iberia for free
Discover my passion for writing and the topics I am fascinated with.
Check out recommendations and the Latest news.