Commentary Magazine


Hispano-Iberian Jews

To the Editor:

. . . Albert A. Sicroff [reviewing De Mahomet aux Marranes (From Mohammed to the Marranos) by Léon Poliakov, December 1961] speaks of Spain in the 13th and 14th centuries as being a unified nation and of Spanish Jewry at that time as having a common experience. There existed only a series of separate, independent kingdoms in the Iberian peninsula during that period. The lives of the Jews varied under each . . . monarch.

Sicroff also writes of “the establishment of the Inquisition in 1478” and refers to the “medieval Inquisition.” The Inquisition, as an institution, was in existence since the 6th century. The establishment of “El Tribunal del Santo Oficio,” as the Spanish Inquisition was known, resulted in an institution that was sui generis. . . . There were five inquisitions in the New World. That of Spain was completely autonomous.

The stress on the date of 1391 for the riots (pogroms were what they were) obscures the fact that anti-Semitism among the masses of all the kingdoms had reared its head almost 200 years before that date. Anti-Jewish sentiment in the Hispano-Iberian kingdoms came from the grass-roots and the Dominicans; it was not imposed by the reigning monarchs. . . .

Seymour B. Leibman
Mexico City, Mexico

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