By Norman Roth

The Jewish group of medieval Spain used to be the most important and most vital within the West for greater than 1000 years, partaking totally in cultural and affairs of state with Muslim and Christian friends. This sturdy scenario started to swap within the 1390s, and during the subsequent century thousands of Jews switched over to Christianity. Norman Roth argues the following with precise documentation that, opposite to well known fable, the conversos have been honest converts who hated (and have been hated by way of) the rest Jewish neighborhood. Roth examines extensive the explanations for the Inquisition opposed to the conversos, and the eventual expulsion of all Jews from Spain.

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34 Rabbi Judah Ibn Crespa (or Crisp) of Toledo addressed several questions to Ibn Adret of Barcelona, and one of these dealt with a man who came from Seville with a woman; witnesses testified that he had taken her away from her husband by adultery and that both of them had converted to Christianity, but she had received a bill of divorce from her husband. Now the man and woman appeared in Toledo acting as Jews and as husband and wife. Ibn Crespa said he had the power to turn them over to the government for punishment, and asked what he should do.

Writers such as Epstein and Baer by no means adequately realized the importance of these as a source for the history of this period, and hardly began to do them justice. The difficulty of the technical language employed and the lack of systematic indices have perhaps served to keep scholars from approaching them. Several of these responsa, or legal decisions rendered in reply to direct questions from other rabbis or communities, deal with conversos. It is to be noted that these are all from a period long before the persecutions of 1391, and have been for the most part hitherto entirely ignored.

Nevertheless, the Dominicans, and especially Ramon de Penafort, were powerful enough so that they were able to press their program and repeatedly challenge the good will of the king. Ramon, too, was responsible for the introduction of a whole series of restrictive measures on Jews which were written into the Fueros of Aragon, similar to those he had previously tried to have enacted in the Siete partidas in Castile (a law code which had only advisory status in that kingdom, however). Nevertheless, although we may never have any reliable information on this, it would appear from what has already been presented here that the missionary activities of the Franciscans and Dominicans in the thirteenth century in the kingdom of Aragon-Catalonia had only a limited degree of jsuccess.

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