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July 03, 1964 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1964-07-03

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Inquisitions, Spanish Persecutions Traced in Descola's
History., Franco Denial of Anti-Semitism Is Quoted

Persecution of the Jews in
Spain dating back to the procla-
mation of the Sixth Council of
Toledo: "No one in the royal
kingdom will be tolerated who
is not a Catholic,"; King Seise-
but's initiation in the seventh
century of the policy of anti-
Semitism that was pursued by
the Catholic kings; and the trac-
ing of persecution of Jews in
subsequent centuries are de-
scribed by Jean Descola, in "A
History of Spain: A Vivid Narra-
tion of the Triumphs and Trag-
edies of the Spanish People."
Published by Knopf, in a
translation from the French by
Elaine P. Halperin, the history
by Dr. Descola, a lecturer at
Institut Catholique and a direc-
for of the Centre d'Etudes et de
Recherches Ibero - Americaines,
makes extensive references to
the Inquisition and includes a
defense by F r a n c o against
charges of anti-Semitism.
Under the heading "The
Jewish Problem," as one of
the subtitles in the early chap-
ters of his book, Dr. Descola
states that after the inaugu-
ration of anti-Semitism by
King Seisebut "brief indeed
were the periods of relaxation
or reconciliation!"
Isidore of Seville had warned
the Seventh Council that con-
version was a matter of free
will, but "he could not prevent
Seisebut from persecuting the
Jews." Instead, children were
taken away from parents, "to
keep them from being led
astray," tribunals were set up
against Jews, there was baptism
by force and "when a king was
crowned, he was made to prom-
ise that he would not tolerate
Judaism."

*

In 702 the Seventeenth Coun-
cil of Toledo confiscated Jewish
property, enslaved Jews and
forbade them to marry, in spite
of the "enviable position" that
was achieved by Jews "under
the shadow of Arianism." Rac-
ism spread, and many Jews be-
gan to profess Christianity. But
then came the Moslem invasion
which gave Jews a chance to
wreak vengeance. The Jews co-
operated with the invaders who
proved temporarily to be their
liberators.
The ultimate result was agon-
izing. Dr. Descola writes: "The
Spanish Christians never forgot
this humiliation. They remem-
bered it 700 years later when
the Catholic Kings signed an
order expelling the Jews. It was
recalled that the Jews, not con-
tent with helping the Berbers
invade the country, had provid-
ed garrisons in order to humble
their fellow Spaniards. Alas,
vengeance begets vengeance!"
Yet, the Jews made great
contributions to Spanish cul-
ture and helped spread the
Spanish language.
To quote Dr. Descola in his
description of 10th and 11th
century events:
"The Jews, who had . resided
in Spain for many centuries,
completely assimilated its cus-
toms and language. Many of
them embraced Catholicism,
some even becoming priests
and members of the episcopacy.
Persecution had not yet affect-
ed them, and Jewish thought,
traditionally oriented toward

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metaphysics a n d philosophy,
adapted itself easily to the Span-
ish mentality. The ardent curi-
osity of the Jews about the na-
ture of God, their intellectual
acuity and readiness to engage
in scientific controversy, to say
nothing of their inborn pessi-
mism, found a congenial envir-
onment. The writings of Bakia
ben Pakuda, Ibn Ezra, Judah
Halevi, and Abraham ben David
show not only extraordinary
familiarity with the Scriptures
but also a knowledge of science
that was amazing for the period.
Ibn Ezra, a Jew from Toledo, a
minstrel, mathematician, and
philosopher, wrote a textbook
in which, for the first time, the
rules of multiplication were set
forth. As early as the 12th cen-
tury he conceived the idea of
using the zero in both the deci-
mal system and arithmetical
computations. It was he who
proclaimed that 'reason is an
angel between man and God.'
The pioneers in algebra and as-
tronomy were also Jews. Very
early in the 12th century His-
pano-Jewish scholars were solv-
ing second-degree equations and
extracting square roots. Geom-
etry and trigonometry likewise
progressed in their hands, and
Cheber, a Jew from Seville, re-
solved the problem of spheric
lines, thus making it possible
to measure with precision the
orbits described by the planets.
"The greatest Jewish philos-
opher of Spain was Maimonides,
a physician as well as a theo-
logian, for in those days care of
the body went hand in glove
with care of the soul. Forever
on the move (like Ibn Ezra,
who wandered over the earth
from Africa to London), Mai-
monides was banished from Cor-
doba, his _native city, by the
Almohades. He traveled to Mor-
occo, Palestine, and Egypt,
working at 20 different trades,
from the most respectable to
the humblest, continuing his
researches no matter how dis-
heartening the conditions of his
employment. Finally he became
a jewel merchant, but a ship on
which he was sailing sank with
all his precious cargo aboard.
In the course of his adventure-
some life, full as it was of ups
and downs, he had the good for-
tune to attract the attention of
Saladin, the sultan of Egypt and
Syria, the Moslem hero of the
Third Crusade. The victor of
Jerusalem made him his pri-
vate physician. The vicissitudes
of Maimonides' life did not in-
terrupt his scientific and philo-
sophic studies, which were
amazingly broad. He has been
known quite justly as the Jew-
ish St. Thomas, and theologians
of all faiths borrowed heavily
from his writings. His funda-
mental objective was to recon-
cile faith with reason, to dem-
onstrate that there was harmony
between the teachings of the
Bible and Aristotle's philosophy.
This was the basic thesis of his
challenging work 'Guide of the
Perplexed,' which the creator
of Thomism was to utilize 50
years later.
"Similarly, it was a Spanish
Jew, Cheber, who inspired Ein-
stein, and another, Ibn Ezra,
who influenced Spinoza. But the
philosophy of Maimonides was
more original than that of all
the others, for he was perhaps
the first who, in vigorous terms,
posed the grave problem so im-
portant for modern man: are
religion and science compati-
ble?"
Dr. Descola, describing the
persecutions of Moslems and
Jews after the Moors of Cordoba
had been defeated, asserting
that Ferdinand never forgot the
role the JeWs played in the
Arab invasion, writes:
"Closing their eyes to the in-
comparable service that the
Jews had rendered since then
to Spanish civilization—so many
of them were doctors, scholars,
and philosophers—the two sov-
ereigns remembered them only

as former allies of the Moors.
An edict issued by the king and
queen, which was supplemented
by one of Torquemada's, gave
Jews three months to leave
Spain. Preceded by violinists
and accompanied by their rab-
bis, almost 200,000 Jews, who
had liquidated their affairs as
best they could, streamed to-
ward the southern ports. For
many centuries, in Africa and
in the Balkans, their descend-
ants spoke the Spanish tongue."
He then describes the emerg-
ence of the marranos and the
workings of the Inquisition. He
does not indicate that many of
the Jews, as they left Spain,
were murdered, many were
robbed of their possessions. The
Inquisition itself, the burning of
its victims at the stakes, the
hatreds that were wreaked upon
the unfortunates who were sub-
mitted to the Catholic tribunals,
include these figures about the
victims of the wave of hatred:
"35,000 burned alive, 19,000 tor-
tured, 290,000 condemned to be
galley slaves, 200,000 deprived
of their rights, 5,000,000 exiled
—a total of around 5,500,000!"
The sufferers included Jews
and non-Jews.
Catholic Kings are described
as having feasted while heretics
were being burned and one
source is quoted that "Philip II
shrieks hysterically to the exe-
cutioner as he tears his black
gloves to shreds: 'Put sulfur
under their nails!' "
Later, when the Constitution
of 1812 was written, it "did not
dare to include freedom of wor-
ship in their bill of rights," Dr.
Descola states, and "the only
anti - clerical measure adopted
was the abolition of the Tribunal
of the Inquisition and the con-
fiscation of all its property by
the Treasury, but it was enough
to precipitate a rupture of dip-
lomatic relations between the
Holy See and the Spanish gov-
ernment."
In Spain, "officially a n d
avowedly Catholic," Dr. Descola
in his description of the modern
period, points out, "non-Catho-
lics constitute a small minority:
20,000 Protestants, half of whom
are foreigners, 7,500 Sephardic
Jews, and a handful of Mos-
lems." The author of this • his-
tory also points out:
"In spite of its ideological
affinities with the Fascist states
which were doctrinally - anti-
Semitic, Spain has never show-
ed hostility toward the Jews.
Quite the contrary. During the
years of persecution the Jews
were helped and protected by
Franco's government and by its
representatives both in and out-
side the country wherever Se-
phardic colonies of very ancient
Spanish stock existed. Spain's
attitude toward them was more
than tolerant; it was charitable.
When Israel's delegate to the
United Nations voted against
admitting Spain, arguing that
the country was the last repre-
sentative of a regime respon-
sible for pogroms, the Spanish
government countered with a
report stressing how often it
had interceded with the Nazi
authorities in order to save
thousands of Spanish Jews from
extinction. At all events, Jews
were entirely free to worship in
their own synagogues, and the
Center for Hebraic Studies re-
ceived special assistance from
the government."
While the Jewish references
are brief and at times sketchy,
as are some of the other histori-
cal factors in this history, Dr.
Descola's "A History of Spain"
may well serve as a valuable
guide to students of history and
those conducting research into
the tragic periods of Spanish
inquisitory persecutions. It is a
well written history and denotes
an able historian's ability to
condense events of many centu-
ries into a vivid narrative for
our time.
—P. S.

Dr. Philip Goldstein Views the Rise
of Jewish Centers in Autobiography

Dr. Philip R. Goldstein, who has
been associated with the Jewish
center movement in this country
for more than 40 years, and who
knows the workings of centers
throughout the country from inti-
mate association with the com-
munities and their leaders, has
written "a personal profile of the
Jewish Center movement," under
the title "Centers in My Life."
In this volume, published by
Bloch, Dr. Goldstein traces the
movement, dating back to his ac-
tivities with the Jewish Welfare
Board, and relates his experiences
in many communities, including
Detroit.
An introduction by Louis Kraft
credits the author with having
conducted' many of the center cam-
paigns in large American cities
"with phenomenal success."
Actually, this is more than a
profile of centers: the book is an
interesting autobiography of Dr.
Goldstein, his youth, his college
days, his entrance into social work,
his pioneering in Israel.
In the course of his review of
his life's activities, the a u t h or
worked with many important per-
sonalities, and his experiences with
them add to the interest provoked
by "Centers in My Life."
His final statement reads like
a credo. He states:

"At every stage of my life, so

long as we have health and mind,
the precept applies, in the words
of Rabbi Tarphon of the Mishna:
`It is not thy duty to complete
the work, but neither art thou
free to desist from it.' "

Dr. Goldstein's entire career, as
depicted in his autobiography, is
a record of dedicated service to
Jewry, his great role in the de-
velopment of Jewish centers, and
his readers will be gratified by
his assertion that he feels "that
the present and future offer me
continued opportunities for social
action and intellectual and per-
sonal fulfillment, different and
new, positive and dynamic."

New Luxury Hotels Open
in Tel Aviv and Tiberias

TEL AVIV—Two luxury hotels
recently were opened in major
cities in Israel.
The Deborah Hotel, designed to
accomodate Orthodox Jewish pa-
trons, has opened in Tel Aviv.
It features 63 double rooms with
central heating, air-conditioning,
private baths, telephone and radio.
The premises include a barber
shop and beauty salon, a cinema
and an art gallery.
In Tiberias, the 72-room, 12-
story Grand Guberman Hot el
offers a roof-garden, nightclub,
cocktail bar, shopping facilities,
art gallery and 200-seat restaurant.
The hotel is air conditioned, and
every room has a radio and tele-
phone and overlooks the Sea of
Galilee.

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