Books On Sephardic Jewry
Butchers and Bakers, Rabbis
and Kings by Jacqueline Greene.
Kar-Ben, 1984. Based on a little-
known historical tale about the Jews
of 12th century Tudela, Spain, who
devise a plot to convince the King
to allow the Jews to live in peace.
The Answered Prayer and
Other Yemenite Folktales by Sharlya
Gold and Mishael Maswari Caspi,
the Jewish Publication Society,
1990. Twelve traditional tales from
the Jewish community of Yemen.
The Cardinal's Snuffbox by
Kenneth Roseman. UAHC, 1982. A
book about the dilemma Jews faced
in 1492 when given the choice to
convert to Catholicism or leave
Spain. Ages 10-14.
Out of Many Waters by
Jacqueline Greene. Walker, 1988.
This exciting historical fiction book
takes place in the early 1500s. It is
the story of two Portuguese Jewish
girls who are kidnapped by monks
and taken to South America as
slaves, their escape and their new
home in America. Ages 10-14.
The Exiles of Crocodile Island
by Henya Meyer. Mesorah
Publications, 1984, 1991. In 1493,
2,000 Jewish children, under the
guard of Portuguese soldiers
escorted by priests and monks, are
forced to leave their homes, and set
sail to an equatorial island off the
African coast. Ages 12-15.
The Glassblower of Venice and
Other Stories by Gershon Kranzler.
Merkos L'inyonei Chinuch, 1988. A
collection of short stories depicting
Sephardic Jews throughout history.
t ‘Sk The Ethical Will Of The Gracia Family
BY DONA GRACIA NASI MENDES
From a letter that was passed
down from generation to generation,
it is possible to decipher the terror
under which the Jews, in general,
and the Gracia family, in particular,
lived during the Inquisition, that
awesome period of time.
"My name is Yosef, the son of
Avigdor, the grandson of
Menacheni. I am writing this letter
as an ethical will with the
instructions that you read it every
Eighteenth century engraving of the Inquisition. (Encyclopedia Judaica).
year on Rosh Hashanah in order
that you thank God for our family
being miraculously delivered from
suffering and torment at the hands
of the Inquisition. I worked as a
servant in one of the cloisters. On
the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the
bishop called me and said:
" 'Listen to me, my child, you
are undoubtedly true to the Church.
I want you to perform a secret
mission in order to prove just how
faithful you really are. It is
imperative that we true Christians
weed out the heretics from the
faithful; you know, from the Jews
that pretend to be Christians but
profess their Judaism in the privacy
of their homes.
" 'I want you to spy on the
family of Don Gabriel Gracia and
watch its every move. After you
FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 1992
have been in his house a while, you
will return to me and tell me
everything that you saw there. You
must be very careful not to divulge
the reason for your being in his
house, for after all, he is a very
important and distinguished person
in this country. If he should suspect
that you are spying, he will report
you to the king.
" 'The king will be furious that
one of his courtiers is suspect, and
he will turn the slanderer over to the
Inquisition. If you are tortured, you
might implicate me in your
confession, so I warn you to be very
careful! The reason that I am asking
you to do this is because I suspect
Don Gabriel is a heretic and I need
"I could not refuse to do the
bidding of the bishop. I also knew
that suspected heretics were
tortured until they confessed, and
then burned at an auto-de-fe, at the
stake. I prayed that I would find
nothing in the house of Don Gabriel
to tell the bishop.
"That evening, I headed for his
mansion. It was located in that
section of Lisbon where the very
wealthy lived. With great trepidation,
I approached the gate. The
gatekeeper recognized me and
admitted me to the study.
" 'Please wait here,' he said. 'I
will go upstairs and inform my
master that you are here'
"About an hour later, Don
Gabriel descended the long winding
staircase, graciously extended his
hand to welcome me and said:
" 'Please forgive me for
keeping you waiting. I wanted to
welcome you to my home in
"I examined his face carefully.
On the surface, he was poised and
cheerful, but he bore the wrinkles of
a person who had been challenged
over and over throughout his
lifetime. I wondered why. He put his
arm around me, guided me up the
staircase, and we entered a dining
room whose table was set elegantly
with gold and silver vessels, as if for
a very important banquet. He
responded to my quizzical
expression by saying: 'This party is
being celebrated in honor of my
Father. Of course, you will join us'
"When the meal ended, and
everyone was satiated with the best
food and drink, I excused myself. I
wanted to find a place to hide on
the premises, hoping that I would
have nothing to report. I hid near a
corner of the big mansion on the