The 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries saw the systematic dismantling of Jewish life in the Iberian Peninsula that had existed for more than a thousand years. Persecution spurred forced conversions. Dissimulation by Jews who converted under duress led to the establishment of the Spanish and later Portuguese Inquisitions. The failure of the Inquisition ultimately led to the decision by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to exile Jews from their domains.
But many Jews remained. Samuel Usque was a forced convert who managed to escape the Peninsula. He wrote a remarkable work, probably the most expansive by any former Converso, with the hope of persuading his fellow Conversos to flee the Peninsula and return openly to Judaism and the faith of their fathers. For Usque, the latest tragedies experienced by Spanish and Portuguese Jews are reflective of a long history of Jewish suffering. But, as Usque suggests, there is hope. Redemption awaits.
The Tribulations of Israel: Samuel Usque and His Consolations is another title in my series of short Kindle books on various Jewish topics. The book is available on Amazon and is great for someone looking for the context of Usque’s work and its core message.
Posted by Rabbi Juan Bejarano Gutierrez the director of the B’nei Anusim Center for Education. For a more complete review of Iberian Jewish history and the Crypto- Jewish Experience see The Rise of the Inquisition and Secret Jews: The Complex Identity of Crypto-Jews and Crypto-Judaism