By Jonathan S. Ray
Honorary point out for the 2014 Medieval and Early sleek Jewish background part publication award provided via the organization for Jewish Studies
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Extra resources for After Expulsion: 1492 and the Making of Sephardic Jewry
Second, the identification of the normative Hispano-Jewish community as a set of overlapping and highly contested relationships among individuals allows a greater appreciation of the individuality and effective pragmatism of the exiles. As we shall see, the same fractious tendencies that were such an obstacle to Jewish self-government, social organization, and standardization of religious norms would also play an important role in the survival of the Sephardim during their turbulent passage into exile.
Its king, João II (r. 1481–95), openly welcomed Spain’s Jewish refugees, though not without demanding an entry fee. Those who made the long journey westward through the mountain passes of Extremadura found safe haven in a relatively wealthy kingdom that boasted a sizable Jewish community, and whose language and customs closely resembled those of their native Castile. None could have fathomed the fate that awaited them there. The protected status of the refugees in Portugal remained stable, even during the ascension of João II’s cousin and brother-in-law, Manuel I, in the autumn of 1495.
The sheer number of Conversos and the various kinship ties between them and Iberian Jews were not the only factors that made the idea of conversion less daunting. The prevalence of crypto-Judaism among the Conversos also raised the possibility that a Jew could adopt Christianity and still remain in some sense Jewish. The scope and disputed nature of Converso society caused a major shift in the Christian image of the Jews, as well as in the functioning of the HispanoJewish society. If some Christians found the phenomenon of crypto-Judaism repugnant on ideological grounds, others were troubled by the practical implications of such transgressions.