Page 176 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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Elkin
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pose of a Jewish educational enterprise during the quincentenary
year. Several historians worked at unravelling the evidence for a
more or less popular readership during this period, hoping to alter
the perception that the suspected existence of a converso ancestor
in a Catholic family implied allegiance to Judaism.26As the attacks
against Columbus-the-enslaver, Columbus-the-initiator-of-geno-
cide, Columbus-the-devastator-of-nature, increased over the
course of the year, efforts by well-intentioned Jews and judeophiles
to award Jewish ancestry posthumously to Columbus tapered off.
The other popular topic for Jewish quincentenarians became
“the lost Jews of the American Southwest.”The survival of vestiges
of a Jewish heritage among descendants of conversos who settled
Spain’s northern frontier, rumored for years, has now to be taken
seriously thanks to the investigations of Stanley Hordes, Tomas
Atencio, Frances Hernandez, and others.27 These ambiguous
communities are valid subjects of research, and it is unfortunate
that funding has never been sufficient to encourage more of it. Into
the funding gap rushed numerous enthusiasts wielding ethnic and
religious axes with articles for the popular press that repeated one
another without adding to our store of knowledge, but that had the
cumulative effect of mystifying the survival of Judaism. The only
ones who note that the individuals in question—like the unfortu­
nates who were penanced by the Inquisition—are actually Catho­
lic, are Sephardic philanthropists who decline to fund the research
on that account.
26. The scholarly literature on Columbus is boundless and does not war­
rant repetition here.
In JCB,
an occasional bulletin of the John Carter Brown
Library in Providence, Rhode Island, may be referred to for bibliography o f con­
temporary scholarly publications on Columbus. Recent articles on the subject of
Christopher Columbus’s possible Jewish descent included Gunter Bohm, “El
supuesto orfgen judfo de Cristobal Colon.”
Lateinamerika-Studien
30(1992):47-
82; Judith Laikin Elkin, “Columbus: Was He or Wasn’t He?”
Hadassah Magazine
(January 1992):49; Jonathan Sarna, “Columbus and the Jews.”
Commentary
94:5
(November 1992):38—41. Jane Frances Amler assembled the evidence on both
sides in the journalistic
Christopher Columbus' Jewish Roots,
Northvale, New Je r­
sey: Jason Aronson, 1991.
27. The state o f knowledge o f this subject was ably examined and summa­
rized by Frances Hernandez in her chapter on the secret Jews in Cohen and
Peck,
Sephardim in the Americas,
pp. 4 1 1 -5 3 .