Page 178 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

Basic HTML Version

Elkin
170
revising the numbers involved in the expulsion and downsizing its
impact evoked Holocaust revisionism: “things were not so bad for
the Jews, after all.” Both traditional and revisionist views were pre­
sented at conferences and in publications by highly-credentialed
scholars. That the issue has not been resolved but requires serious
academic attention is attested by the decision of the late noted his­
torian Elie Kedourie to publish an essay by Kamen side by side
with one by Haim Beinart, who maintains the traditional view of
the decree as an order of expulsion issued by the Crown for eco­
nomic and religious reasons and resulting in catastrophe both for
the Jews and for Spain. In his introduction to
Spain and the Jews:
The Sephardi Experience 1492 andAfter,
Kedourie noted mildly that
the Spanish monarchs had two motives, conversion and expulsion,
but he made no serious attempt to reconcile the two schools of
thought.30
The relationship between Jews and Native Americans also came
in for reevaluation during the quincentenary year through the re­
visiting of the Jewish Indian theory. The notion that the original
Americans descended from the lost tribes of Israel was current in
the first years of contact because of complex theological issues and
inadequate knowledge of western hemisphere geography. It was
subjected to analysis by Menasseh ben Israel, the 17th century rab­
bi who was born into a New Christian family but converted to Ju ­
daism in Amsterdam. His enigmatic book,
La esperanza de Israel
or
Mikveh Israel
, straddled the question of whether or not the “Amer­
icans” were ofJewish descent. In the years leading up to the quin­
centenary, Menasseh became the subject of a growing scholarly
literature. The clearest exposition of Menasseh’s text appears in
Manasseh ben Israel: The Hope of Israel. The English Translation by
Moses Wall
,
1652
, edited by Henry Mechoulan and Gerard Na­
tion.31 David S. Katz sets the work in its political context in
Philo-
Semitism and the Readmission of the Jews to England
,
1603-1655} 2
30. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1992.
31. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
32. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982.