News From Ramaz
Last week, Rabbi Yigal Skalrin spoke to parents and community members on "How "Jewish" were the Marranos? A Question of Identity from the Perspective of Religion, History and Politics," as part of the Upper School's community lecture series on Measuring Meaning with Scale and Context. The following is a recap of Rabbi Sklarin's lesson:
The standard history of the Marranos was that these were Jews who were forcibly converted to Christianity, but remained in secret, strong Jews in their faith and even some of their practices. A number of prominent historians, including Benzion Netanyahu (father of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu) disagreed with this narrative. Netanyahu strongly argued that the Marranos had accepted Christianity fully. It was only as a result of the Inquisition, an institution established on a false pretense, that Marranos were racially separated and thus some returned to being "Jewish." He argues that Inquisition accounts that describe Jewish behavior are worthless in determining Jewishness since those testimonies were based on forced testimony and were possible falsified. In addition, based on contemporary rabbinic responsa, it was clear that the rabbis at the time also believed the Marranos had converted and left Judaism. More recently, Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi countered these claims arguing on both methodological and ideological grounds. Methodologically, is it possible to dismiss all Inquisitional accounts and were responsa real accurate representations of the religious realities of Marranos living in Christian Spain? Lastly, ideologically, Yerushalmi wonders how do we define ones Jewishness, is it based on an external measures or a person's internal beliefs?