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Spanish Jews

    The history of Spanish (Sephardic) Jewry goes back at least 2,000 years to the time of the Roman Empire. The first anti-Jewish laws were passed in 589 CE, when it was ruled that children of a mixed Jewish-Christian marriage should be baptized and this soon led to a policy of forced conversion of all Jews in the kingdom.

    In 1694, the 17th Council of Toledo made all Spanish Jews slaves. In the period of Arabic rule, the Jews of Spain fared better, scholarship and culture flourished.

    Beginning in 1478, in the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, no less than the Inquisition executed 13,000 secret Jews. At the same time, the monarchs continued to employ Jewish functionaries, such as Don Isaac Abravanel, in their court.

    On March 31, 1492 the Edict of Expulsion was signed, resulting in 300,000 Sephardic Jews leaving for refuge in North Africa, Turkey, etc. The last Jews left on August 2, 1492, the day before Columbus sailed, and that was also the traditional day of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Thus, the first words Columbus wrote in his log were: "After you expelled the Jews your majesties sent me with a fleet."

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