Was Columbus Jewish?
James Scott Trimm
Today is Columbus Day. There has been some speculation that Columbus may have been secretly Jewish.
On March 31, 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella proclaimed that all Jews were to be expelled from Spain.
The now famous voyage was not funded by Queen Isabella alone. Two Conversos (Conversos were Jews who were forced to renounce Judaism and embrace Catholicism.): Louis de Santangel and Gabriel Sanchez advanced Columbus an interest free loan of 17,000 ducats to help pay for the voyage, Rabbi Don Isaac Abrabanel, a Jewish statesman did the same.
Columbus was originally scheduled to sail on August 2, 1492, a day that happened to coincide with Tisha B'Av, a fast commemorating the destruction of both the First and Second Temples. Columbus postponed this original departure date by one day to avoid embarking on the holiday, which would have been considered by Jews to be an unlucky day to set sail. Instead they left on August 3rd, 1492, the very day that all Jews were required by the edict to leave Spain.
On the upper left-hand corner of all but one of the thirteen letters written by Columbus to his son Diego are two handwritten Hebrew letters BEIT and HEY. This is a traditional abbreviation for the Hebrew b'ezrat Hashem ("with the Lord's help"). For centuries it has been the custom of Torah Observant Jews to add this blessing to their letters. None of Columbus' letters to outsiders have these letters. The only letter to Diego in which he omitted these Hebrew letters was one meant for King Ferdinand.
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