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Anniversary of the Negris leaving Spain

My family name, when we lived in Spain, was Negri .. a word meaning that we were dark folks like the moors.  In March 1492 King Ferdinand, under pressure from Torquemada, issued a decree of expulsion against the Negri.

Four months later, two days before Christopher Columbus set sail, my family left Spain led by Isaac Abravanel, Bible commentator and philosopher. He was the last of the long line of great Jewish leaders and heroes of the Spanish Golden Age.

image descriptionThis picture shows rav Abravanel carrying a Torah scroll, on the 9th of Av, 5252 (July 30, 1492), followed by the last Jews out of Spain.

The boats sailed to Livorno, the port of entry for most Jews fleeing to the more tolerant Italy but were rejected because plague had broken out aboard.  The small fleet of plague ridden boats sailed on to  Naples where they set up a community under the tolerance of its King, ironically another “King Ferdinand.”

When Ferdinand of Spain learned that the Jews found a haven in Naples, he requested the king of Naples to expel the Jews. The young king of Naples invited Abravanel to the royal house and appointed him as his adviser.  Abravanel served both him and his son Alfonso II who succeeded to the throne in 1494.

Unfortunately the Inquisition came to Naples and the city was captured by King Charles of France.  King Alfonso II fled to Sicily accompanied by Abravanel. Rav Abravanel continued to serve Alfonso until the exiled king died.  Then Abravanel left for the island of Corfu in the Mediterranean.  He moved to Monopoli, a town in the Kingdom of Naples, and 8 years later finally settled in Venice.  Here it was not long before the rulers of Venice invited him to the council of state, and Abravanel became one of the leading statesmen of that Venetian Republic. Italy, he again rose in position to advise the Neapolitan King. Seven years later he moved to Venice, where other than negotiating a spice trade agreement between Italy and Portugal, he dedicated the rest of his life to studying Torah and writing commentaries – including The Prophets, The Book of Daniel, The Haggadah, Ethics of the Fathers and Rambam’s Guide to the Perplexed. Abravanel died in the year 5269, at the age of 71, deeply mourned by the Jewish and non-Jewish citizens of Venice. The leading rulers of Venice attended his funeral, and he was laid to rest in Padua.

Sometime during all this my family migrated to Milan where they lived until Franz Joseph liberated the Jews of northern Italy. From Milan they moved to Stanislaus in Galicia. My grandfather, Schmoel Schwartz, brought scrolls and books with him to the USA. Sadly, after his death these were given to a schul in Cambridge and eventually buried as successor schuls closed. The family feud has blocked my efforts to see if other sources, perhaps the Jewish Historical Society could help me learn more about this heritage.


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