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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Jews As A Nation (7/12)
Section - Question 13.13: Who was Donna Gracia?

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                                  Answer:
   
   Donna Gracia Mendes Nassi (1510-1569) was a Portuguese aristocrat of
   the 15th century, who lost nearly all her relatives to the Spanish
   Inquisition. They were burned at the stake simply for being Jews. As a
   result, Gracia left Portugul and wandered through Europe with her
   daughter and nephew. While seeking a refuge where they could freely be
   Jews, Gracia managed her family's banking interest and became adept at
   navigating the twin worlds of finance and politics. Eventually
   Gracia's family landed in Constantinople, the capital of the Turkish
   Empire. There they were embraced by the Sultan Suleiman the
   Magnificent, who allowed them to maintain their Jewish traditions. As
   their position at court became known, Jews throughout the land flocked
   to the family in times of need. One of the people she supported was
   Samuel Medina (The Maharashdam) and his yeshiva in Greece.
   
   Gracia was born a converso but at home continued to adhere to her
   Jewish heritage. After leaving Portugal with her entire entourage, she
   went to London and later moved to Antverp where she continued to live
   as a Catholic but kept a Jewish home. As the Kings needed her for
   their financial interests she was left alone, but eventually she also
   had to leave after quite a number of years and travelled via Italy to
   Istanbul. During this trip, she decided to return openly to Judaism.
   She began to study the Torah and the Talmud with a Rabbi. When she
   eventually arrived in Istanbul after travelling throught the Balkans
   she was not accepted by the Jewish community there as she was
   considered still a converso. At a later stage she travelled to
   Palestine studying in Safed and Tiberias where she had also synagogues
   built which still exist in her name. She spent some time studying
   Talmud in Safed. She valued Jewish education, financed it, and saved
   many Jewish refugees from persecution in Portugal and Spain.

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Top Document: soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Jews As A Nation (7/12)
Previous Document: Question 13.12: What About Yeminite Jews?
Next Document: How do I obtain copies of the FAQ?

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