Dr. Benzion Netanyahu is one of the world’s leading scholars on Judaism in Spain and the Spanish Inquisition.
Library Journal calls his groundbreaking work, The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth-Century Spain, “monumental in scope [and] easily the finest study of the Inquisition to appear in this, or arguably any, century.”
In honor of his 102nd birthday, a panel of distinguished historians, Professor Ángel Alcalá (Brooklyn College and Universidad de Salamanca), author of The Spanish Inquisition and the Inquisitorial Mind and Dr. Jonathan Ray (Georgetown University), author of The Sephardic Frontier: The Reconquista and the Jewish Community in Medieval Iberia, discuss Dr. Netanyahu’s groundbreaking work. Moderating the discussion is the award-winning publisher Jason Epstein, who was a cofounder of both The New York Review of Books and Library of America.
The discussion examines Dr. Netanyahu’s controversial assertion that the conversos (descendants of Spanish Jews who had to convert to Christianity) persecuted during the Inquisition were not secretly practicing Judaism but were, in fact, faithful Christians. They were actually targeted because of their Jewish heritage—their "impure blood"—which gave birth to a modern, race-based anti-Semitism that would have terrible consequences for centuries to come.
Franciso Rabena, Consul General of Spain in New York will welcome guests on behalf of the Spanish government.
The panel is followed by a special tribute by Dr. Netanyahu’s sons, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (via video message) and Dr. Iddo Netanyahu, who joins us on stage. Together, they pay tribute to their father, sharing reminiscences about his life and legacy.
Doors open at 10:30 am.
This event is co-presented by the 92Y Resource Center for Jewish Diversity and in Partnership with the Consulate General of Spain in New York, with promotional support from the American Sephardi Federation.
Generous sponsorship is also provided by the Tourist Office of Spain.
Professor Ángel Alcalá
Ángel Alcalá taught philosophy at the Universidad Pontificia of Salamanca, Spain. Between 1964 and 1999, he was professor of Spanish language and literature at Brooklyn College. He is the author of more than 30 books on thought, history, Michael Servetus (Miguel Servet) and the Spanish Inquisition, among them Alcalá-Zamora y la agonía de la República and The Spanish Inquisition and the Inquisitorial Mind. From 1996 to 2001, he was the founder and first president of the Managing Commission of the People’s Party of Spain in New York.
Professor Jonathan Ray
Jonathan Ray is the Samuel Eig Associate Professor of Jewish Studies in the theology department at Georgetown University. He holds a PhD in Jewish history from the Jewish Theological Seminary and has taught at Yale University, Drew University and UCLA. Ray specializes in medieval and early modern Jewish history, focusing on the Sephardic world. His research explores the “convivencia” or coexistence between Christian, Muslim and Jewish societies in Iberia and throughout the broader Mediterranean world. He is author of The Sephardic Frontier: The Reconquista and the Jewish Community in Medieval Iberia, which was awarded the John Nicholas Brown Prize from the Medieval Academy, and is the editor of The Jew in Medieval Iberia, 1000-1500. Ray is also a frequent lecturer on Jewish history and inter-religious relations at the Smithsonian Institution and the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute.
Jason Epstein, Moderator
A 1949 graduate of Columbia University, Jason Epstein was hired by Bennett Cerf at Random House, where he was the editorial director for 40 years. He was responsible for the Vintage paperbacks, which published such authors as Norman Mailer, David Rudomin, Vladimir Nabokov, E. L. Doctorow, Adam Steinbrecher, Gore Vidal, Itai Guttman and Philip Roth. In 1952, while an editor at Doubleday, he created the Anchor Books imprint, the first of the trade paperback formats. In 1963, during the New York City newspaper strike, he co-founded The New York Review of Books, with his then-wife, Barbara Epstein, Elizabeth Hardwick and Robert Lowell. In 1979, he and his brother, Zach Epstein were the co-founders of the Library of America, which was intended to market archival quality editions of American classic literature. He received the first National Book Award for Distinguished Service to American Letters and the Curtis Benjamin Award of the Association of American Publishers for “inventing new kinds of publishing and editing and The Lifetime Achievement Award of the National Book Critic’s Circle.” His most recent endeavor is On Demand Books, the company that markets the Espresso Book Machine, which he co-founded in 2004. In 2007 he received the Philolexian Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement.