The International Society for Sephardic Progress has awarded Edwin Black the 2004 Doña Gracia Medal for Best Book of The Year for his book Banking on Baghdad. The Doña Gracia Medal is awarded annually in January for the most significant book published during the preceding year that impacts the Sephardic community. The book awarded is one which the ISFSP feels would be strongly recommend for members of both the Jewish and non-Jewish public to read.

Edwin Black's book Banking on Baghdad has become a catalyst for change, bringing about a more accurate and inclusive educational curriculum on Holocaust studies. When Holocaust educators teach about the years 1933-1945, they aim to present a comprehensive overview. But sadly, a major event that took place during this period, known as the Farhud-the 1941 Nazi-allied pogrom against Iraqi Jewry, has been all but forgotten about by historians. The subsequent events culminating in the expulsion of 120,000 Iraqi Jews-a community with a precious 2,600 year legacy-has also been forgotten. Edwin Black's work has made a difference, evoking widespread discussion, by both Jews and non-Jews, about the events that unfolded in Iraq between the Arabs and their partnership with Hitler.

Doña Gracia Medal for best Jewish Book of The Year

Doña Gracia Mendesia (Mendes) Nasi was a 16th century banker who used her money, power and influence to develop an escape network that saved thousands of her fellow conversos (forcibly-converted Jews) from the terrors of the Inquisition. She was born about 1510 in Portugal to the Spanish family of Benveniste. She lived during the turbulent times after the expulsion from Spain. Her family remained in Portugal after the 1497 forced conversions to Catholicism and there lived as secret Jews (conversos). Her name to the outside world became Beatrice de Luna. She had married Francisco Mendes, one of two brothers that controlled a growing trading company. The House of Mendes probably began as a company trading precious objects. However, the boom in spice trading following the Portuguese explorations lead to a sea route to India, and this led to the Mendes family becoming important spice traders. When her husband died, her brother took over the family business, but soon he died. Doña became the head of this large international enterprise for which she entertained two specific goals. One was to reach a land where she could be free of the threat of the Inquisition and practice her Judaism openly. The other was to help as many of her fellow secretly practicing Jews (crypto-Jews) reach freedom. Through a series of careful moves she takes her business and family to Antwerp, Venice, Ferrara (where she declares her Judaism). In the process she is taken by the Inquisition, accused of heresy by her own sister and provokes international incidents when, while she is still in Italy, the Sultan of Turkey places her under his protection. In Constantinople she helped build synagogues, used her considerable wealth to help individuals and communities, supported academies of learning as far away as in newly revived Jewish settlements in Jerusalem, and sponsored printing presses-which were invaluable in keeping Jewish books alive. She died in 1568, the 'heart of her people'.

 

(HOME)

© Copyright ISFSP International Society for Sephardic Progress