Amsterdam may have been an incredibly open home to Jewish people in its time, but the welcome mat only stretched so far.
If it seems strange that a group of Jews from Portugal wound up in Amsterdam in the 1600s, it helps to understand what started in Spain a little more than a hundred years earlier. In 1478, a Dominican friar convinced Queen Isabella of Spain that Jews who had converted to Christianity were still secretly practicing their old beliefs. The queen and King Ferdinand petitioned Pope Sixtus IV to start an inquisition.
When I talk to nonwriters about my project – heck, even when I talk to writers about it – I’m asked any number of things, but “Where did you get that idea from” has got to be one of the things I hear the most.