Past and present

Past and present

An unusual bit of information has surfaced as the investigation into the foiled mail-bomb plot continues: According to Wednesday’s New York Times, the addressees of the two intercepted package bombs were “two historical figures notorious in Middle Eastern lore for the persecution of Muslims.” (The addresses, on the other hand, were of two Chicago synagogues – except that there are no synagogues at the given locations.)

One of those figures, Diego Deza (1444-1523), is notorious in Jewish as well as Muslim – and when you come right down to it, Christian – history. He was a Grand Inquisitor (succeeding the rightly called “infamous” Torquemada), a confessor at the court of the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, and a patron of Christopher Columbus.

Harboring a hatred, in particular, of conversos – Jews or Muslims who had converted to Christianity, whom he suspected of secretly practicing their faith – he was reportedly so cruel in his zeal to uproot “heresy” that the pope urged moderation on him.

The use of his name, and that of the other addressee, Reynald Krak (aka Renald of Chatillon, who, according to the Times, “wantonly killed Muslim pilgrims” during the Second Crusade), signals a long and continuing history of hatred. While security experts seem to agree that the bombs were meant to explode before reaching Chicago, the senders have nevertheless delivered their message.

That message is particularly resonant as we approach the 72nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass” on Nov. 9-10, 1938, a widespread Nazi-fueled German and Austrian aktion against Jews and Jewish-owned property.

We are far from that terrible time, but Jewish institutions are wisely considering and adopting extra security measures. (See page 32.)


Readers may recall that Teaneck Police Officer John Abraham was killed Oct. 25 in a single-car accident – shortly after helping to save someone from choking at a local kosher restaurant. He is survived by his wife, Martha, and a 5-year-old autistic son, Jake. Donations in his memory may be made to the Jake Abraham Fund and sent to Teaneck PBA, P.O. Box 12, Teaneck, NJ 07666.

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