Posts Tagged ‘Secret Jews in Spain’

* Discussion questions for The Heretic … a novel of Jewish history in the 15th c.

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 22, 2013

The Heretic - new cover

I was recently asked to prepare discussion questions for a book club that is reading The Heretic. Here’s my list …

NOTE: I can do book club appearances via SKYPE anywhere in the world.


Discussion questions for The Heretic, a novel by Lewis M. Weinstein

1. Did you know about the Church’s persecution of Jews in 15th c. Spain? Did you find it surprising?

2. What do you think prompted the Church’s actions?

3.Was the description of the earliest printing interesting to you?

4. What did you know about Queen Isabel before reading The Heretic? Were you surprised by her portrayal in the book?

5. How would you compare the relationships between …

… Gabriel & Pilar

… Tomas & Esther

… Isabel & Fernando

… Tomas & Isabel

6. Why did the attempts to convert the Jews of Spain not work out as anticipated?

7. What did you think of Prince Hasan, and his friendship with Benjamin and Esther?

8. Did Prince Hasan conform to your image of a Moorish leader?

9. Why do you think the author selected 15th c. Spain for exploring the issues of hatred of Jews?

10. Do you see a connection between the Church’s attitude toward Jews in 15th c. Spain and the Church’s behavior in Germany before and during the Holocaust?

11. What did you learn about Judaism, and the connections between Judaism and Christianity?

12. What did you think of Tomas’s discussion with the rabbi in Seville regarding the plausibility of the virgin birth of Christ?

13. Did you think Friar Perez believed in the mission he had been assigned or did he have doubts?

14. Who do you think was the ultimate victor in the battle between Friar Perez and Gabriel Catalan?

15. What were the most emotional scenes for you? Did you cry?

16. Which do you remember as the most memorable scenes?

17. Were there scenes that made you cringe? Do you think those scenes were necessary to the story?

18. Was there anything in the story you found not quite believable?

19. How true do you think the story was to the actual history?

20. Were you surprised at the positive reaction of Catholic leaders to this book which is surely not a flattering portrayal of the Church?

21. Were you curious how the author got blurbs from Elie Wiesel and Alan Dershowitz … (those are, by the way, two fascinating stories)

wiesel & dershowitz.

Elie Wiesel & Alan Dershowitz


purchase The Heretic at amazon …

$5.99 in Kindle (also available for Nook) … $14.95 in paper

The Heretic


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* a new review of THE HERETIC on Goodreads

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 28, 2013

Heretic & Hereje

Laura Uplinger‘s review of The Heretic
… Mar 23, 2013
… 5 of 5 stars


“Thank you Lewis Weinstein for this fabulous book!

It moved me so deeply … I admire your art and your research.
“The Heretic” educated me,
and the Catalan family now lives in my heart.”
The Heretic is available on amazon in print ($14.95) or kindle ($5.99).
Click below …

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* reviews of Hereje … translated from the Spanish

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 20, 2013

Heretic & Hereje


*** This is a story that combines history and feelings in a masterful way, where the adventures of a family saga follows the evolution of the history of Spain, in its most gruesome, a book that shows the social ascent, servility, betrayal , love, righteousness in ideas, obsession and hope.

***  A well-documented historical novel in which the author, brings to each of his characters, to a different reality, reflecting the difficult lives of those who chose another religion in a state dominated by intolerant Catholic church of the time.

*** Gabriel Catalan has seen the death of his father, a Jewish convert, beaten in the streets of Seville, and make the decision to continue practicing the faith of their elders. But times are tough for the Spanish Jews, and Torquemada just sent to Seville the Dominican Ricardo Perez with the mission of exposing the converts that still practiced Judaism in secret.

 *** Heretic is a great recreation of the life of the Jews in Spain in the fifteenth century, caught between political intrigues and religious persecution.


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* Hereje (The Heretic) Spanish sales results for 2012

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 19, 2013

HEREJE-Spanish cover


Just received from my Spanish publisher algaida editores …

an accounting of sales  for Hereje for 2012 …

1134 copies sold.

Hereje is the Spanish edition of The Heretic, published in 2000.

It tells the story of a family of secret Jews struggling to survive

the persecution of the Catholic Church in 15th century Spain

on the eve of the Spanish Inquisition.


purchase Hereje at amazon …



purchase The Heretic at amazon …


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* an enthusiastic new review of “The Heretic” on Goodreads … “History, action, and love all abound in this book.”

Posted by Lew Weinstein on September 6, 2012


The Heretic and Hereje (Spanish edition published in 2012)


Elie Wiesel, Alan Dershowitz and Faye Kellerman praise The Heretic

Elie Wiesel: The Heretic is deeply absorbing … it helps Jews and Christians better understand their complex and often painful relationship.

Alan M. Dershowitz: The historical novel that is both true to the past and relevant to the present is rare indeed. The Heretic humanizes the tragic history of religious persecution.

Faye Kellerman: The Heretic is a sweeping historical tale of love, honor, justice, religion, and morality, meticulously researched and wonderfully exciting. (author Faye Kellerman has written two historical novels as well as her hugely popular detective series)



A new review of The Heretic was just posted on Goodreads by Fergie …

The Heretic is a wonderfully written novel about the Spanish Inquisition and the impact it had on the Jewish population in the 15th century. In Lewis Weinstein’s able hands, the history of Jewish culture trying to survive the Anti-Semitic acts of that era survive. In fact, Weinstein describes with great deft, the roots of Anti-Semitic views in Europe.

I read this book in one day, finding it difficult to put down. History, action, and love all abound in this book. Also present is the notion of ignorance and the discrimination that extends from it.

The Catholic Church’s sins are outlined historically and accurately in the book. To understand history is to make an effort not to repeat it. Had the world taken greater note of the issues described so well by Mr. Weinstein, perhaps the world, and most notably, the Jewish population, may not have been forced to suffer through the Holocaust.

  • Students of history should read this book.
  • People of the Catholic and Jewish faiths should read this book.
  • It may sound like an over-reaching statement, but I believe that all humanity would be well-served reading this book.

Once you read the foreword, you’ll be compellingly hooked.


from the Foreword to The Heretic by Msgr. Tom Hartman

 The Heretic, a book by Lewis Weinstein, was where I turned in order to understand the Inquisition.  I knew the outline of Christian atrocities but Lew’s book taught me about the painful positions many good people were put into in order to survive.  It’s not a pretty picture.  Their lives were all scarred in one way or another.  But The Heretic reminds us of a history that we should not forget.


read … The Heretic: PROLOGUE


“No. Don’t go out there,” she pleads.

“You stay inside,” he orders.

She shouts to her son. “Run! Get your father. Hurry!” She follows her father-in-law to the door, horrified by what she fears will happen.

The old man reaches the street just as the first of them come around the corner. He walks straight at them — they shrink back — the crowd has not yet gained the courage to attack one who is not afraid. They shout.

“Jewish pig!”

“Christ killer!”

“Devil worshipper!”

He raises his hands, and surprisingly, the crowd quiets.

“Why do you call me Jew?” he says softly. “I’m baptized just as you.”

“Liar! We know what you converso Jews do. You don’t work on Saturday, and you don’t eat pork. You just pretend to be Christian.”

“That’s not true. I gave up the Jewish religion long ago. I wet my head in your baptismal water and I’ve been a good Christian ever since.”

He smiles, laughs almost, knowing they are not convinced, that nothing he says will ever change their minds. But he is not afraid. He stands taller. He is eerily calm.

“You say I’m a Jew. Why? I don’t pray to the God of Israel. I go to church and take the sacraments. My son is not circumcised.”

He turns away. They follow. He spins to face them. It is time, after so many years. Time to be a Jew.

“Is this what you want?” he thunders.

Deliberately, he places his high crowned hat on his head. He tugs under his cloak and removes a long white scarf, the Jewish prayer shawl, the tallit. He holds it solemnly in front of him, aged eyes straining to see faded words. He prays silently, in Hebrew: Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us by Thy commandments, and has commanded us to wrap ourselves in tallit.

He raises and twists the tallit. The pure white fabric unfolds, soars majestically and lands gently on his shoulders. He lifts it to cover his head. His face is hidden. He closes his eyes tightly. He is in another place.

He prays, she thinks, for the years he has lost, and perhaps also for the years ahead, though not for him: O God of Israel Who desires repentance, allow me to repent for the foolishness of my baptism. O God of Israel Who forgives, forgive me for willfully discarding Your commandments. O God of Israel Who redeems His people, accept me, and allow me once again to walk in Your ways.

He raises his voice, knowing the effect the strange sounding Hebrew words will have.

Hear O Israel … the Lord our God, the Lord is One.

          The crowd gasps. Swords are raised.

“Jesus of Nazareth is not God!” he shouts. “There is only one God, and He is the God of Israel!”

The first sword explodes against the side of his head, knocking his hat to the ground. A second shining blade slices into his shoulder. Bloodied, he does not fall. He says the Hebrew words slowly, powerfully.

Blessed is the Name of His glorious Kingdom for all eternity

          The bloody sword flashes again, and he smiles, the last act of his life.

Now they all find courage. They know how to stomp on a dead man. Clubs and stones obliterate his features. Stabs to his chest. His tunic dark red.

She hears the horses a split second before the mob looks up. Her husband runs into the square, six armed men behind him. The mob retreats, its anger spent. He wraps the body of his father in his cloak, cradles the corpse gently in his arms, walks slowly into the house.

The young boy bends to retrieve his grandfather’s bloody tallit from where it has fallen.


More Praise for The Heretic

from secular sources …

Rick Steves’ Spain:To get the feel of Spain past and present, check out these three books: For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway); Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes); and The Heretic (Lewis Weinstein)

Professor Jane S. Gerber:I couldn’t put the book down and was thoroughly absorbed in the character development and plot line. The Heretic is the best book I have encountered using Sephardic history as the backdrop.  (Professor Gerber is the Director of the Institute for Sephardic Studies at the CUNY Graduate School and the author of The Jews of Spain.)

Midwest Book Review:a superbly written debut novel of political intrigue … Weinstein is a master storyteller … The Heretic leaves the reader looking eagerly toward his next literary effort.

Renaissance Magazine: vivid and descriptive, breathtaking detail.

from Catholic sources …

Monsignor Thomas Hartman:  a compelling read … the book is historically accurate.

John Cardinal O’Connor:  “The Spanish Inquisition of which you write in The Heretic was just one tragic event out of many in the Jewish-Catholic encounter.  (Cardinal O’Connor was the Archbishop of New York)

Bishop John J. Snyder:  an absorbing and challenging story … an important epic. (Bishop Snyder is the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine and a member of the U.S. Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.)

Dr. Eugene J. Fisher: My predecessor, Fr. Edward Flannery, used to say that we Christians have torn out of our history books all the pages the Jews remember.  The Heretic may help redress that serious imbalance in historical memory between our two ancient peoples.  (Dr. Fisher is Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, National Conference of Catholic Bishops.)

from Jewish sources …

The Jewish Press: a breathtaking tour de force … historically accurate and unusually entertaining … an exciting page turner.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency: compelling and gripping depiction

Hadassah Magazine: a captivating first novel.

The Jerusalem Post: Weinstein portrays his characters as real people living in a very frightening period … exciting, interesting and very readable epic.

San Diego Jewish Times: a mesmerizing novel about all those things that make us humane and caring human beings

Detroit Jewish News: literary brilliance, exciting action, romance, cinematic action on paper

Jewish Week: a stirring novel, much period detail … much to say about family, faith and Jewish identity.


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