GRACIA MENDES NASI
Gracia Mendes Nasi was a visionary Shipping Magnate who helped Jews find safe places to live. Gracias was born eighteen years before 1492 when Spain spelled the vast majority of its Jews Her family fled to Portugal. However, once in Portugal, the country was also forced to convert to Catholicism.
In Public, Gracia’s family was forced to celebrate Christian holidays and attend Sunday Church, and at home, they secretly practiced Judaism. Gracia was a very well-educated and smart girl and she got married to a wealthy trader from another well-known and respected Converso family. He died ten years after their marriage and left her with half of his international business. Life become very hard for conversos in Portugal, who were persecuted by the Inquisition despite their conversion to Catholicism. Gracia fled north to Antwerp, where she used her company business contacts to create a fund and create an escape network helping thousands of Jews to leave Spain and Portugal.
Considered one of the world’s wealthiest women, Gracia became richer when his brother died, acquiring his brother’s husband’s other half of the company. She was a businesswoman, and due to the continued persecution of conversos, she transferred the family assets to Italy, when she could finally live openly as a Jew. There, she became very well-known for her philanthropic work, supporting Jews who have fled the inquisition, and people started calling her Doña (lady in Spanish). However, as antisemitism started growing in Italy, she transferred again her family assets to Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire. There she helped used her fortune to open yeshivas, libraries, synagogues, and charities for her fellow Jews.
One century, before the political activist Theodor Herzl began to promote the establishment of the Jewish state, Garcia negotiated an agreement with the Sultan Suleiman granting her family the ruins of Tiberia’s to develop a center for Jewish Life, trade, and learning. She funded the rebuilding of a Jewish settlement. Unfortunately, after the Sultan died the agreement was revoked.
In 2010 concede a state medal honoring the 500th anniversary of her birth.