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Benvenida Abrabanel

(c. 16th century)

After the Spanish Inquisition in 1492, Benvenida Arabanel fled to Naples. She married her cousin, Samuel Abrabanel and they had six children.

Samuel soon became the head of the Jewish community in Naples, and Benvenida became a teacher for the Spanish viceroy's daughter, Eleonora. Eleonora married the Duke of Tuscany, and Benvenida maintained her relationship with the royal family.

Although Benvenida and the Duchess Eleonora were close friends, the Duke of Tuscany persisted in allowing the expulsion of Jews from the southern part of Italy. Samuel and Benvenida were forced to flee again, and they lived out the rest of their lives in a northern peninsula of Italy.

After Samuel Arabanel's death, Benvenida inherited his estate and she became an extremely well known businesswoman. She, like many other wealthy Jews, gave a significant amount of her earnings to charity and to Talmudic scholars. After her death in 1560, she was remembered as a true Woman of Valor.

Sources: Taitz, Emily, Sondra Henry, Cheryl Tallan. TheJPS Guide to Jewish Women. PA: Jewish Publication Society of America, 2003.