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Antonio de Montezinos

MONTEZINOS, ANTONIO DE (Aaron Levi; d. c. 1650), Marrano traveler. On a trip to South America during 1641–42, Montezinos discovered a group of natives in Ecuador who could recite the Shema and were acquainted with other Jewish rituals. He brought this news to Amsterdam in 1644, and the congregational authorities – *Manasseh Ben Israel among them – had him repeat his account under oath. The assumption was that these natives were a remnant of the *ten lost tribes, of the tribes of Reuben and Levi according to Montezinos. He then left for Brazil where he died, reasserting on his deathbed the truth of his report. Manasseh Ben Israel dwells on Montezinos' discovery in a booklet entitled Esperança de Israel ("The Hope of Israel," Amsterdam, 1650), which he dedicated to the British parliament, appending it to his petition for the readmittance of Jews to England. His thesis was that Montezinos' account points to an imminent fulfillment of the messianic prophecy of the lost tribes of Israel being reunited with Judah. The Montezinos report aroused literary interest even outside Jewish circles. In 1650 Thomas Thorowgood (1595–1669) published his Iewes in America, or Probabilities that the Americans Are of that Race. In reply Sir Hamon L'Estrange (1583–1654) wrote Americans no Iewes, or Improbabilities that the Americans Are of that Race (London, 1652). Thorowgood then retorted with Jews in America, or Probabilities that those Indians are Judaical, Made More Probable by Some Additionals to the Former Conjectures (London, 1660).


C. Roth, Life of Menasseh Ben Israel (1934), 176–92, 330–1.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.