Leone Hebreo.Descended of the illustrious family Abarbanel: was the son of Isaac Abravanel, a famous scholar of Jewish religious thought that for his organizational skills became treasurer and minister of King Alfonso V of Portugal. After that Isaac fell out of favor during the reign of John II in 1484 Jehuda ( Leone ) fled together with his family from Portugal. Went first to Seville, where he practiced medicine and took the name of “Lion”, and in 1492 fled Spain to avoid the anti-Semitic persecution. The King of Spain, Ferdinand the Catholic, wanted to retain Leone, provided, however, that the son Isaac was baptized. Leo refused and took refuge with his family in Naples, at the time headed by Ferrante di Aragona. In Naples there was actually greater tolerance and Leo could devote himself to the medical profession and to philosophical studies. The son, however, was taken away by force, by the king of Portugal decree, baptized and entrusted to the Dominicans. The invasion of Charles VIII (21 February 1495) led him to leave Naples to go to Genoa. Because of provisions against the Jews, in the spring of 1501 he left Genoa for Barletta, where he had fled with his father. Returned to Naples in the same year, at the invitation of King Frederick and remained in Naples at the time of  the Garigliano battle (1503), and the Spanish conquest of Naples’ kingdom, under the protection of the viceroy, Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba. When Gonzalo de Cordoba fell from his power (1507), Leo went to Venice, where in the meantime his father had moved. After a short residency in Ferrara (1515) and Pesaro (1516), in 1521 he returned to Naples, where he practiced medicine. Nothing is known of his life after that date in 1535, the year of publication of the Dialogues of love, however, was probably already dead. Leo wrote poems in Hebrew and Italian, but his fame is linked to his Dialogues of Love, published posthumously in Rome in 1535. The Three Dialogues (Dialogue I: On Love and Desire; Dialogue II: De community of Love; Dialogue III: De origin of Love) were perhaps written in Hebrew and later translated into Italian. The protagonists of the dialogue, with the theme of Neoplatonic love, are Philo, representative of the passion of love, and Sophia, the Wisdom rational. The work had a great influence on the culture of the second half of the sixteenth century.DIALOGUES OF LOVE di LEONE HEBREO  (1°) DIALOGUES OF LOVE di LEONE HEBREO (1°2°3°)  GIORDANO BRUNO AND LEONE HEBREO

Benvenida Abravanel was one of the wealthiest and most influential Jewish women in the early Renaissance. Her family life was however very complex and certainly not sufficiently known. The place and date of her birth is still not known with certainty. She was the daughter of Jacob Abravanel (1528) who was one of Isaac Abravanel’s brother (1437-1508) an exegete, Spanish philosopher and a man who was in charge of the state finances. Samuel (1473-1547) married Binevenida who brought a large dowry, she was both sister in law and niece of Isaac Abravanel and at the same time Samuel’s cousin. In 1492 Bienvenida and her family left Portugal and moved to Naples, where  the father of Benvenida succeeded by Samuel took over the leadership of the Jewish Community. It is said that Bienvenida probably had six or seven children, three boys and three girls, and one of them seems to have been Samuel’s illegitimate son. The sons of Benvenida, were Jacob, Yehuda (Leo) and Isaac (or Reuveni said Rafanellum), between the females only two names Gioia and Letizia are known. After Samuel’s death the two legitimate sons Jacob and Yehuda had collaborated working together, and contributed to the Maimonides Mishane Torah manuscripts recovery belonged to their father Isaac Abravanel who beside a great financier had also been a re-knowned philosopher and a Rabbi. One of Benvenida’s daughters lived in Lisbon, and as it appears from a letter of Reuveni while in Portugal for a visit, she was a  very generous and caring person as well as an observant Jew, although it is thought that her observance, including her fasting tradition, was lived mainly as a Crypto-Jew. At the time of the Aragonese in Naples a widespread anti-Semitism was still active, and although Jews had a chance to reside freely in the city, had to wear a Jewish badge, and finally were definitively expelled by the 1511 edict. Only 200 families remained in the city after a large sum was paid to make them stay. With Charles V in 1520, while the edicts of persecution and expulsion of the Jews continued, there was a period of privileges granted to Naples’ Jewish Community, and in 1532 the Viceroy Don Pedro di Toledo, commend Eleanor his second daughter to the Abravanel’s family education, of which Benvenida was the guardian and teacher. It is said in addition that the other daughter of Don Pedro, had died of tuberculosis and had been buried in the Church of St. Maria del Purgatorio ad Arco, in Via dei Tribunali. Reuveni travelled first to Alexandria and Jerusalem, than to Portugal and various places in Italy including Pisa. In those years Benvenida was very supportive by sending money, making gifts and making sure Jewish families hosted him with all the honors, especially in Pisa. When in 1541 the expulsion edict finally expelled all Naples’ Jews, the Community moved in Ferrara under the protection of the Grand Duke, where Benvenida once again became a point of reference for the Community. In those years she came into contact with another female figure: Dona Gracia Mendes de Luna, also a refugee in Ferrara, which became the typical place for Sephardi Jews. The two women certainly met, and there is evidence that the gran-daughter of Dona Gracia, Beatrice, married Samuel’s grandson. The two women however set into two opposite poles during a political contrast where Dona Gracia promoted the Ancona embargo. After Samuel’s death, there was a dispute about the children inheritance which came into the hands of various Rabbis in Italy and Turkey, and finally ended after several years with the Rabbi Marham settlement. While till 1550 the two brothers worked together with their mother, with the help of Eleonora of Toledo, wife of Grand Duke Cosimo de Medici, Jehuda was later disherited by his mother for marrying a Jewish Portuguese woman in Pesaro, for which Benvenida also made sure he got arrested. It followed that Jehuda and his wife’s family supported the Ancona embargo. Later the two brothers Jacob and Reuveni had to deliver their father’s manuscript to the Ferrara Inquisitors and Jehuda and his wife were accused, therefore went under the Duke de’ Medici protection. The qualities of Benvenida, although being a solid woman, also indicates a profound generosity and dedicated person to her family and her people, being considered as one of the righteous women in Israel in addition to receiving comments of appreciation from both Rabbis and the Jewish world. Information on Benvenida are present in the sources of the Family de ‘Medici, the information on Families and Abravanel Mndes / De Luna / Benveniste / Nasi Renata Segre’, in the book of David Makiel “The Jews and their wills in Italian Renaissance. “

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