1451 – May 20, 1506
Back in Hebrew school, famous people who might or might not be Jewish was a popular discussion (apparently, it still is). One of the big time maybe-Jews that came up was good ol' Christopher Columbus, the explorer/doofus who sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and somehow confused a bunch of Arawaks with the people of India, a case of mistaken identity on the level of confusing Paris Hilton with Paris, France.
What made us think he might be a Jew?
He left Spain at a REALLY good time for a Jew to be leaving Spain. Back when the Inquisition was more than just a hit musical, you could A:convert or B:die. If you wanted C:none of the above, you had to flee. Quick. Perhaps on a ship of some sort to a far far away place...
But before you could get on this mystical magical ship, you needed to hide from the authorities. Except no one's buying that you're Jesus' biggest fan if your name is Mordecai. So, you would choose a fake Christian name. And lets be clear, it doesn't get any Christianer than Christopher.
OK, so it isn't exactly an open and shut case. But more importantly, unlike 15 years ago when we first brought this up, even if he is Jewish, do we really want him?
The days of Columbus being seen as heroic are, at best, slipping away, and more and more we have a picture of a chauvinist European dope who didn't so much discover America as luck into a pristine continent and then trample some of the natives, leading the way for a whole generation of European, native trampling dopes.
So, maybe Chris was Jewish. Probably not. But even if he were, we're just not that excited about having him anymore. Now Ponce de Leon on the other hand...
Verdict: Not a Jew.
September 7, 2006