Your RDA of Irony

Oy Carumba

 According to the pundit chorus, President Obama is likely to choose the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court.  That might have surprised Benjamin Cardozo. His family lived in Spain and Portugal for 14 centuries–even if they never were exactly conspicuous at daily mass. Indeed, the Cardozos likely would have stayed in Iberia for another five centuries but for the decision of a conservative Supreme Court.  The prospect of being burned alive in Valencia or Lisbon made migration to the Netherlands seem a good idea. 

Having been scorched themselves by the Spanish, the Dutch Protestants offered haven to refugees from the Inquisition.  An Ignacio and Maria in Seville were free to revert to being Isaac and Miriam in Amsterdam.  So the Cardozos became Dutch.  Nonetheless, the Cardozos never lost their Spanish identity.  When they settled in the British colony of New York, they joined the local Sephardic synagogue.  (The alternative would have been the German synagogue–where any Yiddish would have completely lost on the Cardozos.)   

This is not to say that Benjamin Cardozo would have identified with the Sharks in “West Side Story” but you cannot deny his Hispanic history.  His ancestors were in Iberia three centuries before King Juan Carlos’ Visgothic folk showed up.  Why didn’t a Spanish Jew tell Ferdinard and Isabella, “No, you leave.  We were here first.”  Obviously, chutzpah is more Askenazim. 

So Sonia Sotomayer might have to content herself with being the second Hispanic on the Supreme Court.  And, depending on her Spanish ancestry, there is at least a ten percent chance that Ms. Sotomayer might also be the second Jewish woman on the Supreme Court.

p.s.  From last year, here is a reminder of this day’s historic significance:

Leave a Reply