Doņa Gracia Nasi

A philanthropist, known as the heart of her people.

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Her hope was to encourage a self sufficient Jewish community there. For a short time, Jewish settlement in the Galilee was increased and Tiberius became a successful city. Although a mansion was prepared there for La Signora herself, she died before she could occupy it. This settlement, one of the earliest to attract Jews to return to Zion, has usually been credited to Gracia's nephew, Don Joseph Nasi, conceding only that she was at his right hand, serving as his inspiration. However, the idea was first envisioned by Gracia, who, taking advantage of her influence at court, conceived of the plan, leased the land for a high yearly rental that she paid herself, and briefly turned Tiberius into a thriving Jewish city.

After she died, Joseph never visited the town and it deteriorated. Finally, the lease was allowed to lapse. The exact date of Gracia Nasi's death is not known, but it probably occurred in the summer of 1569 when she was 59 or 60 years old. By that time, she had achieved power, fame, and riches beyond most people's imagination.

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Emily Taitz

Emily Taitz has a PhD in medieval Jewish history from the Jewish Theological Seminary. She taught women's history at Adelphi University and is presently co-editor of The New Light, a literary magazine.