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SENIOR, ABRAHAM:

Court rabbi of Castile, and royal tax-farmer-in-chief; born in Segovia in the early part of the fifteenth century; a near relative of the influential Andreas de Cabrera. On account of his wealth, intelligence, and aristocratic bearing he was in such favor with the Castilian grandees that he (1469) succeeded in bringing about the marriage of the Infanta (later, Queen) Isabella to Ferdinand of Aragon. Some years later (1473) he effected a reconciliation between Isabella and her brother, Henry IV. of Castile. The queen, whose confidence Senior enjoyed, granted him, in token of her gratitude for the services he had rendered her, a life pension of 100,000 maravedis, which in 1480 was confirmed at the instance of Hernando do Talavera, her confessor.

Senior received also the royal appointment of "rab do la corte" (court rabbi—for which office, however, he, like many of his predecessors, lacked the proper qualifications) and of tax-farmer-in-chief. He was so highly respected by the grandees that in 1480 the Cortes of Toledo presented him with 50,000 maravedis from the revenues collected through his agency. In the farming of the royal taxes he associated himself with Isaac Abravanel, who soon became his intimate friend. During the war between Castile and the last king of the Moors, especially in the conquest of Granada, Senior rendered the Spanish army valuable services as factor-general.

His interest in his persecuted coreligionists was an active one. It was through his efforts that the Jews of Castile raised a large sum to ransom those of their own faith who had been taken prisoners at the capture of Malaga. He is said, however, to have sold the jewelry belonging to the captive women, and to have added the proceeds to the ransom-money. When the decree expelling the Jews from Spain (March 31, 1492) had become generally known, Senior, together with Isaac Abravanel, hastened to the queen imploring her to spare them. He was not heeded, however, and was weak enough to yield to the queen's request that he desert his brethren. On June 15, 1492, he and his son were baptized in Valladolid, the king and queen and the primate of Spain acting as sponsors. He then assumed the name "Ferrad [Fernando] Perez Coronel." R. David Messer Leon alludes to him in his comment on the appointment of a court rabbi of Castile "who lacked knowledge, and fear of God—'kemo shehokiaḥ sofo 'al teḥillato,'" as his end proved (see the responsum of David Leon in "R. E. J." xxiv. 135). With Senior was baptized the rabbi Meïr, who was, according to Bernaldez ("Historia de los Reyes Católicos," p. 336, Seville, 1870), his father-in-law, or, according to Elijah Capsali (see "Liḳḳuṭim Shonim," ed. Lattes, p. 73, Padua, 1869), his brother-in-law.

Bibliography:
  • Liḳḳuṭim Shonim, ed. Lattes, pp. 60 et seq., Padua, 1869;
  • Mariana, De Rebus Hispaniœ, book xxiv., ch. i., in Coleccion de Documentos Inéditos para la Historia de España, xiii. 195 et seq., Madrid, 1848;
  • Rios, Hist. iii. 279, 296;
  • Kayserling, Christopher Columbus, pp. 22, 46;
  • idem, Gesch. der Juden in Portugal, pp. 83, 102.
J. M. K.
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