Stephen Vider interviews Rebecca Goldstein in Nextbook:
Who was Spinoza?
He is the greatest philosopher the Jews produced. And he was excommunicated in the most vehement and irreconcilable terms possible, before writing the works for which he is now famous. The 17th-century Amsterdam community of Sephardic Jews—people returning to Judaism after being separated from it by the Spanish-Portuguese Inquisition—used excommunication, as many communities did at that time, as a means of control. People were often put in kherem for days, sometimes years. There were conditions for returning to the fold, and then they did. Spinoza’s excommunication was final, there’s nothing he can do. Every curse is called down on the head of this 23-year-old philosophically inclined young merchant. It really is part of the mystery: what had that boy done that made people so angry?