lunes, 23 de diciembre de 2019

Tales of Sefarad

By Karen Sherman, La Crosse, Wisconsin




Prof. Jesús Jambrina and Dr. Abraham Haim
Lucky La Crosse for having higher learning institutions to be able to share benefits of international research. Jesús Jambrina, one of my former Viterbo University’s World Languages and Cultures Department colleagues’s research of the Jews of Zamora, Spain led to being awarded the Medal of the Four Synagogues 3 years ago, and Dr. Abraham Haim, President of the Council of Jewish Sephardi Community of Jerusalem returned recently with a Diploma of Recognition for the inclusion of the topic of Sephardic Jews in courses, research and campus activities at Viterbo.

During Dr. Haim’s weeklong visit he gave numerous presentations throughout our area regarding the Sephardi ( Spanish Jews) and their Ladino language. The Thursday of his visit he had a meeting breakfast followed by a road trip to talk on Decorah’s Luther College campus before speaking to our La Crosse Congregation Sons of Abraham that evening, where he received a warm welcome and dinner. 

During that visit Dr. Haim gave a brief talk of Ladino history accompanied with examples of Ladino music. He sang some songs a cappela, and others accompanied on guitar by spiritual leader Brian Serle along with some group singing.

The following morning courtesy of our public library, I attended a more extensive overview of the Sefardi, Spanish and Portuguese Jews who in 1496-7 had to go into exile with their culture of music, foods and Ladino language.

Using the basic "W" question Dr. Haim answered the them regarding the Sephardi, the Jewish Spaniards:





Where did they live? They lived on the Iberian peninsula but not limited to the Andalucia geographical location although it was the center of Jewish life in the Middle Ages close to Granada, the sea, in the capitals, towns and cities, Majorca, the Canary Isles, etc.

When did the Sephardi exist? Differing opinions as to whether it 586 BCE after the destruction of the first temple or the same date the 9th of Av in 70 AD after the destruction of the second Temple.

Who were the Sephardi? After the 15th century these Spanish Jews were numerous proud, cultural and creative ~600,000 of the world’s 1.5 million world Jews integrated Spain. They were culturally moderate without losing their identity. 

During the muslim 7 centuries of rule after invading and conquering Spain (except for Asturias in the north) Muslims, Jews and Christians coexisted. The Jews’s position was affected but treated better than living under the visigoths and even North African Jews also immigrated to the Iberian peninsula like Western European Jews who would eventually move where they could practice their Judaism in Iberia.


Between the 10th and the 12th centuries -the Golden Age- the Sephardi were accepted in society and flourished religiously, culturally, and economically. It wasn’t until the end of the era in the mid 12th century, and new Berber rule that Jewish persecution, and a massacre occurred in Granada, and both Muslims and Jews fled to Toledo which had been reconquered by Christian forces (~1086) 

After the reconquest (of Toledo and other northern christian cities), the Jews translated Arabic texts into the Romance Languages and “also contributed to botany, geography, medicine, mathematics, poetry and philosophy.” Several synagogues were built in Toledo. 

“The anti-Jewish riots of 1391 and the Alhambra Decree of 1492, as a result of which the majority of Jews in Spain (around 300,000) converted to Catholicism and those who continued to practice Judaism (between 40,000 and 80,000) were forced into exile, although many thousands including Moroccan Jews returned in the years following the expulsion.”

Ferdinand and Isabel united with nobility for the 1492 Inquisition forced the Jews to either convert to Catholicism, be killed (buried alive)/ be expelled. 1/3 of the Jewish population left Spain.

Jews had been previously expelled also from France and Germany in the 13rd  and 14th centuries. In 1492 Spain Jews lost their property, careers, but their culture was left in tact. The same thing happened in Portugal 5 years later. 

The Ottoman Empire controlled most of southeastern Europe from the 15th- early 20th Century… The Jews continued to begin new lives elsewhere.

What language did they speak? They spoke dialects of Iberian languages (Castilian, Catalan, Gallego, Leones...) but moved so much that their ladino language which is a mixture of Spanish and Yiddish served as a common thread. Language changes include j-ch, the change of the r and d sounds, u vs o. Those who speak Spanish can understand it due to its Spanish roots.
Some converts returned to Judaism in the 16th and following centuries all across Europe and the Americas. Other Sephardi who survived the inquisition, immigrated to Israel at the end of the 19th Century. Many people of Spanish descent are still discovering their Sephardi roots today.

In 2014, the descendants of Sephardi Jews, who were exiled in 1492, were offered Spanish citizenship, without being required to move to Spain and/or renounce any other citizenship, which they currently may have.” 


Like yiddish, the future of the ladino language is in danger of disappearing. Dr. Haim reminded us the written word will live on forever…


Thank you for returning to La Crosse Dr. Haim and sharing your Sephardic heritage.

lunes, 26 de agosto de 2019

Pictures from 2019 Congress in Jerusalem & Zamora



Cartel del evento, realizado por el Ayto de Zamora, por primera vez desplegados en vallas en el centro y casco histórico

Sesión Jerusalén, 21- 25 de Junio

Para el primer tour nos reunimos en el hotel Agripas de donde salimos a visitar algunos de los barrios sefardíes como Ohel Moshe y otros

La visita estuvo animada por miembros de la comunidad hablante de judeoespañol. Aquí, en el centro, Aharon Palti, quien nos relató historias de su vida en Jerusalén  
Visita a Yad Vashem, Museo del Holocausto, nuestra guía fue la especialista mexicana Hilda Fainsilber
Sesión de apertura en las Cuatro Sinagogas Sefardíes a cargo de Abraham Haim, presidente del Consejo de la Comunidad Sefardí de Jerusalén
 
La prof. Margalit Bejarano, Universidad Hebrea de Jerusalén, presenta la conferencia inaugural

La poeta sefardí Margalit Matitiahu leyó varios de sus poemas dedicados a ciudades españolas donde existieron importantes juderías en la edad media, entre ellas León, Zamora, Cuenca y Madrid.

Abraham García, genealogista en Jerusalén, especializado en árboles de familias conversas, compartió sus experiencias ayudando a descendientes de judíos españoles y portugueses a encontrar sus antepasados judíos como parte de la solicitud de nacionalidad para sefardíes. Curiodisdad: según García, basado en sus búsquedas en los archivos, a su llegada a las Américas entre los siglos XVI y XVIII muchos conversos usaron apellidos vascos para despistar a la inquisición. También, como promedio, sólo en la generación 15 o más se pueden encontrar indicios o de procesados por la inquisición o de antepasados que se fueron de España con el de decreto de 1492
Joshua Mendes, director de S&P Central, habló sobre las comuninades sefardíes occidentales, sobre todo las que se establecieron en Inglaterra y Estados Unidos a partir de los siglos XVII y XVIII 

Eugenio A. Alonso presenta sobre casos inquisitoriales de Judaizantes en La Habana entre los siglos XVI y XVIII a partir del Archivo Historico de Madrid referente a Cartagena de Indias  Dato poco conocido: María Nuñez, una mulata cubana que fue procesada y absuelta en México entre 1649 y 1655, toda su familia fue igualmente acusada. María era una mujer de negocios, lo cual era muy avanzado para esa época. 

En Jerusalén contamos con un reducido, pero altalmente comprometido público integrado por académicos, escritores y miembros de la comunidad de hablantes de judeoespañol.


Panel en el Centro Sefarad - Israel, Madrid, 27 de Junio


Presentación del libro La isla de Abraham (2018) de Jaime Einstein (1947-2015), María de Miguel, Centro Sefarad-Israel da la bienvenida a los asistentes y ponentes Pilar Diez, albacea literaria del autor, y Jesús Jambrina, Viterbo University, quien comentó la novela.




Nuestro grupo de Zamora Sefardí aprovechó la oportunidad para una foto colectiva en el Centro Sefarad-Israel

Concierto "Sefarad en el corazón de Turquía" de Mara Aranda,  Museo Etnográfico de Castilla y León, Zamora


Sesión Zamora, La Alhóndiga
 
El docmental Adio Kerida (2002) de Ruth Behar, Universidad de Michigan - Ann Arbor, se presentó tanto en la sesión de Jerusalén como en Zamora, seguido por un conversatorio con su directora quien estuvo presente en la puesta en España. La película cuenta la historia de los judíos cubanos desde comienzos del siglo XX hasta inicios del siglo XXI, a través de historias autobiográficas de su autora en ciudades como La Habana, Nueva York y Miami. Interview with Ruth in English


Como cada año la mayoría de nuestro público es zamorano y también personas llegadas de otros países y regiones de España y Portugal

Entre las nuevas actividades de este año estuvo el Filandón Sefardí en la Plaza de la Leña en Zamora, que estuvo animado por Alicia Valmaseada, Marifé Andrés y Judith Cohen. El tema fue Los romances de Doña Urraca, que también son cantados en la diáspora sefardí.

El historiador Suso Vila, presentó sobre las conexiones con Perú de una familia conversa de Tuy, Galicia 

Alicia Valmaseda  reflexionó sobre las relaciones linguísticas entre los idiomás leonés y judeoespañol


Panel de judíos hispanoamericanos que se han mudado a España (Sefarad) en los últimos años: Sandras Chakjin (Uruguay), Selbastián Elka (Uruguay) y Luisa Morely Bendahan (Tánger-Venezuela). Moderó Judith Cohen.

Conversatorio de Ruth Behar, Universidad de Michigan - Ann Arbor acerca de sus libros que estuvieron disponibles en la librería Jambrina, en Zamora.

Resume  de cobertura de prensa

Unidos más allá del Atlántico (Leer)
 

Tradición e historia judía en Zamora (Leer)
La presentación de dos libros de Ruth Behar pone broche final al VI Congreso Sefardí (Leer)

Mara Aranda: "La música conecta a los sefardíes con una patria por la que sienten nostalgia" (Leer)

"Aunque queda mucho de la mentalidad inquisitorial en la sociedad actual" (Leer)

sábado, 17 de agosto de 2019

A Jewish Path in Zamora

by Jesús Jambrina*, Special for The Jerusalem Post, March 23, 2016


On March 6 I gave a presentation titled “Uncovering Jewish Zamora” at the La Crosse Synagogue in Wisconsin. When in 2010 I began to look into the subject of a Jewish presence in this Spanish city of the rocky northwest, crossed by the Duero River an close to the border with Portugal, I never dreamed of the results that my curiosity would lead to. 

My first Google search on the subject of the Jewish legacy of Zamora, turned up only two results. The first was a reference to the well-known Concilio de Zamora of 1313, in which many of the prohibitions regarding the Jews that had been stipulated at the Council of  Elvira at the beginning of the fourth century were repeated. The second search result was related to the case of the “Niño de la Guardia,” a 1491 blood libel set in Toledo, in which a Zamoran Jew named Abenamías had allegedly participated. This accusation was disproved over half a century ago by Yitzak Baer, and shown to be one of many anti-Semitic fictions created by members of the infamous “Santa Inquisition” of the 15th century. [The 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia states that the entire episode is “one of the most notable and disastrous lies of history.”]

Apart from these two references which are to be found in most medieval history books which mention the subject of the Jews, there was not much more available at first glance on the Internet. This lack of information surprised me, as I personally already knew of at least one essay – dated 1992 – signed by the then-director of the Provincial Archive of Zamora, Florián Ferrero, in which bibliographies related to the Jews of Zamora are mentioned.

A few weeks later I read two books which I now consider to be classics on the subject: Juderías de Castilla y León (1988) (“Jewish Quarters in Castilla and Leon”), by Guadalupe Ramos de Castro, which has a section dedicated to the city, and El pasado judío de Zamora, (1992) (“Zamora’s Jewish Past”), by Prof. María Fuencisla García Casar, which offers a historical chronicle of the Jewish presence in the provincial capital. It was through these works – which from my present vantage point I consider to be in need of editing to update the information and perspectives on the subject – that a picture began to emerge.
There are other authors which also lent substance to my research: the studies of the late Prof. Carlos Carrete Parrondo of Salamanca University, and of Julio Valdeón Baruque of Valladolid University. In his book, Judíos y Conversos en la Castilla Medieval, (“Jews and Converts in medieval Castille”) Valdeón Baruque presents an excellent study of Castilian and Leonese Jews. 

To this Spanish bibliography one would also have to add medievalist Manuel Fernández Ladero, who has published several notable articles about Zamora and the subject of Conversos, as well Prof. Yolanda Moreno Koch and Prof. Ricardo Izquierdo Benito who have compiled several conference proceedings on the subject of Jews of Spain.

A wider bibliograhy would be incomplete without authors like the late Benzion Netanyahu (father of the present prime minister), the late Haim Beinart, and Professor Abraham Gross of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, whose book on Abraham Saba is indispensable.

When I visited the city for the first time in 2010, I was shocked by the absence of references to anything Jewish. Since I have always been interested in Jewish literature and culture from Spain, and by then knew of something of Zamora’s prestigious position during medieval times, I was curious as to why this was the case. I asked a couple of colleagues and friends in the city, including a relative of mine, and some information immediately surfaced, along with various books and articles.

Following a fruitful conversation with Ferrero Ferrero I decided to write a paper on the subject. When I returned to the United States I started to research further and realized that I had stumbled upon something more complex and that I wanted to devote more time to delve into it. Additionally, the project was a good reason for me to return to Zamora, the birthplace of my paternal grandparents.

On that first trip I also met with Mario Saban, president of Tarbut Sefarad, in Barcelona, as well as the organization’s representatives in Madrid, José Manuel Laureiro and Anun Barriuso (descendants of Crypto Jews), who encouraged me to continue with the project and offered their help. I have to say that these three friends were originally somewhat skeptical about Zamora having a significant Jewish history. 
Located at the heart of Old Castile, this is a city known for its strong Catholic culture. Celebrations around saints’ days and the Virgin Mary are very common and dominate popular festivities all year long. More importantly, its 24 Romanesque churches (the largest number of any city in Europe) drive national and international tourism. So “Good luck with anything Jewish”, I can imagine my friends and local family members thinking back then. 

However, in 2013, together with colleagues Genie Milgrom (author of My 15 Grandmothers) I organized the first international congress on “Zamora Jewish Life: History and Re-encounters” which was covered by The Jerusalem Post and local media, and caused ripples in Zamoran society. The result of the congress was a promise by then-mayor Rosa Valdeón, to signpost several areas of Jewish interest in the city. This promise was kept at the end of the 2014 congress.
Five locations, crucial to the Jewish history of a city (which until 2013 barely appeared to have any at all) are now marked by metal pillars erected by the Zamora Municipality as a direct result of the interest evidenced through the presence of these congresses in Zamora. 

Illustration included in the Bible of Cervera (Castile, and Leon, 1300) used to identified Zamora Jewish Quarters signpostings
I never imagined, when I began my research six years ago, that my efforts would bear  fruit to the point of bringing together increased numbers of local and international students of and experts in Sephardi culture and history every year since.
Among the esteemed colleagues who have taken part in our congresses are the aforementioned Gross, New York University Prof. Jane Gerber, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Prof. Ruth Behar and Universidad de Lisboa Prof. Jorge Martins, as well as many other experts on the subject of Jews and Sephardim from Spain, Portugal, the United States and Israel.

Looking towards our fourth annual event this summer, I am pleased to note that writer Gregorio G. Olmos, author of the book Yucé, el sefardí, 2016 – winner of the XXXIV Novela Felipe Trigo prize – has agreed to be our key note speaker. We also hope to see the author of the prologues of Olmos’ book: author José Jiménez Lozano – who received the renowned Cervantes Prize in 2002 – at this year’s congress.

Towards the end of 2013, and riding on the success of the first congress, the Isaac Campantón Center was created as a Jewish research center for Zamora, named after the sage Isaac Campantón (1360-1463), known as “the gaon of Castille.” The name was chosen because Campantón, as author of Darche ha-Gemara, or Darche ha-Talmud (“A Methodology of the Talmud”) he represents the flowering of the Zamoran Jewish Community in which he carried out his educational labor during the last century before the exile of the Jews from Spain.

Campantón’s book was published in Constantinople (ca. 1520), Venice (1565), Mantua (1593), Amsterdam (1706, 1711 and 1754) Vienna (1891) and Jerusalem (1981). And yet, the present residents of Zamora had never heard about him until our first congress, so far-reaching was the ethnic cleansing that occurred in Spain following 1492.

Throughout the 15th century, Zamora had attracted the most brilliant thinkers in Spain and Portugal, with Campantón being the guide of a generation and clearly responsible for the later transmission of Jewish tradition to the Sephardi Diaspora.
Among his students were Samuel Valensí, Issac Abroab II, Isaac de León, Jacob Habid and his son Leví, Moshe Alaskhar, Isaac Arama, Joseph Hayyum, Abraham Saba and the well-known converso hebraista Alfonso de Zamora, among others. No other Castilian or Leonese city can count such a battery of sages among its rosta of Jewish personalities, whose influenced can be found from Amsterdam to Safed and Istambul, and from Portugal to as far away as the Americas. A large number of the visits we get on the Campanton Center webpage are from Lithuania and parts of Russia, where the work of the Zamoran sage is well-known.
All of these subjects are discussed at our congresses, which have now become real “Sephardi days” because in addition to academic presentations we have offer concerts, exhibitions and guided tours of the Jewish quarters, along with Shabbat dinners that are open to all the participants in the congress, as well as to residents of Zamora who are interested in knowing more about this celebration – so central to Judaism.
These meals, as well as others, which organized to introduce various Jewish holidays, are directed by Abraham Haim, president of the Sephardi and Oriental Communities of Jerusalem, a regular visitor to Zamora during the year.
Other frequent visitors to Zamora include Canadian ethnomusicologist Judith Cohen, who has given various concerts in Zamora. She studies the Sephardi musical tradtion in the Mediterranean Basin, including the Zamoran-Portuguese region of Tras Os Montes, especiallly the area of La Raya (“the line”), as the border with Portugal is known. 

Judith Cohen (center), Mara Aranda (right) and Guy Mendilow (left) during a concert of Jewish Sephardic Music at the Theatro Principal of Zamora, 2014.
The second congress, in 2014, was dedicated to this region in particular, where Crypto-Judaism is second nature in various rural communities, among them Carçao, Vimioso and Braganza (in Portugal), where thousands of Castilian and Leonese  Jews took refuge in 1492.

This year, in addition to the July congress, this time titled “The North of Sepharad: Perspectives and Definitions” which will take place in Zamora city, we will once again have a panel meeting at Centro Sefarad-Israel, in Madrid, on June 27 at 7 p.m. in which experts who will speak at the Congress will preview of their subjects and answer questions.

On June 29, there will be a guided tour of the Tierra del Vino (Land of Wine) area, where, according to historic documents, the Zamoran Jews had their vineyards, and which today produces Protected Designation of Origin quality wines.

On June 30 there will be the usual tour of the Old and New Jewish quarters: Another annual activity which attracts many locals.
The congress itself will be held July 1. This year’s preliminary events will conclude with a Shabbat dinner at the Trefacio Hotel, where, as in earlier years, we hope to reaffirm the commitment to continue working for the recovery and value of the Jewish legacy of the city of Zamora.

The Isaac Campantón Center, which organizes international presentations and is a repository of all my investigation thus far can be found online at http://www.campanton.com/ 
*The writer, a Cuban American whose grandparents hail from Gema del Vino, a village in the province of Zamora, is a professor at Viterbo University, Wisconsin. In 2014 he was presented with Medal of the Four Sephardi Synagogues by the board of the Sephardi and Oriental Communities of Jerusalem for researching and publicizing Zamora’s Jewish past. His book The Jews of Zamora. An Annotated Chronology is scheduled to be published this year by Editorial Verbum in Madrid as part of the Hebrew Letters Collection. Jambrina can be contacted at centrocampanton@gmail.com


domingo, 28 de julio de 2019

viernes, 29 de marzo de 2019

Call for Papers: Transatlantic Sefarad

Jerusalem, June 21-25
Four Sephardic Synagogues
Keynote Speaker: Margalit Bejarano, Universidad Hebrea de Jerusalén  

Zamora, July 1-2 
La Alhóndiga Palace
Keynote Speaker: Ruth Behar, Universidad de Michigan en Ann Arbor 

Travelers from Madrid book Here 

Center Isaac Campantón, in collaboration with the Council of the Sephardic Communities of Jerusalem, invites proposals for its 7th international congress, this year with the title of Transatlantic Sefarad.

This is an interdisciplinary event welcoming professors, students, and independent scholars researching in the area of Sephardic Studies in connection with the Western Hemisphere. 
Proposals may include but not limited to the following topics:
 
  • Periodization of Jewish presence in the Americas; terminologies and definitions
  • First Jewish communities in the Caribbean, South, Central and North America
  • Amsterdam, Recife, New York: Judaism and Freedom of Conscience
  • Life and functioning of Crypto Jewish communities in the Americas
  • Jewish networks between Europe and the Americas: politics, commerce and culture
  • The Inquisition in the Americas
  • Crypto Jewish Resistance: Martyrs, and relevant personalities
  • Converso families in Spanish American viceroyalties 
  • Traces of Montaigne and Spinoza in the Americas Thought 
  • Jews in the Americas' Independence Wars
  • Transatlantic Jews: Paul Lafargue, Camile Pisarro, and others
  • Modern Sephardic Communities: 20th century immigration from North Africa, and Middle East countries
  • Sephardic Journeys: historical narratives 
  • Sephardic writers and artists in or from the Western Hemisphere
  • Sephardic Jews today in the Western Hemisphere
  • Emerging Jewish Communities in the Western Hemisphere
250 words abstracts should include: author, institution or independent scholar affiliation, which location for presentation, email, and specify if requiring technological support (computer, projector)

Submit proposals to centrocampanton@gmail.com Deadline: June 1, 2019. Online Enrollment until June 10 Here or in person at the conference.

                       This is an event sponsored by
                                  Ayuntamiento de Zamora 
Jerusalem Sephardic Council  
Friends of Sephardic Culture Asspciation, Zamora
The Isaac Kaplan Old Yishuv Court Museum
  Center Sefarad - Israel
  Center Isaac Campantón
+ 12 Private Individuals

martes, 26 de marzo de 2019

Activities pre-congress 2019




Program in Israel

Jerusalem 

Friday, June 21 

Visit to Majane Yehuda market & Ohel Moshe neighborhood
Visit to Mishkenot, Shaanamin & Yemin Moshe neighborhoods

Shabbat Service at Yemin Moshe Synagogue
Dinner- optional

Saturday, June 22

Visit to neighborhoods in the Old City

Sunday, June 23

Visit to Yad Vashem – Holocaust Museum

Visit to Zion Mount, the Four Sephardic Synagogues, The Western Wall, The Isaac Kaplan Old Yishuv Court Museum

Optional- The Western Wall Tunnel Tour
Concert at David Tower at night

Monday, June 24

Visit to the Museum of Israel, Mamila Center and modern downtown in Jerusalem
Concert at Yad Ben-Zvi Auditorium, 19:30 hrs.

June 25,
7th international congress session at Four Sephardic Synagogues, 10-14, 16-19hrs


Contact info for program in Israel:
Abraham Haim
Telf. +972 050 848 0783

                              


Program in Spain
Madrid, June 27

Centro Sefarad - Israel, 19 hrs, Book presentation of the novel Abraham’s Island (2018) by Jaime Eistein, speaker: Pilar Diez

Zamora, June 1

Visit to the Museum of the Three Cultures in Puente Castro, and to the Historic Jewish Quarter in city of León
Departure from La Hostería Real de Zamora at 8hrs

Concert by Mara Aranda entitled Sefarad en el corazón de Turquía (CD 2019), Etnographic
Museum of Castile and Leon, time TBA

July 2, La Alhóndiga

7th Congress Sessions, 9-14, 16-19 hrs

Contact info for program in Spain 
Jesús Jambrina
Telf. + 34 609 740 116 
+ 1 319 512 8277
These events are sponsored by

Ayuntamiento de Zamora
Council of the Sephardic Community of Jerusalem
             Association Friends of the Sephardic Culture
The Isaac Kaplan Old Yishuv Court Museum
Center Sefarad – Israel
Center Isaac Campanton

lunes, 25 de marzo de 2019

Reconnecting Hispanic and Latinos with their Jewish Ancestry


AIPAC, Monday, March 25, 2019
Video of this panel is available at Ashely Perry's and Genie Milgrom's Facebook pages. 

Panelists: Dr. Ofir Haivry, Herzl Institute (Israel), Genie Milgrom, Genealogist & Author (U.S.A), Ashely Perry, President of Reconnectar (Israel), and Michael Freud (moderator), President of Shavei Israel (Israel)
1- Numbers of Hispanic and/or Latinos with Jewish ancestry

Ashley: Based on academic research from more than 60 experts 1 in 4 people in Latin America have Jewish ancestry to which it should be added Latinos in the U.S., and people from Spain & Portugal, which studies state that 1 in 3, 1 in 5 also have Jewish ancestry. That puts the number at 100 million. Not all of these people want to return to Judaism though, based in a survey Reconnectar did, 14% of them would like to identify as Jews with the Jewish people, 30% are aware of their Jewish ancestry and they want to know more. Other numbers from the survey are: 51% want to know more about the state of Israel, 50% want to visit Israel, 46% would like to advocate for Israel. These are game changing numbers.

Dr. Haivry: There are many levels to this numbers. Most are interested in learning about Israel, Judaism and even Hebrew language. There are also a significant number that organize in groups in different places (e.i. Brasil), they are very proud of their Jewish ancestry, and in many cases advocate for Israel more than in the (traditional) Jewish community where people might be afraid of over exposure, and to prevent attacks to their synagogues. There are also organized Jewish communities that want to become officially renown. Some want to convert, some wish to be recognized, and a small % want to come to Israel.
We should clarify that the numbers vary depending of the areas, for example, Chile has smaller numbers than Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia. I would say that it is a grassroots movement at this time, and there is not a central command or israeli effort. 99% of what's going on is from people who want to reconnect. We need to find ways to approach this grassroot movement.

Genie: The ultimate question here is how all of this reconnection relates to Israel. I come from a catholic family from Cuba, however, I always felt Jewish, and converted to Judaism many years ago. After my conversation I had this need to go further in my feelings, which I did when my grandmother died leaving me some jewelry of Jewish motifs that she had inherited from her mother and grandmother. Because of this, I did my genealogy, and was able to track my Jewish maternal linage back to 1405 Pre Inquisition Spain. This is also the story of many people in this grassroot movement that Dr. Haivry mentioned. Not everyone though has the tenacity and resources to find the documents in the archives, and officially return as I did. 

The difference with families like mine and other diaspora Jews is that even when this documentation affects the entire family so far it has been only me that is interested. This is a one on one journey which makes the situation different from, for example, Russians Jews emigrating to Israel by the thousands. We - in the Hispanic and Latino world- return one by one. One here, and another there, it is when adding all this up that it sums up to millions, but it is not that we all return together. 

When someone says to you "I feel Jewish" it is not because they want to please you, it is a serious statement that needs to be taken into consideration. It is a phenomenon in the last 20 or 30 years. Before converting, Israel was for me, part of a sacred history book, but afterwards, Israel become something larger than life.

Michael: The scope of the phenomenon is vast, we see it from Barcelona to Brazil, from Peru to Palma de Mallorca, also we see it across socioecomic status, from peasants in northen Brazil to professors in northen Portugal. When people hear the numbers of those with Jewish ancestry it can be intimidating, and frightening at times. What we see in the field is the reluctance of many organized Jewish communities to welcome such people into their nest, and that is the next question

2- a) Why does this concern about the numbers?, b) How do you think Jewish communities should advocate about this?

Dr. Haivry: The actual number of people, who want to convert is small, in part due to the difficulties in getting it done. On the other hand, morally I don't feel we should close the door to people who, in many cases, where taken by force out of the Jewish people (reference to Spanish, Portuguese, and later Latin American conversos). Also, because of antisemitism, Jewish laws for many generations have been very strict, the moment someone left Judaism they would dissapear, children of those who converted to christianity wouldn't even know that they were Jewish, also there was a lot of intermarrige, therefore I think that this New Diaspora (of Latinos) is a wonderful thing, we can have a core of Jewish people plus all people who identify as Jewish being part of the Jewish World. My personal position is that we should welcome them, and bring them closer.

Genie: These numbers are from DNA studies certified by demographers like Dr. Sergio Della Pergola. As Dr. Haivry said most of these people don't want to convert, however as Jews we should ask ourselves how limited are our friendships around the world, and how important it is to engage those who identify with the Jewish people, even when they continue going to church every Sunday, but proudly say "I have Jewish ancestors", imagine what it would mean to the Jewish people, and the State of Israel, to have millions of new friends.

Ashley: Whenever I meet with descendants, conversos, Anunsim, Crypto Jews or whatever you want to call them, I always tell them that the difference between them and me is locked in time. I can trace my last name Perez to a man in Portugal. Those who were not forcely converted in Spain & Portugal fled to other places, including Great Britain, where they founded a community, which is the same case for other countries, for example, the first Jews in the United States were Sephardic Jews running away from the inquisition in Brazil, same for Latin America. I am a Jew today because my ancestors had a better luck escaping.

Many of the Jews in this room today are also B'nei Anusim, first because regarless of Ashkenazi, Sephardi or Mizrahi, you probably had an ancestor in the Iberian Peninsula. Jews in the Iberian Peninsula were forcely converted three times: by the visigoths, by the muslims, and then by the catholic monarchs; same had happened with Hungarian, German, Russian, Yemenite, Persian Jewry, and others. All of us, almost all of us, have ancestors who were forcely converted at some point in history, what does this mean? It means that they also returned therefore, since antiquity, Rabbis have had to write a halacha (Jewish law) deciding what these people represent; are they Jews or not? Some say they are not formal Jews others had other opinions, and the question is what to do today, in the 21st century, when there are no massive forced conversions. What is our responsability?

I don't like to compare, but the inquisition means for Jews from Spain & Portugal what the holocaust means for ashkenazi today to the point that in Yom Kippur in the Kol Nidre we include "our brethren imprisoned by the inquisition", so why are we still doing this? It is my firm belief that it is because there are so many people mentally in prision, although physically the dungeons are open -there are no more Autos da Fe, there are no more burning at the stake, etc, etc- but there are tens of millions of people out there still living in the imprisioment of the inquisition. We are not missionaries, we are not going out to convert people or tell them what to do, but when their hands are out- stretched, it is our moral and ethical obligation to meet them.

Michael: For clarification, Ashley mentioned the term B´nei Anusim which is a Hebrew word referring to those who were coerced to christian conversation, the generation that was forcely converted is named by historians by the derogatory term Marranos. We prefer B´nei Anusim today.

Since we are at AIPAC, and the state of Israel is at the center of it, I would like to take this conversation a step further on how this might translate into support for Israel. 


According to the Pew Research Institute there are around 58 millions Hispanics Latinos in the U.S. making them 18% of the American population, according to the Census Bureau this number will double by the year 2050. This is clearly a community that is growing not only quantitatively but also in its economic impact, social and political power and at the same time, our surveys found that half of American Hispanics have no views on Israel either positive or negative, as they are basically a blank slate, they are coming from Central and South America where Israel is not in the news like the way it is here. Giving these facts, we must focus on the role that Hispanics will place in coming generations in America

3- What can Israel, and the American Jewry do to involve this community in our cause?

Dr. Haivry: My expertise is not the American Jewry. For some reason that I don't know, Israel places a central part in the return of Hispanic - Latino Jews, but Israel is very cautious on accepting Jewish communities regardless of their origin; I think that there should be some kind of understanding among Jewish institutions, and communities about how to address this issue more seriously. Before an effort can be made - and I think that it should be made - there should be a clarification between Israel and the Jewish leadership on how to go about this.

Genie: In the Americas, for example, in Honduras and Guatemala, countries that have moved their embassies to Jerusalem, people can began to comprehend Israel. In the U.S. with the Jewish Federations in larger cities they could invite the Hispanic community to their celebrations, I am Cuban, but now in Miami there are huge amounts of Venezuelans that could draw closer. Federations, and the Synagogues, can start by inviting the Hispanic communities to their celebrations and building those ties toward Israel.

Ashley: I have worked for 10 years in the government in Israel with many Jewish organizations, and I know how much time, money and resources are spend reaching out, I think that we should base the relation with the Hispanic Latino community in our shared ancestry and history; the vast majority of Jews wherever they are today have roots in the Iberian Peninsula, and in the Hispanic culture, if you play ladino music to a Hispanic person they instinctive recognize it, they feel it. I have done it with Latino celebrities in Israel when they visit, and they love it, and want to hear more, there are so many connecting points.

We have tested this in our website with thousands of people registering to know more about their Jewish roots, when we ask them about the state of Israel they want to know more; we should speak to them as brothers and sisters, as part of a wider Hispanic family, we can talk different languages, for example, not only mention those who speak Yiddish, but also people that speak Judeo Spanish, that way we can find a point of conversation.

I have asked Hispanics, who used to share anti-Israel bias, what made them changed, and what brought them to understand Israel better, and I have noticed that it was their patriotism to their own countries what also brought them closer to their Jewish ancestry. The point is that the more you discover your own family history the more you discover your Jewish ancestry, and that gets you closer to the land of Israel; this is another part of the journey.