By Rabbi Elisheva Irma Diaz, MTS, DD | October 1, 2016
To be exiled is to be separated from ones familiar everyday life and surroundings. It is waking up one morning and feeling the breeze of a homesick life in a foreign place. If you are on a vacation or on an occupational venture you know you are returning home moreover, to be forced from your home knowing you may never return is quite different. Notwithstanding is the idea that in this case, the reference is made to being exiled not only from our home but worse from our identity. No matter where we find ourselves, after generations, we have inner questions and feelings deep in our heart. This is the yesterday, today and tomorrow of the Benei Anusim (Hebrew: children of the forced ones)
Many of these now Crypto Jews immigrated to the New World; we call today the Americas, or the Western Hemisphere. A large percentage ended up in Latin American Countries. In Mexico alone there was an increase in numbers especially in the central valley and as the far as the Northwest. In the sixteenth century, members of the famous Carvajal family of Nuevo León were tried for relapsing into Judaism; and several of them, including some women, were burned at the stake. This communicated a message to all (Hispanic) practicing Jews.
Practicing Judaism could cost them their life and the lives of their loved ones. The only way to protect ones family was to hide even the idea of being Jewish. The best way to achieve this was to hold back this information from new generations bringing them up in Catholic homes and allowing them to be taught as if they were Catholic. Of course this repeated itself over generations and still does today. Over years this bred a people with a hidden Jewish bloodline, suspicious Jewish names within our families pop up, Jewish paraphernalia found in a Grandparents home and maybe even a few intriguing family photos with relatives that have held on to tradition with the mixture of Hispanic/Latino culture. Perhaps growing up we heard a unique language “Ladino” (Judeo Spanish) a language spoken by our ancestors. It sounds very similar to Spanish and can be followed easily so it never raises questions. We hear and learn well known “Dichos’ (Spanish for sayings) that we find later are very Jewish. Last and definitely not least, we find ourselves attracted to Israel, Judaism and realize we feel at home around it. Simultaneously as time goes on there is a definite cry from our Soul that may lead us to interviewing relatives, building family trees, DNA testing and searching until we find what we know is home for us. This is how it starts and this is the very venture that brings us back home to our Jewish identity.
Today throughout Latin America “La Sangre llama/Chama” (Spanish; The blood is calling) and many Latinos are quarreling within themselves about who they are. They may not understand what it is they feel but with enough courage and probing will find what they need to find for their personal journey. Although not all can be expected to leave generations of rich tradition and culture some will decide to return to their Jewish heritage. They will not leave what they know but through no fault of their own will bring it with them. Perhaps we eat tortillas instead of pita bread or Tamales during Christmas and Chanukah and so on. This will make them different, this will in most cases cause a red flag in Jewish Communities that sometimes can lead to being treated as an outcast and the one returning questioning themselves. This is the portrait of many Hispanic Jews hungry for home.
SACRIFICE OR BLESSING?
Will their decision to come home be a sacrifice or a blessing? This decision to embrace our Jewish roots can lead to long time friends leaving us, close family members distancing themselves and the constant undercurrent of uninformed murmuring about you. On the one side of the spectrum some in your past (more than not) reject you and on the other side in an effort to join a Synagogue community the rejection may be just as fierce if not worse. One may battle within themselves wondering if they did the right thing and for a while it is one of the hardest decisions you have ever made until one day you realize; “You are who you are” Whether you are too different or too similar you are “dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t”. An epiphany hits you and you remind yourself sometimes daily that your ancestors were robbed of their identity and their honor was destroyed. You think about the heartache and suffering they endured and something inside of you stands to attention and the rest is History. You are a Jew and you come with a rich packaging of tradition that only adds to the beauty of G-d’s creation. No one forced you, your parents protected you but “your blood called you” (La Sangre te llamo).
You answered and you will not allow what happened to your ancestors to happen again. No one will rob you and future generations from your identity. Now what was a sacrifice becomes the biggest blessing of all.
PROPHECY FULFILLING ITSELF
The Torah teaches us that we will all be restored. Something is stirring within our diaspora at the very same time when anti Semitism is once again on the rise. It is called; Las llamadas de sangre (Spanish; the calling out of the blood) Crypto Jews are searching, finding and confirming who they are. They are bringing honor to their ancestors as they decide to return to their roots.
Today you can walk down the street in Mexico, New York, Los Angeles everywhere for that matter and pass by many people who are Hispanic Jews and haven’t any knowledge of it. In some cases they may know about it and not want to uncover it because of the risks involved.There are many Latinos coming to the forefront and should be welcomed by the Latino Community and the Jewish Community alike.
Why? Because when it is all said and done, you cannot be stripped of what is inside of you. From generation to generation Jewish Blood will cry out. This is prophecy documented throughout the TNK (Tanach; Hebrew scriptures).
To my Jewish Community I would say; when we return, welcome us warmly for this came with much sacrifice and to the Anusim, the Crypto Jew, you are Crypto no more. Should you decide to join our community, do it proudly, do not apologize for your past and have courage. Do not allow the sins of the past, and any effort to erase who you are to prevail again.
May this New year 5777 bring yet a new level of enlightenment to the House of Israel.