A CUTTING EDGE INTEREST…
There has been an evolution of interest in genealogy and identity in the past 10 years. Pathways to our ancient roots have opened up to us through Social Media as well as services by individuals that specialize in research. Although one may refer to it as a fad, this writer is of the opinion that each person generally should have an interest in who they are and where they came from. Being a firm believer in God and the creator of “something from nothing” it is hard to argue that we all were born into the family and culture where our Creator (knowing the full picture) placed us in. Given this thought, one is inclined to believe that we are giving our Maker great esteem in searching and finding where s/he decided to place us at the beginning of our lives. Once we search and find there is a natural desire to want to embrace where our very own ancestors came from. This cutting edge movement is growing as people wander through their history, sometimes confirming and other times stunned at what they find.
AFRICAN AMERICAN JEWS
Many articles about African Americans finding their Jewish Roots and/or converting to Judaism have recently materialized. They are a people with strong faith and rich religious tradition. Much of this can be traced back to West Africa where there are tribes that have so many similarities to Jewish Practices it becomes difficult to deny Jewish descent. It may be integrated into Christianity, but it does not stop them from transmitting the memories of their ancestors who observed many Jewish traditions.
There is a reclaiming of Judaism by people of African descent whose ancestors were forced into Christianity just as the Spanish Jews were forced into Christianity by the Spanish Inquisition. A book by the name of “Slave Religion”, by Albert Raboteau (Scholar) tells us about the similarities between Slavery in Egypt and African Slavery. It is believed by many that although Jews were of color in ancient times, Jewish tradition was later preserved as a whole without any cultural mixture by a greater number of white Jews, leaving Jews of color to look in their direction to return or embrace it.
The Inquisition was a Roman Catholic tribunal established for investigating and punishing heresy. It was upheld strictly by the severity of interrogation and punishment. All rights were taken away from the accused heretic and they were given ultimatums that were humiliating and degrading, tearing down their identity and dignity. A fear of torture and death for ones self and family was instilled in the population of that day. Those not Jewish were imposed upon to report anything remotely suspicious or to be punished themselves. Jews who refused to convert suffered the consequences of being burned at the stake. Finally an Edict went public in 1492; it declared that any Jew who converted to Christianity was welcome to stay in Spain. It did not matter whether a Jew was rich or poor. They all were forced to convert or leave the Spanish Kingdom. Some stayed and converted to Catholicism and others faked it and stayed secretly observing Jewish tradition. Many scattered and left, refusing to change their identity. This was part and parcel to the prophecies we read about in the TNK (Hebrew Scriptures).
The Inquisition was not limited to Europe, it spread to Spanish and Portuguese colonies as far as Asia, places like Goa and Brazil. Although by the 18th century most Spanish tribunals and auto-de-fe (Act of Faith) fell apart, they were set up in Mexico, the Philippine Islands, Guatemala, Peru, New Granada and the Canary Islands.
Today we have Latino Jews that either know they are Jewish or haven’t a clue. We have many returning to the Jewish faith, as something inside becomes a constant reminder of who they are. To learn more: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/lifestyle/2013/09/05/latin-american-jewish-converts-converge-in-mexico-city/
Filipino Jews also practiced Judaism in secret as the Crypto-Jews did throughout the world. They were colonized by the Spaniards, becoming the only Catholic enclave in the Orient. They were engaged in the Spanish Galleon trade between Manila and Acapulco. Marranos arrived there in the year 1500 and by 1593 were tried and convicted at an auto-da-fe in Mexico City because the Inquisition did not, at that time, have an independent tribunal in the Philippines.
When Marranos or New Christians (other distinctions for the conversos or Cryto-Jewish merchants) reached the Philippines, they partnered in business with the Spanish Galleon trade between Manila and Acapulco. In the late 15th and early 16th centuries, Portuguese vessels carried Sephardic Jewish merchants for the first time down the West Coast of Africa, around the horn, up the East Coast and across the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean to India, China, the Spice Islands of Indochina and to the, as yet, unnamed islands of the Philippines.
These Crypto-Jewish merchants escaped the persecutions of their time by migrating ubiquitously from the Iberian Peninsula to commercial ports scattered throughout the world.
To learn more: http://asianjewishlife.org/pages/articles/AJL_Issue_11_Jan2013/AJL_Feature_Manila_Memories.html
IGNORANCE IS BLISS
Jews of color are faced with the reality of ignorance, which remains in bliss as they return to their ancient roots and/or make their way into Synagogue life here in America. Crossing paths with other Jews that have little to no understanding about Jewish History and the dynamics of our diaspora can be disheartening as one is questioned about whom they are and why they are where they are today. One can no longer stereotype and profile a Jew, as it becomes just as ignorant as saying that one cannot have blond hair and green eyes and be a Mexican. In the Torah we find these prophetic proclamations:
Deuteronomy 4: 27 which says: The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the LORD will drive you. (In other words, you will forget in your exile.)
Deuteronomy 28:64,65 says: “Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods–gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart.” (You will sense deep inside that something is not right.)
JEWS OF COLOR ARE COMING HOME
The complexion of Jews in America today is changing. The House of Israel is becoming a multi-cultural mixture of richness as Torah and Jewish tradition is integrated into different cultures and languages all over the world. Jews of color are returning, and in doing so, they are becoming part of Jewish life and community.
It is part of the fulfillment in the TNK: Deuteronomy 4:29-31, “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the LORD your God and listen to His voice. For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.”
As the adage says: “It is what it is”, Jews of Color returning to their Jewish faith can be rejected by some, but it cannot be stopped. May God grant us all the ability to leave our bliss.
(The above article is written with abbreviated information and it is important to note that there are Jews from every corner of the earth. The three ethnic groups highlighted are being utilized as examples to make the point. The author encourages more reading on the subject at hand.)
To have Dr. Elisheva I. Diaz speak at your next event email: Ayekahpres@gmail.com or call 626.252.1026