Florida: Secret Jews of the Caribbean, Feb. 4

“Hidden Jews of the Caribbean” is a symposium at Florida International University on Thursday, February 4.

It runs from 8-10pm, at FIU’s Biscayne Bay campus, in North Miami, Florida.

Dr. Stanley Hordes (University of New Mexico) will speak on “Identities of Crypto Jews in the Caribbean – A Historical Perspective.”

Hordes is an adjunct professor at the UNM Latin American and Iberian Institute. His doctoral dissertation was on the Crypto Jews of the southwestern US. He is the co-founder and immediate past president of the Society for Crypto Judaic Studies, and author of “To The End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico (Columbia University Press, 2005).

Dr. Seth Kunin (University of Durham, UK) will speak on “Contemporary Identites of Crypto Jews in the Caribbean – An Anthropological Perspective.”

Kunin is vice chancellor of arts and humanities at the University of Durham, and holds a PhD in anthropology. He has many years of experience conducting ethnographic research among New Mexico’s Crypto-Jews, and is the author of “Juggling Identities: Identity and Authenticity Among the Crypto-Jews (Columbia University Press, 2009). Read an interview with Kunin about his book.

Dr. Abraham Lavender (FIU, Sociology) is the respondent.

Hordes and Kunin are currently working together on the history of crypto-Jews in the Caribbean and the identities of their descendants today, with specific attention to Cuba, Jamaica and in the Miami area.

FIU is home to the President Navon Program for the Study of Sephardic and Oriental Jewry.

The program provides academic training in Sephardic/Oriental Studies for undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing a multidisciplinary track certificate (within the College of Arts and Sciences) and, in the future, degrees.

Lectures and seminars are presented by national and international scholars and artists,along with outreach program participation and close ties and cooperation between academic and lay communities.

Academics and artists will lecture or teach relevant courses, conduct research and share their findings and expertise at university-held conferences, seminars, and community-outreach programs.

For more information on the certificate program, click here. For general information, click here.

Kulanu: Chinese, Indian Jewish articles

If the stories of Jews around the world in some exotic places capture your imagination, you aren’t alone.

Kulanu’s Fall 2009 Newsletter is now online. Some of the articles are:

— “French Black Jews” by Cynthia Weisfeld
— “Endings and Beginnings in Uganda” by Lorne Mallin
— “Kaifeng Descendent to Tour U.S.”
— “What I Did on my Summer Vacation” by Janis Colton (Elderhostel trip to New Mexico on Converso/Crypto-Jewish story)

Some notes on the stories:

A descendant of one of the original Jewish families in Kaifeng, China, Shi Lei spoke to our JFRA Israel group in Israel a few years ago while he was attending Bar Ilan University (2001-2002). Nearly 100 people came to hear him speak. He is now back in his home town. A spring 2010 lecture tour to the US is planned. Perhaps your JGS is interested in inviting him to speak. Email Kulanu to get details.

Colton’s story on her New Mexico trip this summer was interesting. For those who are so inspired, the Jewish Womens Archive is planning a long weekend trip to Santa Fe, NM, where some of these issues will be on the program, including a talk by Dr. Stan Hordes, who specializes in Converso/Crypto-Jewish studies.

There was also information about the Jews of India, including information on a new documentary about Mumbai’s Bene Israel community; a new website, IndianJudaica.com; and a new book, “Being Indian, Being Israeli,” by Maina Chawla Singh. Near Haifa, Israel, a new Indian Jewish Community Center (called Shaare Rahamim) has been established. It will house a permanent museum displaying Indian Judaica and historic documents. For more information, send an email.

Do read all the articles at the main Kulanu Newsletter link above.

Denver; Crypto-Judaic conference report

Tracing the Tribe has been trying for several years to get to the annual Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies conference. Unfortunately, it usually is timed to compete head-on with the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.

I’m hoping that in 2010 it will be possible, as the Jewish genealogy conference is much earlier than usual.

Here’s a report on the SCJS conference held in Denver this year:

When Gerald Gonzalez was a young man, his Spanish-speaking grandfather remarked — out of the blue — if he weren’t Catholic, he’d be Jewish.

It would be a few more decades, and countless hours of genealogical research during the lunch hours of a busy law career, before Gonzalez would learn that his ancestors were Jews who had escaped Spain, and later Portugal, with the Inquisition on their heels.

Such tales were told many times at the 2009 conference of the Society of Crypto Judaic Studies. The three-day event in Denver drew about 75 people, including scholars and descendants of persecuted Jews.

Attendees shared stories of their Catholic families preserving such traditions as Friday night candle0lighting, Jewish burial customs and family heirlooms such as Hebrew Bibles, menorahs or other specifically Jewish objects, as well as preserving such Jewish traditions as circumcision or observation of such holidays as Santa Esther (Purim) or Santo Moises (Passover).

“The scholars learn from the descendants. The descendants learn from the scholars,” historian Stanley Hordes said. “As word spreads, more people in (the region) are going to their grandparents and great aunts and uncles and asking about this.”

Hordes, whose 2005 book “To the End of the Earth,” is one of the few histories available on this region’s crypto-Judaism, said the study here is in its infancy and difficult. It involves uncovering evidence of people “who for centuries tried desperately to cover their tracks,” he said.

Although these secret Jews, known as Conversos (Spanish) or bnai anusim (children of the forced, Hebrew).

Others call them marranos which is a pejorative term. My Converso friends are extremely insulted and angry if this epithet is applied to them. It should never be used. Its use seems to be accepted in some books or papers, and it seems the authors are not aware of how insulted Conversos feel when identified by that term.

In recent decades, increasing numbers of northern New Mexicans and southern Coloradans either are sure of or suspect Jewish heritage, yet no one reliably knows how many, said Hordes, a pioneer researcher of New Mexican crypto-Judaism. He began compiling anecdotes in the mid- 1980s.

In the past several years, mounting DNA evidence has begun to support once-contested claims of Jewish ancestry. One result is a New York University study, underway among Latino populations in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, on the incidence of a genetic mutation implicated in a type of breast cancer most common among Jews.

Family reactions to such evidence of Jewish ancestry range from rejection to return to mainstream Judaism.

Read the complete article at the link above.

Denver; Crypto-Judaic conference report

Tracing the Tribe has been trying for several years to get to the annual Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies conference. Unfortunately, it usually is timed to compete head-on with the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.

I’m hoping that in 2010 it will be possible, as the Jewish genealogy conference is much earlier than usual.

Here’s a report on the SCJS conference held in Denver this year:

When Gerald Gonzalez was a young man, his Spanish-speaking grandfather remarked — out of the blue — if he weren’t Catholic, he’d be Jewish.

It would be a few more decades, and countless hours of genealogical research during the lunch hours of a busy law career, before Gonzalez would learn that his ancestors were Jews who had escaped Spain, and later Portugal, with the Inquisition on their heels.

Such tales were told many times at the 2009 conference of the Society of Crypto Judaic Studies. The three-day event in Denver drew about 75 people, including scholars and descendants of persecuted Jews.

Attendees shared stories of their Catholic families preserving such traditions as Friday night candle0lighting, Jewish burial customs and family heirlooms such as Hebrew Bibles, menorahs or other specifically Jewish objects, as well as preserving such Jewish traditions as circumcision or observation of such holidays as Santa Esther (Purim) or Santo Moises (Passover).

“The scholars learn from the descendants. The descendants learn from the scholars,” historian Stanley Hordes said. “As word spreads, more people in (the region) are going to their grandparents and great aunts and uncles and asking about this.”

Hordes, whose 2005 book “To the End of the Earth,” is one of the few histories available on this region’s crypto-Judaism, said the study here is in its infancy and difficult. It involves uncovering evidence of people “who for centuries tried desperately to cover their tracks,” he said.

Although these secret Jews, known as Conversos (Spanish) or bnai anusim (children of the forced, Hebrew).

Others call them marranos which is a pejorative term. My Converso friends are extremely insulted and angry if this epithet is applied to them. It should never be used. Its use seems to be accepted in some books or papers, and it seems the authors are not aware of how insulted Conversos feel when identified by that term.

In recent decades, increasing numbers of northern New Mexicans and southern Coloradans either are sure of or suspect Jewish heritage, yet no one reliably knows how many, said Hordes, a pioneer researcher of New Mexican crypto-Judaism. He began compiling anecdotes in the mid- 1980s.

In the past several years, mounting DNA evidence has begun to support once-contested claims of Jewish ancestry. One result is a New York University study, underway among Latino populations in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, on the incidence of a genetic mutation implicated in a type of breast cancer most common among Jews.

Family reactions to such evidence of Jewish ancestry range from rejection to return to mainstream Judaism.

Read the complete article at the link above.

Denver: Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, August 2-4

The Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies conference begins in Denver, immediately following the annual Sephardic Anousim Conference in El Paso.

The conference is at the Sheraton Denver West in Lakewood, and the conference fee includes all programs, meals and more. For details, click here. For the registration form, with various fee options, click here.

Conference panels and programs include:

– Juggling Identities: Identity and Authenticity among Crypto-Jews
– Crypto-Judaism as Historical Novel
– Proposed Sosin Grant Art Program
– Conversation with filmmaker Gabriela Böhm, screening “The Longing”
– Monday evening performance by singer Consuelo Luz
– A material cultures exhibit by visual artist and curator Sonya Loya

To read about past SCJS conferences, click here.

Here’s the registration form for this year’s conference.