Unprecedented genetic research undertaken by dozens of professors from around the world has provided evidence that almost a quarter of Latinos and Hispanics have significant Jewish DNA.
A COUPLE with Conversos ancestors weds in Monte, Portugal. (Photos: Courtesy). (photo credit: Courtesy)
A few weeks ago, something extraordinary happened that could forever affect the future of the Jewish People and the State of Israel.
There has long been speculation of significant Jewish ancestry among the populations of Latin and North America and Europe. Much of that was consistent with historical data, in that we know that extremely large numbers of those Jews who had been forcibly converted in Spain and Portugal – referred to variously as Anousim, Marranos, Conversos and Crypto-Jews – fled the Iberian Peninsula to the New World during the Age of Discovery, beginning late in the 15th century.
Throughout the years, many tried to place a number on the descendants of these Jews, the progeny of a couple of hundred thousand who were forced to the baptismal font to regain kidnapped children held hostage or as a result of repressive legislation and oppression.
Now, unprecedented genetic research undertaken by dozens of professors from around the world has provided evidence that almost a quarter of Latinos and Hispanics have significant Jewish DNA. The study, published in Nature Communications in December 2018, revealed that the number of descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities is far higher than even the largest estimates previously suggested.
The last official approximation of the number of people in Latin America, conducted by the United Nations in 2016, resulted in a figure of over 650 million. Add to that assessment the 60 million or so Latinos and Hispanics in the U.S., as well as the data from earlier genetic research showing that around 20% of the current population of 60 million people in the Iberian Peninsula have Jewish ancestry and the statistic becomes staggering. There could be as many as 200 million descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities around the world today.
To what extent is this population aware of or interested in an affinity to the Jewish people? Reconectar, an organization facilitating the reconnection of the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities to the Jewish world has conducted a number of studies exploring the attitudes of tens of thousands of these descendants towards their ancestry. It has found that in some places as many as 30% are aware of some Jewish ancestry, either through DNA tests, genealogical discoveries, or simple Google searches regarding family origins and traditions, and that as many as 14% would like to identify in some way with the Jewish people.
This means that tens of millions of people outside of the normative Jewish community are seeking ways for reconnecting with it and with their heritage, running the gamut from merely researching ancestral roots to actively seeking a return to the Jewish People and even to making aliyah. In the meantime, there is ample evidence that when these descendants become familiar with their Jewish ancestry, learn about Jewish history and are exposed to Jewish life today, they become far more sympathetic toward and even involved in Jewish causes and Israel.
Reconnecting these descendants with the formative Jewish world, then, can be of immense benefit to us in the diplomatic, political, economic and demographic spheres, among others, and can assist in the fight against antisemitism, especially in the US where a large number of Hispanics and Latinos are descended from forcibly converted Jews. Such benefits, however, are dwarfed by the moral imperative of fulfilling this compelling mission. Our people were forcibly ripped apart many generations ago and now is the time to rectify this historic injustice. According to many of our greatest rabbis – including Rav Yosef Caro, Rav Ovadia Yosef and Rav Aharon Soloveichik – it is also a halachic mandate.
To succeed in the task, we need to mobilize the two communities, awakening them to the existence and acceptance of one another. We need to send a message to the descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities who seek a reconnection with the Jewish world there are those who will be there to help, guide and embrace them. In regard to the mainstream of the Jewish community – including, and perhaps most importantly, within Israel – we need to raise an awareness of and generate an empathy for the phenomenon altogether.
While Zionism, the return of an exiled and indigenous people to their ancestral homeland, remains as relevant as ever and does not need to be redefined or amended, it should be restored to its fullest and widest meaning. At one of the early Zionist Congresses, Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism, declared that “Zionism is a homecoming to the Jewish fold even before it is a homecoming to the Jewish land.” Zionism, he was telling us, belongs to the collective and requires a communal effort and that, in the spirit of the Latin formula nemo resideo (leave no man behind), it cannot be fulfilled unless the vision also encompasses those we lost or were disconnected from during 2,000 years of exile.
The Jewish people face many grave challenges and will continue to do so in the years ahead. The decisions we make today will determine how we respond to them and will shape our future. The window of opportunity to embrace those so long separated from us is not unlimited. We must act resolutely and with unity of purpose to do just that, and, in so doing, serve our practical needs as well as fulfil our moral and religious obligations.
The writer is president of Reconectar, an organization facilitating the reconnection of the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities with the Jewish world. He is also the director of the Knesset Caucus for Reconnection and a former senior government adviser.
The University of Cape Town campus. Photo: Adrian Frith via Wikimedia Commons.
The University of Cape Town, the top-ranking academic institution in Africa, is set to consider enforcing an academic boycott against Israel later this month.
The UCT Senate, a decision-making body comprised primarily of professors and administrators, endorsed a proposal on March 15 to bar the university from entering into any formal relationship with Israeli academic institutions that operate “in the occupied Palestinian territories,” or otherwise enable “gross human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories,” the university said in a statement.
The campus of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
JNS.org – Students at Brown University voted overwhelmingly in favor of a referendum held between Tuesday and Thursday, calling on the school to separate itself from companies that conduct business with the State of Israel.
The tally was 69 percent in favor and 31 percent against.
Members of the pro-Israel community nationally and locally condemned the outcome.
“For the sake of My servant Yaakov, Yisrael My chosen one, I call you by name, I hail you by title, though you have not known Me.” Isaiah 45:4 (The Israel Bible™)
Many have seen similarities between the Biblical King Cyrus and President Donald Trump. (Breaking Israel News)
After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!
Many are claiming this was a pre-election gift to Trump’s friend, Netanyahu, but it others see a much larger significance that transcends politics and enters into the realm of the Biblical. One such belief was expressed by Breaking Israel News publisher Rabbi Tuly Weisz, who noted that the announcement came on the Jewish holiday of Purim.
“The same days on which the Yehudim enjoyed relief from their foes and the same month which had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.” Esther 9:22 (The Israel Bible™)
If there was ever a quintessentially Jewish holiday, it’s Purim, when the Jewish people were threatened by Haman, a descendant of Amalek, and saved by God’s hidden hand. Even so, we find examples of people from the Nations being inspired by the story of Purim and even gathering to mark the day alongside the Jewish people.
Protesters waving Turkish and Palestinian flags shout anti-Israel slogans during a demonstration in Amsterdam June 4, 2010. Israel’s raid of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla has set off a diplomatic furor, drawing criticism from friends and foes alike and straining ties with regional ally Turkey, which cal. (photo credit: REUTERS)
AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Demonstrators carrying Palestinian flags turned their backs on a Dutch chief rabbi during his eulogy at a vigil for Muslims killed in New Zealand.
The incident Sunday happened as Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs was discussing the meaning of a minute of silence at the gathering at the Dam Square World War II memorial monument. Thousands of people, many of them Muslims, gathered at the square to commemorate the 49 people slain Friday by a far-right killer at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Hamas is now accusing the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah of exploiting the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip to call on Palestinians to overthrow the Hamas regime. Fatah, for its part, is accusing the “dark forces” of Hamas of acting on orders from outside parties to establish a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip.
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He’s a distinguished professor of Byzantine history at St. Louis University who has also taught at Berkeley, FIU, Hillsdale, Stanford, and UCLA. Having entered college in 1967, he draws on long experience to both indict and offer a remedy of the most thoroughly left-wing major institution in America. His book, The University We Need (Encounter, 2018) presents its case with insight and a light touch.
The threat posed by Hezbollah and Ali Musa Daqduq, a senior operative in Hezbollah, was unmasked by Israel on Wednesday.
Daqduq was responsible for the “abduction and execution of five American servicemen in Iraq in 2007,” the IDF said. The role of Hezbollah members in neighboring states is an illustration of how groups allied with Iran are continuing to build a web linking Tehran to Beirut via a “road to the sea” that transits Iraq and Syria.
According to the IDF, the role of Daqduq includes establishing terror cells in Iraq to fight the US in 2006, stints training in Lebanon in 2013-2018 and now putting down roots in Syria.
Every few weeks, some political or national figure demands a national conversation about race. (Most recently, Senator Kamala Harris insisted, “We have not had these honest discussions about race.”)
What does a conversation about race mean? Invariably, an indictment of the fundamental unfairness of our country, the historical roots of racism in white supremacy, and the national guilt of white people.
Or, to put it more simply, why Senator Kamala Harris deserves to be in the White House.
We don’t have national conversations about anti-Semitism because the problem can’t be narrowed down to an easily blamed demographic. The Democrats invariably try to blame anti-Semitism on the usual suspects, white male Republicans living more than two hundred miles from a Starbucks, but the largest toll of violent anti-Semitic attacks tend to fall on New York City’s black neighborhoods.