Children of the Bnei Anousim community in San Salvador, El Salvador, during a Havdalah ceremony. (Credit: Shavei Israel)
A recently published study surveyed the DNA of Latin Americans and revealed that despite immigration restrictions, many more bnei anousim (Jews forcibly converted during the Inquisitions of Spain and Portugal at the end of the 15th Century) arrived in the New World than previously thought. The results indicate that there may currently be over 150 million Latinos with Jewish ancestry.
The study, published in Nature last Wednesday, was one of the most comprehensive genetic surveys of Latin Americans ever. Their Jewish ancestry is more pronounced than in people in Spain and Portugal today, indicating that a significant segment of the immigrants that settled the New World were of Jewish descent.
“We were very surprised to find it was the case,” says Juan-Camilo Chacón-Duque, a geneticist at the Natural History Museum in London, who co-authored the paper.
Chacón-Duque and his colleagues sampled DNA from 6,500 people across Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, which they compared to that of 2,300 people all over the world. Nearly a quarter of the Latin Americans shared five percent or more of their ancestry with people living in North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean, including self-identified Sephardic Jews.
It is no surprise that a large portion of the population descended from Spain have Jewish ancestry. It is estimated that when the Spanish Inquisition began in 1478, approximately one-fifth of the Spanish population, between 300-800,000 people, were Jews. By 1492, when the Alhambra Decree gave the choice between expulsion and conversion, the number had dwindled to 80,000, half of who migrated. The vast majority of Jews converted with many of them retaining their Jewish identity in secret. The most intense period of the Spanish Inquisition lasted until 1530 and the last trial took place in Spain in 1818.
Ashley Perry, head of the government caucus for the descendants of Jews of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities, was surprised by the results:
“This study indicates that there are far more people of Spanish descent that have Jewish roots than previously thought, not only South Americans but also Latinos living in North America. As a result of this DNA research, it is now estimated that one-quarter of all Latinos in North America have five percent Jewish ancestry.”
Perry noted that the study only dealt with one specific population that may have Jewish roots.
“There are also a significant number of people in Spain, Portugal, and Italy who have a very high percentage of Sephardic Jewish ancestry,” Perry said. “I used to think there were 100 million people in the world that had Jewish roots but it now seems the number is closer to 200 million.”
The researchers were surprised to find that the Jewish population succeeded in moving to the New World. During the Inquisition, Jews were prohibited from immigrating to the New World. This remained true until Felipe III’s Royal Pardon of 1601, and Pope Clement VIII’s Papal Pardon three years later, both obtained through massive bribes. Jews began to immigrate despite the official ban and the Inquisition continuing in South America most notably in Mexico.
“There is a plethora of historical evidence to show that many of the people immigrating to the New World had Jewish ancestry,” Perry said. “Priests were writing back to the Church in Spain and Portugal complaining that the Jews outnumbered the Christians. They managed to forge documents or bribe their way.”
Perry explained their motivations for wanting to emigrate from Latin America.
“It was understandable since it was their way to get away from the center of persecution. Also, Brazil was under Dutch rule for a period of time and the Dutch government permitted the Jews to remain Jewish. When Brazil conquered Brazil, some of the Jews immigrated to the Netherlands.”
Perry noted that many of the countries in South and Central America had thriving Jewish communities despite the hardships. One of the more prominent examples he cited was the Jewish community in Suriname which was settled in the 18th Century by Jews from Spain, Portugal, Holland and Italy via Brazil. One of the original synagogues, Neve Shalom, had a floor covered in a thick layer of sand. Tradition holds that the sand was to muffle the sound of prayer, a holdover from when Jewish prayer was punishable by death.
Perry, a descendant of Spanish Jews, founded Reconectar, an organization to help people of Spanish and Portuguese descent with Jewish ancestry.
“We want to help them reconnect with their past,” Perry explained. “We are not a missionary organization. The person decides to what extent and in what manner they want to relate to their identity,” Perry said.
“One extreme could be a person who decides to move to Israel while another may just be interested in creating a family tree to map his heritage. Many people feel personally connected to Israel and this will help them express that. There are thousands of shades of gray in between. This is especially true now that we are dealing with a potential pool of hund
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.