Are You or Someone You Know the Descendent of a Sephardic Jew?

Now that you have read about Abraham Lincoln and Christopher Columbus’ Sephardic heritage, you might wonder how one would know if they were a member of this hidden race. I am using the word race because a DNA Test can determine a persons haplogroup. If you are a Spanish speaker - have a last name associated with those killed by the Inquisition, or your last name was found on the tombstones in a Jewish cemetery in Spain, you discovered that your last name was changed or a letter dropped, or your family has either artifacts or an oral history, your haplogroup might link you with this Jewish population. This scientific way to determine ones heritage cost about $150.

If you are wondering if oral history is valid, I will cite two instances where that history was validated.

1. Janet Jacobs Liebmans thesis, “Hidden Heritage-The Legacy of the Crypto-Jews,” published by Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002, where the author describes her visits to those in the Southwestern United States who shared oral history and brought out artifacts that speak of Sephardic Jewish origins.

2. The Smithsonian Magazine article published in October 2008 called “The 'Secret Jews' of San Luis Valley,” reported that several oncologists who meet a few times a year to discuss unusual cases discovered that there was a valley where early onset breast cancer had been occurring from generation to generation. They studied the DNA, concluded that their patients where Jewish, and brought 200 families together to share this fact. Many believed what the doctors said because of things they had seen and heard. Others did not.

One might ask, “Why should I care?” If you think, you might want to make Aliyah to Israel, by petitioning to become a citizen; you need to prove you are Jewish. Also, if you find yourself speaking Spanish with a different inflection you might be relieved to know that there is a people group that does that by mixing Castellan and Old Spanish together as their ancestors before them did. Most important, at least to me and to those I have interviewed is the reality that until each of us full knows ourselves how can we chose a life, a mate, a faith, or determine what we are to believe or become until we know our history. After all becoming all we are to be builds upon everything that came before. For many Sephardim all we are meant to be is not fully realized until they know their heritage.

Two Friends...

Corrine, Janice, and two friends of mine who shared a common ancestry they never suspected when they meet. Common interest and an odd way of saying Spanish words drew them together. It is unclear to me if either of them knew at that time that they were Sephardim, but I suspect not. Each spoke of living in a Spanish enclave during their childhood, and the Catholic Church being where all things religious occurred. Read their interviews below to learn more. While you do ask yourself, “Could this be me or someone I know and if so what does that mean to them or me?”

Corrine’s Voice

I was born in 1929 and raised in downtown Los Angeles. My religious training was in the Catholic Church, as all in our family had done for years. In 1984, my son David, who had research our history, told me that we are Jewish. I paid no attention to him. In 1974, I found myself drawn to Jewish things. When my grandmother died, my mother showed me her baptismal certificate. I noticed that her godmother’s last name was Gold. I asked my mother about that, as Gold is a very unusual last name for a Spanish person to have because godparents are usually family members. She told me that her cousin had told her when she was a child that they were Jews but not to tell anyone. It was then I remembered my grandfather singing in a strange language out by the chicken coops, and my mother saying, “He sings like a cantor!” The realization that we were not what we seemed to be created within me a hunger to know more. Since then I have invested my time and energy to learn all I can about my Jewish roots. That investigation has made me aware of the charges the Inquisitor made against my family, revealed the possibility that they may have come over with Columbus, and the knowledge that they settled in what is now the southwestern United States. Today, through much work on behalf of my family, I have acquired the documents to prove what I am saying. Were it not for the Decree of Alhambra and the Spanish Inquisition, we would still be in Spain, but due to that decree and its effects upon my family and the Jews still hiding, I am willing to state that what man meant for evil, God used for good!

Janice’s Voice

There was a stirring in my heart to follow my mother’s influence and learn about the Jewish people. I remember my fourth grade class in parochial school, where Sister Demetrius instilled within us the fact that the Jews did not kill Christ, but it was our sins that put him on the cross. Between my schooling and Mom’s love for the Jewish heritage, there was birthed within me a tenderness toward the Jewish people. As I reached what some would call middle age, this stirring intensified until I needed to know more. For years, I told people that I was Basque. However, I never went to the town whose name I bore. Then I met a woman whose son was a missionary in Spain. I asked him if he could take me to Ulibarri and he agreed. In 2008, I made the trip to Spain. We traveled throughout the Navarra region until I finally stepped onto the soil that had been home to my family centuries before. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there was a strong Jewish presence in that region. Could my mother have been trying to tell me something all those years ago? I will never know for sure. However, my journey of the heart allowed me to look at my heritage and history with new eyes. When I returned home, I told my children, “We have a Jewish heritage.” They rolled their eyes. Months later, my son called and said, “I was waiting for the metro and was approached by a scholarly man who looked at my badge, which identifies me by my last name. He read ‘Mireles’ and asked me if I knew about my name and my heritage. I was able to give him the information you had shared with us. I was stunned when he gave me additional information, which proved to me that what you had said was correct! I called you, and I told my brothers and sisters that what you had said was true.”

Interested in discovering more...

Casa de Naomi – The House of Blessing – October 2011

Response to my blog seems to be growing. Read on...

Ron wrote: "I love the way you build suspence like a mystery writer. Instead of "who done it" you ask "who am I, really?" The surprise ending awaits every reader who is willing to embrace and face their own heritage."


When I posted this blog, Inez Aguilar-Davis commented, “I am a Sephardic Jew and happy that I know who I am.”

I responded, “I know you are a Sephardic Jew and I am thrilled to know you! Because many Spanish or Mexicans do not know but think they might be Jewish, this article was written for them. You might want to read it as well, and if you know someone who is uncertain please direct him or her to the blog.”

This evening Inez Aguilar-Davis I read it, and said, “Very good, I am impressed and I will pass it on.”


I am living an authors dream for each of us that write about real people or in this case, real people and their history, could ask for no praise higher than that posted here!


Gil Dela Cruz commented, “I can imagine how prolific that book is, perhaps that would pave a way of discovering one self that he has a Jewish decent. In Philippines, there are Jews called Marano, historically, they arrived here in the early 20th century from Spain. The first shoe manufacturer in Marikina City was owned by Jewish and today that place has become more prominence on shoe market.”
Category: 2 comments


Middlekens said...

Please use correct words -- you "cite" a reference . . . not "sight" it . . .

J.M.Cornwell said...

I've always found the instance of hidden heritage to be fascinating. I wonder if you've done much reading on the rest of the missing the Jews, those who were taken to Wales and whose language (Welsh-Cymry) is the same root language as that spoke by the early Jews (nor Aramaic or Hebrew) and is linked to the ancient Chaldeans (Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldee)? So much history lost or erased so that others may profit. The world as it was is a very different place than the one we have been taught to believe.

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