The Jewish Communities of Medellín walk the land.
65 years celebrating LIFE.
Mazal Tov ISRAEL!!
The Jewish Communities of Medellín walk the land.
65 years celebrating LIFE.
Mazal Tov ISRAEL!!
As already written in my other posts, I wish now to complete this experience in Medellin by writing my last thoughts about this story.
While journalists should see the “phenomenon”, more than such. I would say a quest of Christian reality. Many of them stay in believing that Jesus is Messiah but believe in Judaism as the true religion (where all Christianity nurtures from). Others choose to do the full pilgrimage back to Judaism, independently if they can demonstrate their heritage and here I agree with Rabbi Mejia, in that the anusim (converts) should focus in building community and not searching for their link to ancestors when the Spanish Inquisition made the marranos read mar- anus (master in conversion) hide and lose their Jewish identity, even if scholars write and research on it.
I have received in my office from former pastors becoming future rabbis, believers in Kabbala willing to convert, Jews who call themselves such but haven´t gone through conversion, even some coming from “Synagogues” in the most remote villages of this big country and others seeking to convert with real motives as to formalize their partnership with an only religion at their future home.
I have lived these years seeing the Jewish School in Medellin celebrating all Jewish Holidays even if only ten percent of the students aren´t Jewish, and Christian parents feeling more than happy that their children have that opportunity.
What is the future of all this, I don´t know.
But while long bearded Rabbis show up offering for those in search of belonging to what for them is the answer to their spiritual journey, and for quite a big sum of money a dip in the sea and a certificate adorned with flowers in a strange ancient language, this will go on. No matter how much the rabbinate in Israel opposes it. At the end they also will try to make alijah (immigrate to Israel), and then the rabbinate will profit by having them convert again according to their rules.
Everybody seems getting something, but what is Judaism gaining?, hopefully more Jews and not more enemies.
We are up to celebrate Passover, the Feast of Liberty and we learned our lesson in Egypt not to hate the strangers since we were ourselves strangers in a Land not ours. Let us apply that lesson and rebuild a nation we once were, even with strangers among us, this time staying focused in not hating without reason and by all worshiping the One and only God, Blessed be His Name.
This Friday Medellín won the title as the most innovative in the world. In the contest, the capital of Antioquia competed with Tel Aviv and New York. The City Group and the Wall Street Journal, in partnership with the Urban Land Institute, decided to give that distinction to Medellin for its obvious development in recent years. Mayor Aníbal Gaviria said that “10 years ago nobody would have believed that Medellín could be at this level”.
The prize was awarded by an independent jury which determined the three finalists: Medellin, Tel Aviv and New York.
Then, by open vote and which was given by a click per day, the citizens of the world contributed to the election.
This is an example of how a city can recover from being in the list of the first most violent cities in the world ,if not the most, to become a city that sets a precedent, a city where electric stairs make those neighbourhoods without other means to get there, easier than a long walk especially if loaded with groceries, where it is the only city with a metro system in Colombia and a cable also to facilitate where there is no access road and impossible for the train come up the step hill and where working classes have wi-fi access and libraries, a society with so much differences trying to give equal rights to the most un-favoured. Not only its climate “eternal spring” and the nature always green and vital, but a modern city with people who show how one can overcome the worst and look at the future with positivism, what a lesson for others to follow. This is Tikkun Olam, reparation of the world. Congratulations Medellín!!.
While being a Cantor since young age and having worked in the field full-time for the last 17 years, the date I know by heart because of my daughter’s age, she turned seventeen yesterday. I now will have the position in a Synagogue any Cantor dreams of. Belsize Square Synagogue in London. As independent Synagogue, its founders coming form the “Liberale” movement in Germany and that just before the war 1939 in London created their own community above all keeping a tradition that as mentioned in previous posts in this blog is being lost and with few synagogues in the world still having. BSS has three choirs, a professional choir, an excellent youth choir, as well as a community choir an organist and a professional choir master and very much more, a cheder, youth clubs, a monthly magazine numerous committees and naturally a chevra kadisha. Coming to work especially with my good friend and teacher Rabbi Stuart Altshuler, whom I knew back in Stockholm. And where this perfect combination of Rabbi/Cantor will be an incredible partnership that this community will enjoy to continue in its tradition and growing from strength to strength. I am very honored and look forward to come with my family to London this summer B”H.
A sample of what my contribution will be can be listened in this recording.
Press on the picture.
And more to come.
This Shabat we had the visit in our Synagogue of a Rabbi, Rafael Cohen, author of twelve books in Jewish law in Spanish, where he discusses between others, the law of monogamy instituted by Rabbi Gershom of the tenth century, which according to Cohen does not apply to Sephardic communities, the rabbi was questioned by my wife in one of the statements in his book about marriage, as f.ex. the right to divorce a wife that earns more than her husband or is praised at her job. Rabbi Cohen stayed in our city on his way to Baranquilla, a coastal city where the sea is to be used to immerse on Sunday a group of 35 new converts to Judaism, a new Jewish community in Medellin, called Derej Torah, supported by the chief Ashkenazic Rabbi in Bogotá Alfredo Goldshmitd but whose community would not allow to perform the conversions himself.
This story sort of starts with Boaz Fariñas, who broke with his original community and runs now his own, Derej Torah in Prado Centro, downtown, Medellin. Boaz Fariñas—who runs a blog and Internet radio station Yeshiva Virtual Latinoamericano, is writing a history of the Marranos in Colombia—with the idea that all of the geographically isolated region of Antioquia, which is roughly the size and population of Israel, is one big crypto-Jewish state.
According to Fariñas: “Antioquia was colonized by Sephardic conversos fleeing the Inquisition. These colonizers. were the early adopters of marranism.
This would explain, the theory goes, and sorry if I repeat myself, why the typical dish of the region, the bandeja paisa, or paisa platter, includes a white arepa, unleavened like matza. The platter also features a deep-fried pork rind, known as chicharrón. Its prominent display on top of the other food elements in the platter, make plain to even casual passers-by that the diner couldn’t possibly be Jewish, as would the surnames Santa Maria, Santo Domingo or Cruz do as well. The long cooking bean dish which also could originate from the well-known Jewish platter “Cholent”, from the French slow cooking or shul-end from the German and basically composed of beans, where evidence doesn’t stop there since the pot of beans, translated to “judías,” or “Jews” in Spanish. Antioquia’s colonial towns have biblical names like Belén and Jericó. Village churches, including the colonial chapel in Bello, point east and sometimes segregate the sexes. The paisa’s typical cloth poncho is striped and flecked with untied ends: crypto-tzit-tzit. Inquisition-style marranadas, the ritual public slaughtering of pigs by machete following show “trials” in which the animals were found guilty of any number of human sins, continue to be celebrated around Christmas in lower-class Medellín despite having been outlawed recently and are similar to the ceremonies carried out before the day of atonement called Kaparot. And in Antioquia, unlike elsewhere in Colombia, statues of the Virgin Mary stand to the right of the entrance to houses, and locals would brush their hand against her on their way in and out. Break the Virgins open, the crypto-Judaists say, and you would have found a mezuzah hidden inside.”
Paisas refer to themselves as a nation and a race, even though they have only an accent and geography to distinguish themselves from other Colombians, who are descendants of Europeans Africans, and Native Americans and all mestizaje in between. Still, paisas prefer to marry within themselves.
Recently, Juan Forrero, the local reporter for the Washington Post contacted me, he is writing an article on the Jewish origins of the Antioqueños, which seems more than a myth. We will wait patiently with lots of expectation for his article, which also has interesting scientific data of DNA coincidences, that trace the link between these returnees and their 500 year back ancestors, which I am not familiar with.
As I learned from M.Fishbane in Tablet Magazine: “So, how Jewish were the Antioqueños? The answer depends on whether you view conversos as crypto-Jews, secretly practicing and nurturing something in the soul that is anathema to everything they do in public, or as sincere, assimilated Christian converts. Or as behind Benzion Netanyahu’s, The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain, which asks, “How Jewish were the Marranos?” and explains: The conversos were in no way secret Jews, but instead real Christians, assimilated over several generations. They were not hated for their hypocrisy or conspiracy, for they had none. Instead, they were new Christians whose success in public life threatened the old order, which invented the notion of “blood purity”. Which originated, Netanyahu says, in racism against Jews, in other words, the Marranos—an alleged widespread crypto-Jewish movement—didn’t cause the Inquisition, instead, the Inquisition invented the idea of the converso as a crypto-Jew”.
Interesting theory in a way, but the question still remains what made these crypto-Jews maintain, mikvaot, ponchos disguising a tallit or ritual garment, bean soups that would make up for their Shabbat meal, and to put names to villages that would remind them of where their real heart longed to be, as their predecessor and poet Jehuda Halevy wrote “ My body is in the West but my heart is in Jerusalem”. Or forge communities as we read in various of Dr.RS Lissak´s works. “From Inquisition and other documents it emerges that the New Christians (not all New Christians were Marranos) who remained faithful to Judaism, managed to preserve Jewish life in secret for over 200 years, in the framework of communities which gathered in private houses.
The Inquisition archives in the New World, in Spain and Portugal, shed light on the efforts by Marranos to preserve their Judaism in secret. The Inquisition kept precise records regarding the confessions of Marranos from which one can deduce this. It’s important to note, that not only New Christians from Spain and Portugal immigrated to the New World. There were New Christians who originally immigrated to Europe, returned to Judaism, and subsequently immigrated to the New World. The New Christians in Portugal possessed inner Jewish resilience and were proficient in Jewish customs, because their adoption of Christianity took place on a single and collective basis, in October 1497. They not only continued to live in Jewish quarters, but the Portuguese king gave them a respite of 20 years during which they would not be sued for observing Jewish customs. The arrests only began in 1536, when the Inquisition was established in Portugal. The New Christians of Spain, in contradistinction, converted to Christianity, most of them under duress, but the act was a personal one, and the process continued over a hundred years. It was also accompanied by the terror of Christian gangs and pogroms, which led to a gradual weakening among the New Christians and made it difficult for them to observe their Judaism, especially after the expulsion of Spanish Jewry in 1492, and the severance of all contacts with Jews and Judaism. In short, there were various levels of knowledge and proficiency in Jewish customs among the emigrants.
New Christians established secret synagogues in private houses, and their congregations were organized in communities throughout the Spanish and Portuguese empires”.
Religious Leader, Moré Elad Villegas, of the Jewish Community of Bello nowadays called “The Orthodox Community of Antioquia”, tells us that they are more returnees than converts. Back to 1998, Elad Villegas followed a group of 20 French evangelical Christians to Jerusalem, where in various organized activities that included visits to rabbis, and Elad began to have doubts about his spiritual path as a Christian. Two years later, Villegas again returned to Israel for 15 days. Villegas’ spiritual doubts, which were planted on his first trip to Israel, had germinated. This time, Villegas made plain his dissatisfaction with the answers he was hearing to his persistent questions of faith. How can God be both man and spirit at the same time? He decided to be Jewish and that he should lead the congregants of his evangelical mega church to Judaism, too, his colleague I understand from several of the congregants who do not want to speak about him Pastor Puerta fled to Brooklyn N.Y. and lives as an orthodox Jew. Back in Bello, Villegas stood in front of his church of 2,600 people and declared that he had made a mistake. He had led them astray —he explained that in Israel he had realized that Jesus wasn’t the messiah. He asked for forgiveness and sat with parishioners one by one, answering their questions as humbly as he could.
Interesting, but I haven’t come across serious academic studies to explain this phenomena, further than articles here and there as Fishbane’s more political approach, (trying to find similarities in the violent Colombia with the crypto-jews process) and excuse my ignorance, hopefully someone will give us more light on this, but I could not let be, to express my surprise and write about it as to see how after a year and a half in my post at the community that stands for traditional Judaism and 80 years of generations of Jews originally coming from devastating Europe as my parents did, has to deal with these newcomers, more than a challenge, a spiritual trip .
4/11/2012 (El Tiempo – Colombia)
It is noted for its public transportation and competes against New York and Tel Aviv.
By “significantly reduce” the crime rate in recent decades, “due to aggressive local policies” and its “great advances in public transportation,” among other reasons, Medellin is among the three most innovative cities in the world, and dispute the first position.
This is a contest that City Bank, the Urban Land Institute of Washington and The Wall Street Journal made, in which the capital paisa competes against New York (USA.) And Tel Aviv (Israel). These three cities were selected of an initial list of 25 cities around the world.
The Colombian city is also highlighted by its bike sharing program, by the escalators of the district 13 and the contribution of Public Enterprises of Medellín to support public goals and objectives in areas such as education.
Major Aníbal Gaviria said it is a recognition of the work that has been done in recent years to improve on problems of crime, inclusion and mobility.
“This is a real city, you know its capabilities enhanced by regional, geographical, environmental and human resources,” said the president.
For John David Valderrama, executive director of the Agency for Cooperation and Investment of Medellin and the Metropolitan Area (ACI), be in competition alongside New York and Tel Aviv is to be proud of.
“It is the result of a mixture of public policy & business we have had. Topics such as escalators, the innovation District of Seville and the proposed Route N are differential marks that positively compared to those cities” said Valderrama.
Gaviria said that the mere fact of being among the three most innovative is “already transcendental” and invited all Colombians to keep voting for “Medellin as the city of the year”.
I’ve heard of my teacher Dr. Gerald Schroeder’s nuclear physicist from MIT and member of the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States, author of several books like “Genesis and the Big Bang” (Bantam Books, 1990) Dr. Schroeder is professor at my former Yeshiva Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem. His interest in relating the biblical and scientific information on the Creation while making exciting discoveries by the similarities between the theories of the great scientists and the words of the great Jewish sages -
We can read in Schroeder’s thesis that when Genesis says that God created the world in six days, that’s exactly what happened. To defend this, the first thing is to start by admitting that time is different for God than for us, which presents no difficulty.
From the religious point of view and King David says that “with God one day is as a thousand years,” the universe was not created in time, but containing time. Western science will come to that conclusion with the theory of relativity. There are no contradictions in the age of the universe 15 billion years is a figure that the reading of Prof. Schroeder is correct in the text of the Torah. As he between other things explains that those days could not be those of 24 hours we have today “the sun and the moon were created the fourth day”.
Classical explanations of Judaism also presuppose a creation of time, as follows from the Talmudist and Kabbalist Nachmanides in the thirteenth century. For the Jewish philosopher, time was created by God the first day. Nachmanides even says to us that before the universe there was nothing, until a tiny grain appeared, which was the only physical creation, and contained all that was to develop later. The expansion of this grain created matter. Remarkable intuition, no doubt.
Thus, the assertion that in the beginning the earth was formless (“chaotic solitude” in which “darkness covered the abyss”) perfectly matches the description of science.
God could have used the laws of nature to create the universe and this is entirely consistent with regard to the biblical accounts of God’s actions. We read in the chapter of creation, Genesis chapter one, in a deepening of the text that makes the book of the Kabbalah the Zohar:
“In the Beginning (Genesis 1:1) When the will of the King began to take effect, the signs recorded in the celestial sphere (around him) In the most hidden hole a flame of the mystery of Ein Sof, the Infinite, as fog out of the unformed formed, together with the ring of the sphere, it was not white or black or green or red, there was no color. And only after the flame´s size and shape emitted radiant colors, the interior of the flame came a source from which came colors dispersed at infinity and broke and yet not through the ether (of the sphere .) It could not be recognized until a supernal point shone under the impact of the final breaking. “
There are no contradictions and again what science has done is confirmed by the Biblical sources.
Colombia, has a name. Coffee and drugs are the first that cross our mind when the country is named. But is that so?. Did you know that from deserts to snow mountains this country has all climates. That it has beaches in two oceans?. That it´s diversity makes it a country with more species than many others, that its industry exports products produced with the highest quality competing with known brands. It´s people have been able to surpass crime and terror and continue to grow with hope in a peace sometimes crushed by unlawful guerilla and paramilitaries.
And development that gives infrastructure like the metro-cable to transport in urban areas where it would take hours to access by bus and the airport in Medellin with architecture not seen in many developed countries.
The bridges in Bogotá, even it has taken time to finish, you cannot recognize the city after having been away some years.
Not to mention the highways in the former Magadalena-medio, one could not even think in traveling in late eighties, and which will make the new commerce treaty with the US. a quick way to transport from the interior of this beautiful country with much to export to the ports in the Atlantic.
All this in a country with a PIB that has this growth as foreseen in the chart below.
A past you cannot forget as the slogan for the “Patrón del Mal” as it is called and beating all TV ratings by using a post-holocaust known saying.
But we do live a new era. Thanks to not staying in the past. That is Colombia. Proud to be part of it!!.
In Cartagena today the sixth summit of the Americas, a city filled with racial hatred receives 200 years after an afro-american who arrives as it´s most honored guest, President Obama for two days comes to the former inquisition headquarters for all of the Caribbean, and stays in probably more comfortable rooms than the dungeons at the Castle of San Felipe were years before his fellows coming from Africa were chained by the Spanish conquerors.
As well the story of this city, where many jews who fled the cross of Torquemada if not willing to convert to Catholicism, not only chained but burned alive. Jews who live here today in peace where several new Jewish communities in the Carribean cities as; Cartagena, Monteria and Barranquilla have appeared, and their Christian churches have become synagogues, and many find in Judaism the answer to their spiritual quest.
Yes, the world changes, may we all open our eyes and see that history tells us, we should not stay focused in our obsessive thoughts of racial hatred.
I want to share in this post for all my Spanish speaking readers (or those who wish to pass it through google translate) the interesting article from Dr. Adelaida Sourdis Nájera, about the Jews in Barranquilla, part of a major study about the Caribbean Jews made by the University Jorge Tadeo Lozano.
The Botero collection at Museo de Antioquia, Medellin with my wife Antge. Our new home. More to write about it.