Culture

Here’s How Judaism, One Of The World’s Largest Religions, Made Its Way To Latin America

The history of how religion is expressed in Latin America today is, in the case of Catholics, largely the result of imperialist missionaries on behalf of the Roman Catholic empire or, on the behalf of Jews, fear of religious persecution from Catholics. While the trope of the typical Latino usually includes an altar of velas with varying Catholic saints emblazoned on its labels, there is a thriving Jewish Latino community whose menorah doesn’t get the spotlight it deserves. By definition, a Latino-American Jew will have an ancestral route that begins in Europe and passes through Latin America before arriving in the United States. Latino-American Jews are a very small minority within the United States. 

To understand how Latino-American Jews came to be, we must begin with the Spanish Inquisition.

Spanish-Jews were first displaced by the Inquisition in 1492.

CREDIT: @MIZU_YONG / TWITTER

The Alhambra Decree of 1492 required every Spaniard Jew to be either converted or expelled from the country. The vast majority of Jews converted, becoming known as “conversos.” As Spain began to colonize The New World, they were forced to assimilate due to blood laws that forbade new converts to travel. Only those with family documentation that their lineage had long been Christian were allowed to travel to the New World. Those who fled did so to the Netherlands, France, or Italy, where they would eventually be allowed on trans-Atlantic voyages to what would become Latin America. 

Within 100 years of the Alhambra Decree and launch of the Spanish Inquisition, Jewish communities were functioning in Brazil, Jamaica, Barbados, Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Peru. Those that lived in Spanish-controlled colonies had to conceal their identities and practice their faith underground, becoming known as crypto-Jews. After World War II, another mass exodus of Ashkenazi Jews emigrated due to extreme religious persecution, largely forming in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. Argentina has become the hub for the Jewish community of Latin America, with over 300,000 Jews now living in the country. 

Today, a third of the Jewish population in Miami-Date County and the Bronx are Latino.

CREDIT: @SMOKYQUARTZES / TWITTER

The results of a recent report based on interviews of 85 Latino Jews living in the United States reveals “a sense of alienation in their adopted communities. Many have feelings of being outsiders among fellow Latinos, whose family heritages are often deeply flavored by Catholicism; while often feeling estranged from their larger Jewish communities, with whom they may feel inadequate commonalities due to factors such as culture and language,” according to J Weekly.

Some Jews view Latin America as the “Jewish promised land” rather than Israel.

CREDIT: @DANIELLIPSON / TWITTER

Jewish Latino scholar and author Ilan Stavans told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) that he’s exhausted with the narrative of Jewish immigration ending with Zionist goals to return to the state of Israel. “But the fact is that Latin America has been, in many ways, the Jewish promised land,” Stavans told the organization. Much like other Latino Americans, Stavans added, “at this point in my life, I can’t tell you anymore if I’m Mexican or American — if English or Spanish is “my language.” But I think that this is the experience of thousands of Jews in the Diaspora.”

I think that being out of context is a Jewish condition, not quite in and not quite out, always dislocated,” Stavans told JTA. For Stavans, the diaspora and feeling of “dislocation” is central to the identity of the Latino Jew. 

For those of you who crave a deeper dive, “The Seventh Heaven” promises a closer look at the history of Judaism in Latin America.

CREDIT: @BLUMEAGON / TWITTER

“Very few people know about Latin American Jews, including Jews in Latin America, who know about their own communities but not necessarily about those in other Latin American countries,” Mexico-born Ilan Stavans told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Stavans wanted to offer the Jewish-Latino narrative to the English-speaking world, and with that intention, he published “The Seventh Heaven.” Stavans moved to the United States as a young adult and has bore witness to many misconceptions about Latin American Jews here in the U.S. “American Jews have been very successful in the United States,” Stavans told the organization. “But the tragic and dramatic aspect of this is the high rates of assimilation. In Latin America, because of the ethnic and religious dynamics, there’s less assimilation. The loss of members to the tribe is smaller; Jews have a more devoted sense of tradition, culture and identity.”

According to Stavans, Latino Jews in the United States experience the benefits of being deeply tied to two communities: the Jewish community and the Latino community. With over 60 million Latinos in the United States, the U.S. is home to more Latinos than most Latin American countries. The number of Latino Jews is far smaller, but, as American Jews, they’re often more educated and “well-off” than other Latinos, according to Stavans. “What is happening right now in the United States is a fascinating connection between the Latino community and the Jewish community,” Stavans added, “and the bridge between them is the Latino Jews.”

READ: Disney Is Debuting Their First Jewish Princess And Surprise! She’s Also Latina

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People Are Hoping That Covid Will Give Them Up For Lent This Year

Culture

People Are Hoping That Covid Will Give Them Up For Lent This Year

Covid has changed everything we know about the world for more than a year. As Lent approaches and people make plans to sacrifice to get closer to God, some are hoping Covid does the work instead. We have all given up so much this past year, what more can people sacrifice?

Lent is upon us, which means it is time to make that sacrifice.

Lent is a time when Catholics give something up for 40 days to get close to God. Lent is a six-week period leading up to Easter that is observed by Christians around the world, especially within the Catholic church. The run-up to Easter is a solemn religious practice that is in preparation for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Those who practice a more traditional or orthodox Lent give up meat, fish, eggs, and fats from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. A lot of believers choose instead to give up one item of personal importance to show their devotion to their religion.

The tradition has been around for centuries and believers have been practicing Lent diligently. The sacrifices have evolved over the centuries to include give up social media, going to the gym, or watching TV to further devote their time to their religion.

This year, people are hoping that Covid will give them up for Lent.

How nice would it be if Covid just gave up the fight? After months of isolation, social distancing, and giving up so much, it would be nice if Covid did the work for Lent. It is not a hard argument to make that the past year of sacrificing could make up for Lent.

People are not willing to give up something they love after giving up so much.

People around the world have had to make major sacrifices for the betterment of mankind. Covid has forced people to give up seeing their family, friends, and attending major milestone events. So, with Lent upon us, people on Twitter are bargaining with their religion to justify living in quarantine during Lent.

People are really digging their heels in on not giving up anything for Lent.

There are so few things that bring people joy right now. Eating chocolate, drinking wine, or enjoying a little extra television might be the only things getting people through the pandemic right now. Some people are trying to find any other way to participate in Lent to make sure that they stick to their religion while staying happy.

For some people, there is just nothing left to give up for Lent.

It is a hard choice to make. Some schools are not giving students a Spring Break because of Covid and millions remain in some sort of restriction. It is still possible to participate in Lent without giving anything up. Like so many other religious things, you can partake in a different way to satisfy your religious needs.

READ: Admit It, THIS Is The Most Fun Part Of Ash Wednesday

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These Nuns Have Become TikTok Sensations due to Their Videos

comedy

These Nuns Have Become TikTok Sensations due to Their Videos

Screenshot via daughtersofstpaul/TikTok

When you normally think of a Catholic nun, images probably come to mind of a stern and serious older woman who is quick to scold. But this group of nuns on TikTok go against every one of those stereotypes.

The Daughters of Saint Paul has recently become a TikTok sensation because of their hilarious and playful viral videos.

The Boston-based convent has racked up almost 56k followers from just a handful of videos that they’ve posted to the popular social media platform. The sisters have only posted three videos, but they’ve already gotten over 965.k likes and 6 million views.

The sisters have posted videos of themselves dressed up as ghosts while wandering around the convent grounds, what they’ve dubbed the “Holy Ghost photo shoot”.

@daughtersofstpaul

When temptation strikes. ⚡️ #IsThisAvailable #Catholic #MediaNuns @srbethanyfsp @pursuedbytruth

♬ original sound – Lubalin

There is another surprisingly funny video of themselves recreating the internal struggle of resisting Satan. The video is captioned “Thinking about giving into temptation” and set to the TikTok favorite song “Is This Available”. More than anything, its the committed performances of the two nuns that elevate the video to hilarious levels.

And of course, the Daughters of Saint Paul also posted the “This or That challenge” set to the ’80s Run DMC classic “It’s Tricky”. In this one, a group of the nuns split off into different groups based on what they prefer. The categories are super specific: “Morning prayer” is pitted against “Evening prayer” and “rosary” is pitted against “divine mercy chaplet.”

The sisters seem to have struck a chord with viewers because the videos are wholesome, lighthearted, but most of all, unexpected.

@daughtersofstpaul

When temptation strikes. ⚡️ #IsThisAvailable #Catholic #MediaNuns @srbethanyfsp @pursuedbytruth

♬ original sound – Lubalin

The joy and playfulness of the Daughters of Saint Paul have made them bonafide celebrities of the TikTok world. Their comment section abounds with praise like “This is EVERYTHING–y’all are the best,” and “This is so wholesome I love it here.”

Commenters also refer to their account as “NunTok”. There are also people asking for the nuns to pray for specific issues in their lives–like conceiving a baby or passing a test. It truly is one of the oddest corners of the internet.

@srbethanyfsp

I can’t stop laughing at this! (Vid was taken pre-covid) #fyp #Catholic #RareAesthetic

♬ Teach Me How To Dougie – Classics Reborn

In one informative TikTok, Sister Bethany explains why this particular convent of nuns is so present on social media, saying that they are “media nuns” and they use their talents to create content for their faith. But they also have guidelines about what they post.

“We the sisters are always asking ourselves, ‘Is this a good use of time?’ ‘Am I putting out things that are good, true, and beautiful?’,” said Sister Bethany. “And those are things we can all ask ourselves. And those are the ways we moderate our social media use.” No matter your beliefs, that’s definitely some great advice!

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