Entertainment

What’s It Like to be a Jewish Latino? NPR’s Latino USA Podcast had the Fascinating Details

In case you didn’t know, Jewish Latinos exist and they exist in pretty large numbers. NPR’s Latino USA NPR released a podcast that paints a vivid picture of what it’s like to grow up in the Jewish Latino community.

You’ve already met a few Latinos with Jewish roots. Like William Levy.

Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez has made several references to her Jewish roots.

Puerto Ricans in the White House! #kennedycenterhonors #RitaMorenoTribute

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And Don Francisco has never made any secret to the fact he is a practicing Jew.

#antoniovodanovic #donfrancisco #doncorleone #teleton2015 #FaithNoMore #fnm4ever

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How to Navigate the World When You’re Jewish and Latino

The podcast examines Jewish Latino identity with 5 different stories told by the people who are living them. You’ll learn now Judaism made its way across the ocean to Latin America and eventually to the Latino-American community in the US. You can hear the tale of how one family fled Nazi persecution in Europe by going to Brazil and eventually settling in Colombia. Then, the explosion of crime in Colombia during the ’80s drove the same family to the United States of America. Latino USA also explores the Judeo-Spanish language known as “Ladino” which blends of Spanish and Yiddish, creating a language that functions as a form of communication for Jewish Latinos.

Listen to the full podcast:

Credit: ¡Ay Vey! / Latino USA NPR

Now you know a little more about how diverse the Latino population is. Share this story and keep the learning going!

The Jewish Community Has Been Attacked In Recent Weeks So The Guardian Angels Are Stepping Up To Help

Things That Matter

The Jewish Community Has Been Attacked In Recent Weeks So The Guardian Angels Are Stepping Up To Help

The Red Berets / Facebook

In the past week, hate crimes have occurred back-to-back. And, it’s not just this week. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a somewhat shocking report in November that stated an increase in hate crimes in 2018. The FBI noted in 2018 that hate crimes reached a 16-year high. We say that the news was somewhat shocking because violence in the United States feels never-ending. If we’re not dealing with mass shootings, we’re dealing with crimes against people because of their background — sometimes both at the same time. Now — as if these actions were taken from a movie — people are taking it upon themselves to fight crime if authorities cannot. 

The Guardian Angels have vowed to patrol the streets of New York City after a slew of anti-Semitic crimes in the state.

Credit: The Red Berets / Facebook

“These attacks are taking place, and the cops have not been proactive at all,” Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, told NBC News. “It comes from City Hall and the mayor. He’s been just apathetic.” 

“We’re a visual deterrence in our red berets and our red satin jackets,” Sliwa added. “Nobody’s going to commit an attack when we’re around.” So what exactly will the Guardian Angels do if someone does attempt to commit a crime and they happen to be there, Sliwa responded by saying, “we’ll physically restrain the persons responsible, make a citizen’s arrest and hold them until the police arrive.”

The Guardian Angels is a nonprofit that formed in 1979 and has “safety patrols chapters throughout the United States and worldwide.”

Credit: The Red Berets / Facebook

According to its website, Sliwa founded the group and currently has 12 volunteers in New York City. “The ‘Magnificent 13’ rode the subways to conduct safety patrol. For 37 years, thousands of people have joined the Guardian Angels and created chapters in over 130 cities in 13 countries to protect their communities and improve substantially the quality of life.”

However, not everyone is pleased that the Guardian Angels are taking on a vigilantly stand, especially because the group’s founding member has made disparaging remarks against various groups.

Credit: @rafaelshimunov / Twitter

Political activist Rafael Shimunov tweeted a thread of clips that showed Sliwa making fun of the Jewish community and disparaging the Black community as well. Someone also linked out to a 1992 New York Times story in which Sliwa admitted to faking crimes for publicity. 

Yet, others on social media are praising the Guadian Angels for stepping up and fighting hate crime in New York City streets.

Credit: @MUCKWlTCH / Twitter

One man tweeted, “So glad to see the Guardian Angels still doing amazing work on the streets after so many years. I remember hearing their amazing stories growing up. Thank you @CurtisSliwa and the @GA_DareToCare team!”

Another tweeted, “Love the Guardian Angels but it’s kind of crazy that this is where we’re at. Citizens on patrol duty in NYC. Onus is on all of us to band together and speak up in the face of discrimination and prejudice. Now more than ever. Silence is complicity. #zerotolerance #lovetrumpshate.”

Time will tell if the Guardian Angels will do anything to stop these hate crimes going on in New York and around the country because they’re not stopping anytime soon. 

On Dec. 28, a woman, who was with her young son, reported that she was hit on the head after a woman yelled anti-Semitic slurs at her. Also, last week, police said at least “three incidents of possible hate-based attacks against Jews in less than 72 hours.”

On Saturday night, a man stabbed five Hasidic Jews who were at home celebrating Hanukkah in Monsey in upstate New York. The assailant was arrested in Harlem and charged over the weekend. 

“People inside fought to stop him,” Rabbi Yisroel Kahan, told the New York Times. “It was very heroic of them. They didn’t just let this happen — they tried to defend themselves.”

As we noted, the FBI reports a surge of hate crimes, but we should also mention that the group being targeted more than any other group is the Latino community. 

Credit: @berniesanders / Twitter

“The FBI said 485 hate crimes against Latinos were reported in 2018, up from 430 in 2017,” the New York Times reports. “It said 270 crimes were reported against Muslims and Arab-Americans, the fewest since 2014,” They added, “Hate crimes against Latinos were at their highest level since 2010, when the unemployment rate and border crossings from Mexico were both peaking. Some advocates placed the blame for the recent rise on President Trump.” 

READ: Anti-Semitism Rocked A NYC Subway When A Woman Physically Assaulted A Jewish Woman

From Spain To Latin America, How A Mass Migration Created A Thriving Latino/Jewish Community

Culture

From Spain To Latin America, How A Mass Migration Created A Thriving Latino/Jewish Community

Unsplash

The days of stereotyping Latinos are over, dead to 2019. We are an ethnicity, not a race, which means we have every range of skin tone and practice every major religion. The arc of Latinidad is so entrenched in imperialism and immigration that it makes sense we would be so diverse. To be Latino has often meant being a native Latin American indigenous person or ancestry that, at some point, hailed from somewhere else in the world and landed in Latin America. The Spanish Inquisition is largely responsible for the present-day stereotype of Catholic Latinos, but the Inquisition is responsible for the mass immigration of Spanish Jews as well. During the 16th century, the Inquisition mandated that all Jews convert to Catholicism. Many of them did and were known as conversos, but many of them continued to practice their religion in secret, becoming known as crypto-Jews. The rest were expelled from the country and would eventually make their way to Latin America.

Today, an estimated half-million Jews live in Latin America, with Argentina having the second-largest Jewish community in the Americas, at an estimated 300,000 total. 

Studies have revealed that almost 25 percent of Latinos have Jewish DNA.

Credit: Unsplash

Immigration has long been the defining mark of non-Indigenous Latinos. Historians have long wondered how many descendants were produced from those original Jews expelled from Spain to Latin America. What’s more interesting is understanding that conversos offered a whole other lineage of people with Jewish heritage hatefully stamped out by an empire–an erasure of identity that can now be found through genetics research. A Nature Communications study from December 2018 has concluded, based on the research of dozens of professors around the globe, that 25 percent of Latinos have Spanish or Portuguese Jewish DNA. Today, 20% of the 60 million people in the Iberian peninsula have significant Jewish ancestry. Researchers suspect that the total number of descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities range in the 200 million.

In a world without anti-Semitism, would Latinos be more widely known as Jewish because their ancestors weren’t forcibly converted?

Credit: Unsplash

Given the shocking estimates, it seems likely that there could have been as many as 1 in 4 Jews in the Latino community. In Miami Dade County, a third of all Jews identify as Latino Jews, and many Latino-American Jews have begun advocating for their Latino culture within the Jewish community. “[Although we] don’t generally inhabit the same spaces, we have to come together and become aware of the commonalities, the linguistic, cultural and historical ties the two communities have. Latino Jews could play an important role in being the link between Jews and Latinos, so what we’re trying to do is create more and more spaces for this interaction and cooperation to happen,” Dina Siegel Vann, Director of Latino Affairs at the American Jewish Committee told Aish.com.

Even though anti-Semitism and radical political ideology have erased the Jewish heritage that could have been passed down to the existing Latino population with Jewish DNA, many Jewish customs and traditions have prevailed in Latino culture without due credit. Por ejemplo.

Puerto Rican Sofrito came from the Sephardic Jews.

CREDIT: @IZZY_MONEY85 / TWITTER

That’s right my fellow Boricuas, sofrito might be the ultimate symbol and base of our cuisine, but Spanish Jews had long been using the garlic, onion, pepper, tomatoes, cumin, and olive oil base salsa to slow-cook chicken, veal, beef or lamb by Spanish Sephardic Jews. In fact, we owe it to the Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition for bringing their recipes with them. Their cultural influence made an impact on Spanish cuisine, which then had a ripple effect on Latin America as it became colonized by Spain. Originally, sofrito was most often celebrated in the Balkans, the Levant, Turkey, and the Maghreb before making its way to become a Puerto Rican staple. Whatever you decide to make for your Hanukkah meal, including sofrito is a no-brainer crowd pleaser.  

Lachmazikas, a meat-stuffed pastry, is quite similar to empanadas.

CREDIT: UNTITLED. DIGITAL IMAGE. TABLETMAG. 20 DECEMBER 2019.

While most Latino-Americans are unified in speaking Spanglish, Latino Jews speak Ladino. Israeli Jews delight in sufganiyot, while American Jews often see it as an afterthought, just a jelly-filled donut. Spanish Jews made lachmazikas, which were filled with everything from lamb and mushrooms to ricotta, herbs, and whitefish. A meat stuffed bread might sound familiar to you *cough* empanadillas *cough*.

Looking for more Latino-Jewish foods for your Hanukkah celebration? Look no further.

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