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Crypto-Judaism

From Academic Kids

Crypto-Judaism is the secret adherence to Judaism while publicly professing to be of another faith; people who practice crypto-Judaism are referred to as "crypto-Jews". The term crypto-Jew is also used to describe descendants of Jews who still (generally secretly) maintain some Jewish traditions, often while adhering other faiths, most commonly Catholicism.

The many Marranos who publicly professed Catholicism but privately adhered to Judaism during the Spanish Inquisition, and particularly after the Alhambra decree of 1492, are the most widely known crypto-Jews. The phenomenon of crypto-Judaism, however, dates back to earlier times as Jews forced or pressured to convert by their sovereign hosts secretly kept Jewish rites. The father of Maimonides, for example, is purported to have nominally embraced Islam during the Almohad persecutions of Muslim Spain in 1146.

Small communities of crypto-Jews are still said to exist, allegedly still maintaining their hidden traditions, in the Balearic Islands, in Portugal, northeastern Brazil, and throughout Spain.

In the once Spanish-held Southwestern United States, many Hispanic Catholics have stated a belief that they are descended from crypto-Jews and have started practicing Judaism. They often cite as evidence memories of older relatives practicing Jewish traditions. Skeptics of the authenticity of the Jewish ancestry of Latinos of the Southwest argue that these remembered traditions could be those of Ashkenazi, not Sephardi, Jews and may possibly be constructed memories due to suggestion by proponents. It is also argued that the Jewish traditions practiced by older relatives were introduced by groups of Evangelical Protestant Christians who purposely acquired and employed Jewish traditions as part of their Christian practice.

Recent genetic research, however, has shown that many Latinos of the American Southwest are indeed descended from Anusim (Sephardic Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism). Michael Hammer, a research professor at the University of Arizona and an expert on Jewish genetics, said that fewer than 1% of non-Jews possessed the male-specific "Cohanim marker" (which in itself is not necessarily endemic to all Jews, but is prevalent among Jewish hereditary priests), and 30 of 78 Latinos tested in New Mexico were found to be carriers. DNA testing of Hispanic populations also revealed between 10% and 15% of men living in New Mexico, south Texas and northern Mexico have a Y chromosome that traces back to the Middle East. [1] (http://www.khazaria.com/genetics/abstracts-nonjews.html)

As in the American Southwest, in the department of Antioquia, Colombia, many families also hold traditions, handed down memories and oral accounts of Jewish descent. In this population, Y chromosome genetic analysis has shown an origin of founders predominantly from "southern Spain but also suggest that a fraction came from northern Iberia and that some possibly had a Sephardic origin". [2] (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=11032790)

In addition to these communities, other now Catholic-professing communities descendants of Crypto-Jews are also said to exist in Cuba, the State of Nuevo León in northern Mexico, and amidst the populations of various other Spanish-speaking countries of South America (Argentina, Venezuela, Chile and Ecuador). From these communities comes the proverb, "Catholic by faith, Jewish by blood".

All the above localities were former territories of either the Spanish or Portuguese Empires, where the Inquisition eventually followed and continued persecuting the Jews who had settled there, and where it endured for longer than it had in Spain herself.

Some of the crypto-Jews in north-east Portugal have outed themselves as Jews and now formally adhere to Orthodox Judaism since having rejoined and being accepted by mainstream Judaism after more than five-hundred years of secrecy.

Some of the Jewish followers of Sabbatai Zevi (known as Donmeh) and later of Jacob Frank (known as "Frankists") formally converted to Islam and Catholicism respectively, but maintained aspects of their versions of Messianic Judaism. Many unsubstantiated claims attest that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of modern-day Turkey, was himself a Donmeh.

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