NM Preacher Discovers Cohan Roots

The Boston Globe reports,

As a boy, the Rev. William Sanchez sensed that he was different. His Catholic family spun tops on Christmas, shunned pork, and whispered of a past in medieval Spain. If anyone knew the secret, they weren’t telling, and Sanchez stopped asking.

Then three years ago, after watching a program on genealogy, Sanchez sent for a DNA kit that could help track a person’s background through genetic footprinting. He soon got a call from Bennett Greenspan, owner of the Houston-based testing company.

“He said, ‘Did you know you were Jewish?’ ” recalled Sanchez, 53. “He told me I was a Cohanim, a member of the priestly class descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses.”

With the realization that Sanchez was almost certainly one of New Mexico’s hidden or crypto-Jews, his family traditions made sense to him.

Full story.

19 thoughts on “NM Preacher Discovers Cohan Roots

  1. yeah, one more jewish soul destroyed by the actions of ugly catholics forcing jews first to go underground and then convert; now we do it to ourselves by marrying non jews and having non jewish children

  2. What if I fell in love with a non jew and wanted to marry her?
    Seriously I am sick such anachronistic thinking. It has a totalitarian streak to it, without of course the infrastructure of coercion (well outside of Israel at least). Next thing I will be told what to eat and wear!! hehehe…

  3. asaf, since you are taking conversion classes to become a muslim, i really could care less what you do – i suggest you find a nice muslim girl and marry her.

  4. Avi…. Your linkage of the Jewish Continuity crisis facing american jewry today with the expulsion from spain is spurious stupid and minimizes the events that culminated in 1492… Perhaps next time you should compare it with the Nazi Genocide… or Sharon’s plan to transfer the settlers…
    I think that would be a much better comparison.

  5. ler. in a literal sense youre right, obviously facing death or conversion is worse than the self inflicted pain of intermarriage………and yet, in both cases the results are the same…no more jews

  6. Asaf,
    I’m not sure in what sense one could label prohibitions against intermarriage “anachronistic.” That term, of course, means something not fitting with the times. But the avoidance of intermarriage was never a natural one. The Torah itself forbade intermarriage with certain groups specifically because it was a natural thing for people to do. Hence, your implication that the ban was somehow “of another era,” is non-sensical. One must look deeper than simple xenophobia to explain why we consider this ban so important.
    I would suggest that at a simple level, Judaism believes that there is a certain role for Jews in this world. We are expected to take that role seriously and work hard at it, even when we don’t really feel like it. We are to carry message in full view of the world (whether you think that is full, halakhic Judaism or ethical monotheism or whatever) and pass it to our children to hold high. It is no surprise, and no big issue of debate that it is easiest to play that role and to pass it on if the value is held by both parents.
    One could make a good argument that in today’s world of shifting values, constant warring, and rapid technological development, that the need for a group to serve as a reminder of the universal and unchanging morality and order in the world has never been greater. At the same time, instant communication and global media has made external influences impossible to avoid. A message taught by one parent only is unlikely to carry the weight it once did.
    You, Asaf, obviously have some very strong values and ideas which I suspect that you would like to pass down to your children. In doing so, you would do best to have a spouse who shares those values and considers it important to pass them on. Even if she were “agnostic” on your pet issues, you would find it hard to impress on your children the importance of things which she does not hold dear.
    That is the essence of the ban on intermarriage. It is a way of saying that even in love and marriage, we are required to consider those things larger than yourself. And while it is often considered crazy nowadays, some people hold certain values to be as important or even more important that love.

  7. “One could make a good argument that in today’s world of shifting values, constant warring, and rapid technological development, that the need for a group to serve as a reminder of the universal and unchanging morality and order in the world has never been greater.”
    I would add that this reminder has typically been humiliating to the goyim. They still seem to feel that we, as a people, rejected them when we chose not to acknowledge their false prophets. Unfortunately, it has been their own proselytizing, after-life-centered religions that have actually been responsible for most recent bloodshed in the world.

  8. Asaf, i have a question. I am aware you are not really a zionist and don’t like israel and everything, but what about your religion and identity as a Jew? Is it important for you to marry a jew, raise a jewish family, etc..?

  9. I think fineline made a lot of good points about intermarriage. That’s the key point of Jewish identity, if you ask me: will you raise Jewish children? You can’t expect the rate of random conversion to Judaism over the years to match the rate of Jews we lose by not raising Jewish children. Therefore, it’s not so much marrying a Jew or a non-Jew that matters to me, if the non-Jew that you marry will allow the children to be raised Jewish. I’m only against intermarriage to the extent that that scenario is unlikely.

  10. Oh, and sorry. I didn’t mean that raising Jewish children is “the” key point of Jewish identity. But it is a very important one. If you think that it would be a theological loss for there to be no more Jews in the world, you care about having Jewish children.

  11. I liked Avi’s comments! And agree. With forced Conversion and death at least you get to go out with some dignity and you make history. But intermarriage is so embarressing! I feel ashamed before the goyim for all our inter-marriage! After centuries of persecution and resistance to conversion we now fall prey to consumerism! Consumerism – the one that finally got us….

  12. So negative. Sad.
    Here’s a story about people who, against all odds, managed to keep a spark of their Judaism intact, in secret, underground, for 500 years, and not one ounce of recongnition of the power of that; instead an instantaneous retreat into a rehashed-ad-nauseum and utterly irrelevant diatrible on intermarrige. Huh?
    Anyway, these stories have been tricking out of New Mexico for the past 15 years or so. What’s also incredible is how many of these folks say that they suspected they were Jewish, but, absorbing their families passed-down obsessions with secrecy, were afraid to ‘come out’ as Jews, or even discuss it publicly.
    That’s starting to change slightly — there’s been a lot of publicity about this in the past few years, along with the organized DNA testing, etc — and more and more people seem to be going public, at least in New Mexico. The phenomenenon is probably, however, more widespread, extending into Mexico proper, Cuba, etc, and all those other place where the inquisition was officially in effect into the mid to late 19th century. Betcha didn’t know dat — it was a long long time after 1492 until being Jewish was legal in Spanish territory.
    Also (and I know I shouldn’t get drawn into this), regarding Constantin’s post, I fully agree with the first paragraph. We not only need a moral reminder, we need people who are really willing to act for the right and show that money is not the only motivator. But as far as the second goes, and the unwritten assumption that we Jews are are a ‘light unto the nations’ leave NY and Israel and realize…
    a) how little most of the world actually gives a shit about ‘the Jews’ or knows about them
    b) despite the constant parading around of Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Martin Luther King (hey, where were all the other Jewish “leaders” of the day?), and giving credit to all of the individual Jews who work for justice and right out there [many of whom are ‘unaffiliated’, i.e. not representing as Jews] I don’t really think we can claim the ‘morally superior’ prize…

  13. A beautiful story indeed (“against all odds” if you consider Christians the underdogs.) :
    “Sanchez describes his Jewish history as “a beautiful thing” complementing, not conflicting with, his priestly life. “I have always known I was Jewish; I can’t explain it, but it was woven into who I was,” he said.

  14. I meant that it’s really unlikely for people to maintain traditions in secrecy, without any justification, for so long. The initial secret Jews davka didn’t tell their kids that they didn’t eat pork ’cause they were jewish — they didn’t want to get busted. The later ones didn’t even know that it had anything to do with Judaism, they just knew not to tell anybody that they didn’t eat pork.

  15. In response to Fix (via Dickforce)
    Are these responses really so sad and negative? I don’t find the crypto-post inquistion out of the closet Jewish story so inspiring. To all the crypto Jews I say “welcome back”. But the story is really a depressing narrative of Judaism. These are people for whom Judaism stopped being a living faith, way of life and community, and became atrophied into mere secret family rituals.
    So 500 years later when they realise that their family tradition of not eating pork is actually Jewish in origin they start coming out as Jews. Hey welcome back, but for me as a Jew I find this a pathetic story of defeat. That’s why I don’t get excited about this issue.

  16. Ezra,
    “…but for me as a Jew I find this a pathetic story of defeat. ”
    Defeat? Maybe I’m biased because I can count myself as a Jew returning to my forefather’s religion after 500 years, but this story smacks of everything but defeat. Unprobable? Yeah. Unlikely? You betcha.
    To think that after those five centuries connecting the dots has led some of us back home (hopefully more soon), that’s alone is a victory over those that would’ve liked to have seen all of use disappear.
    Well, guess what… we didn’t, and a lot of us are coming back to claim our heritage. Off the soapbox now… and thanks for the welcome home.

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