Updated: Thu, 12 Sep 2013 08:30:00 GMT | By Michael Lopez, latino.msn.com

Jewish High Holidays With A Hispanic Flair

Latinos of Jewish heritage infuse the High Holidays with their Hispanic culture.

High Holidays (© AP Image)

Jewish people everywhere are celebrating their High Holydays and Hispanic of Jewish heritage aren't the exception.

Among them, there are several prominent figures like Sábado Gigante’s Don Francisco, news reporter Geraldo Rivera, sports commentator Andrés Cantor (famous for his 'GOOOOOOOOOLLL!" call), and Dancing With the Stars hunk William Levy. They all proudly flaunt their Jewish heritage and are actively observing the High Holidays.

This week and through Sunday, Jews all over the world have been honoring their religious new year (Rosh Hashanah) and their day of atonement (Yom Kippur). This will be followed by Sukkot, which is celebrated this year September 18-25. And that includes countries like Argentina, Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela, Chile and the rest of Latin America.

The Jewish people and the Hispanic culture have intertwined for centuries. Some historians believe the first Jews went to Spain after the destruction of Solomon's first temple in 586 B.C. They were called Sephardim, for Sepharad, after one name for the Iberian peninsula.

During the Spanish Inquisition of the late 15th century, Jews were forced out of the country. Others pretended to convert and secretly practiced their religion. In the 16th and 17th century many Spanish Jews emigrated to Latin America in search of religious freedom creating important and large communities in countries like Cuba, Argentina, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Brazil. 

In the U.S. today, there are large Latino Jews populations in many states, but especially New York and Florida. Miami alone holds over 10 percent of America’s 60,000 Jewish Latinos. And they couldn't be prouder of the heritages. Cuban Jews in Miami, for instance, call themselves "Jewbans" and eat their briskets and gefilte fish with plantains. The Sunshine State has a fair share of Latino converts as well. Rabbi Gary Fernandez recently told Hispanic Business that in the city of Sanford, near Orlando, many Hispanic residents are gravitating towards the religion.

“What’s happening with Latinos is it’s within their blood,” he explained. “When you speak to these folks, nine out of 10 will tell you they’ve always had this feeling, something drawing them to Judaism.”

Judaism and Hispanic culture share a love for food and family that meld together perfectly during the High Holidays. There are plenty of Latino-Jewish recipes that draw from both traditions, like Almond-Orange Flan, a Latin twist on a Rosh Hashanah kosher dessert made with almond milk and orange juice. Jewish/Hispanic chefs like Sam Gorenstein and Michelle Bernstein have made this and other recipes popular in websites and social media.

Sep 15, 2013 8:31AM

What a great, great article.  However, you downplay the EXTENT of the Jewish migration to Mexico and South America!   These Jews came here by the tens of thousands.  They came and found a land where they could worship God in the wilderness.  Something they looked for, for hundreds of years.


Too bad that the Catholic church and the inquisition was the culprit for the mass exodus from the Sephardic European lands.


Like Jesus said to John, "There will come a day when they will chase you from your synagogues.  They will kill you, thinking they do God service."


Their blood is here.

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