Returning the menorah to the window
Returning the menorah to the window iStock

I24 News reported this week on a community in Bello, Colombia that has renounced Catholicism and is openly connecting with the Judaism of their forefathers.

Crypto-Judaism is secret adherence to Judaism while publicly professing to be of another faith; practitioners are referred to as "crypto-Jews". Today, individuals and communities in Spain and Portugal, and the places where Jews fled from there, have been discovering evidence of their Jewish ancestry and started openly practicing the faith that their ancestors were barred from keeping for centuries.

Jews who converted in Spain in the 15th century were officially known as Cristianos Nuevos (New Christians), but were commonly called conversos. Spain and Portugal passed legislation restricting their rights in the mother countries and colonies; only Christians were allowed to go to the New World.

The "Belmonte Jews" of Portugal dating from the 12th century maintained strong secret traditions for centuries. An entire community survived in secrecy by maintaining a tradition of endogamous marriage and hiding all external signs of their faith. They and their practices were rediscovered only in the 20th century.

In the department of Antioquia, Colombia, as well as in the greater Paisa region, some families also hold traditions and oral accounts of Jewish descent. In this population, Y-DNA genetic analysis has shown an origin of male founders predominantly from "southern Spain but also suggest that a fraction came from northern Iberia and that some possibly had a Sephardic origin," according to a report published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

"Some say they are retracing their Jewish roots from the days of the Spanish Inquisition; others have adopted a new way of life, to Judaism," i24 reports. "Dozens of families that once belonged to a church, became Jews, unusual in one of the most Catholic of nations."

Colombia iStock