Thursday, October 06, 2011

Blood is thicker than water

Some of you may know that I have been instrumental in having Gloria Mound's "Casa Shalom" move to the Netanya Academic College to form the basis of the new International Institute for the Study of Secret Jews (Anusim). Anusim is the Hebrew term meaning "forced" that is preferable to the old term "marrano" that is derogatory. We now have a Facebook page for the Institute at
Please visit the page. There you will find many interesting stories: from Calabria in Italy, Portugal and New Mexico, as well as links to related web sites. Here is one of the stories.

Blood is thicker than water by Sonya A. Loya

Growing up in a Spanish Catholic home, I never felt like I belonged. Nor did the baptismal waters have any power over my blood’s calling. I can remember my first holy communion, it felt as if I were outside the hour glass, not part of the sand. At a young age, I was asking questions that not only got me into trouble but led to me finally leaving the church in 1978 at age 18, with little or no suitable answers. After my divorce in 1996 and return to New Mexico, my attraction to Judaism grew stronger.

In 1999, I was invited to a three-day messianic conference. My ignorance led me to the unknown, but a little closer to my destiny. I was annoyed by a woman who shadowed me the whole time, constantly asking me questions about my family history. I questioned her as to why she was inquiring so much about my family. Her reply was, from what you tell me, you’re from the marranos. I asked her; doesn't that word mean pig? Her reply was yes, but it's a historical term. Then she explained and gave me a web-site with over 10,000 names which the Vatican had just released from the archives of the Spanish Inquisition (

After my vague practice of Judaism since 1996, in 2004 I asked my parents for a blessing to open Bat-Tzion Hebrew learning center. It was at this time my father told my mom and I that he had known since he was six years old that he was Jewish. He was told to keep the family secret, since he was born in 1938, during WW-2. The Inquisition didn't end until 1912 in New Mexico.

After meeting Bennett Greenspan from Family Tree DNA, Dr. Stanley Hordes, who had just published "To the Ends of the Earth; The Crypto Jews of New Mexico" and a previous NM State Historian, Adjunct professor and authority on the topic, I also met rabbi Stephen Leon, in El Paso, Tx. who had been working with Anousim for about 18 years at the time. Within a year, my life had changed. I had returned to Judaism through a conversion with the Conservative movement. My parents did DNA testing, finding my father had Levitical markers.

A few days after my dad's DNA results came in, a friend sent me through the mail, "The Glass Makers: an Odyssey of the Jews, the first 3000 years,” by Samuel Kurinski, which opened a new window of genealogy for me. I found the Inquisition records of Juan Robles, who was one of 8 glass makers burned at the stake in Spain, in 1535 by the Holy office of the Inquisition for Judaizing. Then finding out my maternal great grandmother's last name was Robles, left me wondering why I was the only one in the family who is a glass artist.

Rabbi Leon, wrote a resolution, which passed unanimously Dec. 2009, through the conservative movement, welcoming back B'nai anousim who want to return to Judaism. This along with educating conservative communities about the Spanish Inquisition and their descendants on Tisha B'av. As a result our 8th Annual Anousim Conference was held in Israel, Aug. 2011. It was during this trip that I discovered more information on the Loya families, ie. 3 rabbis in Morocco, named De Loya, between the 17th-19th centuries. I found 15 Loya families listed in the phone book in Tel Aviv. Dr. Shabtay, an Israeli anthropologist, made some calls for me the last day of our visit. With two of the Loya families she discovered some migration patterns from 1492 to the late 1500's when some of them immigrated back to Israel, with land grant purchases in Tiberius and Tzfat. There is an ancient Loya synagogue in Tiberius as well. I look forward to my next visit to Israel, to meet the Loya clans and to visit the Loya synagogue.

One of my greatest rewards was performing our Jewish wedding in the Old City of Jerusalem at the Sephardic educational court yard, putting our chuppah in front of the photo of Isabella & Ferdinand.


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