Modern Day Converso?–Javier

All cultures have their own customs and ways of doing things. From family traditions, to family planning and how one carries themselves, can all be traced to one’s own culture. It’s one of the few things that really gives an individual his or her identity. But what happens when you are someone who is part of two different cultures? What if you’re someone who is constantly stuck between saying you’re a Catholic but that practices Hindu customs or a Jew that celebrates Islamic holidays? I have a friend who seems to be torn between practicing Catholicism and Judaism. I was fortunate enough to be granted an interview with her on how practicing two religions might constantly change her sense of identity.

Me: Do you ever get confused about what your real identity might be? I know that during the holidays you practice things like Hanukkah but you also have a Christmas tree up in your home. Is there one in particular that you prefer to do or you enjoy them both equally?

Her: At times I do feel confused about who I really am but nonetheless I respect both my religions and all the customs and traditions that come with both. I believe my son is the one who gets the best deal here because he gets to know more than the average child. Learning a little bit of Yiddish can go a long way.

Me: Do you consider yourself a Jewish Colombian that practices certain Catholic traditions or vice versa?

Her: Definitely a Jewish Colombian that practices Catholic traditions. My father enrolled me in a Cheder (Jewish primary school) when I was little. When I finished there I chose to go to a public high school over a Yeshiva (Jewish school for higher learning). My mother’s side of the family are all Catholic and constantly try to get me to abandon my Jewish learning, but I can’t limit myself to one thing.

Me: Which one do you like more?

Her: I feel like there is more of a spiritual connection with Jews than there is with Catholics. To me, that makes my experience with my primary religion more intimate. I think my son enjoys being both as he’s the Jewish boy who gets to open presents on Christmas day (chuckles).

Me: If you had the opportunity to introduce one religion to someone who doesn’t practice either, which one would it be and why?

Her: I would place a Torah in the hands of this person. I know everyone is different in the ways they practice their religion but I just feel like there is more freedom in being a Jew. You really learn to love yourself and God without being a hypocrite at the same time.

Perhaps relevant to a certain extent, I feel like I can draw a parallel to the Conversos that came to the New World during the Spanish Inquisition. A Converso is a Jew who recants his or her belief in favor of Christianity under the pressure of the Spanish crown during the Spanish Inquisition. So while not entirely connected, there is a sense of similarity where one has to make a decision between focusing on one major religion while making distinct tweaks to practice another. My friend is constantly pressured to recant Judaism in favor of Catholicism but she rather just take the best of both worlds. In the end she believes that one should have good morals overall, regardless of religion as that will make one truly happy in the not only for themselves but to society as a whole.

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