Colombia’s Wave of Conversion to Judaism

April 19 2021

Colombia’s Jewish community numbers about 4,000, but has recently been expanding thanks to a growing influx of converts, who call themselves emergentes, or emerging Jews. Heide Paster Herf, who has been photographing these newcomers to Judaism in the city of Cali, writes:

Even though none of [the emergentes] was born Jewish, many had been exposed to Judaism as part of their Christian faith, through the life of Jesus, who was Jewish. They came to see Judaism as the one true religion, many told me. My photography project focused on hundreds who have established their own communities of converts apart from the traditional Jewish communities.

There are seven known emerging synagogues in Cali, whereas the traditional Jewish community has only three. It is hard not to notice the emergentes as they embrace the outward signifiers of Orthodoxy. I first happened upon this several years ago when I spotted a taxi driver with a yarmulke and the traditional tallit (prayer shawl) that Orthodox Jews wear.

These new adherents talk of being unsatisfied with their previous faiths. “I wanted to find the truth,” Rivka Espinosa (formerly Loida Espinosa), who converted from evangelical Christianity, told me. “I began to study, more and more, and ask myself deep questions. What was my mission in this world? Why was I here? And what did I need to do?” She said her father was the pastor of an evangelical church where she was a member. He also converted.

The emerging Jews are not associated with any traditional organization in Colombia or in the United States, according to Alfredo Goldschmidt, Colombia’s chief rabbi. But he does counsel and advise them: “The emerging communities consult with me regarding everything,” he told me. “They are a parallel community.”

Some of Herf’s photographs can be found at the link below.

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Read more at Washington Post

More about: Conversion, Judaism, Latin America

 

Is the Attempt on Salman Rushdie’s Life Part of a Broader Iranian Strategy?

Aug. 18 2022

While there is not yet any definitive evidence that Hadi Matar, the man who repeatedly stabbed the novelist Salman Rushdie at a public talk last week, was acting on direct orders from Iranian authorities, he has made clear that he was inspired by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s call for Rushdie’s murder, and his social-media accounts express admiration for the Islamic Republic. The attack also follows on the heels of other Iranian attempts on the lives of Americans, including the dissident activist Masih Alinejad, the former national security advisor John Bolton, and the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was held hostage by the mullahs for over two years, sees a deliberate effort at play:

It is no coincidence this flurry of Iranian activity comes at a crucial moment for the hitherto-moribund [nuclear] negotiations. Iranian hardliners have long opposed reviving the 2015 deal, and the Iranians have made a series of unrealistic and seemingly ever-shifting demands which has led many to conclude that they are not negotiating in good faith. Among these is requiring the U.S. to delist the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety from the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

The Biden administration and its European partners’ willingness to make concessions are viewed in Tehran as signals of weakness. The lack of a firm response in the shocking attack on Salman Rushdie will similarly indicate to Tehran that there is little to be lost and much to be gained in pursuing dissidents like Alinejad or so-called blasphemers like Sir Salman on U.S. soil.

If we don’t stand up for our values when under attack we can hardly blame our adversaries for assuming that we have none. Likewise, if we don’t erect and maintain firm red lines in negotiations our adversaries will perhaps also assume that we have none.

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Read more at iNews

More about: Iran, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy