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

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform