I’ve been waiting for a special book for some time.
Yesterday, I received the updated fourth edition of Sangre Judia: Espanoles de ascendencia hebrea y antisemitismo cristiano (Jewish Blood: Spaniards of Hebrew Ancestry and Christian Anti-Semitism), Flor del Viento Ediciones, Barcelona, May 2006.
For genealogists, especially those who know they have Sephardic roots and also for those who suspect Jewish roots, the new edition now offers nearly 6,000 Jewish family names found in pre-Expulsion and Inquisition records, identified by community and year. The previous edition listed about 3,000 without identifiers.
Although the book is in Spanish, it is not difficult to read if you've had some of the language in school. And, of course, the lists of names and places do not require linguistic abilities.
Well-known in Spain as an author and journalist, Pere Bonnin caused a minor revolution with his three sold-out editions of the book often known simply as Sangre Judia.
The new edition, longer by about 70 pages, also offers an appendix of 159 Jewish doctors (11-15th centuries) living in Catalan-speaking towns, prepared by deceased author Lluis Marco i Dachs, who wrote extensively on the Catalan Jews (Los Judios en Catalunya, Ediciones Destino, Barcelona, 1985), and an expanded bibliography.
Additionally, for readers who are not Jewish today, the book includes a well-written primer in its introduction to Judaism, detailed coverage of Spanish Jewish history, a history of anti-Semitism and the new anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in Europe.
I see Pere and his wife on visits to Barcelona, and he’s provided me with copies of out-of-print books and name lists, which are now among my treasured possessions. Whether we’re sitting in the sun at an outdoor café drinking thick hot chocolate or attending a concert, his gentle demeanor and devotion to his history and the Jewish people cuts through our multi-lingual conversations.
Pere is a Chueta of Mallorca – Jews forcibly converted 100 years before the Expulsion, never accepted by the Old Christians and discriminated against since.
He’s always asked why he wrote Sangre Judia, and he told me, “The book was painful in that it stirred up the feeling of being discriminated against for something that you did not do, but because of whom you are.”
But, he continued, it also brings great satisfaction. One reward is observing how today’s young Chuetas, unlike his, are not ashamed of their roots.
He’s received thousands of letters, e-mails and phone calls since the first edition. Readers ask how they can find more information about their names and history or how they may return to Judaism, and others are inspired to visit Israel.
Many are "touched" when they find their names or suspect they would be found there, and want to know more. Others, upset to see their names, deny any Jewish connections and, says Pere, "are angry, filled with hate, because they feel trapped by an identity they would prefer to erase."
Pere's goal is to have the book translated into English and distributed in the U.S. to reach Hispanic Americans whose ancestors were Spanish Jews.