Judaism is the faith of nearly a million worshippers across Mexico and the rest of Latin America. And more references are cropping up in American pop culture.
Hispanic Jews' stories are being told in movies such as "My Mexican Shiva," a film in Spanish, Yiddish and Hebrew, and in plays such as Steppenwolf Theater's "Sonia Flew," about a Cuban immigrant raising two children with her Jewish husband in Minneapolis.
At DePaul University, a class in Jewish Latin American culture is led by Cuban-born Achy Obejas who has written books on the Cuban-Jewish experience. Her students are tracing Judaic roots in Hispanic culture, beginning with those Spanish Jews (or Conversos) who sailed to the New World with Christopher Columbus. It also covers those who settled in the Caribbean and South America, and Hispanic Jews today.
Of her own experience, Obejas said, "The congregation where I go, there are Guatemalan Jews, Argentinian Jews. They're Latino, but, in the end, they're Jews."
Rabbi Michael Azose of Evanston's Sephardic congregation, where Obejas worships, is quoted as saying there are perhaps 5,000 Hispanic Jews in the Chicago area, "but I believe there is no Hispanic or Latino that doesn't have some Jewish blood in them because [in Spain] so many intermarried with Christians."