Friday, September 25, 2009

Latinos with perceived Jewish roots, "returning" to Judaism

Folks, a while back I talked about Islamic Proselytism Increasing Among Latinos in New York and now this piece from CNN, Brooklyn family keeps Latino-Jewish traditions alive, sends me in the direction of an increasing "return to Judaism" movement in Latino communities that I've seen gaining exposure in the media:

Every Friday evening, the Núñez family sits down to a traditional religious dinner. Like most families in their Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, their Jewish Sabbath meal includes blessings over the wineand bread, the company of family and friends and excellent food. But for the Núñez family, the Sabbath table would not be complete without salsa picada and jalapeno dip.

Moshe Núñez , an information technology consultant and motivational speaker, was born to a Mexican father and American mother and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico.

His wife, ChanaLeah, grew up in Panama, the daughter of a Salvadoran mother and American-born father.

"Our home is a Latin American home," Núñez says.

"We bring into our home a mixture of the American and Latin culture, and that's reflected in the way we eat. We also enjoy hosting guests, so it's a very Hispanic thing, and a Jewish thing." The couple and their two children moved to Brooklyn's Crown Heights area about five years ago so their son, Michael, 17, and daughter, Simcha, 18, could have "the best Jewish education available," Núñez says.

Crown Heights is the headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, a branch of Hasidism that is itself a form of Orthodox
Judaism. Among the thousands of Hasidic families in the neighborhood, a significant number are also Latinos, Núñez
says.

"There are a lot of Latin American Jews here," Núñez says. "Some of them have moved from countries like Venezuela, Colombia and Argentina, where there's political unrest. We make a life here, settle down and become part of the fabric of American society, but we still don't lose our roots."

Please continue reading here.

Commentary. Like I said before, the lightly catechized, the lightly evangelized, will go anywhere where they feel accepted and part of a greater, living whole, when compared to the narrow-minded emotionalistic Protestant, Pentecostal Christianity on one side - the fastest growing Christian sect among Latinos - and a Catholicism perceived as watered-down, shallow, boring, politically compromised, and decadent on the other. Hidden through these perceptions - whether or not justified - lies a blurry image of Jesus of Nazareth, his claims, and his utter actuality. The Latino shift to Islam and Judaism doesn't surprise me, even though I do find it sad, and disquieting. It represents a failure of the Church and, since the Church is not only the bishops, priests, deacons, and religious, but all of us, it represents our failure to be conscious missioners of the Name of Christ.

But unlike Islam, I think we can meet Judaism face on within Catholicism, despite the baggage of centuries of mutual suspicion and less than exemplary behavior by many Catholic Christians. The Association of Hebrew Catholics, "a work in progress faithful to the Magisterium," is "working to preserve the identity and heritage of Catholics of Jewish origin within the Church, to enable them to serve the Lord and all people within the mystery of their irrevocable calling." And since in Christ there's no more Gentile or Jew, this association is open to every Catholic Christian of whatever background.

Pie in the sky? I don't think so, but something long overdue.

With all due respect, although contemporary Jewish authorities are competent to determine who is and isn't a Jew within Judaism, they lack such competence within Christianity and within the Catholic Church. Other than little "t" tradition and custom - apart from political, social, and cultural pressures, some of which were unjustifiably harsh, granted, and that's an understatement - there is nothing in the Church's discipline precluding Catholics of Jewish ancestry to retain a spectrum of Jewish practices within creedal Catholic Christianity. I think the Association of Hebrew Catholics has made giant strides to make that truth clear.

If you are a baptized Catholic attracted to your real or perceived Jewish roots, you are not alone. Within the Church there is a group of people who think and feel like you. You can meet Christ in Hebrew in the Catholic Church; there's a place to engage Christianity's Jewish roots in the qahal of Yeshua HaMashiach .

I find that beautiful and say, Amen!

To end: Jesus' question that we find in the Gospels, "Who do men say I am?" still resonates today and remains current, and actual. He asks that question today from every man, woman, and child. How we answer this question will have tremendous repercussions in how we live our lives and how close we approach God and how deep we abide in His Love. You will only find this love in Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, blessed God forever, Amen.