On Becoming a Jew
IN THE cathedral at Palma, on the island of Mallorca to which many Marranos fled from mainland Spain, I found Menorahs wrought in gold. Stars of David, Hebrew imagery in stained mosaics which had been taken as booty into the church as the captured relics of Christianity were taken into the vodoun temples of Haiti. Of course, there was no Jewish community in Palma. But there were Jewish traditions. And when a prominent bullfight judge and architect discovered that his family was descended from Marranos, he was so filled with shock and pride that he could not keep silent; he had to speak and he had to act; honoring his past, he and his entire family left the Church to become Protestant.
Why Protestant? That was the furthest distance he could imagine. Since he was a Jew, he could not be a Catholic; but since he was a Catholic, he could not be a Jew. Therefore he was a Protestant. The confusion continues, even hundreds of years after the deaths of Ferdinand and Isabella, who ordered the expulsion of the Hebrews and sped Columbus on his voyage-it is argued by some-because he really wanted to leave fast.
About the Author
Herbert Gold is the author of the forthcoming My First Murder, among many other novels. His non-fiction books include Bohemia and Haiti: Best Nightmare on Earth. A previous memoir by him, “In Bellow’s Company,” appeared in our September 2005 issue.