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500 years of Jewish life in Mexico

The Fundación HispanoJudía (FHJ) and the Centro Deportivo Israelita de México (CDI) organized an extensive program of events to celebrate 500 years of a Jewish presence in Mexico. The activities related to history, art, and culture are taking place from October 31 to November 28.

The most noteworthy events in the month-long program were initiatives titled “Paths of Milk and Honey” and the “Heritage of Jewish Surnames”, launched by the president of the FHJ, Mr. David Hatchwell.
“Mexico is an exciting, exhilarating and magical country with a culture that is unique in the world, as well as being one of the most diverse and culturally rich countries on the planet, similar to Spain, Morocco or Israel,” said Hatchwell. “We are here to think about a future that must be positive, diverse, of blended cultures, and one that creates bridges of understanding between us, celebrating the collaboration between the Hispanic and Jewish worlds.”


Other dignitaries involved in the event were Ms. Alejandra Frausto Guerrero, Minister of Culture of Mexico, Mr. Juan López-Dóriga Pérez, Ambassador of Spain to Mexico, Mr. Zvi Tal, Ambassador of Israel to Mexico, and Mr. Abdelfattah Lebbar, Ambassador of Morocco to Mexico.

Also in attendance were Mr. Marcos Shabot, president of the Central Committee of the Jewish Community of Mexico, Mr. Isaac B. Roizen Fastman, president of the CDI, Mr. Ezra Cherem, president of the CDIJUM, Mrs. Alice Gojman de Backal, FHJ advisor, Mrs. Shula Serur De Shrem, director of the FHJ Mexico, Mr. Alejandro Rubinstein, historian, Mrs. Irit Tal, and Mr. Sergio Vela, moderator.

“Today, and I say this with great sorrow, Mexico is probably one of the few countries in the world where Jews can openly and fearlessly express their Judaism,” Israeli Ambassador Tal said.

Ambassador Tal also directly addressed his Moroccan counterpart, Mr. Abdelfattah Lebbar, as “my brother”, a gesture that was accompanied by an embrace that moved the audience.

Ambassador Tal said he was struck by “the admiration that Mexican Jews feel towards the country in which they live, the country that has opened its arms to their ancestors, giving them the same opportunity to study, do business, and to succeed.”

In his speech, the president of the Centro Deportivo Israelita’s Board of Directors, Isaac Roizen, affirmed that “500 years of expulsion, forced conversion, search for new horizons, flight, conquest and resistance… certainly deserve an essential and necessary commemoration.” He went on to express his gratitude for the way Mexico took in the Jews arriving from Spain: “We cannot speak of the expulsion of Jews from Spain without mentioning Mexico, the country that welcomed us and offered us a new life, opportunities, a new nationality and freedom of worship”.

In addition, Ambassador Juan López-Dóriga Pérez’s related words taken from a speech by the King of Spain, Don Felipe VI, “Dear Sephardim, we have missed you so much!” which were also received with great emotion by the audience.

The speech given by historian Alejandro T. Rubinstein, tracing the origin of Jewish surnames in Mexico, mentioned “De la Caballería, Cota and Arias Dávila”, surnames linked to families of “New Christians” or “Marranos”, a term used to refer to Jewish forced converts during the years of the Edict of Expulsion.

The attendees were also serenaded with sonatas interpreted by Mrs. Jennie C. de Serur, member of the FHJ’s Board of Trustees.

A culinary gourmet show by chefs Becky Sandler and Pablo San Roman was a festival of flavors. The chefs prepared various dishes of Sephardic origin. Sandler prepared apple fritters and roasted eggplant, and San Roman switched from sweet to salty, with his version of a cold, white garlic soup. Another highlight during this part of the event was the special participation of Mrs. Irit Tal, who spoke about Israeli cuisine, as well as its origins. In addition, chef Antonio Arceiz Gustran prepared a vegetarian paella with a touch of saffron, a spice widely used in Jewish cuisine.

The Fundación Hispanojudía is a non-profit organization, created with the goal of remembering and celebrating Sephardic and Hispanic heritage as well as educating about the many common values and traditions between Jewish and Hispanic cultures.

This goal is sought through multiple initiatives including an innovative virtual museum, as well as a major physical museum to be located in Madrid.

The Foundation has Associations in Mexico, Argentina, Panama, Israel and the USA (NY), as well as a Board of Trustees, Advisory Council and Executive Committee, composed of Jewish and non-Jewish personalities from all walks of life and from all over the world.

The Centro Deportivo Israelita was founded in October 1950 and currently has approximately 18,000 Associates who offer the most diverse sports, social, recreational, cultural and artistic activities, all within the framework of Jewish identity.

Since inception, the CDI has functioned thanks to the participation of a group of volunteers and professionals who dedicate their time with enthusiasm and creativity, thus offering the members of the Jewish Community of Mexico, an environment dedicated to promoting high level multi-disciplines with a philosophy of Jewish continuity and community integration.


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