The Mezuzah in the Madonna's Foot: Oral Histories Exploring Five Hundred Years in the Paradoxical Relationship of Spain and the Jews

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9780671778163: The Mezuzah in the Madonna's Foot: Oral Histories Exploring Five Hundred Years in the Paradoxical Relationship of Spain and the Jews

A chronicle of five centuries of Jewish life in Spain details the 1492 rule expelling all unconverted Jews, the lives of the ""Marranos,"" or secret Jews, and how the fascist government saved thousands of Jews during World War II.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A compelling, multidimensional look at Judaism and Spain--a land infamous for its medieval anti-Semitism but as yet unheralded as a haven from Hitler. Alexy (a family therapist specializing in art therapy) provides a vivid picture of the painfully complex nature of Spanish-Jewish relations, using oral histories to flush out and flesh out Jewish families, including her own (which had been saved from the Holocaust in Franco's Spain) and those families who have secretly lived as Jewish Catholics or crypto-Jews since the Inquisition of 1492 (the author herself apparently lived much of her life as a Catholic with a disturbingly Jewish background). The oral narratives refer to several cherished but hidden religious symbols, such as ancient Hebrew parchments hidden within Catholic icons (as in the title), in what seems to be art-therapist Alexy's way of exploring a painfully denied Jewish past via tangible symbolism. Throughout much of her text, the author also explores ``the paradox of refugees fleeing the Nazi's Final Solution by seeking asylum in a country where no Jews had been allowed to live openly...for over four centuries.'' While medieval Jew-killing rituals and anti-Jewish stereotypes persisted among Spanish Catholics, these people also produced their own Raoul Wallenbergs who saved ``somewhere around 70,000 Jews'' during the Holocaust. After covering WW II, Alexy moves on to fascinating encounters with crypto-Jews in New Mexico, some of whom describe themselves as ``Jewish-Catholic-Indians.'' The author and several of her subjects, we learn, have found their own painfully submerged identities through pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Toledo, the ``Jerusalem of Spain.'' In this fine complement to Jane Gerber's The Jews of Spain (1992), Alexy guides us through the perilous tension between faith and identity, helping us to understand the complex psychospiritual reverberations of the Spanish Expulsion and Inquisition--still quivering from the aftershocks of 500 years. -- Copyright 1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

When Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, Alexy, then 10, and her Jewish family fled Prague to Paris, then to Barcelona where they lived as converts to Catholicism before emigrating to the U.S. in 1941. Now a Los Angeles family therapist, the author spent the last four years reconnecting with her Jewish roots through trips to Spain, Israel, Canada, Mexico and Brazil. She interviewed Jewish refugees who had sought shelter in Spain during WW II, as well as ordinary Spaniards who risked their own lives to rescue, shelter and sustain Jews fleeing Hitler and Mussolini. Alexy identified strongly with Spain's Marranos or Secret Jews--Catholics in name only, who ived in constant fear of the medieval Inquisition--so she tracked down direct descendants of the Marranos in the American Southwest. Their startling testimonies, as well as scholarly studies reviewed here, claim that many Sephardic Jews, harboring deep-seated fears of persecution, still practice today as Marranos, maintaining a dual religious status, in places from New Mexico to the Netherlands. Jewish Book Club alternate.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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