The Or Emet juniors’ class spent last session learning about Crypto-Jews (better known to some as Marranos), Jewish people who publicly converted to Christianity during the Spanish Inquisition to avoid death or expulsion from Spain but continued to maintain Jewish faith/observe Jewish customs in secret.
Students read accounts from the modern-day descendants of these crypto-Jews living in Mexico and the American Southwest, discovering the clever ways in which their ancestors disguised and passed down Jewish traditions for hundreds of years in spite of the ever-constant threat of persecution. They discussed the similarities and differences between these accounts, and then spent some time thinking about how, if they were to live through something like the Inquisition, they might go about disguising and secretly maintaining some aspect of Jewish culture/tradition that is important to them. Then the class all came together to write and perform a skit about a modern-day kid who discovers he comes from a family of Crypto-Jews, engaging in lively discussion about how the kid would have found out this secret heritage as well as how he might feel about the discovery. In addition to all of this work, students helped decorate the school’s Sukkah panel and assemble their own class’s paper-cut panel, also learning a bit about how Crypto-Jews celebrated Sukkot. Harold came and gave a brief talk for prospective bar/bat mitzvah students, and the class wrapped up the session by initiating the brainstorming process for a future service-learning project.