Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Historical Society theories receive academic stamp of approval


“That’s a bunch of baloney” was the expected response to the theories proposed by the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society when they were published in Journal of Spanish, Portuguese and Italian Crypto Jews.  “Instead, we received accolades from across the country. Even some Israeli academics are interested in our work!” said Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, Society president.

The Journal is a publication of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies in collaboration with Florida International University. Its editor, FIU Professor of Sociology Dr. Abraham Lavender has been especially helpful and supportive of the work of the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society.   The journal is peer reviewed and an academic editorial board must determine if articles are suitable for publication and meet rigorous standards of credibility and research.

The article, “The Search for the Echoes of Conversos in St. Augustine, Florida,” proposes five theories that support the presence of converses on the colonial First Coast. The first theory deals with the “undocumented” passengers taken aboard the galleon of Pedro Menendez de Aviles, the leader of the efforts to establish a Spanish presence in Florida. The second theory deals with the apparent delay of the landing in Florida until after Yom Kippur 1565. The third theory proposes that the name of the Catholic mission established in St. Augustine, Nombre de Dios, refers to the ritual of the High Priest on Yom Kippur, who pronounced, in the Holy of Holies, the Nombre de Dios, the Name of God.  A fourth theory responds to what seem to be “Jewish” family names among the early settlers while the fifth and final theory responds to the discovery of Native American remains buried facing east, a peculiarly Jewish tradition. 

Members and researchers working with SAJHS await more responses and are eager to learn from theory supporters and critics alike. Most surprising is the frequency of responses asking the question, “Why has no one thought of this before?” 


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