14 April 2011

The Secret Jews of Calabria and Lost Sephardic Ancestry

The subject of secret or hidden Jews fascinates me and the goal of helping people find and reclaim their Jewish heritage is important to me. Do you wonder if your family might have been Jewish in the distant past? Think about your family customs. Family customs and traditions frequently provide the keys to uncovering Jewish roots. 

In this video Rabbi Barbara Aiello visits Calabria, Italy where she talks with many different residents about Calabria's Jewish past and the customs of its people. 

Another interesting video about the history of the Jewish people in Italy, including those Sephardic Jews who arrived after 1492, can be viewed on YouTube. For more information about Italian Jewish roots, see Rabbi Barbara's page here.

Jewish heritage has been lost many times over the last several thousand years, most recently during the Holocaust and more distantly during the Spanish Inquisition. One branch of my husband's family is said to have been kicked out of Spain during that time. MJ and I are on a quest to discover whether or not there is any truth in his family's oral tradition. One route to discovery is DNA testing. 

MJ is participating in the Iberian Ashkenaz mtdna Project through Family Tree DNA to determine whether or not his great grandmother, Sofia Ponce, had mtDNA shared with other known Ashkenazi families with Sephardic roots. What we have learned so far is that his mtDNA falls within Haplogroup W1, which is found primarily in Europe, the Middle East, and North, South, and Central Asia. Whether or not he shares Sephardic or Iberian mtDNA is at this phase of the project inconclusive, but possible. We are hopeful that another one of Sofia's great grandchildren will test to increase the data. We'll keep you posted!

Happy Thursday!

Scrappy Gen
Let's Remember!

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