Who are you?
This is me:
I’m Daniella Levy, an observant (a.k.a. Orthodox) Jewish American-Israeli who has always had a strange obsession with interest in the Spanish Inquisition and crypto-Jews.
I write lots of stuff in addition to this blog! I made a book out of it, called Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism, and I’m also the author of a historical fiction novel, By Light of Hidden Candles. You can read more about me and the other stuff I do on Daniella-Levy.com, or check out my author pages on Goodreads and Amazon. 🙂
Who is Josep?
This is Josep (that’s not his real name):
He is a non-practicing Catholic Catalan who has always had a strange obsession with interest in Israel and Judaism–and who may be descended from conversos.
How do you know each other?
We met in his home city, Barcelona, in 2006. It’s actually kind of a crazy story. Click here to read how it all began…
Why do you write him these letters about Judaism and Israel?
I think he’s been asking himself that question for about eleven years now. 😛 The answer is that I have been very enthusiastic about my Judaism since I was a young teen, but I am always surrounded by other Jews who know just as much as I do. He was the first person I had known who didn’t know, and expressed interest. So I started trying to explain things to him, and it was so much fun, I just couldn’t stop!
But for the record–this is not all we talk about. 😛 We are good friends and have a personal correspondence, too.
Does he ever write back?
He does comment on the blog every now and then, under his real name. See if you can spot him. 😉
Do you send the letters to him first?
No. He is subscribed to my newsletter, just like you. 😉
…What do you mean you’re not subscribed?! 😛 Remedy that!
If only these posts were organized into a book…
Funny you should mention it! I have conveniently done exactly that! Click here or on the pic below to purchase on Amazon 🙂
Can I hear you read them?
Check out my dear husband’s podcast: Jewish Geography. He sometimes hosts me reading letters to Josep on it. 🙂 You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Android, or RSS from that link.
A Catholic Catalan? What’s a Catalan?
The Catalans are the people of Catalonia, which is currently a…. erm…. hmm. It’s complicated! Until very recently, it was an autonomous community in northeastern Spain. The Catalan Republic declared independence on October 27th, 2017, but as of right now its independence has not been formally recognized by any other country; Spain is majorly pissed and has suspended Catalonia’s self-rule, deposed the president and government, and jailed some Catalan government officials and political activists; and the whole thing is kind of a huge mess. The media is calling Catalonia “disputed territory” now. (Hey! I live in “disputed territory” too!) Josep–who supported Catalan independence long before it was cool–would probably put it like this: Catalonia is an independent European state that is currently under Spanish occupation. And my job is to humor him, so… we’re gonna go with that, in hopes that I’ll be revising this section to reflect a more clear-cut, stable, and satisfying reality very soon.
Historically, the region currently known as Catalonia and some of the neighboring areas were first united under the Count of Barcelona. The County unified dynastically with the Kingdom of Aragon in the twelfth century, and ruled over Aragonese territory for the next seven centuries. However, it maintained a political structure, culture, and language distinct from those of Aragon, and became known as Catalonia. In the eighteenth century it was conquered by Castile, and has been under Spanish rule since. The Catalans have nonetheless maintained their unique culture, language, and identity.
What are crypto-Jews, conversos, and marranos?
Broadly defined, crypto-Jews are Jews who hide their identity and religion and pretend to belong to a different religion. This phenomenon is believed to have been particularly widespread as a result of the mass forced conversions in Spain of the 14th and 15th centuries. The Spanish Inquisition was established in 1480 to fight heresy, and one of its main goals was to seek out converts to Christianity (conversos, or in the more derogatory term, marranos) who were secretly practicing Judaism (“Judaizing”). Some families were very good at hiding their Judaism and managed to pass down their secret traditions through the generations. Today, some descendants of these crypto-Jews are rediscovering their roots and reclaiming their lost heritage. Check out the Casa Shalom Institute for Marrano-Anusim Studies for more information.
Who are Eitan, H, R1 and R2?
Eitan is my long-suffering husband. 😉 He is a rabbi and tour guide. H, R1 and R2 are our sons, who are aged 8, 6.5, and 5 respectively.
Can I leave a comment?
Absolutely! Keep in mind, however, that I filter comments, and I only approve ones that adhere to basic standards of common decency. If you disagree with something I said or wish to point out an error, please feel free, but you must do so in a respectful and kind manner. And it goes without saying that antisemitic comments of any kind will go straight in the trash where they (and probably those who write them) belong. All comments and guest letters must reflect the atmosphere of respect, compassion, and friendly curiosity that characterize the blog and the friendship that inspired it.
Can I write a guest post?
YES PLEASE! I welcome guest letters to Josep on all topics relating to religion and culture, especially from people of different faiths and cultures than mine. You can see past guest letters here, and the guest letter submission page for more information.
Any other questions? Feel free to contact me.