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 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!
Does he ever write back?
Of course he does! He comments on the blog under his real name, and he even wrote this guest post clarifying his religious views. For the most part, though, the blog is a one-way conversation–and only one aspect of our correspondence. We are good friends and correspond “off-blog” as well.
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 an autonomous community in northeastern Spain. 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.
Oh right, isn’t that the region that tried to declare independence recently?
Yep. Catalonia held an independence referendum on October 1st, 2017, now infamous for the shocking brutality on the part of Spanish police. The Catalan Republic tried to declare independence on October 27th, 2017, but no one recognized the declaration, and the Spanish government responded by suspending the region’s autonomy, firing the government, calling elections, and throwing a bunch of politicians in jail (and causing a bunch more to flee the country to avoid arrest). It took seven months for Catalonia to recover autonomous rule (as Spain refused to allow it to instate jailed or exiled politicians to take office, even though they were elected), a bunch of politicians are still in jail or exile, and it’s all a horrible mess.
Josep, for the record, has supported independence for Catalonia since long before it was cool. I’ve been writing about the situation and how it’s affected me and Josep on my Times of Israel blog, if you want to check that out.
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.