> Ask The Rabbi > History > Jewish Exile

Marrano Heritage

September 20, 2011 | by

My mother's family comes from a long line of Marranos, the "secret converts" who fled Portugal in the 15th century and went to South America. A year ago I embarked on a search for who I really am. For me, attending Shabbat services, learning Hebrew, and taking steps toward keeping kosher is only the beginning. The Inquisitors won their battle with my ancestors, but they didn't win the war with me. I feel that I want to extend an inner arm back through the ages and "fetch" my Jewish roots. I am alive today because of my ancestors' sacrifice. I am desperately longing to immerse myself in a mikveh, to nail a mezuzah to the doorposts of a kosher home, to light Shabbat candles on Friday evenings.

The obvious question is: "Am I Jewish?" I am being very patient, but at the same time, I want to get on with living as a Jew.

The Aish Rabbi Replies

Your beautiful letter reflects the yearning of a special soul.

If one's mother is Jewish, than so is the child. This means that the soul this person possesses has a deep longing to connect to the Almighty through Torah that can never be eradicated even through centuries of non-Jewish behavior.

It is a good idea to search for the tombstone of your mother's mother, as this can serve as proof for your Jewishness, as is sometimes necessary for people who are coming from very assimilated backgrounds. For Marrano ancestry, there is a web site set up just for these types of things, called "Kulanu" at

In the absence of real proof, you would need to undergo a conversion process in order to be considered Jewish. It is thus very important to develop a connection with a rabbi who you can sit with and ask your many questions. If you tell me what city you're located in, I'll be happy to recommend someone you could contact.

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