Grapevine: Coincidence and memory

From the Jerusalem Post
5 May 2016

“FOR ANYONE searching for their Sephardi Jewish roots, the name Genie Milgrom is a kind of open sesame. Milgrom is a Cuban American who was raised Catholic, whose family practiced certain Jewish customs handed down from generation to generation without explanation, and whose grandmother left her a couple of trinkets expressive of Jewish symbolism.

Milgrom, who converted to Judaism even before her grandmother died, has been on an endless quest to trace her roots, and so far she’s done a very good job in proving her Jewish ancestry.

Thus the letter from historian Prof.

Roger Martinez-Davila began with an introduction stating that he is a Roman Catholic descendant of the Sephardim, a historian of medieval Spain and a colleague of Genie Milgrom, with whom he shares a passion for tracing Sephardi roots.

He’s keen to mobilize Hispanic and Jewish people to discover details about medieval Jewish history, which he says can be found in, of all places, Spain’s cathedrals.

He cites as an example Salomon Halevi, a rabbi who converted to Christianity in late-14th-century Burgos and became Bishop Pablo de Santa María. “Was he a turncoat who abandoned Judaism or the fountainhead of a prominent converso ecclesiastical family?” asks Martinez-Davila.

The extended family, which included the intermarried Carvajal family, founded the synagogue of El Tránsito in Toledo, Spain, and produced Cardinal Bernardino López de Carvajal, who almost became the pope – and was twice considered in conclave balloting – in the early 1500s.

Other family members, like Luis de Carvajal “the younger,” returned to Judaism and were executed by the Inquisition. This is what Martinez-Davila calls “a complicated story,” and he has dozens more like it.

greerfc@gmail.com”