The Lost Minyan

David M. Gitlitz
  • Review
By – August 31, 2011
Through ten vivid fic­tion­al sto­ries, we learn about the lives of Jews who con­vert­ed to Catholi­cism due to phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal coer­cion dur­ing the 15th-17th cen­turies. These tales are told in the first per­son by both male and female Con­ver­sos with inti­mate details of their dai­ly lives dur­ing the Inqui­si­tion. The Con­ver­sos lived among Old Chris­tians and New Chris­tians in Spain and Mex­i­co (New Spain). The Con­ver­sos’ fear is pal­pa­ble as they hide their Judaiz­ing prac­tices from neigh­bors, friends, and even close fam­i­ly. The Con­ver­sos pass on their old ways to their chil­dren by teach­ing them the Jew­ish laws of cir­cum­ci­sion, eat­ing kosher, bathing, refrain­ing from work on the Sab­bath, and bur­ial of their dead, while admon­ish­ing them nev­er to speak of their secret beliefs. Con­ver­sos attend mass and show them­selves pub­licly as good Catholics, but they are exposed as heretics by their ser­vants, neigh­bors, and fam­i­ly mem­bers who are exhort­ed by the church to com­ply with the Inqui­si­tion. We read the real-life view­points of both chil­dren and adult Con­ver­sos liv­ing dou­ble lives to the point of some­times no longer know­ing which one is their true belief. Some are torn about which reli­gion offers eter­nal sal­va­tion. There are graph­ic details of the mor­tal pun­ish­ments met­ed out to those found to be heretics. This book offers a heart­break­ing view into this hor­rif­ic peri­od of time in Jew­ish his­to­ry tak­en from eye­wit­ness accounts and archived dossiers of Inqui­si­tion tri­als. Intro­duc­tion, notes, sources.
Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams is a Cuban-born, Brook­lyn-raised, Long Island-resid­ing mom. She is Hadas­sah Nas­sau’s One Region One Book chair­la­dy, a free­lance essay­ist, and a cer­ti­fied yoga instruc­tor who has loved review­ing books for the JBC for the past ten years.

Discussion Questions