The Best of Both Worlds: My Experience As A Latina-Jew

Sofia Taddeo-Goldstein, Opinion Editor

“QUE?” is what I usually hear from my Latino mother’s side of the family when I tell them I am Kosher. “QUÉ es eso?!,” which roughly translates to “what the heck is that?” Most Latinos are Christians, with the majority following the sect of Catholicism. Judaism lacks representation in Latino communities, causing false beliefs and narratives to spread about the religion. As both a Latina and a Jew, I bear the burden of staying true to both communities, while simultaneously educating each one on the two aspects of my identity. 

My mother converted to Conservative Judaism at 24 years old. She lost her belief in Catholicism as a child, after sensing contradictions in the Bible. Growing up in Colombia, exploring other religions was not an option. She was the only woman in her conversion class without a spouse or partner, and later became a board member of the Synagogue to which she eventually converted. This came as a shock to my Catholic Colombian family, as she became one of the first Jewish people any of them had met.

As I become more religious and progress on my spiritual journey, questions arise from my Latino side of the family. Why can I no longer eat calamari or shrimp — foods that I used to consider my favorite? Why do I refrain from eating on high holidays? Though these questions might get overwhelming, they provide me with the opportunity to educate myself and others on Judaism, while also tearing down stereotypes and misconceptions.

The majority of Latino’s ideas on Jewish people do not come from a place of hatred, but instead from a place of misunderstanding. Colombian schools do not teach about the Holocaust, thus many Colombians are unaware of the atrocities Jewish people have endured and continue to face today. Once opened to learning new beliefs and practices, love is capable of intertwining between both communities.

I will admit — I have not always been the best when it comes to my faith. I do not always make it to synagogue, and sometimes, I mess up on my fast. Nonetheless, I am beyond proud of my identity, and I plan to continue to learn and grow through it.

Only 4% of American Jews are Hispanic, and I am enthusiastically proud to be one of them. 

Over time, I realized my soul can lay on Mount Sinai and Colombia at the same time. Despite the difficulties, my identity as a Latina-Jew allows me to experience the best of both worlds.