Who knew? More than 200,000 U.S. Latinos are Jewish

In the first study of its kind, the American Jewish Committee has taken a comprehensive look at the Americans who claim both a Latino and Jewish identity – all 200,000 of them.

Religion News Service reports:

As a group, Jewish Latinos don’t get much attention — either from Jews or Latinos in the U.S.

rabbimiejaThe first detailed survey of Americans who are both Latino and Jewish aims to shed light on this minority within a minority, who number more than 200,000 people. Among the conclusions of the recently released study: Latino Jews are proud of their dual identities, but also distinct within the larger communities of American Jews and Latino Americans.

“They don’t really fit in Latin America and they don’t really fit here either,” said Rabbi Juan Mejia (photo), a Colombian-born convert to Judaism who now works in Oklahoma and speaks and writes about Latino Jews.

In Latin America “they were religiously deviant in mostly Catholic countries,” continued Mejia, who said the new survey resonated with him. And American Jews, whose ancestors mostly came from Europe, often “don’t know how to relate to them either.”

From New York City’s The Jewish Week:

According to the survey, Latino American Jews feel very connected to the American Jewish community through Jewish culture and ritual. At the same time, focus groups members consistently described American Jews as more formal in their social and religious practices, “making it difficult to relate at a personal level.” Many Latino American Jews doubted that most American Jews knew of their presence in the U.S.

“Every time I say ‘I’m a Mexican Jew,’ they say, ‘Oh, so your mom converted,’ because they don’t think we exist,” said one focus group participant.

Latino Jews said they related to the Latino American community through the Spanish language and a shared love for close families, great parties and the entrepreneurial spirit. They cited class and socio-economic differences as barriers between Jewish and non-Jewish Latinos.

“Most felt that non-Jewish Latinos have limited experience or information about Jews altogether,” the survey concluded.

The complete study (PDF) is here.