Happy Passover, Don Francisco

And Other Things You Should Know About Latino Jews

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Rochelle Newman-Carrasco Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
A new 15-track Voto Latino album became available this week, exclusively on iTunes, and specifically launched with the pivotal Pennsylvania primary in mind. It features a previously unreleased track by hip-hop artist Pitbull about Cuban immigrants, called "Across the Waters." It also includes a cut by the Latin-Jewish Urban Music Collective Hip Hop Hoodios called "Viva La Guantanamera." Originally created as part of Amnesty International's efforts to close Guantanamo Bay, the song is a veritable Latino-Jewish "We Are the World." (Hoodio, by the way, is a twist on the word "judio" which is Spanish for "Jew.")

If you haven't seen it, check out Hip Hop Hoodios' bilingual YouTube endorsement "Shalom Obama." Politics aside, it's worth it for the cultural quirk factor that includes a picture of Obama and Don Francisco side by side. (For those of you who are insulted by everything, spare me the e-mail that takes offense to the word quirky and accuses me of stereotyping, racism or some such thing. Thanks.)

Well, between the Hoodios' music in my head and Don Francisco's image fresh in my mind, I realized it was time to add to my holi-blog series and reflect on the Latino connection to Passover. For those keeping track, I missed Cesar Chavez day. I know. For that I am truly sorry (but I was busy volunteering and giving back). I can also tell you in advance, I'm taking a pass on Cinco de Mayo.

Back to Don Francisco.

By now most everyone knows (or should know) that Don Francisco is the host of Sábado Gigante. The show is recognized as one of the longest-running weekly television shows in history. Since its start in Chile in 1962, a new show has been produced every week, with no reruns. Well, Don Francisco is a Chilean Jew and his real name is Mario Kreutzberger. (A brief history of Don Francisco.)

When it comes to Latino-Jews, there are a number of distinct segments including Latino-Jews of both Ashkenazi (basically Eastern European) and Sephardic (basically Portuguese and Spanish) descent. There are even those who are the descendants of Crypto-Jews. Often found in New Mexico, these are individuals whose ancestors hid their religion in order to survive the Spanish Inquisition. As a result, today there are non-Jewish communities that are only just learning that their families were in fact once Jewish. This historical perspective has helped shed light on some of their unexplained but strangely familiar family and religious rituals.

Other random Latino-Jewish facts? Panama is the only country outside of Israel to have had two Jewish presidents. (They've also had a woman president, so what's all the hoopla about here in the U.S.?)

Today, there are hundreds if not thousands of non-Latino Jews that are a vital part of the U.S. Hispanic advertising community. Among those that are bilingual, it's a safe bet that more of them speak Spanish than they do Yiddish. While for some, their participation in this industry is just "a job," for many others it goes much deeper. Perhaps it's an opportunity to align oneself with a cultural experience that, while certainly unique, shares a great deal in common with Jewish immigrant experience.

To the Latino-Jewish community and the Jewish advertising community at large, I wish you a happy and healthy Passover. If you have room at your seder table, why not invite a member from any one of the many diverse cultural groups out there to experience the Passover story -- because the story of freedom is universal and, in spite of all the fuss we make about how nothing translates, in my humble opinion it is a story that translates extremely well.
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