Published November 14, 2018 by Tom Porter

Amherst’s Stavans on Crypto-Jews: “A People Within a People”

Official FBI data released this week show an alarming rise in hate crimes in 2017, in particular anti-Semitic crimes, which were up 37 percent last year. The report comes just two weeks after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre in which eleven people were killed—the worst anti-Semitic attack in US history. Such news is of particular concern to Professor Ilan Stavans of Amherst College, a leading scholar on Jewish culture in the Hispanic world.

Stavans visited the Bowdoin campus on November 7, 2018, to meet with students and to deliver a lecture titled “Crypto-Jews: To Be and Not to Be.” By crypto-Jews, Stavans said he is referring to the way some Jewish people survived over the centuries in the Hispanic world by staying secretive about their faith.

Stavans, a Mexican Jew who moved to the US in 1980s, talked about the history of racism and anti-Semitism and his concern over their increasing prevalence today. The lecture was sponsored by the Harry Spindel Memorial Lecture Fund.